Confidential are the Best Kinsmen
Olcott Gunasekera

Health is the greatest gain
Contentment is the greatest wealth
Confidential are the best kinsmen
Nibbana is the bliss supreme.
Dhammapada V.204

This is the reply given by the Buddha to King Pasenadi Kosala when the latter asked four questions from the Buddha regarding the greatest gain, the greatest wealth, the best kinsmen and supreme bliss to any human being. In this short article, I shall be discussing the third line of this admonition of the Buddha.

If you so wish, it is possible to divide the world's population to those who are your blood relations or kinsmen and those who are not. In such a classification, the numbers who are your blood relations compared to the rest are very much less. From among the blood relations, count the number whom you associate. Then the number of blood relations becomes still less. There are those who are intimate, those who are not, and there are those whom you even despise. Are the blood relations the best of kinsmen you have?

What was the Buddha's thinking regarding kinsmen or relations? His view was that the best of kinsmen are the confidential or in whom one could place implicit trust or confidence. Such a person will be with you under thick or thin or when faced with any vicissitude in life. Such a person need not be a blood relation, and hence, the classification of the world into those who are one's blood relations and those who are not does not hold ground in determining one's kinsmen.

A question may arise in a person's mind whether a person or persons who are associated with and trusted when engaged in any form of wrong action are the best kinsmen. Take a gang of robbers, or a Mafia of drug peddlers. In performing any wrong action, usually, there are those who are accomplices. They have implicit trust in each other. If not their crimes are known. When the Buddha uttered the words 'Confidential are the best kinsmen', this is not what was meant.

Who then are the confidential who will be one's best of kinsmen? There are sixteen qualities a person should develop to become the best of kinsmen or for one to become the best of kinsmen to another. In other words, a person to be trusted, who indeed is the best of kinsmen, should possess these qualities. Hence, one should endeavour to develop these qualities and become the best of kinsmen to others.

The first such quality is not to have evil wishes. The Pali term is papa iccha. Evil wishes towards others are based on greed, hatred and delusion. Because of greed or hatred, a person could go into any depth in trying to possess something or destroy another. A good relationship cannot develop with such evil wishes. The cause for dissension among the closest of relations is such wishes. A confidential will not be praising one's self and disparaging others. Praising oneself and one's deeds whilst disparaging one's relations is a very common defect seen among relations. This is a cause for much dissension especially among blood relations. If one wishes to be the best of kinsmen one should learn to give up the habit of lauding oneself and disparaging others.

It is strange but true that the rate of occurrence of anger is more among relations and associates. This is because the cause of anger arises with whom you associate most. Closer the relationship greater is one's intolerance. His own anger can overpower an angry person. This would blur one's vision making it more difficult to understand the main issues of a problem. Many relationships break because of this phenomenon. A conscious attempt should be made to develop one's patience, a quality that has to be with the best of kinsmen.

Anger also leads to revengefulness. Family feuds due to revengefulness sometime are carried over many generations. If one looks back, the incident that caused revengeful action will be trivial. In fact, one could even laugh at it, if one reflects on that incident. However, there was no control of oneself at that time. One action has led to another and today the relationship is as bitter as ever. Learn to reflect on the cause of anger when one's anger has subsided. This will help to discard the bitterness that it had caused within you. A good deed towards the other will bring back the relationship.

Another quality to develop is not to be stubborn if one wishes to be the best of kinsmen. Stubbornness is a by-product of anger and is your weakness. No one else should be blamed. It is due to a bloated ego. The cause for anger has hurt your ego. Hence, you have become resentful towards your relation and stubborn in your attitude. Be soft towards the other and try to understand your own weakness. It should not be difficult for a person to speak with you.

The words of an angry person are full of anger. This is not a desirable quality of a confidential. In the day to day life of a person, there will be more than one occasion, which will arouse anger. One may even think that what was expected is to be angry and will allow anger to arise, which will burst out in the form of abusive words. How can one place trust in such a person? Such a person cannot be the best of kinsmen because of unpredictability.

Hence, a confidential, who is the best of kinsmen, is a person who keeps his calm, is not revengeful, is very easy to speak with, and whose words are always pleasing to the ear.

A confidential has other qualities as well. There are many instances in life where one is reproved or blamed. Bring to mind a situation where you have given your best, but at the end there is censure and blame. How did you react? Interestingly your reaction would have been most intense if the person who blamed you was the closest relation. If one is to become the best of kinsmen one should learn to act differently when reproved. This is no easy task.

It could be that the censure was fully justifiable. Even so, the initial reaction would have been to resist. Very rarely will a person admit one's fault and accept the criticism or censure. The first reaction is to resist. This will be followed usually by denigrating the person who censured. This will lead to building up of tension among the parties. Relationships get strained. There will be counter-reprove. Whatever confidence there was gets eroded. There will be hatred, anger and bitterness. The best of kinsmen becomes the worst enemies.

How should a person who is reproved act in order to build confidence? It is neither by resisting or denigrating the other, nor by counter-reprove or show of anger or bitterness. When reproved or blamed one should learn to analyze one's own conduct and account for it. This is again a quality to be developed with diligence. Such a response will help in promoting good relationships, because the conduct of such a person is predictable. Such persons are the best of kinsmen.

Being contemptuous of others and domineering affect human relationships. A person with such a personality is never liked. Such behavioural traits create artificial barriers among persons. A true kinsman will not be contemptuous or domineering. He will praise a person when praise is due. He will not be speaking ill of the other and he will be easy to communicate with. Hs speech will always be truthful and be beneficial to others.

There are few more qualities the Buddha has referred to become a confidential. Such a person will not be envious of others' welfare and development. He will not be fraudulent and deceitful both in word and in deed. Nor will he be obstinate and arrogant. Being envious of others, being fraudulent and deceitful, and being obstinate and arrogant are sure means to break any relationship. Confidence between or among such persons can never arise.

Persons possessing the qualities mentioned earlier are indeed persons in whom implicit trust could be placed. They will lead a person always on the correct path and will help in resisting evil actions. They indeed are the best of kinsmen.

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