Friendship is a word which we all use in our everyday language, and yet it could take one’s whole life only to realize its
meaning. However learned a person may be, however pious, spiritual, or experienced, if he has not learned that nature and
character of friendship he has not learned anything. This is the first and the last thing we have to learn. We so often use this
word lightly, calling every acquaintance a friend, or professing to be somebody’s friend; but the more we realize the meaning of
it, the less we are able to claim friendship. For everything in life we are tested, examined, and tried, but to pass this examination
of friendship is the most difficult thing in the world.
What is the reason for this? Why is it so difficult to be a friend? One would think that it was the easiest thing there is! The
reason is that there is something in ourselves which is always against our being friendly. It is the the ego.
As long as this ego is standing and lives, a man cannot claim to be anybody’s friend. And when he is not somebody
else’s friend he is not even his own friend, for one learns friendship by being a friend to another. A selfish man may seem to be
a friend to himself but, it is on the surface, not in reality. He has not yet learned how to be a friend to another, so he cannot be
a friend to himself. In our pursuit of truth we want to learn a great many things: the nature of life, the secret of life, the character
of life; and to understand the meaning of friendship seems so easy and simple that we never trouble to think about it, nor about
the responsibility of being a friend.
It is a simple lesson, and it is a lesson that we have to learn; today when nations are against nations and races against races,
when communities are against communities, and one religion against another, it is now that friendship is so much needed.
Besides, friendship is the first lesson of spirituality that one can learn. One may think that friendship, a personal friendship,
means nothing; that one does not become spiritual through a personal friendship. But one does.
A person begins his spiritual accomplishment by learning how to be a friend.
For one who is really treading the path of friendship need not go anywhere to
learn morals. Friendship itself teaches him sincerity, gratitude, sympathy, tenderness, appreciation; all these things that we must
learn in this world, friendship teaches us.
And once a man begins to learn these things through friendship with one person, he
will naturally show to others the same virtues which, he has acquired by going along this path. Just as someone who has
learned how to sing beautifully will naturally sing every song that is given to him beautifully. The one who has cultivated his heart
through friendship will naturally be inclined to be friends with others.
The meaning of friendship is too sacred to realize. All other
relationships and connections in this life are empty if friendship is not at the back of them to strengthen them. The relationship
between mother and daughter, father and son, brother and sister, husband and wife, teacher and pupil, all these connections
need a spirit behind them; and this spirit is the spirit of friendship. When a daughter says, ‘I am friends with my mother,’ there
is something beautiful about it. It makes the connection between a mother and a daughter a different thing. It makes it living. In
every relationship it is the same. When there is friendship to bind the relationship it makes it secure, it gives it life.