(Photo above by Zen Chung / Pexels)
Feeling at home with a group of friends—people who can make you laugh over dinner, text all night about your favorite TV show and be there when you’re having a rough day—is special. To get there, though, might feel like a far-off dream. Fortunately, we can look to the philosophy of SGI Nichiren Buddhism to learn how to build and maintain our friend circle.
You might be wondering what friendship has to do with Buddhism. In a discussion with young people, Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda emphasized the value of friendships:
Friendship forms an important foundation for our humanity. It gives sustenance and impetus to the struggle for world peace and the betterment of society. By expanding our circle of friendship, we create the basis for a peaceful society.
Discussions on Youth, p. 315
Buddhists are also committed to creating a better, more peaceful world. Friendship is one critical way that we, as individuals, can work toward a more peaceful society. Buddhism teaches us that all life is interconnected and so friendships forged through one-to-one conversations will create ripples throughout society. Ikeda says:
Even the most ambitious undertakings actually come down to one-on-one, person-to-person relationships accumulating over the years. I have friends all around the world because I have always valued each encounter and sincerely treasured each person. It’s always one-on-one, always. Don’t fall under the illusion that people who talk big and make flashy gestures are truly great.
A drop of rain from the sky, a drop of water from a river and a drop of water from the ocean are all just that: drops of water. The friends we make in our own small circle contribute to the spread of friendship around the world. Our individual circle or friendship is part of the global circle of friendship; these are one and the same. Making one true friend is a step toward creating world peace.
Discussions on Youth, p. 326
A spirit of mutual respect and trust is a vital basis for real friendship.
- Daisaku Ikeda
It might seem a bit counterintuitive to focus on the individual when you want to have a friend group, but building one starts with making a single friend. Get to know someone one-on-one to build trust and respect. Ikeda says good friends “warmly encourage others, give them hope and inspire them toward self-improvement” (Discussions on Youth, p. 317). To find those kinds of friends, he encourages us to turn the focus on ourselves:
The first thing you must do is become such a person yourself. For example, when you notice someone is worried about something, offer a kind word. You could say, for instance: “You don’t look so happy. Is something wrong?” When you make a promise, always keep it, no matter what. If you try to be that kind of person, you’ll soon come to find yourself surrounded by good friends.
Discussions on Youth, p. 318
As we focus on developing ourselves into the kind of friend we’d like to have, good friends will gravitate toward us.
Our local Buddhability community is also essentially a wonderful friend group where we come together as people of all ages and backgrounds to support one another toward our goals and dreams. Once a month, we gather as equals at neighborhood-based groups to study Buddhism and share inspiring stories of overcoming life’s challenges. If you are interested in connecting with a local Buddhability group, just send us a message.
Navigating Group Chat Drama
Maybe you’ve already started your dream friend group but now your new friend is texting you on the side to dissect something in the group chat. It’s come for you—the dreaded group chat drama. From the perspective of Buddhism, every problem is an opportunity for growth and lasting happiness. When it comes to friendship, bumps in the road are inevitable. What matters is our attitude in those moments. Ikeda shares:
Character and integrity are very important. A spirit of mutual respect and trust is a vital basis for real friendship. That said, there naturally might be times when you have arguments and disagreements with your friends. But there should always be an underlying spirit of respect and consideration for one another, no matter how close you are. In friendship, you mustn’t think only of yourself.
Discussions on Youth, p. 317
Focusing on self-development and maintaining respect for our friends can sometimes be difficult—especially when you would rather just roll your eyes and walk away. Buddhism teaches us, however, that when we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we bring out the courage, compassion and wisdom needed to navigate friendships. We can find the courage to start a conversation with someone, the compassion to support them when they’re struggling and the wisdom to know what to say or do when others don’t.
Buddhism teaches that human relationships are like a mirror for our life. If we can be a great friend to others and have the resolve not to be swayed by the drama, we’ll create the richest and supportive friend groups.