What Is the Value of Spiritual Friends?

Path to Siva Commentary, Lesson 58


Friends who are fine, positive and good Hindus will help you most of all. It's important for parents of teenagers to know their teenager's friends. Our strength comes from mixing and interacting with others who are practicing sadhana. "The group helps the individual and the individual helps the group."

Path to Siva, Lesson 58.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone.

Reading this morning from our book Path to Siva, Lesson 58.

"What Is the Value of Spiritual Friends?

"As Saivite Hindus, we know this life is precious and are thankful for it every moment of every day. Appreciating the gift of life makes us want to do the best we can, improve our character, serve others and live a spiritual life. Knowing life's purpose, we hold firmly to dharma. Like a marathon runner, we must stay on the course to finish the race. Having good, religious friends helps us stay on the path. If we mix with a worldly crowd, we may lose our way. The Tirukural tells us, 'As water changes according to the soil through which it flows, so a man assimilates the character of his associates.' Friends who are good Hindus will help you most of all. If you befriend a person who is dishonest or mean, his example will lead you into trouble. If you befriend someone who studies hard and is kind and helpful, their example will inspire and uplift you. Some people poke fun at religion or make mischief and resist authority. They do not know the real purpose of life. They waste their time and cause pain to others. Wise teachers advise us to be nice to everyone, but make close friends only with those who will help build good character and set positive patterns for the future. The Tirukural tells us, 'Purity of mind and purity of conduct, these two depend on the purity of a man's companions.' Following our religious path is made easier when we are part of a satsang group with shared values and goals. Such companionship helps keep our sadhana strong, especially during difficult times in life. As Gurudeva often said, 'The group helps the individual and the individual helps the group.'"

And we have Gurudeva's quote:

"Make friends with those who are on the path. Be with fine, positive people. Don't be with negative, complaining people who have no relationship to what you are doing on the inside, or who are criticizing you for what you are doing."

Important, also it applies to parents who have teenagers that, a teenage time as its been explained to me, is one where things change, couple of ways. One of them is in how the children look at parents and friends. Up to a certain point in the teens, the parents are still the most important influence in the children's' life. And so the parents think everything is great when that's going on. Our children do just what we want them to do. But at some point in a teenager year, it's natural for a teenagers to step back. It's part of the process of defining to one's self, "Who am I" rather than who my parents are and the other thing that changes is they start valuing more the peer group. And of what the peer group thinks, of how they dress, how they speak, how they practice religion. If they do or don't go to a temple they take into account their peer group when they make those decisions.

Therefore, it's important for parents of teenagers to know their teenagers' friends. And it's not that every friend has to be super-religious but you need to see, overall, the mix of friends that your teenagers have and therefore what direction they're likely to be influenced in.

I was reading the Hinduism Today article on the young adults in "Let's Hear from India's Youth," reading it again. Making some notes, it's a very important article. And, one young adult man had an interesting way of relating to his friends. He categorized his friends into two groups. Those who are spiritual and those who aren't spiritual. And he cultivated friendship with both groups but he distinguished how he talked to them. He wouldn't talk about spirituality to the non-spiritual group. He just shared his spiritual practices and thoughts with the spiritual friends. It's an interesting way he divided life.

The classic story I tell about importance of friends is when I get emails from individuals, something like this, they say: Swami, I haven't been doing my sadhana for many years and I want to get started again. What do you suggest? What do you think I suggest? That they join a satsang group. It's very had to start up sadhana when you haven't been doing it for a few years all by yourself, to get that habit pattern going with no one else there doing it is really a hard thing to do. So even if the satsang group is one that's pretty general and not reflecting your own viewpoint, it's important to mix with other people who are practicing sadhana. Otherwise you'll find it very hard to start up again is what I tell them.

And it's true. As Gurudeva says there: "The group helps the individual and the individual helps the group." What does that mean? It means everyone has their ups and downs in life and sometimes difficulties come at us from many sources. And one of the ways we can respond is we kind of get discouraged and we lessen or drop our sadhana just when we need it. Right? Sadhana is what would help us get through this faster and better and that's what we stop doing. It's human nature. But if we're interacting with a satsang group then, they're up and we're down and therefore they're interacting within helps bring us up again in consciousness. Pull out of our difficulties faster than we would on our own. And then, it works the other way around. So there's times when we're up and other members of the satsang group are down and then our strength at that moment is helping them come up. So it goes both ways. So the group helps the individual and the individual helps the group.

Very wonderful idea. It's important.

Aum Namah Sivaya.

Photo of  Gurudeva
Holding the family together can be summed up in one word: love. Love is understanding. Love is acceptance. Love is making somebody feel good about his experience, whether the experience is a good one or not.
—Gurudeva