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Inspirational Article


What Is True Friendship?

by Paramhansa Yogananda

From Clarity Magazine - Winter, 2006

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What Is True Friendship?

Friendship is a manifestation of God’s love for you, expressed through your friends. Friendship is the purest of all love. In filial love, in the love of parents for their children, and in the love of lovers there is compulsion. But in true friendship there is no compulsion.

If you open the door to the magnetic power of friendship, souls of like vibrations will be attracted to you. The friendlier you become toward all, the more real friends you will have. Cultivate true friendliness, for only thus do you attract true friends.

The divine law of self-expansion

There are people who do not trust anyone, and utterly doubt the possibility of ever having true friends. Some, in fact, actually boast that they get along without friends.

If you fail to be friendly, you disregard the divine law of self-expansion, by which alone your soul can grow into oneness with Spirit. Friendship is God’s trumpet call, bidding us to destroy the partitions that separate us from all others, and from Him.

No one who fails to inspire live in other hearts can hope to expand his consciousness into cosmic consciousness. If you cannot conquer human hearts, you cannot conquer the Cosmic Heart.

Extend the boundaries of your friendship

True friendship is broad and inclusive. Family love is merely one of the first lessons in the Divine Teacher’s “Course in Friendliness,” intended to prepare your heart for an all-inclusive love. Extend the boundaries of your love to include your neighbors, your community, your country, and all countries.

Consider no one a stranger. Feel that the life-blood of God is circulating in the veins of all races. We are Americans or Hindus for just a few years, but we are God’s children forever. The soul cannot be confined within man-made boundaries.

Be also a cosmic friend, imbued with kindness and affection for all of God’s creation—flowers, birds, animals and all sentient creatures. Such was the example set by Jesus Christ, Swami Shankara, and my Masters.

Friendship should not be influenced by people’s relative positions. Friendship may exist between lovers, employer and employee, teacher and pupil, parents and children, etc.

Mutual service: keynote of friendship

Love is real only when it is useful. To win the love of friends, you must be useful to them; the greater the mutual service, the deeper the friendship.

True friendship consists in offering good cheer in times of distress, sympathy in sorrow, advice in trouble, and material help in times of real need. Friendship gladly forgoes self-interest for the sake of a friend’s happiness, without consciousness of loss or sacrifice.

Why does Jesus have such a wide following? Because he, like the other great masters, was unequaled in his service to humanity.

An enemy disguised as a friend

True friendship cannot witness with indifference the false, harmful pleasures of a friend. Do not agree with your friend when he is wrong. If you encourage a friend in his vices, you are an enemy disguised as a friend.

This does not mean that you must quarrel. Send suggestions mentally, or if your advice is asked, give it gently and lovingly. Help your friend also by being a mental, esthetic, and spiritual inspiration. Never be sarcastic to a friend and never flatter him, unless to encourage him.

Finding friends of past incarnations
There are people you meet who give you the immediate feeling that you have known them always. This indicates that they are friends of previous incarnations.

Do not neglect them, but work to strengthen the friendship between you. Be on the lookout for them always, as your restless mind may fail to recognize them. Often they are very near you, drawn by the friendship born in the dim, distant past.

Do not be deceived by physical beauty

Overeating and lack of exercise will often distort a friend’s features, and he may thus escape your recognition. A fat, distorted body may harbor a real friend. Sometimes a beautiful woman will fall in love with an ugly man, or a handsome man, with a physically unattractive woman, due to the loving friendship of a past incarnation.

Therefore, do not be deceived by physical beauty. It is more important to ascertain whether you and the other person are mentally and spiritually congenial, whether your tastes and inclinations essentially agree. Delve deeply into the other person’s mind and guard against being prejudiced by little peculiarities.

Bright soul galaxies

Seek your friends of past incarnations so that you may continue your friendship in this life and perfect it into divine friendship. One lifetime is not always sufficient to achieve such perfection.

Friends of past incarnations constitute your shining collection of soul jewels. Add to it constantly. In these bright soul galaxies you will behold the one Great Friend radiantly smiling at you.

The antidote to all hatred

There are people you see each day for whom you feel no sympathy. Learn to adapt to them, and to love them. Always practice loving those who do not love you, feeling for those who do not feel for you, and being generous to those who are generous only to themselves.

To be a true friend to all, you must learn to see that God is just as much in your enemy as in your closest friend. Constant contact with the Infinite in meditation will fill you with divine love, which alone enables you to love your enemies.

The heart’s love is the antidote all hatred. If someone is broadcasting hatred to you and you are tuned to that hatred, you will receive it, but if you are tuned to love, the hateful vibrations will not touch you.

You need not fawn on your enemy, but silently be of service to him whenever he is in need. If humility and apologies on your part bring out your enemy’s good qualities, by all means apologize.

The person who can do this will have attained a certain spiritual development, for it takes character to be able to apologize graciously and sincerely. Do not, however, encourage a wrong doer by being humble and apologetic.

To be a true friend to all, you must learn to see that God is just as much in your enemy as in your closest friend. Constant contact with the Infinite in meditation will fill you with divine love, which alone enables you to love your enemies.

The canopy of perfected friendship

True friendship lies in seeking soul progress together, culminating in perfect divine friendship. Perfect friendship between two individuals, or among the members of a spiritual group, becomes an open door of unity through which other souls can enter and evolve toward perfection.

When the canopy of your perfected friendship includes all souls and all creation—the busy stars, the whippoorwill, the nightingale, the amoeba, the dumb stones, the shining sea sands—you will lift the veils that hide God from your sight.

The Divine Friend will then rejoice to welcome you home after the wanderings of countless incarnations, and you and He and will merge in the bliss of eternal friendship.

From the Yogoda Lessons, 1930.