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Friends: What Serious Spiritual Aspirants Need to Know

Buddha quote: friends

Q: What are friends? Is it good to have friends?

Books can be written on the subject of friends and friendship, so I will confine myself to the perspective of a seeker for higher consciousness: a sadhaka. Not a religious or philosophical dilettante, but a committed yogi.

A true and worthwhile friend is one whose company is both elevating and strengthening, who also like the sadhaka looks toward eternal matters and values. These we should associate with and value.

Pleasant and enjoyable is not enough

There are very good and warm-hearted people whose friendship is most pleasant and enjoyable, but their minds never turn toward higher things. In time the friendship of such people is seen to be valueless, a waste of time for the serious sadhaka.

I do not mean that he comes to dislike or despise them: he likes and appreciates them, but realizes that association with them has little meaning. Just as an adult lays aside childish pursuits and interests, in the same way the evolving yogi simply lays such associations aside. And often they dissolve of themselves just as childhood friends often fade out of an adult’s life.

In his heart the sadhaka will still feel friendly toward them and even love them, but he has to recognize that their association really has no value. However, if they actively continue contact he does not end it.

Avoid adharmic friends

But if these former friends are of a character contrary to dharmic mentality and behavior and pursue that which is contrary to right thought and action and cultivate negativity in any area of their life, he should himself terminate that association. No worthy sadhaka will do otherwise.

Writing this I am reminded of a young man who became a yogi but had many friends that lived in a self-destructive manner, including drug addiction. Considering what breaking with them would entail, he asked me: “Should you ever hurt anyone’s feelings?” “Just change your own vibration,” I assured him, “and you will pass out of their ‘world’ and they will never give you a thought.” So he worked at becoming established in yoga sadhana and never heard from any them again.

Friends who were never real friends

On the other hand, some negative people intuit the change in the sadhaka’s vibration and become very hostile and themselves break off the association as though they have been wronged. And others of even greater negativity do everything they can to stop the sadhaka’s spiritual practice, even becoming violent and coercive.

Obviously there are “friends” that prove to not be friends.

Spiritually minded friends

Sri Ramana Maharshi told those who sought his advice that satsang, the company of spiritually-minded people, was essential for the sadhaka. But if there are no such people around us, then we must go on alone.

“The recollected mind is awake in the knowledge of the Atman [Self] which is dark night to the ignorant: the ignorant are awake in their sense-life which they think is daylight: to the seer it is darkness” (Bhagavad Gita 2:69).

Sri Ramakrishna said:

“God dwells in all beings. But you may be intimate only with good people; you must keep away from the evil-minded. God is even in the tiger; but you cannot embrace the tiger on that account. You may say, ‘Why run away from a tiger, which is also a manifestation of God?’ The answer to that is: Those who tell you to run away are also manifestations of God–and why shouldn’t you listen to them?”

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