Including: Why Love Your Enemies?
by Paramhansa Yogananda
excerpted from Inner Culture, March, 1936
Extend all the boundaries of the glowing kingdom of your love, gradually including within them your family, your neighbors, your community, your country, all countries; in short, all living sentient creatures. Be also a Cosmic friend, imbued with kindness and affection for all of God’s Creation, scattering love everywhere.
To have friends, you must manifest friendliness. If you open the door to the magnetic power of friendship, a Soul or Souls of like vibrations will be attracted to you. The more friendly you become toward all, the greater will be the number of your real friends. Friendship is a manifestation of God’s love for you, expressed through your friends.
When true friendship exists between two Souls and they seek Spiritual love and God’s love together, when their only wish is to be of service to each other, their friendship produces the flame of Spirit. Through perfected Divine Friendship, mutually seeking Spiritual perfection, you will find the one Great Friend.
Unfailing Laws of Friendship
Be neither unduly familiar with, nor indifferent to, a friend. Moreover, do not trademark him by telling him, I know all about you. Respect and love grow among friends with time. Familiarity breeds contempt between those who are mutually useless, selfish, material-minded, and unproductive of inspiration or self-development. The greater the mutual service, the deeper the friendship.
Why does Jesus have such a wide following? Because He, like the other great Masters, is unequaled in His service to humanity. Hence, to attract friends you must possess the qualities of a real friend. Idiots may become friends, but their blind friendship may end in a sudden blind hate.
When perfect friendship exists, either between two hearts or within a group of hearts in a Spiritual organization, such friendship perfects each individual. In the heart purified by friendship, one beholds an open door of unity through which one should invite other Souls to enter–those who love him as well as those who love him not. When Divine Friendship reigns supreme in the temple of your heart, your Soul will merge with the vast Cosmic Soul, leaving far behind the confining bonds which separated it from all of God’s animate and inanimate Creation.
Consider no one a stranger. Learn to feel that everybody is your kin. Family love is merely one of the first exercises in the Divine Teacher’s course in Friendliness, intended to prepare your heart for an all-inclusive love. Feel that the life blood of God is circulating in the veins of all races. How does anyone dare to hate any human being of whatsoever race when he knows that God lives and breathes in all? We are Americans or Hindus or other nationalities for just a few years, but we are God’s children forever. The Soul cannot be confined within man-made boundaries. Its nationality is Spirit; its country is Omnipresence.
This does not mean that you must know and love all human beings and creatures personally and individually. All you need to do is to be ready at all times to spread the light of friendly service over all living creatures which you happen to contact. This requires constant mental effort and preparedness–in other words, unselfishness. The sun shines equally on diamond and charcoal, but one has developed qualities which enable it to reflect the sunlight brilliantly, while the other absorbs all the sunlight. Emulate the diamond in your dealings with people. Brightly reflect the light of God s love.
Why Love Your Enemies?
The secret of Christ’s strength lay in His love for all, even His enemies. Far better to conquer by love the heart of a person who hates you than to vanquish such a one by other means. To the ordinary man such a doctrine seems absurd. He wants to return ten slaps for the one he has received and add twice as many kicks for good measure. Why should you love your enemy? In order that you may bring the healing rays of your love into his dark, hatred-stricken heart. When it is so released, it can behold itself as pure golden love. Thus will the flame of your love burn the partitions of hatred and misery which separate your Soul from other Souls and all Souls from the vast sea of Infinite Love.
You need not fawn on your enemy. Silently love him. Silently be of service to him whenever he is in need, for love is real only when it is useful and expresses itself through action. Thus will you rend the veils of hatred and of narrow-mindedness which hide God from your sight.
Avoid doing anything which brings harm to yourself or to another. If you are self-indulgent, or if you encourage a friend in his vices, you are an enemy disguised as a friend. By being true to yourself and a true friend to others, you gain the friendship of God. Once you make your love felt in the love of other people, it will expand until it becomes the one Love which flows through all hearts.
If you are suffering from the indigestion of unkindness or choleric crabbiness, drink the medicine of sweetness. If you make up your mind to change, start by speaking sincere, kind words to those to whom you have been unjustly harsh. Make yourself attractive by wearing the fine garment of genuine courteous language. First, be courteous to your immediate relatives. When you can do that, you will be habitually kind to all people. Remember, you may not have realized it, but it is true that real family happiness has its foundation on the altar of understanding and kind words.
Unkind words, ill-spoken words used in a fit of emotion, are like a conflagration which spreads over the forest of friendship and burns up all the green plants of courteous dealings and sympathetic thoughts.
Unkind words are ruthless murderers of life-long friendships, of the peace of Souls, and of the harmony of homes. Banish unkind words from your lips forever, and make your home life safe from the invasion of sudden partings and trouble. Sincere, sweet words are nectar to thirsty Souls. They are in demand everywhere. Sweet words create happiness in friends, enemies, societies, churches, business offices, and everywhere. People feel happy when a crabby person is removed from their presence, and they are glad when a sweet-voiced, sincere friend appears.
It is easy to wish that others would behave perfectly toward you, and it is easy to see their faults, but it is very difficult to conduct yourself properly and to consider your own faults. If you can remember to behave rightly, others will try to follow your example. If you can find your own faults without developing an inferiority complex, and can keep busy correcting yourself, then you will be using your time more profitably than if you spent it in just wishing others to be better. Your good example will do more to change others than your wishing, your holy wrath, or your words.
Each individual has his own standards of physical and mental beauty. What seems ugly to one may appear beautiful to another. Looking at a vast crowd, you like some faces instantaneously; others do not attract you particularly. The instant attraction of your mind to the likable inner and outer features of an individual is your first indication that you have found a friend of the past. Your dear ones whom you loved before will be drawn toward you by a prenatal sense of friendship.
Do not be deceived by physical beauty. Ask yourself whether or not a face, the manner of walking, in short, everything about a person, appeals to you. Sometimes overeating and lack of exercise may distort the features of a friend, and thus he may escape your recognition. Sometimes a beautiful woman may fall in love with an ugly man, or a handsome man with a physically unattractive woman, due to the loving friendship of a past incarnation A fat, distorted body may harbor a real friend. Therefore, to be sure that your eyes have not deceived you regarding the physical characteristics of your supposed former friend, ascertain whether you are mentally and spiritually congenial. Delve deeper into a person’s mind and guard yourself against being prejudiced by little peculiarities in order to find out whether your tastes and inclinations essentially agree. Seek your friends in this life and perfect the friendship into Divine Friendship. One lifetime is not always sufficient to achieve such perfection.
Service is the Keynote of Friendship
Cultivate true friendliness, for only thus do you attract true friends to yourself. True friendship consists in being mutually useful, in offering your friends good cheer in distress, sympathy in sorrow, advice in trouble, and material help in times of real need. Friendship consists in rejoicing in the good fortune of your friends and sympathizing with them in adversity. Friendship gladly foregoes selfish pleasures or self-interest for the sake of a friend’s happiness, without consciousness of loss or sacrifice, and without counting the cost.
Never be sarcastic to a friend. Do not flatter him unless it is to encourage him. Do not agree with him when he is wrong. Real friendship cannot witness with indifference the false, harmful pleasure of a friend. This does not mean that you must quarrel. Suggest mentally, or if your advice is asked, give it gently and lovingly. Fools fight. Friends discuss their differences.
There are people who do not trust anyone and who utterly doubt the possibility of ever having true friends. Some, in fact, actually boast that they get along without friends. If you fail to be friendly, you disregard the Divine Law of self-expansion, by which alone your Soul can grow into the Spirit. No man who fails to inspire confidence in other hearts, who is unable to extend the kingdom of his love and friendliness into other Soul territories, can hope to spread his consciousness over Cosmic Consciousness. If you cannot conquer human hearts, you cannot conquer the Cosmic Heart.