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Upaddha Sutta – An Admirable Sangha
In the Upaddha Sutta, the Buddha emphasizes a common theme present throughout his Dhamma. When the context and purpose of the Buddha’s Dhamma is understood, it can clearly be seen that who and what one associates with will determine their life’s experience. The context here is a Dhamma practitioners associations. Having admirable friends and admirable companions supports the joyful camaraderie that follows a well-informed and well-focused sangha.
In a broad sense, association with an object, event, view, or idea is the same as clinging or joining. The Buddha often taught that due to ignorance of Four Truths  the uninformed “joins” with stress and suffering. This means that one has self-identified with a view of the world that sees life’s disappointments and successes in a personal manner
The Buddha defines what is meant by an admirable friend when, referring to himself, he states “It is in dependence on me, your teacher, as an admirable friend, that those subject to confused and deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointment, gain release from all manner of suffering.”
The emphasis here is on defining an admirable friend as one who understands and can teach a useful and effective Dhamma. By extension, a well-informed and well-focused sangha, having themselves engaged in developing an authentic Dhamma, can now support each other as admirable friends and companions.
The Buddha is also emphasizing that it is a Dhamma practice grounded in associating with those engaged with the Eightfold Path that determines the completion of the task. In this way, it can be seen that a well-informed and well-focused sangha embodies all three of the elements necessary to “fully develop the Noble Eightfold Path” which relate directly to the Three Refuges: 
- A teacher who has actually studied and teaches what the Buddha taught.
- Integrity with the Buddha’s Dhamma.
- A well-focused and well-informed Sangha.
This also shows the true meaning of “lineage.” Rather than claim a lineage through the many alterations, accommodations, and embellishments that have occurred from cultural and charismatic individual’s influences, a true “Buddhist” lineage is a Dhamma that has mainlined integrity and fidelity with what a Buddha actually taught. The lineage established by the Buddha two-thousand six-hundred years ago is continued through his Dhamma and animated through a well-informed and well-focused Sangha. Maintaining the authenticity of the Dhamma is “the whole of a life well-integrated with the Eightfold Path.”
My comments below are in italics.
Samyutta Nikaya 45.2
On one occasion the Buddha was staying in Sakkara. Ananda approached the Buddha, bowed and sat to one side. He said to his teacher: “Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, and admirable camaraderie, this is half of a Dhamma practitioner’s life.”
The Buddha responded: “Don’t say that, Ananda. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, and admirable camaraderie, is the whole of a Dhamma practitioner’s life. When one has admirable friends, admirable companions, and admirable comrades, they can be expected to engage with and fully develop the Noble Eightfold Path.
“And how does one who has admirable friends, admirable companions, and admirable comrades, engage with and fully develop the Noble Eightfold Path?
“A follower of my Dhamma develops Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Mindfulness, and Right Meditation. The development of this Eightfold Path is dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment. (Relinquishment from clinging to wrong views – views ignorant if Four Noble Truths)
“This how a follower of my Dhamma who has admirable friends, admirable companions, and admirable comrades, engages with and fully develops the Noble Eightfold Path.
“When understood in this context one may know how associating with admirable friends, admirable companions, and admirable comrades, is the whole of a life well-integrated with the Eightfold Path. It is in dependence on me, your teacher, as an admirable friend, that those subject to confused and deluded thinking and ongoing disappointment (subject to Dukkha) gain release from all manner of suffering. (arising from ignorance of Four Noble Truths)
“When understood in this context one may know how associating with admirable friends, admirable companions, and admirable comrades, is the whole of a life well-integrated with the Eightfold Path.”
End of Sutta
My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.
Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.
I have made contextual edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.
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