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Chapter 16 of The Dhammapada seems to say that we should let nothing and no-one be dear. From this translation:

Practicing what one shouldn't, Not practicing what one should, Having abandoned the goal, Clinging to what is dear, One comes to envy those who practice.

Don't get entangled With what you long for or dislike. Not seeing what you long for is suffering; So also is seeing what you dislike.

Therefore, do not turn anything Into something longed for, For then it's dreadful to lose. Without longing or dislike, No bonds exist.

Does this conflict with the idea of having friends and family? Or is it simply stating that we should avoid being overattached to any one person, experience, or thing?

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Contrary to the common notion that the Dhammapada is the 'Buddhist Bible' or the 'Buddha's little-coffee-table-friendly-book-of-wisdom', to me, the Dhammapada is an extremely serious almost 'militant' book of teachings for monks/renunciates (rather than for householders). For example, the Piyavagga being referred to states:

218. One who is intent upon the Ineffable (Nibbana), dwells with mind inspired (by supramundane wisdom), and is no more bound by sense pleasures — such a man is called "One Bound Upstream."

Therefore, the Piyavagga certainly conflicts with the idea of having family & worldly friends.

If a person is predisposed to having family & friends, there are more suitable & highly excellent Buddhist teachings from the Pali scriptures on these subjects, which are summarized at this link.

It is very important to know the Buddha gave two types of teachings: (i) supramundane (lokuttara) teachings for liberation from the world; and (ii) mundane (lokiya) teachings for living in the world.

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It is simply saying that you should not cling to people as clinging causes suffering. What you practice towards friends and family are Kindness(Metta), Compassion(Karuna), Sympathetic Joy(Mudita), Equanimity(Upekkha). They are called the 4 divine abidings.

Craving and clinging are not required to have a friendship.

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Why be attatched at all? If one is attatched that means one won't let go or can't let go without suffering. If we don't want to suffer then we could practice the Buddha's teaching to be able to let go of what or who we hold dear without suffering when it is appropriate to let go. If we don't cling to family and friends that doesn't mean we don't love them or we don't like them.

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Does this conflict with the idea of having friends and family?

Any worldling will have some form of attachment or aversions or neutrality towards people, experiences and things.

A friend is someone you consider or perceive positively among others. When you think of someone you consider a friend you get pleasant feeling and likewise unpleasant, and neutral for foes and random strangers. In our mind's eye we classify people into buckets: me, dear ones / my friend / my relative / etc., neutral people, foes. [page 85, section "HOW YOU BREAK DOWN THE BARRIERS", Knowing and Seeing - 4th Edition by Ven Pa-Auk Sayadaw]

As long as this mental classification is present suffering arises. So you have to break this perceptual classification. The tools to do that are Brahmavihara meditation and Vipassanā.

Or is it simply stating that we should avoid being overly attached to any one person, experience, or thing?

You should try to reduce:

  • perceiving / reactively classifying an experience as favorable (friend)
  • perceiving / reactively classifying an experience as unfavorable (foe / someone you dislike)

And not being attached to sensation (pleasant, unpleasant) that arise with it. Getting attached to this gives rise to craving and clinging. See: Twelve Nidānas

This is does not mean you should not care about others but care for all as your would care for your self without clining to others.

Also looking at it in the larger context would make it easier to understand:

Practicing what one shouldn't,
Not practicing what one should,
Having abandoned the goal,
Clinging to what is dear,
One comes to envy those who practice.

Don't get entangled
With what you long for or dislike.
Not seeing what you long for is suffering;
So also is seeing what you dislike.

Therefore, do not turn anything
Into something longed for,
For then it's dreadful to lose.
Without longing or dislike,
No bonds exist.

Longing gives rise to grief;
Longing gives rise to fear.
For someone released from longing
There is neither grief nor fear.

Affection gives rise to grief;
Affection gives rise to fear.
For someone released from affection
There is no grief;
And from where would come fear?

Infatuation gives rise to grief;
Infatuation gives rise to fear.
For someone released from infatuation
There is no grief;
And from where would come fear?

Sensual craving gives rise to grief;
Sensual craving gives rise to fear.
For someone released from sensual craving
There is no grief;
And from where would come fear?

Craving gives rise to grief;
Craving gives rise to fear.
For someone released from craving
There is no grief;
And from where would come fear?

People hold dear those
Who have done their own work,
Complete in virtue and vision,
Established in the Dhamma,
And who speak the truth.

Anyone who aspires to the Indescribable,
Whose mind is expansive,
And whose heart is not bound to sensual craving
Is called "one bound upstream."

Relatives, friends, and companions
Rejoice
When a long-absent person
Returns from afar.
Just so, in passing from this world to the next,
The merit we have made
Receives us,
As a family does the return of a beloved relative.

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