Many of us think that our teachers and friends are never supposed to cause the surfacing of feelings that aren’t mostly sparkly and warm. All fuzzy-like. Most of the time, when we encounter someone who enables the manifestation of this frowniness, our ego causes us to judge them and usually value them less, often making us feel inclined to build distance between us.
Sometimes, the good guy (in being the good guy) has to be the bad guy – and only the most undeserving refuses to recognize this. We see it often in parental relationships. Parents who are too concerned with whether their children like them often end up neglecting many valuable aspects of raising the child. Soon enough the child is a veritable brat and eventually becomes an adult living primarily for the self. A parent who understands not only that life isn’t perfect and their child must learn this, but also that this is a lesson best learned early will be doing the child and the rest of society benefit.
In a manner not unlike the relationship of a parent and child, sometimes our friends and teachers have to act as the bringers of dark clouds – for our own betterment. I recall learning of this component in my early days as a Hindu while reading Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi and other stories that recounted times when the guru (best friend) behaved somewhat severely (by the student’s standards) to really drive home knowledge that needed to be picked up. Sometimes the student simply isn’t ready for certain bits of wisdom, and sometimes the student should be ready but seems not to be – because of a subtle refusal to do work on his own (I think laziness, lethargy, and taking the easy route are all prevalent human traits in the Kali Yuga). It’s times like this that a thump on the rump might be in order – sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally. Jesus Christ exhibited the same when he threw a holy fit in the temple yard, dumping vendor tables and becoming vocal about the state of things right then and there.
I find this whole notion of friend / guru playing the role of the bad guy to be intriguing. To be very clear: I’ll never tell anyone that I’m their guru or designated teacher or anything like that. But there are times when I recognize that I might be the only one in someone’s life to throw a damned fit and knock tables over – when it’s needed for evolution. Usually, when this happens it’s because of reasons the person the tantrum is meant for doesn’t see right away. Often, this means I become the bad guy. Part of what makes me who I am is that I’m solid enough on my own to stand independently, regardless of unfounded or ignorant criticism (which more times than not I end up successfully refuting or disproving, if it comes to that), so I’m fine with and quite used to looking like the bad guy who raises hell with temple vendors. (Note: criticism is certainly different than being critiqued.)
Along this line of thought, I wanted to share something I read recently. These words come from the current Satguru of the Sahaj Marg. He’s known as Chariji and what follows is an excerpt from a talk he gave in South Africa in 1993.
“So you see, yesterday we were talking about friendship, friendliness, friendly attitude, God reality. I must tell you one rather kaduva truth: The Guru is the only friend you will ever have. I repeat – He is the only friend you will ever have. If you understand the significance of the proverb or the old way of saying who is a friend: a friend in need is a friend indeed. When do I need a friend? When I am in trouble, when I am in difficulties. A man who is well off and enjoying his life, he doesn’t need friends. Of course, he is surrounded by so-called friends who are hypocrites who want to share in his prosperity, in his fun, and because he doesn’t like to be alone he is surrounded by these sycophants, he throws his money around and they enjoy.
“No a friend in need is a friend indeed. If you are in need, how many of those whom you call your friends will come to you? Sometimes I wish there should be a moment of disaster in every man’s life, because that is the moment when you will be helped to find out who are your true friends. In prosperity, in good health, when you are at the peak of your name, fame, and fortune, you are always wondering, “Who is my real friend?” When a man is in power in politics, he does not know who are his friends. It is at the time of fall, when we are sick, when we are miserable, when we are alone, that we can say, “Here is the friend who comes,” you see, and only one person will come to you then.
“Such a person must have the right to criticize you, to curse you, to kick you if necessary. If you do not give him that right, don’t ask for his friendship, because if he is your true friend he has to help you, he has to give his life for you. He cannot do it unless you permit him to do it. If you say, “No, no, what is this – this blighter is always… criticizing me, telling me not to smoke, telling me to get rid of six out of my seven girlfriends and marry the seventh one… I don’t want! I can find friends enough.” Yes. They will not aid you…
“This is a stern warning I must issue to all of you. A really stern warning – that if you are not fit to be kicked around, or not willing to be kicked around, don’t go for spirituality. Find one of these false gurus, spurious gurus… So you see, a friend need not be friendly. Remember this. It is only in material things that honey must be sweet.”
I’ll point out that, in the Sahaj Marg, words like Master and Friend and friend and Guru and guru are used frequently and almost interchangeably, with context making the meaning clear. I can appreciate this because I’ve long held the belief that the guru is meant to point to the Guru (within) and that our friends are often the face of our only real Friend. Friend (not friend) and Guru (not guru) certainly indicate the Supreme we all come from and return to. In the book, at the end of the quote shared above Chariji continues to discuss the benefit of a Friend / friend who isn’t all sunshine and glitter, as well as the need for us each to be open to growth through pain – which is sometimes manifested by means of our friends.
As I find myself at the beginning of a new calendar year, I hope for my sake and yours that we’re all open and humble enough to recognize the potential brought to us by The One, the Supreme, our Guru when It wears the face of a mundane friend.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha