Skillful Means Podcast

#1: Spiritual Friends

September 30, 2019
Skillful Means Podcast
#1: Spiritual Friends
Skillful Means Podcast
#1: Spiritual Friends
Sep 30, 2019
Jennifer O'Sullivan & Sarah Jane Shangraw
Show Notes

In Episode 1, we start at the beginning, with the phenomenon that gave rise to the shared project that is Skillful Means Podcast: spiritual friendship. 

In Buddhism, spiritual friends (Pali: Kalyāṇa-mitta, Sanskrit: -mitra) provide support and encouragement along the path. They may be monastic, lay peers, or teacher/student pairs. These relationships are fertile ground for better understanding the nature of the mind while also being protective in a world where contemplative practice is counter-cultural. 

We use stories from the Buddhist Canon as well examples from our own lives to illustrate the purpose of spiritual friendship (supportive of practice), how it operates (encouraging the wholesome), and what a spiritual friendship is not (concerned with fixing). We also talk about whether and how it shows up in parts of the yoga world.

Our hope is to inspire you to identify and foreground spiritual friends or potential spiritual friends in your life. We end with resources that will help in this endeavor.

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Sources and Further Reading:

  • Spiritual Friendship,” excerpted from a lecture by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi and published by Bodhi Monastery.

  • A big part of creating the conditions necessary for true happiness, according to Thanissaro Bikkho in his talk “Skillful Shelter” published on, is choosing admirable friends.

  • In “The Whole of the Spiritual Life,” American Buddhist nuns Thubten Chodron and Ayya Tathaaloka discuss friendship in an interview with Sarah Conover on

  • Making Friends on the Buddhist Path,” by Norman Fischer on opens with Ananda’s incomplete insight into the role of friendship in spiritual life and the Buddha’s teaching to Meghiya on the “five things [that] induce release of heart and lasting peace.”
  • In “Good Friendship is the Entire Spiritual Life,” published by the Garrison Institute, Josh Korda reflects on social connection in spiritual community.

  • In Beginning Anew: Four Steps for Restoring Communication, Sister Chan Khong, long-time friend of Thich Nhat Hanh and nun in the Plum Village monastic community, describes the conflict resolution process developed among the Plum Village monastics. 

Resources for developing spiritual friendship and sangha:


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