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Thoughts on Friendship

By Daisaku Ikeda

 

Friendship is the most beautiful, most powerful, and most valuable treasure in life. It is your true wealth. No matter how much status a person may gain or how rich one may become, a life without friends is indeed sad and lonely; it also leads to an unbalanced, self-centered existence.

You were born in this vast universe on the tiny planet Earth, and in the same era as the people around you. Yet, it is extremely rare to find, among the billions of people on this planet, genuine, unconditional friends with whom you can totally be yourself and who will intuitively understand your thoughts and feelings without need for words.

It's important to understand that friendship depends on you, not on the other person. It all comes down to your own attitude and contribution. I hope you will not be a fair-weather friend, only helping others when circumstances are good and leaving them high and dry when some problem occurs; instead, please become the kind of person who sticks by their friends with unchanging loyalty through thick and thin.

Our human relationships are like a mirror. So if you're thinking to yourself, "If only so-and-so were a little nicer to me, I could talk to them about anything," then that person is probably thinking, "If only such-and-such would open up to me, I would be nicer to them."

Therefore, you should make the first move to open the channels of communication. If despite these efforts you are still rebuffed, then the person you should feel sorry for is not yourself, but your friend.

The human heart is truly complex; we cannot read what's in another person's heart. People change. What should you do? My advice is that you hold fast to your own identity with the spirit--"Others may change, but I will stay who I am." If you should be snubbed or let down by others, have the strength of character to vow that you will never do the same to anyone.

The Buddhist scriptures clearly reveal that Shakyamuni Buddha was a person who initiated dialogue with others. You need to be strong to initiate a dialogue. You must remember that experiencing rejection and disappointment is an inevitable part of life.

If you feel hurt or betrayed by someone, isn't it better to make a new friend, rather than stop trusting people altogether? If you don't trust anyone, yes, certainly, you might avoid being hurt or let down, but you'll only end up leading a lonely, barren existence locked up in your own shell. The fact is only someone who has experienced pain and hardships can empathize with others and treat them with kindness. It's essential, therefore, that you become strong.

Be like the sun. For the sun shines on serenely even though not all of the stars will reflect back its light, and even though some of its brilliance seems to emanate only into empty space. You may find that those who reject the radiant light of your friendship will naturally fade out of your life. But the more you shine your light, the more brilliant your life will become.

No matter how other people are or what they do, it is important that you walk your own path, believing in yourself. If you remain constant and stay true to yourself, others will definitely come to understand your sincere intent one day.

More importantly, you have the power of daimoku behind you. I have heard many experiences in which people have recounted that they were victims of bullying, but after chanting sincere daimoku, they suddenly found one day that the bullying had ceased. By chanting about your problems, you will find yourself quite naturally overcoming all hardships and sufferings, almost without your even being aware of it. When you look back later, you will clearly appreciate this fact.

It is also important that you chant for your friends. This is a sign of true friendship.

You may have friends who are sick or are unable to attend school, or who are struggling to cope with problems at home. Whatever the case may be, the best thing you can do is to chant for them. Your prayers, like invisible radio waves, will definitely reach them.

And when you chant, you should do so sincerely and honestly, following the feelings in your heart without restraint, just as a baby instinctively seeks its mother's milk. There is no need to be stoically formal when you chant; there is no need for pretense. If you are suffering, then take that suffering to the Gohonzon; if you feel sad, then take your sadness to the Gohonzon.

It is also best to chant with clear determination, having a concrete goal in mind about how you want to grow or change or what you want to accomplish. It's also important to chant for those people whom you may not like, or find hard to deal with, or feel resentful toward. It may be difficult and perhaps even impossible for you to do so at first. But if you challenge yourself and chant for them, the wheels of change will definitely be set into motion. Either you will change or the other person will. Either way, you will be able to open a path leading in a positive direction. Many people have experienced this firsthand. Most importantly, your own transformation into a person able to chant for even those you harbor negative feelings toward will become your greatest fortune.

Sometimes your friends can have a stronger influence over you than your parents or anyone else. So if you make good friends--friends who are interested in improving and developing themselves--you will move in a positive direction as well.

Nothing is more beautiful than friendships developed among people challenging themselves and encouraging each other as they work toward the realization of a common goal.

People of conviction, people who stand alone, people who pursue their chosen path--not only are such people good and trustworthy friends themselves, but they can make genuine friends of others.

The bamboo groves of autumn are gorgeous. Each bamboo tree stands independently, growing straight and tall toward the sky. Yet in the ground, out of sight, their roots are interconnected.

In the same way, true friendship is not a relationship of dependence, but of independence. It is the enduring bond that connects self-reliant individuals, comrades who share the same commitment, on a spiritual dimension.

Friendship is also determined by the way we live our life.

If you always remain sincere in your interactions with others, you will one day naturally come to find yourself surrounded by good friends. And from among those people, I'm sure you'll forge lifelong friendships that are as strong and unshakable as a towering tree. Don't be impatient. Please work first on developing yourself. Rest assured that an infinite number of wonderful encounters await you in the future.

Excerpted from Discussions on Youth Vol. 1 (SGI-USA, 1998)

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