Sunday, May 10, 2009

Spiritual Friendship

Spiritual Friendship

In our spiritual journey, we may first conceive of God as external, as a being somewhere outside our mind, and try to relate ourselves with Him or Her. What form that relationship takes depends on how we look upon God and our temperament. But whatever be the approach, we thus try to keep the company of God through our thoughts, words and actions. Through this frequent company, and later constant company, closeness becomes established. This closeness is a kind of friendship. When our friendship deepens, our friend comes closer to us. God, who was outside us, comes closer to us and is recognised as someone within us or a part of us.

As stated earlier, friendship can be between two equals. We might now object that one cannot approach God as an equal. Some may consider it as an act of blasphemy to call God as friend. This is so because we are accustomed to look upon God as a Giver and ourselves as supplicants. It is fine to approach God as a powerful being from whom we can ask for the things we need in life. There is nothing wrong in that approach. However, if we are to grow spiritually, the relationship with God has to mature to be based on love. We have to transcend this attitude and develop a sense of deeper relationship with God.

Vedanta teaches that God, the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent ruler of the Universe, is the same as the Spirit within us. Our essential nature is not body or mind, but Spirit, divine. This is why it is said, `God made man in His own image.' Our true nature is divinity. He is divine and we too are divine. That is why it is acceptable to approach God as friend. But then the question is, how can we cultivate friendship with God? Sri Ramakrishna gave simple guidelines for developing a sweet and friendly relationship with God. He told `M' that the method to do so is to `Repeat God's name, sing his glories and keep holy company.'5

In Hinduism this friendly relationship with God (sakhya-bhava) is a well-accepted form of reaching God. This attitude is spiritually as effective as other ways of reaching God. This is confirmed by Sri Ramakrishna's own testimony. He practised sakhya-bhava during his sadhana period and amply reaped its rich harvest

When one develops deep relationship with God, one develops a friendly attitude with all spiritual aspirants also. This leads to developing a friendly attitude towards all spiritual traditions as well. One need not have to become a Buddhist or a Christian or a Muslim or a Hindu, but one can learn from them by being friendly. By approaching all traditions in spirit of friendliness, we open our mind to the wisdom of those traditions. This leads to our sharing of mutual wisdom. In that exchange, both sides benefit, and through this spiritual friendship, they help each other in their common spiritual journey.

One needs friendship, even more spiritual friendship where one can discuss, share and derive strength from each other's company. In a way, true friendship is possible only through those people who have some form of spiritual qualities as their basis. For friendship requires self-sacrifice and self-control and that is what spirituality is all about.

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