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  • Thong Tri Temple

Four Types of People

Updated: Dec 24, 2022


April 27, 2021 | Compassion {Karuṇā} | Loving-kindness {Metta} | Dharma Lesson


Four Types of People


In our daily journey towards spiritual growth and liberation, we know how significant it is to surround ourselves with true friends who encourage us to observe the Right Path.





The Buddha said: “I see four types of people in this world. The first type is running from darkness towards darkness. The second is running from brightness towards darkness. The third is running from darkness towards brightness. And the fourth is running from brightness towards brightness.”


Karma in the Buddhist tradition is the cycle of rebirth after death, which is determined by actions driven by intention, a deed done deliberately through body, speech, or mind which leads to future consequences. Our past actions affect us, either positively or negatively, and our present actions will affect us in the future.


Darkness towards darkness

The person who is running from darkness towards darkness is currently suffering a life of misery, but there is no inner wisdom. For example, a person who, in a past life, lived a life of ignorance, hatred, and ill will, and they are also sowing seeds of darkness by not recognizing that their current state of misery was brought upon by past Karma. They generate aversions to current people and situations in their lives and continue to sow seeds of darkness, which will only grow into future misery. Thus, they are living in darkness and also moving towards darkness.


Brightness towards darkness

The person who is running from brightness towards darkness is living a life of good fortune and happiness; however, there is no inner wisdom. For example, one who has acquired wealth or a high level position due to past good Karma lives in brightness now, but this person does not recognize that the brightness in their life is the result of past Karma and becomes arrogant. They sow seeds of egotism and disdain for others who are suffering. They treat people poorly, do not show love and compassion, and reap future darkness and misery. Your past good Karma will come to an end if you don’t continue to plant good seeds and build up good Karma. Thus, they are living in brightness, but moving towards darkness.


Darkness towards brightness

The person who is running from darkness towards brightness is living in darkness much like the person who is running from darkness towards darkness. However, this person understands that the misery in their life is the result of past Karma. There is inner wisdom. In a past life, this person sowed seeds of darkness and had no wisdom, but now they are sowing seeds of love and compassion. They open their hearts and do good deeds for others. These seeds will bring about future brightness and happiness. Thus, they are living in darkness, but moving towards brightness.


Brightness towards brightness

The person who is running from brightness towards brightness lives in a current state of happiness due to past good Karma, and is also sowing seeds of love and compassion, which will grow into future happiness. This person has the wisdom to recognize that their good fortune is the result of past Karma and continues to generate goodwill and happiness for the future. They are in a cycle of brightness and happiness. Thus, they are living in brightness, and also moving towards brightness.


The seeds that must be sown for future brightness are mental (what we think), physical (actions), and verbal (what we say). Happiness and material riches will continue when living in good Karma, treating others fairly with patience, generosity, non-judgment, understanding, compassion, and spreading loving-kindness.


We are always striving to surround ourselves with this third and fourth type of person. We are always striving to emulate this third and fourth type of person, who is running from darkness to brightness or brightness to brightness.


Four Good and Bad Friends


The following instructions are from, “The Sigalovada Sutta: The Discourse to Sigala - DN 21, translated from the Pali by Narada Thera.” We look to these teachings to identify our true friends, while also reflecting on whether we are being a true friend to others.


Four Bad Friends and Their Characteristics

There are four types of people who are false or bad friends pretending to be true friends:

1. One who takes anything and takes advantage

2. One who is a great talker or only pays lip-service by making empty promises

3. One who flatters or only says pleasant things

4. One who is a fellow spendthrift or debauched companion

1. The first bad friend, who takes anything, has four characteristics:

(i) Taking everything from you

(ii) Wanting a lot for very little (or wanting much in return for giving only a little)

(iii) Doing service only to get something in return or when in need of something

(iv) Seeking only their own advantage

2. The second bad friend, who is a great talker, also has four characteristics:

(i) Holding onto favors of the past

(ii) Promising favors in the future

(iii) Trying to please you with empty promises of goodwill that are meaningless

(iv) Pleading inability or making excuses when something needs to be done in the present

3. The third bad friend, who flatters, also has four characteristics:

(i) Agreeing to your bad actions

(ii) Agreeing to all your actions in flattery

(iii) Praising you in your presence

(iv) Disparaging you behind your back

4. The fourth bad friend, who is a spendthrift and companion in debauchery, also has four characteristics:

(i) Being a companion when indulging in strong drink

(ii) Being a companion when roaming the streets at unfitting times

(iii) Being a companion when frequenting unsavory shows and entertainment

(iv) Being a companion when indulging in gambling.

Four Good Friends and Their Characteristics

There are four types of people who are true or good friends.

1. One who is helpful

2. One who is the same in happy and unhappy times

3. One who points out what is good for you

4. One who is sympathetic

1. The first good friend, who is helpful, has four characteristics:

(i) Looking out for you when you are intoxicated

(ii) Looking out for your possessions so others do not take advantage of you

(iii) Being a refuge when you are in trouble

(iv) Letting you have twice what you ask for when some business is to be done

2. The second good friend, who is the same in happy and unhappy times, also has four characteristics:

(i) Telling you their secrets to build trust

(ii) Keeping your secrets

(iii) Not forsaking you when you are in trouble

(iv) Sacrificing their own life for you

3. The third good friend, who points out what is good for you, also has four characteristics:

(i) Keeping you from wrongdoing.

In other words, restraining you from doing the Ten unwholesome courses of action: killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, telling lies, slandering, harsh speech, frivolous talk, covetousness, ill will, and wrong view.

(ii) Supporting you in doing good.

In other words, encouraging you to do the Ten courses of wholesome Karma, which is the opposite of the ten unwholesome courses of action (above).

In addition, we also encouraging you to give offerings, to practice mindfulness meditation, and

to take the Five Precepts:

● Abstain from killing

● Abstain from stealing

● Abstain from sexual misconduct

● Abstain from lying

● Abstain from all intoxicants


and to practice The Noble Eightfold Path:

● Right view

● Right thinking (intention)

● Right speech

● Right action

● Right livelihood

● Right effort (diligence)

● Right mindfulness

● Right concentration


(iii) Informing you of what you do not know

(iv) Pointing out the path toward spiritual growth

4. The fourth good friend, who is sympathetic, also has four characteristics:

(1) Not rejoicing in your misfortune

(2) Rejoicing in your good fortune

(3) Stopping others who speak against you

(4) Commending others who speak in praise of you.

Seven qualities of a true friend:

1. Gives what is hard to give

2. Does what is hard to do

3. Endures what is hard to endure

4. Trusts and is also trustworthy

5. Your companion, not in wrongdoing, but in the Right Eightfold Path

6. When misfortunes strike, doesn't abandon you

7. When you're down and out, doesn't look down on you


Look around you and within you for the qualities of a true friend. May you always reflect these qualities. May you recognize and invite these four types of good and true friends into your life.

May you all be free from suffering and all the causes of suffering, achieve happiness and peace!


Namo Shakyamuni Buddha.


References:

"https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.31.0.nara.html"

"DN 31 PTS: D iii 180 - Sigalovada Sutta: The Discourse to Sigala"

"The Layperson's Code of Discipline - translated from the Pali by

Narada Thera - © 1996 - Alternate translation: Kelly/Sawyer/Yareham"

“Chơn Lý,” Tác Giả Đức Tổ Sư Minh Đăng Quang (Language in Vietnamese)

“Phật Học Phổ Thông,” Tác Giả Hòa Thượng Thích Thiện Hoa (Language in Vietnamese)



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