Manoj on Friends & Friendship

Namaste to You, my Friend!

Manoj gave a talk on ‘Yoga and Friendship’ in Aug, 2010.

Following is the excerpt.
The class started with this question, ‘Who is a friend’? ‘The ones we go out and eat with’. Michelle said. ‘The ones who stand by you when you need them’ somebody else said. Parul then said “they are special instruments who guide us or help us along in our journey”.

All of the above written are answers highlighting different aspects of friendship. Now, in a scriptural sense, let us transport ourselves to the battle grounds of Kurukshetra in Mahabharata, where Bhishma, one of the central patriarchal figures of the family is giving a talk to prince Yudhishtara on how to rule his kingdom with special advice on friendship. Okay, listen well.. Oh Prince Yudhishtara ( Oh you prince/ princess), there are different categories of friends whom you should discern.

They are:

(1) Common friends, the kind of friends with whom you share common likes and dislikes, can share jokes, can have dinner together etc (kind of what Michelle said).

(2) Contrived, dubious friends – people who don the garb of a friend purely because it is of some advantage to them, say, trying to become the friend of that movie star, that sports star, the prince/ princess, that celebrity yoga teacher etc.

(3) Dangerous friends- those whom you find an ease to converse with, who seem to be very sincere when they ask you personal questions, but who later will reveal all of that in the most distorted way, creating lot of damage.

(4) Spiritual friends- a special and rare category of people, termed dharmatma. These are friends who uphold the dharma. These are friends whose qualities of dharma we try to automatically emulate, not the way they dress, or such things, but by their commitment to dharma; which makes us more compassionate, more connected and more evolved human beings. For eg, anyone who moves around with Waikuan, Susan Kee etc will atleast start to think about composting, about minimizing plastic usage etc. Whenever we visit Lenghee or Laypeng, we feel so inspired by their absolute commitment to recycling. In fact all of you have inspired me and sandhya in some way. Christina’s love for plants. Madeline standing up for abused children. Julin helping Burmese refugee children. And so on and on.

And if Bhishma, if he was talking about friendship today, he would have definitely added another category of friends- the Facebook friends.

Earlier days, it was difficult to have many spiritual friends, and also to daily communicate. But now thanks to technology, so many wonderful people are forming their groups, where like minded people become friends, share thoughts, insights and encouragement.

Now, just to add another example from yogic scriptures on the importance of friendship in spiritual progress, in the yoga sutras we find Patanjali telling that if you want to stabilize the mind (manasa sthithi nibandhana), the first quality you should develop is your capacity of maitri, which is from the root mitr, meaning friend. Only after cultivating the attitude of friendliness can we ever aspire to develop other qualities such as compassion, goodwill, equanimity etc.

Other great ones also speaks in the same language. For eg, once a close disciple of the Buddha, Ananta, had some difficulties in the path. He must have been supported during this time by his friends. Later, Ananta told Buddha that he understands now that friendship accounts for 50% of success in ones spiritual journey. To this Buddha said, ‘not 50 %, but success in the earlier days of practice is entirely dependent on friendship’. So, knowing that my progress is being nurtured by each one of you, I fold my palms at my heart in the most humble Namaste to you all.

I think this is what was mainly spoken about.

Celebrating You, Celebrating friendship, Namaste

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