Verses about Intimate Friends – Mitra-vargha

Tibetan Dhammapada: Sayings of the Buddha –
translated by Gareth Sparham

Intimate Friends

(1) Wise ones, do not befriend
The faithless, who are mean
And slanderous and cause schism.
Don’t take bad people as your companions.

(2) Wise ones, be intimate
With the faithful who speak gently,
Are ethical and do much listening.
Take the best as companions.

(3) Do not devote yourself
To bad companions and wicked beings.
Devote yourself to holy people,
And to spiritual friends.

(4) By devotion to people like that
You will do goodness, not wrong.

(5) By devotion to faithful and wise people
Who have heard much and pondered many things,
By heeding their fine words, even from afar,
Their special qualities are attained here.

(6) Since those devoted to inferiors degenerate,
Those to equals mark time,
And those to great ones attain sanctity,
Be devoted to those great ones.

(7) By devotion to ethical,
Calm, and most knowledgeable great beings,
One attains to a greatness
Greater even than the great.

(8) Just as the clean kusha grass
That wraps a rotten fish
Will also start to rot,
So too will those devoted to an evil person.

(9) Just as a leaf folded
To contain an incense offering
Also becomes sweet,
So too will those devoted to the virtuous.

(10) When one does no wrong yet
Is devoted to evil people,
One will still be abused,
For others suppose that this one too is bad.

(11) The devotee acquires the same faults
As the person not worthy of devotion,
Like an untainted arrow smeared
With the poison of a tainted sheath.

(12) Steadfast ones who fear the taint of faults,
Do not befriend bad people.
By close reliance and devotion
To one’s companion,
Soon one becomes just like
The object of one’s devotion.

(13) Therefore, knowing that one’s devotion
Is like the casing of the fruit,
The wise devote themselves to holy,
Not to unholy people,
And drawn along the monk’s path
They find the end of misery.

(14) Just as a spoon cannot taste the sauce,
Infantile ones do not understand
The doctrine, even after
A lifetime of devotion to the wise.

(15) Just as the tongue can taste the sauce.
Those with wisdom can understand
The entire doctrine, after just
A brief attendance on the wise.

(16) Because infantile ones lack eyes to see,
Though they devote their lifetimes
To the wise, they never
Understand the entire doctrine.
Those with wisdom fully understand
The entire doctrine after just
A brief attendance on the wise.
They have eyes to see.

(17) Though they devote their lifetimes
To wise beings, infantile ones
Do not understand the doctrine
Of the Buddha in its entirety.
Those with wisdom understand
The doctrine of the Buddha
In its entirety after just
A brief attendance on the wise.

(18) Even just one meaningful line
Sets the wise ones to their task,
But all the teaching that the Buddhas gave
Won’t set infantile ones to work.

(19) The intelligent will understand
A hundred lines from one,
But for the infantile beings
A thousand lines do not suffice for one.

(20) [If one must chose between them],
Better the wise even if unfriendly.
No infant is suited to be a friend.
Sentient beings intimate with
The infant-like are led to hell.

(21) Wise persons are those who know
Infantile ones for what they are:
‘Infantile’ ones are those
Who take infants to be the wise.

(22) The censure of the wise
Is far preferable
To the eulogy or praise
Of the infant.

(23) Devotion to infants brings misery.
Since they are like one’s foe,
It is best to never see or hear
Or have devotion for such people.

(24) Like meeting friends, devotion to
The steadfast causes happiness.

(25) Therefore, like the revolving stars and moon,
Devote yourself to the steadfast, moral ones
Who have heard much, who draw on what is best -
The kind, the pure, the best superior ones.


© Gareth Sparham & Wisdom Publications
Offered with kind permission from Gareth Sparham and Wisdom Publications.

Drawing: © Chris Banigan

“Intimate Friends” is the title for chapter 25 of the Collection of Indicative Verses. [Ud: 25.5.–6; P992: 98.3.3.–7.] Published in The Tibetan Dhammapada. A Wisdom basic book. Orange series. Published by Gareth Sparham & Beth Lee Simon, ISBN 0861710126.