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I've been training in spirituality for for about 8 years. I used to do formal meditation practice couple of times a day. Now I find that I kind of live my life more in a meditative way. I'm living a quiet life alone currently, not working at the moment and spending most of my time on spiritual and meditative practice, a bit like a monastic life in some ways.

I've done reading on various different spiritual traditions, I'd say I've been inspired more by Zen and Taoism than anything else. I'm interested in advice from any spiritual background though really. Some days now I can feel The Way and I follow it, and I'm moving slowly and taking care of myself and I can feel my mind opening up to the world. On those days I feel peace and I know how to move forwards.

Some days I'm having trouble letting go of attachment, and it's costing me a lot, of time suffering. For example at the moment, I've told some friends they can stay with me next weekend. I know really that this is not The Way. I take in too much of other people's energy at the moment and I need to be alone. I'm having incredible difficulty ringing them to discuss this, I have some powerful attachment which I can't let go of.

It's been about four days that I've been full of internal conflict about this and I'm suffering a lot. I can't digest my food, sleep well or take care of myself properly because of how strong the fight inside of me is to not let go of this attachment. I've tried to talk about it with some people but they all just say, "well maybe it will be nice if your friends come", which hasn't been so helpful.

When I try to sit with this inner conflict it's pretty unbearable. To make some progress, I commit to myself that I am going to discuss this with my friends. Then after making this commitment the conflict is bearable enough for me to sit with it for a bit, and I understand something new. Then when I have understood something new, I think 'oh I don't feel so bad now maybe it would be ok for them to come'. My conviction wanes, I don't call, and the cycle repeats.

Does anyone have some advice on a spiritual dilemma such as this? I tell myself 'well just ring then', but I've not been able to yet.

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  • It's all legit. to call your friends to tell them there's a change of plan. It happens all the time and they'll likely won't mind. But if they already bought travel tickets, it won't be too bad either, cuz they'll just stay at your home for only 2 days for the weekend right?
    – santa100
    Mar 22 at 17:04

3 Answers 3

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I went through a similar process with attachments, particularly with friends and family. The pull of the mind can be quite strong around people, but it is more that the mind is drawn to inner conflict of one sort or another, rather than the situation or source of attachment itself.

I'm guessing the underlying narrative might be something like, "what will they think of me if I cancel?" - and there within lies the conflict born of upholding a particular kind of identity.

For me, I would often throw caution to the wind, remove myself from the mind's torment, and make a damn decision. Sometimes I looked like a fool - ah, so what! Humility dissolves the ego.

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  • +1 for the advice about just making a decision.
    – user23951
    Mar 23 at 17:31
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SN3.18:4.3 refers to a supreme noble type of friendship, as follows:

Good friends, companions and associates are the whole of the spiritual life. A monk with good friends, companions and associates can expect to develop and cultivate the noble eightfold path.

Per AN 3.114, it is extremely rare to find the above type of supreme noble friend in the world.

DN 31 refers to false friends & true friends as follows:

These four, young householder, should be understood as foes in the guise of friends:

  1. he who appropriates a friend's possessions, namely, (i) he appropriates his friend's wealth, (ii) he gives little and asks much, (iii) he does his duty out of fear, (iv) he associates for his own advantage.
  2. he who renders lip-service, namely, (i) he makes friendly profession as regards the past, (ii) he makes friendly profession as regards the future, (iii) he tries to gain one's favor by empty words, (iv) when opportunity for service has arisen, he expresses his inability.
  3. he who flatters, namely, (i) he approves of his friend's evil deeds, (ii) he disapproves his friend's good deeds, (iii) he praises him in his presence, (iv) he speaks ill of him in his absence.
  4. he who brings ruin, namely, (i) he is a companion in indulging in intoxicants that cause infatuation and heedlessness, (ii) he is a companion in sauntering in streets at unseemly hours, (iii) he is a companion in frequenting theatrical shows, (iv) he is a companion in indulging in gambling which causes heedlessness."

These four, young householder, should be understood as warm-hearted friends:

  1. he who is a helpmate, namely, (i) he guards the heedless, (ii) he protects the wealth of the heedless, (iii) he becomes a refuge when you are in danger, (iv) when there are commitments he provides you with double the supply needed.
  2. he who is the same in happiness and sorrow, namely, (i) he reveals his secrets, (ii) he conceals one's own secrets, (iii) in misfortune he does not forsake one, (iv) his life even he sacrifices for one's sake.
  3. he who gives good counsel, namely, (i) he restrains one from doing evil, (ii) he encourages one to do good, (iii) he informs one of what is unknown to oneself, (iv) he points out the path to heaven.
  4. he who sympathises, namely, (i) he does not rejoice in one's misfortune, (ii) he rejoices in one's prosperity, (iii) he restrains others speaking ill of oneself, (iv) he praises those who speak well of oneself

While sufficient information has not been provided, in the situation of the questioner, an impression or speculation arises the questioner fears the conduct of his/her friends may not be in harmony with his/her spiritual lifestyle. If this is true, it follows these types of friends are 'false friends' from a Buddhist perspective.

The above said, due to our past, most of us have such 'friends'. We should learn to establish appropriate boundaries with such 'friends'. We generally don't cut them off but we are clear we don't engage in their unwholesome lifestyle.

In summary, we can/should use the criteria from DN 31 to examine whether our 'friends' are true friends, false friends or a combination of both. This will help us determine our degree & manner of association with them.

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    Thankyou for sharing these teachings they were interesting. I can tell which friends are in harmony with my lifestyle and which aren't. I find it difficult doing boundaries with the friends who aren't, especially if they're people I've known for a long time. I think the friends who I have plans with next week are true friends
    – Joe
    Mar 23 at 11:04
  • Ok. thank you for your thank you Joe Mar 24 at 5:19
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If you have invited friends, then you are a host. Skillful hosts are hospitable:

AN7.70:1.10: A mendicant should honor and respect and rely on hospitality, to give up the unskillful and develop the skillful.”

The Buddha also teaches two kinds of hospitality:

AN2.152:1.1: “There are these two kinds of hospitality.
AN2.152:1.2: What two?
AN2.152:1.3: Hospitality in material things and hospitality in the teaching.
AN2.152:1.4: These are the two kinds of hospitality.
AN2.152:1.5: The better of these two kinds of hospitality is hospitality in the teaching.”

Hospitality in the teaching is good because:

SN3.18:4.3: Good friends, companions, and associates are the whole of the spiritual life.

Notice that the Buddha clearly emphasizes good friends as the whole of the spiritual life. So we should all be skillful hosts to good friends.

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  • This doesn't answer my question at all, I'm asking about the inner conflict not the actual event that may or may not happen. If I ring my friend, it will be to discuss with them how it would impact them to stay somewhere else, not to tell them they can't stay here
    – Joe
    Mar 22 at 12:46
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    Thank you for the clarification. A simple solution is to call your friends and simply say, "I need some alone time, may we reschedule?" However, if they have already made travel plans from a distance, then that would be cruel. Buddhist ethics handle those inner conflicts.
    – OyaMist
    Mar 22 at 16:12
  • this answer sounds wrong. when the Buddha referred to "good friends", he referred to those who influence you to practise the Noble Eightfold Path. the suttas says: "A mendicant with good friends, companions, and associates can expect to develop and cultivate the noble eightfold path." Mar 23 at 0:32
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    The OP has now clarified the friends are good. Hopefully the conflict will dissolve since good friends, companions and associates are indeed the whole of the spiritual life. This is a critical point made by the Buddha and should not be ignored.
    – OyaMist
    Mar 23 at 14:34

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