Spiritual Friendship and Right View: An Exploration through Dharma Contemplation

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and Kim Allen

The Pāli suttas name the voice of another and wise attention as the key factors for the arising of right view, or wisdom. This defines speaking and listening practice as foundational to the Eightfold Path. We can see why spiritual friendship (kalyanamitta) is named as the most important external factor for walking the Eightfold Path, and wise attention the most important internal factor.

On this retreat, we will learn to meditate together with the root wisdom texts. The multi-layered, methodical, and relational meditation practice of Dharma Contemplation is a potent practice by which the discourses of the Buddha can come alive for us. The layers of DC help us to embrace and aim the power of the sensate body, the conceiving mind, and intuitive understanding. Dharma Contemplation directly engages the meditative qualities cultivated in silent meditation and the relational power of spiritual friendship in a deep encounter with the Dhamma. The practice, evolved in this form by Gregory Kramer, was developed within the ancient spiritual traditions of reading sacred texts and the establishment of the relational meditation practice of Insight Dialogue. (Experience with ID is not required for this program).

During this program, we will enter intimate relationship with key suttas on friendship and right view. We will experience how friendship and wisdom practice are inextricably linked. Why did the Buddha call spiritual friendship the whole of the holy life? What key qualities nourish spiritual friendship? Where in the suttas do we see these friendships in action?

Spiritual friendship does not just empower our formal Buddhist path. It enlivens, warms, and deepens the whole of our lives. The depth of wise friendship can be a source of resilience, patience, and wholesome urgency in a world that needs models of such qualities. Supported by the power of mutual reminding, shared inquiry, and abiding compassion we might dare to see with right view rather than conventional norms as we engage the Dhamma path of livelihood, family, and community life.

In pairs, and small and large groups—and occasionally alone—we will learn and practice the five phases of Dharma Contemplation.