In this continuation of teachings on friendship, Hazrat Inayat Khan talks about the need for unselfishness. The previous post in the series can be found here.
If one has made a friend, it is not something that one has made to order, that must just fit in according to one’s expectations and wishes. Every individual has his own characteristics, and as long as the spirit of forgiveness is not developed, friendship cannot last. It is a continual forgiveness that helps friendship to endure. Much can be learned by study, but not unselfishness. Unselfishness can be learned by one thing only, and that is by treading the path of friendship. And it brings beauty into one’s life; a friendly person, whether in business or in a profession, in whatever capacity he stands, gives one a feeling of warmth; in other words, an atmosphere of life. One is always glad to meet a friendly person in a shop, in a factory, in an office. When this spirit is awakened one can feel in his words, in his voice, in his expression, in his atmosphere, that he is a friendly person, that there is something that goes out to meet others, a continual tendency to harmonize with others.
Once this spirit is developed, the ever-complaining tendency vanishes. If it is not developed, then this world is full of thorns that prick. Then one will have no peace, no happiness, whatever one’s position in life. If a person wants to make his life easy, if he wishes to create happiness in his life, he must try to crush that ego, that nafs, that thought of self which keeps one continually absorbed in one’s own thoughts and in one’s own affairs. By rising above it, he will learn the spirit of friendship. And then for him the same path, which was full of thorns, will become full of roses. For some souls that same world, which can be hell to many others, is heaven, for friendship changes man’s point of view. An unfriendly man, as soon as he sees another person, sees him from his own critical point of view. He has his preconceived ideas, and therefore he is not allowed by Providence to see the good side of the other. But the one in whom the friendly spirit is awakened always overlooks little errors, faults, mistakes; his sympathy and his love naturally help him to rise above the faults of man. That is the story of Jesus Christ, the friend of humanity, before whom the greatest sinners were brought; but the attitude of the Master was always forgiving. Those who brought them were unfriendly; the Master was friendly.
Life is as we look at it. If we wish to find faults, we can find faults in the best person in the world, and if we wish to find good points we can find good points in the worst person in the world. It is as we see life. Someone went to Jami, the great seer of Persia, and asked him if he would accept him as his disciple on the spiritual path. Jami asked him, ‘Have you loved, have you learned the manner of friendship?’ He said, ‘No, not yet.’ Jami said, ‘Go into the world again, and learn it.’ The first lesson on the spiritual path that one has to learn is the manner of friendship. Once that is learned, then all other parts of the spiritual journey will become easy. Where do all the disturbances, such as wars, revolutions, disagreeable experiences among nations, fights among parties, come from? They all come from lack of friendship. And the most extraordinary thing is that one party may perhaps have been fighting another party for years, but if we investigate their particular ideas, we find that they are not even friends among themselves, for fighting against the other party produces and develops this unfriendly spirit in them. It is a kind of intoxication. In education, in religion, or in anything else, the best thing one can do is to introduce the spirit of friendliness.
And how can we introduce it? This is something which cannot arise only by reading some books about it. There exist innumerable societies and institutions of brotherhood everywhere, but they prove to be anything but brotherhood. Therefore that is not the way. The way is for an individual to be brought to understand fully that the essence of morals and of religion and of education is one, and that one essence is the manner of friendship. Sufis of all ages have named it suluk, which means divine manner, beneficence. That is why the best education is beneficence: how to bring pleasure and happiness to another. And one can begin to learn this by understanding fully what friendliness is, and by practicing it at the same time.
To be continued…