The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

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Tag: friendship

Come Say Hi

“Why didn’t you come say Hi?”

Umm, it is a little tough to explain.

It is pretty likely that I was really happy to see you, as in literally “see” you. And I sincerely wish that your life is great, and everything is well at your end.

(I wonder, though… that if that weren’t the case, and if you were weathering challenges, would you tell me?)

And so, if we were to run into each other someplace, I suppose we would exchange pleasantries about the weather, mutual friends, children, school updates, etc. All important and significant details, I know. And I am good at this stuff, I really am. I learned early enough to converse, talk to strangers and acquaintances, make people comfortable. Someone once described me as being “delightful in most social situations.” But these aren’t my favorite kind of conversations. They feel rather onerous to me. I feel the burden of being “socially delightful.” It isn’t that I don’t care about you or your life; I genuinely do. But I don’t know if I am really interested in exchanging mundane details about our mutual lives.

Is any detail mundane, though? Not to the individual in question, no. I find the mundaneness in my life rather beautiful. It is comforting, grounding. But I am not necessarily excited about sharing it with others.

Does that make sense?

Also, I have come to think that I (or we?) am an outsider to everyone else’s life but my own. Friendly outsider, perhaps? So I can lend a ear, a shoulder… but can I do much else?

Maybe that is the point of these general encounters. To listen without judgment. To be a friendly witness, a silent and warm presence.

What I’d love to know is what you think about life. I would love to know about your imaginings, fears and victories. I’d like to know how you fell, and what made you rise.

But these conversations are organic, and best left unplanned.

Besides, not everyone is necessarily up for that conversation. So we continue to subsist on superficial talk. And it keeps things chugging along nicely.

Independence and Community

TeaI have been thinking some strange thoughts about friendship lately. Or the way we define “friendship” typically.

Everyone cherishes a good friendship. It is comforting, full of good vibes and warmth and understanding and bonhomie, and it makes us feel loved and wanted. Knowingly, no one will let go of a good friendship (whatever one defines it as). But I wonder — can a strong friendship rob one’s freedom? In order to keep the friendliness and good cheer intact, do we compromise on our independence? Yes, I think we do. Yes, I have.

I once commented to my meditation teacher, “It feels to me that either everyone is a friend or no one is. Either everything is personal or nothing is.”

Friendship isn’t unconditional, as I have come to realize. It certainly comes with strings attached. Even the most generous and understanding friend may find judgment creeping into the relationship. Suddenly, the ties that bind feel constraining. Now I yearn to break free. Oh, what about my friend? Their feelings? Should I risk the lessened warmth, the sudden strain and unsaid disapproval and frostiness? Will they continue caring for me? Well, did they actually care, or was it pure happenstance? Does anyone really care, unconditionally?

Herein lies the rub. How does one maintain an even balance between community and independence? A community is based on some kind of a shared commonality — be it culture, values, ideology, what have you. Even the most open communities likely have some unsaid customs. You cannot flout them, really. No one will necessarily tell you off, but you get a clear sense of having crossed a line somewhere.

Sigh.

(This may be an uncomfortable situation but it is, by no means, painful. I find it an exhilarating conflict. To me, this discomfort signals growth and expansion. It forces me to confront my individual truth, all trappings removed, plain and bare.)

Oh Lord, My Best Friend

Mahabharata is a tale I have read a million times. On my last reading, I wondered briefly what it meant to be a friend to Lord Krishna. Can an enlightened person have friends? What does friendship mean to one who is dispassionate, soaked in Vairaagya? I couldn’t figure it out. I stowed the question away as one to be asked to Gurudev. But I also knew that the answer would find its way to me, as all others have.

So it did. Last night, I heard a story from the Mahabharata. The war had ended and the victorious Pandavas decided to reward their loyal charioteers. When Arjuna’s turn came, he looked at Lord Krishna, expecting Him to step down from the chariot and await his reward. But Krishna stayed put, leaving Arjuna with no choice but to step down first. Then Krishna arose, stepped out of the chariot and turned around. The mighty vehicle was reduced to ashes in an instant. Arjuna was stunned. The Lord explained patiently that it was His presence inside the chariot that kept it whole. In reality, it had been destroyed a long time ago, burned as it was under the onslaught of weapons and arrows from the enemy. That was the reason the Lord stepped out of the chariot only after Arjuna, for He could not have allowed his dear friend to perish in the flames.

Such a lovely story, it almost makes me tear up.

My question was linked with Arjuna. What set him apart from everyone else that he was given the Song Divine, the Bhagavad Gita? Lord Krishna called him His friend but what does that really mean? How does one become a friend to the Lord?

It made sense today. Arjuna’s relationship with Krishna was intimate, reverential, playful, personal, no holds barred. Perhaps, that is why the Bhagavad Gita was revealed to him alone. Make the Divine your Valentine, Gurudev said. Beloved, best friend, favorite partner.