The Importance of Friendship and Association
By Karnamrita dasa
I have been thinking today of friendship and its power of influence over us which indicates the secret meaning of association. What drives us to seek friends and close relationships and what will be the effect on us?
Our heart is compared in the scriptures to be like a clear crystal that reflects what is before it. We become like who we associate with closely or intimately. That means that when we open our heart to someone, and they open their heart to us there is an exchange of energy or power–we and they are influenced.
I meet people all day where I work. Some I have gotten to know well, others casually. I see coming together with someone like two doors facing each other. Behind each door is many pathways leading to different oceans. So two people coming together has the potential of revealing many oceans. We could get lost in our own or another persons’ ocean unless we can uncover the soul, which is what spiritual association can offer us.
There is an urge of human beings for intimacy—to be able to share their story and who they currently are or are trying to become. Sharing our self means being able to open our door to let someone in. It may be a crack to reveal our particular color of light in the beginning, as we are all eventually guarded as to who we let in—otherwise we may have boundary issues or be taken advantage of.
Everyone has needs and the desire to be needed. Perhaps the single most important reason many people come together is the desire to be understood. From that we feel we gain strength, can be our self, with the ability to face the world which can seem alien, being inhabited by those other people that don’t really understand us. We doubt our self and want to find someone who believes in us. This doubt or low self esteem drives many people to therapists or spiritual paths. From a spiritual perspective, real self esteem comes from realizing our nature as souls who are part of the Supreme Great. He or we could say—They, as in Radha and Krishna–is (are) our real friend(s).
This urge to share the details of our life and it’s journey is fascinating to me. We think this sharing of who we “think we truly are” to be what friendship and intimacy is about—with the addition of giving support and respect to one another, while accepting who the other is without negative judgment. We may give up our family are reputation to find this.
In our both our professional and personal life, we have acquaintances, and close friends. I mentioned sharing the details with another and mutual support and acceptance, though there are other things as well which constitute friendship. What do you think they are?
Some further ideas I have are as follows.
Friendships are about giving and receiving, like a dance where first one person leads, then the other, and sometimes it seems like an invisible partner is directing us. Other than a saint who makes no distinctions between people, seeing everyone as a soul, there is some calculation in who we choose for a friend. We see or feel something in them, some quality, attractiveness, that causes us to want to be with them. We are charmed, fascinated, or at least interested to know more, and have their company. We may see some quality in them we would like to have, or they may be in need and we are drawn to help them in some way. Birds of a feather, flock together, or are attracted in the first place. Or on the downside, we could want to exploit them for our selfish purpose, which when revealed can end the so-called friendship. Sometimes even with a real friend, there may be a mixture of both the good and bad, since we are imperfect human beings and devotees.
Most people are hungry for relationships, either as friends or lovers. Since we have forgotten our original, primal love with Krishna and our true spiritual self, we seek the fulfillment of our eternal needs through the flesh, which is our conception of who we are. Even in material relationships we can gain much and learn more about our self because people are like mirrors that reflect back to us what we like or dislike, or want or hate. We devotees of Krishna or anyone on a spiritual path can also gain those things from relationships, yet more importantly in spiritual relationships we are reminded of our true spiritual self interest, and object of love.
Friendship or good relationships are synergistic, there is more substance in the combination than there is with one person alone. Some metaphors have come to mind this morning regarding this effect of friendship. One is that friendship is like two flowers cross pollinating each other—helping each other to realize their potential and fullness. Or we provide encouraging words, support, or our practical insights about KC which act like fertilizer to help one another grow and move forward, or upward. Sometimes two creepers may intertwine in such a way to also help each other grow individually upward, moving off the ground and on to a mighty oak tree where they go higher than they ever could alone and touch the stars, and beyond to Goloka. So we can think of sankirtana (group chanting of the holy name) or the power of saintly association with devotees as the perfection of friendship and association.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive, definitive essay on friendship and association as it is my usual method of writing flow. I am quite aware that many of my posts here are very basic, yet I hope they are relevant to devotees’ lives, and provide food for thought and reflection. Perhaps you could share with me and the other readers, your insights about what friendships are to you, and the meaning of all types of association. Discerning what positive and negative association with others is important as most of us here know. We have learned that spiritual advancement is helped by first associating with devotees in openhearted friendship
(and in the case of a guru, with friendly reverence) and secondly by avoiding intimate dealings with the unfaithful. Therefore this is an important topic to understand and discuss, even though it might seem very basic.