Who is Our True Friend (Part 3)

True Friendship Is Rare

True friendship is so rare. In politics there is no such thing as permanent friendship or permanent enmity, but only permanent interest. Business is all self-interest. In social exchanges friendship is a matter of convenience. So it is said there are three kinds of friends: best friends, guest friends, and pest friends. Mark Twain aptly says: "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man." Again, it is said that it takes both an enemy and a friend, working together, to hurt you to the core -- the one to slander you and the other to bring the news to you. Most so-called friends are fair-weather friends; when you have good times you have many such friends to flatter and cheer you, but in bad times you have none at all. Some so-called friends dominate you, exploit you, manipulate you, and some cling to and use you. It is not so easy to find a true friend. So Swami Vivekananda says: "In happiness, in misery, in famine, in pain, in the grave, in heaven, or in hell who never gives me up is my friend. Is such friendship a joke? A man may have salvation through such friendship. That brings salvation if we can love like that." In the words of Sri Ramakrishna: "True knowledge makes one feel: `O God, You alone do everything. You alone are my own. And to You alone belong houses, buildings, family, relatives, friends, the whole world. All is Yours.' But ignorance makes one feel: `I am doing everything. I am the doer. House, buildings, family, children, friends and property are all mine.'" Sri Sankaracharya in his "Couples on Renunciation" tells us: "So long as one is able to earn wealth are his relatives attached to him, but when after this he gets decrepit due to old age, no one inquires about his welfare even is his own house.....As long as life remains in the body, so long do people in the house inquire about one's welfare; but when the body falls off and the life-breath goes out, even the wife gets frightened at that body. Worship the Lord."

The reality of the everyday world is not what we think or imagine it to be. Human nature is changeful and frivolous, and human greed seems to have no limit. Self-interest is pervasive and human ingratitude endemic. The lips that praise you today may curse you tomorrow. The heart that is full of love now may become full of jealousy later. If you lend money to a friend, you run the risk of losing both money and friend.

Part 4

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