A great aspect of life that I find most encapsulates beauty, goodness and truth is friendship. What a marvellous gift! Friendship universally valued, is founded on mutual love and regard for one another. It nurtures our sense of connection and enriches life. It’s a safe and nourishing means to gain perspective of our personal realities through sharing thoughts, feelings and views with each other. In friendship we truly enjoy each other and life as personalities, invigorating life meaning, the value of sharing love, reminding us what is important. We couldn’t imagine life without it. Every friendship is so unique, and what we gain and share in different friendships often surprise, delight and fulfil us mind and soul.
Our need for companionship is a natural instinct on every level of our being as we are not created to be in isolation. Beautiful friendships do not come from neediness and dependency on each other for security and completeness. Beautiful friendships reciprocate an unconditional love that each person has found within. These authentic friendships we all would like in abundance and the way to cultivate them is to cultivate our own ideal ‘friendship’ in ourselves.
To become a good friend to others is much more achievable if we have an abundance of love and a sense of connection within ourselves. Feeling complete, means we have more energy and concern for others. There is one reliable source of this.
In the Gita, Krishna speaking as an embodiment of the divine says: “I am the Self, dwelling in the heart of all beings, and the beginning, the middle, and the end of all that lives as well.” (Gita 10:20) It is universally recognised that it is in the heart we most truly see ourselves and each other. In religions around the world, it is the calm or spirit aligned mind unified with the heart that is attuned to truth, meaning and higher values.
A pure intent, coming from love and strength rather than seeking it, enables us to be more present and loving, able to respond to life and situations with thoughtfulness and compassion. We all want to respond more readily to authentic and genuine needs, rather than react or get ensnared by conditional ego needs in our ourselves or in others. From a free and independent state of ‘universal love’ we can seek to understand others, even when their actions may not be in our own interests.
To love universally does not mean approving or advocating indiscriminately when we see things that are obviously misguided or outright evil and wrong. However, like the saints and masters, we can condemn the sin and love the sinner as we ourselves hope to be treated. This means exercising love with wisdom. It is only through understanding that we can genuinely achieve the spiritual ideal of ‘loving our enemies’. Even the worst types of characters can be friendly to their family or those close. Therefore, spiritual wisdom in our responses is being discriminating but non-judgemental to those who slight us, seeking out the goodness in them, understanding why they do what they do, then responding appropriately without taking it personally. In the joy of righteousness, or the courage of challenging injustice, we can act with love in our hearts for the benefit of all concerned. It is not easy at all, yet a profound ideal of applying mindfulness.
Offering love and friendship in any circumstance is a way to freely apply our higher nature whether joyously or sternly. If the intention is to be true and authentic and of most value to others, then such acts of love and friendship are not a means to an end but fulfilling a pure and complete end in itself.
Those who realise the power of an open heart in facing life, discover the sacredness in and through their relationships. Personal spiritual experience comes from a sense of the divine in the universe at large as well as a personal connection within. This personal religious awareness “may permeate all four levels of the realisation of values and the enjoyment of universe fellowship: the physical or material level of self-preservation; the social or emotional level of fellowship; the moral or duty level of reason; the spiritual level of the consciousness of universe fellowship through divine worship.” (Urantia I:5:5.2)
Thus, friendship can be a sublime channel for actualising divine love if, even in ordinary moments, we consciously connect to the source of personal love within and omnipresent universal love around us. “Love spontaneously gives itself in endless gifts. But those gifts lose their fullest significance if through them we do not reach that love, which is the giver. The question is, in what manner do we accept this world, which is a perfect gift of joy? Have we been able to receive it in our heart where we keep enshrined things that are of deathless value to us?” (Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Prize-winning poet of India).
Jesus love and regard to all people equally, challenged the social mores of racial and gender prejudice in his time. He broke such a social code when speaking to a Samaritan woman by a well, saying: “whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14). This ‘fount of living water’ amounts to our own conviction and willingness to feel great divine love within ourselves and to embody it for the benefit of all.
Realising the inner fountain of love and life according to Sri Krishna is to calm worldly attachments and aversions, focusing oneself completely with inner devotion with the divine. In the Gita, Krishna speaks to the cultivation of such love within when he says: “Only by undistracted love can men see me, and know me, and enter into me. He who does my work, who loves me, who sees me as the highest, free from attachment to all things, and with love for all creation, he in truth comes to me.” (Gita 11:54,55)
A great sense of meaning and purpose comes with cultivating conscious love and friendship and including the world at large in that love. It is greater than the pursuit of a personal happiness from external things or trying to fill emotional or psychological gaps in an isolated and conditioned self.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second most important commandment is this: ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment more important than these two.” (Mark 12:30,31)
Thus, the key to great love and friendships can be found by applying spiritual values in ourselves and with others to overcome worldly and ego needs. Sacred friendship requires effort – engagement of all aspects of our personality, and an acknowledgement of a personal relationship in and with the divine. The rewards are immense and real.
Jesus presents ideal love and friendship as the love of a divine parent to all combined with the mutual love of neighbours or brother or sister sharing a divine source and destiny: “The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me who is doing his work.” (John 14:10) “.. you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you”. (John 14:20) “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” (John 15:9) “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12,13).
This depth of love is a great human achievement to be exercised in wisdom. While Jesus followed through with this truth in the ultimate sense, we can devote our lives to mindful daily practice. Truth, beauty and goodness in our true nature is demonstrated by so many people the world over. There is a quiet majority who are essentially good and beautiful souls. May love, unity and friendship become the art form of our times.
The Berean Bible (download online – public domain)
The Bhagavad Gita (download online – public domain)
The Urantia Book (download online – public domain)