In the broken remnants of a beautiful relationship,
a young woman discovers the real meaning of friendship.
JONI LIVED IN THE HOUSE across the street. She had long blonde hair and could roller-skate better than anyone in the neighborhood. We spent our childhood together, clattering down the pavement on our steel roller-skates, dragging our dolls and their trappings from one house to the next, racing her four turtles on the back patio. We played long, involved games of make-believe that could continue for weeks. In summer Joni and I luxuriated for endless hours in backyard wading pools. In winter we tramped through the woods surrounding our neighborhood, careful to avoid the haunted house. We constantly plotted to escape our little sisters, and loyally stuck together when the big girls picked on us.
In high school Joni got a bright-orange Mustang convertible. Her blonde hair came from a bottle by this time, but no one knew except me. We shared clothes, double-dated, and got part-time jobs scooping ice cream together. No one in the world knew me better than Joni did. Our friendship seemed so deeply ingrained in the pattern of my life that it never occurred to me it might someday end.
But it ended quickly when we graduated from high school. She got married, I went to college, and the comfortable rhythm of our friendship broke. The backdrop of shared experience disappeared, leaving us struggling to think of polite things to say to each other. When I saw her a few years ago, I didn't even recognize her.
And yet, when I hear the phrase "best friend" I can't help but think of Joni. I think of the time she refused to go to a party I was not invited to. I remember the way I sobbed when her boyfriend dumped her. I remember all the bowls of popcorn we shared in her basement, fueling serious conversations that sorted through the complex issues of our lives. No experience was complete until we discussed it thoroughly, no emotion too burdensome to be shared. The memory of the friendship and the comfort it brought has long outlived the friendship itself.
This is a common experience, this fond remembering of a lost friendship. Friendships fuse under many circumstances, but circumstances are predictably unpredictable. We lose our friends when they move away, or when our interests drag us apart, or when misunderstanding or betrayal blocks our heart connection. And there is the ultimate separation of death. But the comfort of friendship is so deep and so restoring we continually seek the intimacy we have repeatedly found and lost.
Srila Prabhupada compares friendship in this world to a drop of water in the desert. Friendship is something we crave, yearn for, search after. It's there, but in such a tiny quantity that our thirst for it cannot be satisfied.
"The idea of society, friendship, and love is not at all false," Srila Prabhupada explains, "but the place where we search for it is false."
Yes, there is someone who can understand your deepest emotions, who cares about you through thick and thin, who sees your intrinsic beauty even in your darkest times, and who will never, ever leave you. That person is Krsna.
This may seem a disappointment to those of us who have forgotten how dear we are to God. In our state of forgetfulness, we are blind to Krsna's loving presence, and the idea that Krsna is our best friend seems a lonely conclusion. When jocular companionship portrayed in beer commercials shapes our conception of friendship, understanding how friendship applies to the creator of the universe is difficult. But when we understand that Lord Krsna is seated within our hearts, lifetime after lifetime, we get a better sense of true friendship. He is there whether we're embodied as kings or as dogs. Never giving up, never leaving us in disgust, He waits patiently for us to become frustrated with our search for pleasure in a world of falsity. He tolerates our blasphemy and our stubborn refusal to acknowledge His omnipresence. He forgives every atrocity. His love is unconditional. Who wouldn't want a friendship like that?
Glimpses of Krsna's Friendship
I have known some wonderful moments when I could catch a glimpse of Krsna's eternal friendship. Some of those moments were deeply personal, times when each breath was choked with pain and yet somehow I could feel the presence and solace of my dear, dear friend in my heart. Some of those moments were twisted with a private irony that could only be shared with someone who has witnessed my every thought. Sometimes I have seen Krsna take away the proverbial keys to the car when I have been in no condition to drive. And other times I have felt Him pushing me past fears and regrets with the supreme encouragement of a most confident friend.
Understanding that Krsna is our best friend doesn't mean we no longer feel any friendship for other living beings. Rather, that understanding intensifies our connection with everyone, because we know that our wonderful friend loves everyone deeply. No one was more loving and compassionate than Srila Prabhupada, the perfect example of a fully realized soul. People who cared nothing for God were attracted to Srila Prabhupada because he exuded genuine warmth and concern toward them. These are the natural qualities of a pure devotee.
So when we hear from the Vedic literature that there is no love in this world, that's not a cause for lamentation but an affirmation of what we already know in our hearts. Love and friendship simply cannot endure without the empowering central force of love for the Supreme Lord. In the same way that sunlight dwarfs the illuminating power of a tiny candle, our true loving relationship with God dwarfs our very best memories of material friendship. As Srila Prabhupada promises, "If we make our friendship with Krsna, it will never break."
Dvarakadhisa Devi Dasi is a frequent contributor to Back to Godhead. She and her family are part of the Hare Krsna community in Alachua, Florida.