Sunday, October 4, 2009

Friendships in the Mahabharata.

When we look back at our scriptures, searching for common norms of friendship, we generally come across the friendship of Krishna and Sudama. Sudama, from a poor brahmin family and Krishna, a member of a ruling family, forge their ties in the ashrama of Rishi Sandipani. After their education is over, they depart, each on their own way.

Later, when Sudama is in trouble, he comes to Krishna for help. Although he is never asked for help, Shree Krishna, in return for the morsel of rice that he gets from Sudama, gives him everything that he needed.

Conclusion: Shree Krishna, the embodiment of God, the Supreme Power, takes care of a person at the lowest tide in his power, inspite of his dispensability.

Many Hindus are inspired by this story when they seek the friendship of the rich and the famous. It is no wonder, that the Indian state could also be following these lines in seeking ties with world superpowers. What is more troubling is that we are willing to set aside all our grievances to appease the person in power. As the Indian Ambassador to US says:
"Noting that the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement is strong both on symbolism and on substance, Shankar said the pact not only removed a major problem that showed and constrained bilateral relations for three decades, but has created a basis for closer relations, deeper economic ties and a more productive partnership on energy security, lessening reliance on fossil fuel and combating proliferation."

However, this lesson deals with the ideal case of friendship, where differences in power and prestige are no barrier to childhood ties. Such friendship can only be sought when the past of the person in higher power shows him to be generous and content with his position in the world. But in practice, friendships with powerful people, organizations and states are a bit murky. The involvement of ego, selfish interest, the pursuit of more power and the willingness for deceit by the person in a higher position will taint this friendship and break it. The subsequent heart break could be too much to bear.

So, what is the solution? That friendship be sought only among equals. That is the message of friendship between Drupad and Dron in the Mahabharata. Drupad is the prince of the Kingdom of Paanchal, and Dron is son of sage Bharadwaj. Both of them become friends while studying in an ashrama, the same way Krishna and Sudama meet each other. While close friends in the beginning, this friendship drifts apart when they grow up. When Dron goes to Drupad to seek help that he used to promise as a child, Drupad refuses it on the grounds that Dron is not his equal.

Conclusion: For the lesser mortals, friendship should only be had among equals. It is better to be defensive in seeking personal ties than to pine hopes on some ties you cannot achieve. The desire to change yourself to develop ties with the other person must also be avoided, for that only suits the ego of the person superior to you.

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