When Bhagawan Defined True Friendship

If true friendship is the ‘Friendship With God’, our True Friend, Beloved Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai, had once a revealing story on the true characteristics of true friendship, a real-life-incident from ancient Italy, narrated to His students in Prasanthi Nilayam.

During a Prasanthi evening of those ‘olden-golden’ days, when Bhagawan would spend time with His students imparting value based lessons, Bhagawan had a cut out task for a group of students, to define the characteristics of True Friendship. As He ‘threw the hat into the ring’ inviting the student folk to join, they got enthused and started coming up with answers galore. Many answers were given and the examples of Lord Krishna and Arjuna were cited. Bhagawan was candid and clear, that He wanted examples from human lives alone. The relation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna was that of the Divine to man.

As usual, finally, after giving equal share to the participants, Bhagawan pitched in HimSelf, delivering ‘the answer’. Answering the same through a story from ancient Italy, He went on illustrating it, in His own inimitable style.

Bhagawan said true friendship is present when the friends regard themselves as two bodies with one heart and soul. He then related the story of two unusual friends, Damon and Pythias.

Pythias had been sentenced to death by a ruler (of Syracuse) for an offence against the State. Pythias’s friend, Damon, came to the ruler and said that as the sentence was to be executed a month later Pythias might be released from prison to see his wife and children. The ruler was gracious enough, and agreed to release Pythias on condition that Damon agreed to be in prison for a month and was willing to suffer the death sentence in case Pythias did not turn up on the due date. Damon readily offered to take Pythias’s place. Pythias was freed and permitted to go home to meet his immediate family. As the news of the unusual ‘treaty’ spread all over, on the day prior to the date of execution a large crowd had gathered at the prison to see whether Pythias kept his word. Time clock ticked most diligently, and tension mounted as Pythias, as promised, had not arrived yet, by the evening.

Damon was cheerfully ready to mount the scaffold in case Pythias did not turn up. It was late in the night, but ‘the true friend’ kept his promise. He came running to the prison to save his dear friend, Damon, from execution for his sake. The ‘D-day’ morning next, as the kingly ruler was escorted to the royal court,  he was left astonished at seeing both the friends ‘ready for the gallows’, Damon and Pythias!!! Awe-struck at the intense love between the twin ‘true’ friends, his heart turned full and fulfilled, and thus his most unexpected verdict, pardoning Pythias and absorbing the ‘best of friends’ into the State service.

Bhagawan went on to say that such friendship was not to be found today. Most ‘friends’ were fair weather friends who flocked around a person when he was prosperous or held a high position, but ignored him when he was down and out. Such ‘friends’ were like frogs which gathered in a pond full of water but abandoned it when it was dry. Swami declared, God alone was the unfailing friend Who could be relied upon to stand by the man of faith in weal and woe and protect him through all vicissitudes. Young people should not think that they could postpone thinking about God till their old age. No one can say when the ‘final call’ will come. Only if one remembers God constantly all the time will he be able to remember God in his final moments.

II Samastha Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II