While consumerism has taken the better of friendship day, what with card and gift shops overflowing with expensive gift options to prove your friendship to your dear friends there are humbler examples. A look at the mythology throws multiple examples of the value of friendship and camaraderie. The timeless stories albeit also amply teach that friendship transcends the narrow boundaries of faith, colour, race and caste and stand strong in thick and thin.
The Bhagavata Purana mentions the example of Lord Krishna and Sudama and their lasting bond of friendship. For the uninitiated Lord Krishna and Sudama were pupils of Sandeepani. As per the Guru-disciple tradition the disciples came from all walks of life. It was then as children Krishna and Sudama went to the jungle to cut some wood. The lord was hungry and he shared that with his friend Sudama who fed him some puffed rice. Years later times changed and Sudama fell into bad times. While Lord Krishna became the all-powerful king of Dwaraka, Sudama further sinks into poverty. It is when the Lord makes a surprise appearance at Sudama’s doorstep and asks for a meal of beaten rice that he used to relish during his gurukul days.
In Abrahamic philosophies, there are examples abundant to show the virtue and value of friendship. The partnership of Moses and Aaron is one such example. Moses was a great leader who once feared to speak publicly. When he was hesitant at the thought to speak to Pharaoh, God appointed Moses' brother Aaron, as his speaker and supporter. Aaron gladly did this, and spoke for Moses and supported him in all the ways that he needed.
In another example, Elijah, the well-known prophet of Israel who called down the fires of heaven, defeats the prophets of Baal, and the man who caused a drought in Israel for three years through prayer. To help him carry out his work, God send Elijah a friend and eventual successor, the younger Elisha. Their holy friendship displays another important aspect — the purposeful choosing of friends. Elisha attaches himself to Elijah, imploring the older man not to leave him in 2 Kings 2:2. Responding to Elijah’s declaration that he was leaving for Bethel, Elisha exclaims, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” Elisha was absolutely devoted to his friend, to his mentor, because he knew the older man would make an excellent guide.
The edifice of Sufi thinking is based on love and friendship is its cornerstone. One of the names Sufis have for god is ‘Friend’. Beneath all the confusion and pain, we feel as human beings we are still safe as we are guarded by the almighty god who is our friend. As mentioned in sufiway.org blog, the 11th century Persian Sufi Abdullah Ansari says:
"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.’
It is this friend that can guide us in our spiritual quest in this material world and hence Ansari adds-
‘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."