You’ve Got a Friend
In the early nineteen seventies, there was a song written by Carole King that contains the beautiful verse, “You just call out my name and you know, wherever I am, I’ll come running to you … to see you again, and I’ll be there. You’ve got a friend.” And so do we. We have the Master.
The Master may initially appear to each disciple differently. Some regard him as a father, teacher, brother, guru, but to all he is a friend. Until we can see the true form of the Master – the Shabd form – perhaps, during these troubled and unsettling worldly times, we can consider him as our best friend. There is a beautiful word in Sanskrit, “kalyanamitra” that translates as “beautiful, blessed or virtuous friend.” This word captures the nature and essence of our relationship to the Master. A blessed friend is one who encourages us to be a better human being, helps us to create the conditions in our life necessary for our spiritual growth, and gives us the method to achieve this goal. A true Master, our friend, embodies qualities that we aspire to attain. He is there to let us know that he sees in us a potential that we may not even recognize in ourselves.
This virtuous friend of ours pushes us toward our better self – toward love, gratitude, and devotion. The Tibetan master Patrul Rinpoche says of the friend that, “He is the great ship carrying us beyond the seas of samsaric existence. The true unfailing navigator of the sublime path.… The sun and moon dispelling the darkness of ignorance.”1 He suggests that spiritual practice bears little fruit without the company of our spiritual best friend.
The friendship with our Master stands apart from the many “friendships” we may have enjoyed throughout our life in that it is not dependent upon exclusivity; the Master has millions of disciples. It is not necessarily dependent upon physical proximity, although it is wonderful to be in the presence of the Master. The mere thought of the Master lifts up our hearts. How can we come into and remain in his company?
The growth of our friendship with the Master is dependent upon our persistent adherence to his teachings and to the practice of calling out his name – by doing our simran and our meditation. Cultivating our relationship with the Master is the only way to erase the loneliness, isolation, or pain that comes with being in the world.
The Master delights in disciples who do their practice with utmost sincerity. Often, it is said, that if a disciple takes one step towards him, he will “come running” to the disciple. Our best friend never delays or withholds the gift of friendship, but this friendship is grown and cultivated by our holding up our part. He, out of compassion, has chosen us as disciples, given us initiation, and shown us the way to eternal liberation, and only asks that we practise.
Much has been written about the practice of meditation. But sometimes we need to ask ourselves, “Am I just showing up,” or do I have the ability to adjust my course and see it as an avenue to pursue a deep, lasting friendship with the Master? Shantideva says, “Even for the sake of one’s life, one should never abandon one’s kalyanamatra.”2 Being together with the Master does not rely on being together physically, it does not matter if he is on one end of the world and we are on the other, because as the song says, “Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call,” and he will be there.
- Buddhism: Path to Nirvana, p. 156
- Buddhism: Path to Nirvana, p. 185