• By Nhat Quan
    The Venerable Monks often teach that:
    - When you meet good people, you must be close to them because these people can help you increase the goodness of your mind and the goodness of your body. If you encounter evil people, stay away immediately, because they can lead you down a sinful path, or can bring you unforeseen disasters.
    Indeed, when you are close to good people, your noble and pure virtues will have the effect of molding and cultivating yourself. Stay away from and avoid evil people, then the disasters caused by that person will not rely on any connection to cause harm to you. From kings, and mandarins to ordinary people, from ancient times, everyone has considered being close to good people and staying away from evil people to be of the utmost importance. Because:
    - The things you see and hear, the influences of the surrounding environment, then silently change your personality and emotions.
    Reading the pages of ancient books, there are sages who changed for the better thanks to good surrounding circumstances. Typically, the mother of Meng-Tzu or Mencius, in order to raise her children, moved three times, for fear that her children would learn bad things. And it's not just humans, it's the same for all species. Once upon a time, in the country of Pataliputra, there was a white elephant with the power to destroy enemies. When people in the country committed crimes, the king immediately ordered them to be put in cages and trampled to death by elephants. Later, the elephant's stable burned down, so people moved it to a new place, near a temple. The elephant heard a Bhikkhu in the temple chanting the Dhammapada, saying:
    - Doing good will lead to heaven, doing evil will lead to hell
    The elephant was a look of horror as if there was some understanding. From then on, when people brought sinners, the elephant no longer crushed them to death, it only used its trunk to smell and stick out its tongue to lick. The king knew about it and immediately brought the elephant to live near the slaughterhouse. Elephants often see scenes of killing, and their evil hearts flare up like before.
    So, the influence of what you see and hear is very important. Therefore, when you meet a kind person, not only should you be close to yourself, but you should also teach your children to be close too. Not only do you advise your children to be close, but for all those who are close or acquainted, every time you have a chance to talk, you should advise them to be close to that kind person. On the contrary, if you see evil people, you must not only avoid and stay away, but also advise your children, younger siblings, and friends to stay away. Not only do you advise your children and younger siblings to stay away, but everyone who is close or acquainted with you, if you have the opportunity to say an honest word, you should advise them to stay away from that person. Because the two paths of good and evil are always contradictory. If you are not close to good people you will easily be drawn to the evil path, but evil people will find it very difficult to transform to the good path. Therefore, the Lotus Sutra teaches that:
    - A cultivator who wants to be liberated must abandon foolish relatives, be close to wise people, meditate in the mountains and forests, and often think of Buddha.
    Giving up foolish relatives means giving up ignorance and afflictions and being close to good people is only for good knowledge, not being close to bad teachers and evil friends. Be aware that ignorance, afflictions, and evil teachers will lead you down the path of sin. You must think of good teachers and good friends and be close to these people, then you will hear the right teachings, helping you succeed in life. Success has two directions:
    - Success according to worldly people means passing education, becoming a mandarin, becoming a general, being a prosperous businessman, etc., which is also good. But this success is only temporary. It can be successful today, tomorrow it can fail, in the success or failure of the birth and death of the impermanent world.
    - The success that Buddhist disciples need to know, care about, and aim for is the three sages and the four liberations.
    Because your goal of striving on the path of practice is to achieve liberation like them. Indeed, a wise person is liberated from the three vehicles and four fruits. The Three Vehicles are:
    - Sravakas, Pratyekabuddhas and Bodhisattvas.
    The four fruits of the shravakas are:
    - Srotapanna, Sakrdagamin, Anagami and Arhat.
    The four fruits of the Bodhisattva are:
    - Bodhisattva Ten Grounds, Ten necessary practices of a Bodhisattva, Bodhisattva Ten devotions of merit and Dasabhumi-bodhisattva.
    Therefore, being close to good people and good friends is for you to learn good and right things in life. First of all, you must practice letting go of all hatred in the past, and practice not having any dreams or attachments to the future. And even in the present, you also practice not to get caught up in vanity and respect from people. That means you are also a normal person like everyone else, but learn to let go of all the anger, hatred, worries, sorrows, and resentments in the past. Do not be attached, attached, or have wishful thinking about future expectations, nor be attached to things in the present moment. Because you have clearly understood that the past has passed, the future has not yet come, and the present is circulating. At the same time, you see that fame, profit, and status are not real, so you are not attached to false fame. At that time, your mind will not be shaken by people's respect or disrespect. By doing so, even though you are not yet a Buddha or Bodhisattva, you can still be called a perfect, calm, virtuous person, completely leisurely and at ease in life.
    According to Buddha's teachings, among the eight true paths that bring people to a place of peace and happiness, the right view, that is, true seeing and knowing, comes first. If you want to have the right views, you must first let go of all wrong views, including private views. At that time, you have the ability to control yourself, and control your life, not being pulled away by internal greed or external pleasures. Walking, standing, lying, sitting, you are always alert, always self-controlled, moderate in eating, drinking, and sleeping, not being enslaved by passion or habit.
    Many people are often proud of their career achievements, wealth, fame, and status, but all their lives they live as slaves to their greed and ignorance without even knowing it. Understanding that you should, by all means, be close to good people and practice controlling yourself more and more, because this is a very important and necessary thing in life. With that closeness, with calm wisdom, you can clearly see the truth around you, and you can stay away from jealousy and envy. You can stay away from lies, double-tongued speech, cruel words, artificially elaborate words, and let go of all speculation that has no real benefit for enlightenment and liberation. Your mind no longer doubts about the path of practice, because you clearly know that the cause of suffering is too much ambition, so you can stay away from desire. If the strings of afflictions no longer have a place to take effect, your mind will no longer have all thoughts of lust and desire. Therefore, you are always alert and patient, capable of resolving all arguments, and disputes, and winning or losing with wisdom and compassion.
    You must clearly realize that all sexual thoughts are due to wrong perceptions leading to desire. If there is no desire, there will be no ambition. Because you are greedy and seek a lot of things like money, fame, power..., because you think they will bring you peace and happiness, you suffer a lot. You should know clearly, that once you get entangled in those things, you will lose all happiness, relaxation, and peace and will only be left with suffering.
    Once your heart is pure and clear, you will certainly no longer have any plans or tricks to satisfy your desires, so you won't be sad, worried, or resentful when you don't have something or lose something. Most importantly, you can eliminate attachment and no longer be enslaved by desire. This is a very difficult thing to do because the reason you are present in this life is because of desire, you drift in the six realms of samsara and suffer all kinds of constant suffering because of desire. Craving is the source of the cycle of birth and death, the cause of suffering, so staying away from craving means happiness and liberation.
    Once you contemplate deeply and clearly see that all sentient beings have true equality, all dharmas are truly equal, and reach the view of selflessness, you can stay away from the two states of pride and inferiority. No more feeling guilty or complacent, no more arguing with others. You always control your mind not to let it wander by the outside scene, see clearly, clearly understand good and evil dharmas, and do not get stuck in good or evil, thinking without traces and mistakes.
    Anyone who has not yet achieved the view of selflessness, and has not clearly understood the true equality of all dharmas, cannot be considered virtuous. This is the most important basis for recognizing who is a truly good person. You are considered a good, honest person when you use your wisdom to contemplate and clearly understand the nature of all dharmas, the nature of all things and phenomena and are no longer bound or entangled in any dharma. No longer stuck on two opposite ends of yes and no. Your mind has calmed down, your cravings are no longer there, and the ignorance, desires, temptations, and pleasures in the realm of desire, the realm of form and the formless realm no longer make your mind fluctuate. At that time, you are truly a person at peace with all dharmas, your mind has completely let go, no longer bound by so-called possessions. That means you have crossed the sea of sorrow to the place where there are no longer any worries or sorrows.
    Therefore, the great wisdom has clearly shown you that those who still want to hoard money and wealth for a lot of money, hate what they do not like, and preserve what they like. Then they are definitely not pure people, not truly good people. A truly virtuous person is one when your mind is truly far away from both extremes of desire and aversion, that is, no longer desiring anything, nor averse to anything.
    Being close, relying on good people, and seeing the way means you have determined the path you need to take. Your mind is completely calm and clear, beyond the impact of praise or criticism, respect or insult. That is, when being criticized or insulted, the practitioner no longer gets angry. When being praised and respected, the practitioner does not feel arrogant or complacent. Even when you are falsely accused, you no longer want to defend or exonerate yourself.
    The thoughts of greed, stinginess, and jealousy you practice completely no longer exist in your mind. The notion of pride, complacency, or inferiority complex is also completely purified without a trace. Your mind at that time was steadfast, your words, actions, and thoughts were no longer mistaken.
    Further, once you have clearly understood emptiness, realized the true nature of all phenomena, and understood the nature of all things and phenomena, you no longer desire anything, nor do you see that you have any desire, any attainment, beyond the mundane desires of the world. At that time, your mind will be completely calm, clear, and peaceful, your mind will no longer wander. You have truly gone beyond all bondage, freed from all suffering in samsara, free from confusion and fear, and are a calm, clear-headed person.
    From an ordinary person living in constant suffering, bound in the cycle of birth and death like everyone else, but thanks to being close to good friends, thanks to the effort to cultivate the mind and cultivate character in the right way, you are completely capable of freeing yourself from all bondage, achieving happiness and freedom with the fullest meaning. That is why an Indian sage said:
    - People are only noble when they conquer the inner and outer worlds:
    Conquering the outer world is like scientists conquering the planets, and gaining great knowledge, but conquering the inner world of monks is like eliminating ambition, which is even greater. You need to be close to people who have such a peaceful life. Know how to be close to good people who do not attach importance to food, clothing, and shelter, and be liberated. You are not dependent on hunger and thirst, because you have conquered the body of the seven elements, mastered the body of the seven elements, and controlled the body of the seven elements. In fact, you don't need to drink water all day or don't eat for a few days to be as healthy as usual. There are people who work tirelessly and don't need to sleep to conquer the outside world. Regarding the inner world, the Buddha teaches you to practice the 37 supporting stages and move up step by step. For the inner world, the mind is the main thing. The mind has the true mind and false consciousness. Conquering the inner world is conquering false consciousness. Consciousness is mainly due to the six senses contacting the six sense objects, giving rise to human understanding. Although humans have more understanding than other species, the Buddha taught that this understanding is sometimes inaccurate and often causes trouble for you. Therefore, the ancients often said:
    - It's better not to know, or if you know less then you suffer less, if you don't know then you don't suffer.
    You don't care what other people do, because knowing about other people and their work makes you start to discriminate, criticize, and suffer yourself. I think what they do is their business, it has nothing to do with you, but why do you bring on your own suffering? It's truly pitiful!
    Conquering the outside world means overcoming or mastering four things:
    - Hunger, thirst, heat, cold
    But conquering the inner world is conquering your own emotions, that is, sentimental emotions, then you are always not sad, angry, worried, or miserable, you are peaceful and happy.
    In short, if you want to have a peaceful and carefree present life, the monks advise you to be close to good people. Truly this is the only way for you to have a holy life. A very beautiful image like in the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Buddha showed the image of Bhikkhu Hai Van meditating in the mountains and forests. That is, he (Hai Van) sat still, his mind was quiet and he observed the ocean of worldly suffering, seeing all types of sentient beings being tormented by countless sufferings. But all suffering comes from human ambition. He clearly saw that there is no suffering, or that it is not worthy of suffering, but sentient beings create their own suffering.
    Specifically, if you practice in this ashram, you definitely won't suffer, you won't have to worry about anything. You just listen to the Dharma practice, chant sutras, recite Buddha's name, and at noon there will be people serving you food and drinks. But suppose someone in this ashram starts thinking that it should be like this or like that, then they have made themselves miserable with their own crazy delusions.
    The wise person who abides in the true mind and contemplates false consciousness, or in non-birth and looks at birth and death, has entered the path taught by the Buddha, living with a part of the Buddha's wisdom. Therefore, for practitioners, wisdom is their life's career. On the path of practice, of course, they must be enlightened by good knowledge, but it comes from true wisdom, which is the knowledge of non-birth. If you are close to such a wise person, even though living in Saha has many sufferings, you will still feel peaceful and progress in practice. When your mind has no afflictions, no anger see life clearly and accurately, see it as it really is,
    If you have the good fortune to live near the sages of the Sravakas who are wise people, your mind will be completely at peace and not be influenced by material things. Because they do not require material things, you practice according to them and are not dependent on material things. The wisdom of the Shravakas or the second vehicle is like that. While the wisdom of the Bodhisattva, the realization is at a higher level and reaches the highest peak, entering the realm of the Avatamsaka Sutra, the mind is completely peaceful and pure.
    If you have any recommendations, please e-mail to: