The Friend

J U N E   2 0 1 4

One of the names Sufis have for God is “the Friend.” This name points to the mystery that beneath all the confusion and pain we may experience as human beings, our lives are pervaded by a most sacred friendship and love. We are safe. Our own being is inseparable from the home ground of all blue friendbeing which is love. Of course it is not always easy for us to recognize how safe and loved we are. This is why the name “the Friend” is used, to help us relax and stop struggling. The name is meant to reassure us. When we feel the intent of this word “Friend” in our hearts, we open ourselves to how the Friend — what is signified by that word — is all-pervasive. We sense that this friendship is the force that blinks our eyes when we blink, that it’s the very texture of our breath, that it’s what hears this thought. The 11th century Persian Sufi Abdullah Ansari put it this way:

All of my eye is filled with the form of the Friend.
   Happy am I with the eye so long as the Friend is within it.
Separating the eye from the Friend is not good —
   either He’s in the place of the eye, or the eye itself is He.

Of course there is a danger here, to use such a human word as “Friend” to name the all-pervading presence that lights each moment. Like the word “God,” the Friend can also seem to stand outside of us, because it sounds like a distinct personage. Sufi literature is full of attempts to deconstruct this kind of objectification. For example, Ansari again:

The two worlds [of duality] were lost in friendship, and friendship was lost in the Friend. Now I dare not say that I am, nor can I say that He is.

Deconstruction like this not only makes transparent the illusion of otherness of the Friend, it invites something else to happen. A notion like the Friend can seem to be distinctly outside of us as long as we feel there is a distinct inside of us. But when we welcome the possibility that the Friend pervades all things, including our subjectivity, then the Friend is not simply experienced as a divine force external to us, it is experienced as our very self and moment. We become the Friend.

This means a natural friendliness arises as the nature of our own presence. We no longer have to contrive or protect ourselves. We become naturally warm-hearted and non-judgmental toward others and ourselves. We sense the presence of an unfathomable generosity, the same generosity that gives all, that makes this moment appear as it does. This generosity fills our hearts quite naturally. It is a living force that you can’t keep to yourself — it must be conveyed to others. Not only to people, but to streams, mountains, clouds, birds, even to light itself.

Our responsibility — as the Friend — is simply to love all that is. We might think this is a lot to ask, since we have our own problems to deal with, but it doesn't work that way. The deeper our appreciation for all life, the more we realize it is a treasure to be given away. This is where our life becomes playful — in the giving of our appreciation, love, forgiveness, and wonder. We delight in giving it to everything we contact, especially to the next generation, since this gift — the gift of the Friend — is the most precious of all.