The Only Friend…

“Many call themselves devotees, but the claim means nothing by itself. It is like addressing a letter to someone. Unless it is acknowledged by the recipient you cannot be sure whether the letter reached the addressee and how he reached to it. Likewise, whether one is a devotee or not should be declared by the Lord Himself.” – Baba

According to Bhagavatha, of the nine stages of Bhakti or love for God starting with listening to the glory of the Lord, Sakhyam (friendship) is the eighth, i.e., next only to Atma Nivedanam or self-surrender (saranagathi). While friendship is a term loosely used even to connote transitory friendship based on worldly interest and selfish considerations, Sakhyam is much superior to that in sincerity and integrity. As Bhagawan puts it, “Friendship ought to be a spiritual bond, a heart to heart kinship based on full understanding of and pure dedication of one to another.” The greatest example of this type of intimate and inseparable relationship known to human history is of the unique friendship between Krishna, the Purushothama (Supreme Being) and Arjuna, the narotthama (the best human). Bhagawan tells us that it was coming together of the Avatharamurthi (the Embodiment of the Highest (incarnation) and the anandamurthi (embodiment of the blissful). Here the Bhakta becomes one with the Lord, completely devoted and steadfast making the Lord as his Supreme Goal.

The intensity of this relationship was so great that the Lord was compelled to declare that “Arjuna, you are My devotee and you are My friend”, which has profound spiritual significance. To quote Bhagawan, the same Lord in Kaliyuga, “If merely the Lord were to say to Arjuna, ‘You are My friend,’ his ego would have been inflated and he would have taken undue liberties with Krishna. If He were to say, ‘My dear, you are my devotee,’ he would have been extremely submissive. A kind of fear would be instilled in him. Fear should not be instilled; nor should he be encouraged to take excessive liberties. Hence, the terms devotee and friend were used by Krishna. ‘You are my friend’. You may be free with me upto a point. You are my devotee, so observe certain restraints. Exercise control over yourself in your devotion. Arjuna accompanied Krishna like a shadow. They sat together, ate together in one plate and slept together. Mother Kunti always served them food in one plate. Whenever Arjuna visited Dwaraka, Krishna ate with him, not with His consort Rukmini who served them food in one plate. That was their intimacy. The reason…? Complete Surrender! Though he had to undergo several trying circumstances and was subjected to calumny and abuse his faith in the Lord did not waver; it was unflinching. He always looked upon Krishna as friend, kinsman (he was his brother-in-law) and alter ego, relying on Him for everything. Small wonder, the Lord was only too glad to be not only His Arjuna’s charioteer in the battlefield, but also the charioteer of His life.

The present Avatar, while sitting in the midst of His students, asked one of them how many brothers and sisters he had. When he promptly answered the number, Bhagawan corrected him saying, ‘no, all are your brothers and sisters’ (indicating the common source of every being). The next question was ‘How many friends?’ The boy replied, “All, Swami”. Bhagawan corrected him saying, “God alone is your friend”.

It is faith that reconstructs man. When the present Avatar, Bhagawan, assures us that He is “with you, around you, in you (inta, wenta, janta)” followed by immediate action to that effect, what can stand between us and the Lord? He often says that, ‘Offering your sullied heart to the Lord is like presenting a soiled currency note to the Reserve Bank for getting a new one. Only God can accept it and replace it with a new one”. Every devotee must aspire for close friendship with the Lord as the one that existed between Him and Arjuna. It is everybody’s birthright. Love Him and own Him. There cannot be a more precious possession. He is the Only Friend for all in this world. He is prepared to accept – and He gladly welcomes – every ‘soiled currency note’ however bad its condition is. He has come for that very purpose. It is an old friendship. He only knows for how many births it has been there!

“You maintain formal relations with a friend. But, because God is an ancient friend, the devotee can experience an unrestrained intimacy. When you recognise this Truth, you can behave with natural ease and freedom towards God. You are free to confess your lapses to such a Friend. You have to receive His counsel. You can then get your heart purified”, He assures.

II Samasta Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II