Volume VII - In an Eastern Rose Garden
Relationship is nourished by contact, kingship is maintained by reciprocity, but friendship is developed with love. There is no relationship that can be compared with friendship, for it is in learning the law of friendship that one understands ethics and morals, and also the relation between man and God.
There are three principal things to be understood in connection with friendship. The first is understanding without words. If there is no understanding between two persons, words are of no use. They may talk and talk, and discuss and discuss, and it will only go from bad to worse, for argument will never end. As it is said in the Vadan, 'Why? Is an animal with a thousand tails. At every bite you give it, it drops one of its curved tails and raises another.' Can argument bring about understanding? Never. Argument only increases argument, and so one can go on till two persons turn their back upon one another. Understanding is a gift of God, understanding is a soul's unfoldment, and understanding is the greatest fortune one can have in life. It is with understanding that the foundation of friendship is established, and it is in understanding that friendship is secure. Without understanding, there is no friendship.
And the next thing is a disinterested attitude. When a person thinks that by friendship he can get some benefit from the friend, or that the other may benefit by him, that is just burning the roots of friendship. In these material days so few of us understand what friendship means. Whenever there is a question of friendship the first thought is: what shall I gain by this friendship, can his influence be of some use to me? That is not friendship. Whenever a thought of self-interest creeps in, that means the ruin of friendship. Every little thought of profiting by it means destruction; it can never develop into a real friendship, it will only develop into a business relationship. It will last as long as the business relationship lasts, it will prosper as long as the business relationship prospers, and then it will vanish. Such a relationship can never be called friendship.
In this world every individual is helpless in some way or another, and every individual is of use in some way or another. It can happen that a person depends unconsciously upon his friend for his own interest, and even then it will turn out to be a wrong attitude. It cannot bring about fruitful results, for friendship must be built upon a solid foundation, a foundation where there is always a desire to give, to be helpful and serviceable to the friend: no thought of taking, always a thought of giving and keeping back nothing. A real friend holds his life cheap for his friend. The one who considers anything more important, more precious than friendship, has not yet learnt the first lesson of friendship. There is no sacrifice too great, if it is made for a friend. If a sacrifice is not made for a friend, then for whom should one make it? A person would never learn how to make any sacrifice if it were not for a friend.
In our daily life we take the word friendship too lightly, and we confuse the words 'friend' and 'acquaintance.' An acquaintance is someone whom we have met, and he has seen us, and we recognize one another. We may have been introduced at a dinner party. We use the word 'friend' so freely in everyday language that we have forgotten the meaning of it. Generally we call anyone whom we have seen at a reception or party a friend; or anyone that belongs to our club. But even to have one friend in one's life is the greatest good fortune.
And the third important thing in friendship is overlooking. No man in the world is faultless, no soul in the world is perfect. If on our part there is no desire to overlook our friends' shortcomings, there can be no more friendship. Friendship is maintained by recognizing that a human being is imperfect, that he has his faults and shortcomings. There is always something in him to overlook, and if we go on doing so, there is always the possibility that he may develop those very qualities which are lacking, for we may add to our friend qualities that are wanting in him. Sometimes people meet once, and they feel they are friends. Sometimes people know each other for months and years, and so they grow to be friends; their knowing one another and coming together in the end brings about the fulfillment of friendship. In such cases it develops as a result of their knowing one another.
Another odd thing sometimes happens, and that is when two persons are at daggers drawn for many months or years, and then suddenly throw their daggers away and become friends for ever; but this is unusual. I myself have seen people who have been enemies working against one another for years, and from the day they became friends they have been the closest friends. Those who say, 'I was his friend and he was my friend but now we are not friends any more,' should realize that they have never been friends. It was a presumption on their part, a false impression. Can friendship be such a false thing, can gold be gold at one time and not at another? Gold is gold, it never changes, it remains the same. Constancy in friendship is the soul of friendship. And that custom whereby a friend writes to another 'Yours as always' is wrong. If a plant remains as it has always been it does not grow, and that which does not grow is not living, and that which is not living is dead.
When a person thinks, 'I am too good or too kind to you, I have been too devoted to you,' that person forgets that kindness, goodness and devotion are larger than the horizon. No one can be too good, no one can be too kind, and no one can be too devoted. And when there is a discussion between friends, and one says, 'I have done so much for you, I have suffered so much for you, I have had so much pain on your account, I have had such a difficult life for your sake,' then he is entering into business. He wants to keep a diary of what he has given in the form of love and kindness and goodness and sacrifice. A true friend makes every sacrifice he can and never thinks about it; he does not even allow his mind to ponder upon the subject. Real friendship means regard, a deep regard for the pleasure and displeasure of the friend. Is there anything in life which is more delicate than friendship – taking care that no words should hurt the friend, that no action should harm him, that not the slightest shade of coldness may fall on his heart? It is most difficult. If a person has learnt the manner of friendship he need not learn anything more; he knows everything. He has learnt the greatest religion, for it is in this same way that one will make a way to God. The one who has never learnt the manner of friendship will never know the way to God. He may be God's worshipper, but he cannot be the friend of God.
There is an attitude, which one often sees in friends, and that attitude reveals a divine secret. It is the tendency to cover up any fault that one's friend has committed from another person; and not only to cover it from the sight of others, but even from one's own sight. Never thinking about it, never looking at it, interpreting it differently, such a man turns the wrong of his friend into right. And every little good point of his friend, even though it may only weigh an ounce, he makes into a pound. He appreciates and admires it so much, he raises it so high, he considers it so great, that another person cannot imagine how this insignificant idea, this slight merit, can be valued so highly.
In the beginning of my spiritual pursuit, when I went to my murshid there was no end to my enthusiasm, there was no end to my devotion, there was no end to my excitement about it. I told everybody I met how I felt about the personality of my murshid. Once, in answer to my deep feeling, my murshid said, 'Friendship in the path of God, friendship in the path of truth is greater than any friendship in life.' And at that time I met a very learned man in Hyderabad, with whom I spoke about the deeper things of life. He was interested to hear such deep thoughts from a young man, and said that he would like to see more of me. And in my great enthusiasm I said, 'If you saw my teacher you would realize that there is no one in the whole world who can be compared with him. So great is he, so wonderful is his personality, so blessed is his presence, so inspiring his glance, so peaceful his atmosphere.' He said, 'I would like very much to see him. Where does he live?' I told him, and then he exclaimed, 'There? I have lived there for twenty years; it is just next door to my house? What is his name?' I told him, and he said, 'I have known him all these years, but I never thought he was so great!' In twenty years he had not seen what I had seen in a few months. It is friendship that enlightens one; and it is distance that keeps one's eyes covered.
If we are friends, and if we cannot understand one another, then we are not yet friends, we only think we are friends. But if we understand, then all the beautiful points in us both are made a thousand times more clear because of that friendship. In friendship there is no limitation.
Lastly we come to that most mysterious expression, and yet an expression which is known to all on the religious path: the Grace of God. What is it? It is the friendship of God. It is the friendly emotion of God. It is not the judging quality of God. When God's grace comes, it does not come by saying, 'Are you worthy, are you unworthy, do you deserve it, do you not deserve it?' It comes as emotion, love, devotion, admiration comes from friend to friend. There are no limits to it. It is all right for someone to say that because in the past incarnation he has done so much evil, in this life he has a bad time with much suffering; or that in the past incarnation he has done so much good, that this time he has become rich. And it is all right for others to say that when they go to hell for their sins they will be whipped and thrashed and put into the fire. But when you look at the grace of God, you forget all these things; no rules, no laws, no deserving or undeserving can be distinguished any more. There is only one thing, and that is love; love that stands above law.
God's grace does not come specially to the pious, it does not come necessarily to the people who are very good, nor does it come readily to the people who are very occult or mystical. It comes as love comes from friend to friend. When love comes it comes without a conception of right and wrong. It is an emotion, it is the rising of the wave, it is a divine feeling that comes. It rises as a stream, and it falls upon the person in the form of a thousand gifts. It may be as inspiration, it may be as comfort, it may be as health, it may be as peace, it may be as rest, it may show itself in a thousand different forms.
The knowledge of what will please your friend, if it comes to you at all, will only come if you really know what friendship is. Otherwise you may presume you are a friend, and all your life you may try to please your friend, but you will never really be able to do so.
It is the same with God. You may do all possible good actions and offer a thousand prayers, and yet if you do not know what pleases God, you cannot please Him. But it does not come from knowledge; it only comes from friendship. Friendship is an automatic action, it is an innocent devotion, an unconscious outgoing, a pure feeling with depth, with life. Automatically that feeling brings about grace. Therefore no one can say why a person is another's friend. We cannot be the judge of it; we cannot understand it. And so no one can say why God is pleased with this person or that person. Sometimes we see that people who do not deserve it have great wealth; and then here are others who, if they had money, would really make the best use of it. Some do not seem to deserve the position or rank they hold; others perhaps in our eyes deserve more; and yet in the eyes of God it is different. It is because they deserve it, though we do not see why and how. And it is the same with friendship. When someone said to Majnun, 'Majnun, Laila is not beautiful, why are you so devoted to Laila?' Majnun said, 'To see Laila you must borrow my eyes.'
When we judge people do we see with the eyes of God, do we see what feeling God has towards them? And when we cannot see in this way we have no right to question why others are in this or that position in life, why some people are rich, why they are in a big position; it is all a kind of battle with God. And those who learn this one principle: that with a friend one should do one's very best to the end, in order to prove worthy of his friendship; and those who try to do their utmost to regard the pleasure and displeasure of God without any thought of reward or of any answer from Him, it is those who really know the meaning of friendship.