A Friend Is A Friend

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Jagabandhu das: “One who is not envious, but is a kindly friend to all creatures, who does not think himself a proprietor; who is free from false ego, and equal in both happiness and distress, always satisfied, and engaged in devotional service with determination, and who is compact in mind and intelligence with Me — he is very dear to Me.” (Sri Krishna as translated by Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada in Bhagavad-gita AS IT IS, Ch.12, Verses 13-14, Collier-Macmillan Edition 1968)

“Prahlada Maharaja continued: My dear father, please give up your demoniac mentality. Do not discriminate in your heart between enemies and friends; make your mind equipoised toward everyone. Except for the uncontrolled and misguided mind, there is no enemy within this world. When one sees everyone on the platform of equality, one then comes to the position of worshiping the Lord perfectly.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 7, Ch. 8, Verse 9)

Throughout this life I’ve been very fortunate to have many true friendships with souls of all diverse spiritual beliefs. My own irrevocable sublime convictions do not require for others to believe as I do. Such true friendship transcends everything but the idea of unconditional friendliness itself. And it’s highly praised in the Gita wherein Krishna Himself tells all souls for all time that “a kindly friend to all” (maitrah) is very dear to Him. And I’m constantly reminded of the Six Goswamis unconditional friendliness to both sadhus and scoundrels.

Because of the basic ephemeral nature of misconceived thoughts and ideas, they are similar in substance to malign spirits in that they gain credence, validity and potency in direct proportion to how much endorsement we give them. Therefore, if we blatantly refuse to accept the fundamental political duality of friendship and enmity, then it will cease to exist. Like a phantom in a nightmare. Rather, in it’s place will be the comprehensive and pervasive warmth of maitri, unconditional friendliness to all, spontaneously resting at the primal core of being. This stage is merely the beginning of true inner luminosity.

It may be interesting to note that within Tibetan Buddhism, maitri(unconditional friendliness) is actually considered to be a preliminary manifestation of impending enlightened awareness.

Possibly my own favorite story demonstrating the unconditional friendliness(maitri) of true friendship is the one from Mahabharata about Yudishthira and the dog.

“O Wisest One, Mighty God Indra!” Yudishthira cried, “this hound hath eaten with me, starved with me, suffered with me, loved me! Must I desert him now?”

“Yea,”declared the God of Gods, Indra, “all the joys of Heaven are yours forever, but leave here your hound.”

Then exclaimed Yudishthira in anguish, “Can it be that a god can be so destitute of pity? Can it be that to gain this glory I must leave behind all that I love? Then let me lose such “glory” forever!”

…The brow of Indra darkened.

“It is decreed,” he replied sternly. “As you know, the very merit of prayer itself is lost if a dog touches the supplicant. Whoever enters Heaven must enter pure. Beside the stony path you left your wife Draupadi and your brothers. Surely for this common creature you will not forfeit the joys of the Heaven?!!!”

Yudishthira gently laid his hand upon the hound’s head and turned to depart.

“All powerful Indra,” he answered softly with somber rectitude, “the dead are dead; I could not help them. However, there are four deadly sins: to reject a suppliant, to slay a nursing mother, to destroy a Brahman’s property, and to harm an old friend. But to these I add a fifth, as sinful: to desert the lowliest friend when you pass out of tribulation into Joy!”

“Farewell, then Lord Indra. I go—and my friend the hound with me.”

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1 pustakrishna

Yudhisthira would not desire to go to svaga-loka, being a great Vaishnava. Only intention of such a vaishnava is to serve Krishna with love. That is one point of view.
Other viewpoint: Buddhists do not believe in the existence of the soul, nor God. Their friendliness is an effort to avoid making waves of bad karma that would further illusory samsara. Indeed, the vaishnava is a friend to all in the sense that all souls are part of Krishna. Hence, one can see the divine apart from the transitory body. It is not welfare work for the body that denotes enlightenment, but rather welfare work for the soul. Not the giving of food, but rather prasadam, the Holy Names, and divine guidance in the line of guru-parampara. Buddhist enlightenment is voidism, not desirable for a vaishnava.
We need to try to see through the instructions of our vaishnava acharyas to find at last the plane of self-less service. Focusing on Krishna, forgetting oneself, knowing that Krishna will protect me, sustain me, save me as He likes. Krishna is really the Friend, suhrita sarva bhutanam, of all beings. Embracing His guardianship, we can proceed on that path of ultimate reality. Prahlad’s teaching to his father indicates that…the goal is not to become a friend to all for the sake of being known as a magnanimous friend, but rather to “worship the Lord perfectly.” This is the watering of the root, that that the Srimad Bhagavatam exalts. Otherwise, friendship in the form of watering leaves and branches is good karma only.

Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on September 26th, 2009
2 Akruranatha

It is interesting that by “watering the root” we can become kindly friends to all creatures, and that is the only way to really fully do so (harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-gunah…)

On the other hand (isn’t there always another hand?) it should be understood that a devotee engaged in the practice of bhakti yoga who has not developed all the good qualities described in the 12th Chapter is not very well situated in devotional service. Truly pure devotees have amazingly wonderful qualities.

“One who wants to be recognized as a devotee should develop the good qualifications. Of course he does not extraneously endeavor to acquire these qualifications, but engagement in Krishna consciousness and devotional service automatically helps him develop them.” (B.G. 12.19 Purport)

I know I am not always a kindly friend to all, and that is a sure sign that I am just a beginner on the bhakti path. But if being a beginner is so nice, I cannot wait to become gradually more and more established in devotional service. :-)

Materialists don’t know how to be truly friendly because they do not know the real best interest of people. They only know how to polish the cage, but they cannot feed the bird within. Their “exclusive” friendship to their own kinsmen, social group or countrymen is another form of extended sense gratification.

But beginning devotees sometimes make the mistake of being too callous to the pleasures and pains of other people’s minds and senses, and thus causing them unwarranted trouble. It is one thing to be a little austere in one’s own spiritual discipline, but we should not expect (much less demand) those around us to be too austere, or we might encroach on the respect and kindness that good manners demands they be treated with.

“Isavasyam” living requires us to not interfere with others by trying to appropriate that which the Lord has not set aside for us. When we get the knack of being satisfied with what is set aside for us by divine arrangement in the course of our devotional service, without envying others, we can really show proper behavior to all.

We are enjoined to show mercy to juniors, make friendship with equals, and faithfully serve advanced devotees. It can get tricky though, because sometimes there is scarcity in ashrams, and managers do need to drive us (but not too hard).

Sometimes a kind turn or even a kind word goes far. We need to be especially careful how we treat Krishna’s precious devotees.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on September 26th, 2009
3 pustakrishna

Yes, there are two hands. On one hand, the jiva soul, one ten-thousandth the tip of a hair, impounded in the prison of mayadevi, and on the other hand, Sri Krishna, the Supreme, Summum Bonum. The complexities of nature and action are defined by Krishna in the 13 th. chapter of the Bhagavad-gita. Unfortunately, our tendency to lord over material nature perpetuates the forgetfulness of our spiritual identity, and makes it genuinely difficult if not impossible to see the Supersoul within every being. We become exploiters in competition. The knowledge we have at hand awakens our spiritual vision where we were blind to reality. Actually, if we had nothing to give of Krishna consciousness to others, we could only perpetuate the violence of exploitation. Our Sri Gurudeva has made it possible to be givers and dedicators to some extent. We can serve him out of duty and out of affection. Still, we must recall again and again how infinitesimal we are, avoid being “puffed up”, and pray for the shelter of His Lotus Feet. We too shall pass through this life into the next, and we pray that Krishna will not allow us to forget Him. That is a fate worse than any. Having come so close to Him, grace of Sri Gurudeva, we pray that He allow us to remember Him.
Preaching in far off places, out of duty, out of honor for Sri Guru, we can appreciate that the family of Krishna is everywhere. No one is excluded, nothing is outside of Him. Yet, we are cautioned not to try to serve Him directly, rather to feel ourselves as servants of the servants…of the Lord. The danger of trying to serve Krishna directly is that we may think self-centrically that He is for my pleasure, an illusory position. Rather, we are for Him, and for His. We are cautioned by Sri Gurudeva, not to be “ordinary common foolish men.” Toward this goal, we have the Mahajanas as examples to follow. A lofty goal, no doubt.
Glorification of Krishna (His Names, Forms, Qualities, and Lila) is no ordinary use of time. Such Sankirtan envelops us. We may be always tempted to divert from the challenge at hand. Can we resist? Do we have any other duty? The acharyas, the Mahajanas, show us the way. Even if we have limited access to that world, we can internally meditate upon it. The living world of consciousness beckons us forward, progressively. “Dive deeper”, Krishna will not disappoint us, He is our Friend.
Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on October 1st, 2009

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