This Month’s Feature Article

    You are Your Own Friend or Foe

    Swami Paramananda

    Scroll naar beneden voor de Nederlandse versie


    SWAMI PARAMANANDA [1884–1940] was born in Banaripara, Barishal, Bangladesh.  He wasthe youngest disciple of Swami Vivekananda. An illumined brahma-jnani from a very young age, he was nick-named Basanta-Kokil [the cuckoo of spring] by Swami Brahmananda. At the tender age of 22 years, Swami Paramananda was sent to London and from there to the USA. He worked for some years in the New York Vedanta Society and then founded the Boston Vedanta Society.  He lectured all over the US and Europe. His books inspire thousands. He founded the Cohasset and La Cresenta ashramas.


     He who is his own friend, is a friend to all men.— Seneca
    Seek not self, but seek the Truth. The Truth is a living power for good, indestructible and invincible.— The Buddha.
    The divine voice of thunder repeats da, da, da. That is, be subdued, be generous, and be compassionate. Therefore let this triad be taught: subdue, give and have mercy.— Upanishad.

    [This is a very valuable article. It solves many of our personal issues and problems.]

    TO what extent is it true that we are our own friend and our own enemy ? In the great Indian spiritual classic, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Lord of Wisdom tells us: “Let a man raise himself by his Self,  let him never lower himself; for he alone  is the friend of himself, and he alone is  the enemy of himself. He who has conquered himself by the Self, he is the friend of himself, but he whose self is unconquered, his self acts as his own enemy like an external foe.” But who would knowingly be his own enemy? Perhaps we would not act as our enemy if we had conscious possession of ourselves, but very few of us have.

    Whenever we start to do anything with a dejected mind, or carry an evil impulse in our heart, do we not act as our own enemy? We know ethically and intellectually the bad effect these have upon our moral and physical being, and yet we stagger on carrying a load which exhausts us. How can we explain it, that an intelligent person should allow his mind to be filled with detrimental thoughts. Here we see the distinction between theoretical knowledge and its practical application. Until we have gained full possession of our being, without meaning to do so, we shall often drag ourselves down by our twisted thought, our wrong attitude of mind. We are like a man who is pulling on his oars but can make no headway because he has not lifted the anchor. So long as we are loaded down by the weight of matter, we cannot advance. The Self is the friend of the self for him who has conquered himself—his lower self—but one whose self is unconquered, his self acts as an enemy.

    We become our own enemy when we are thrown out of balance by anger, hatred, grief or any intense emotion. We are for the time being obsessed by something alien. Anger is such an obsession. It is a very ugly thing in life. It disfigures a person. One who is pleasant and lovable can be so changed by anger or jealousy that even if we try we can no longer find any trace of beauty in his face, it has become so distorted. Yet the whole of us is not obsessed. We are like two persons,—the person who is angry and the person who is not. There is a dual principle in us. One part of us aspires for the highest, best, purest and finest; the other is earth-bound, weighted down by material concerns.

    In the Bhagavadgita there is another passage which runs as follows: “Lust, anger and greed, these three are the soul-destroying gates of hell. Therefore one should forsake these three.” When we analyze we find there is little distinction between them. A greedy person, longing for some object of desire with all the lust of his soul, becomes angry if he cannot have his way. Anger brings self-delusion. Its cause and the cause of all such things is ignorance. By sudden anger we destroy a finer part of ourselves; in a moment we lose something and it will take long to build up again.

    This is the reason we are told so definitely that we are our own friend and our own foe. In spite of this we lay the blame on others. There is hardly a soul who does not blame some one else for his misfortune or his failure. But the eye of wisdom reveals to us that the cause we seek lies in our own self. Thus self-adjustment and self-possession are essential for our well-being. One who has control over his own self, who is serene in the midst of all dual conditions—heat and cold, pleasure and pain, noise and stillness, under all circumstances—will carry with him wherever he goes the constant realization of his supreme Self.

    We cannot expect to have everything made smooth for us. There is great doubt in my mind whether it would be really good for any one. We need individual discipline. Theoretical knowledge and actual experience are two different things altogether. What we have heard, what we sometimes feel instinctively to be our own, we can only make our own through experience. We cannot have borrowed knowledge. Truth is something that we must absorb, must assimilate. We may know theoretically that wherever the mind dwells, according to that will be our knowledge, our strength and our success. However, we have to know how to manipulate the mind, how to hold it, how to possess it.

    We may know that we have a higher Self and that it is our true friend, but in its light when we actually grasp its meaning and its application, the whole aspect of our life changes. We become bigger, stronger, more enduring.

    Endurance is one of the greatest assets in life.

    Those who do not know how to endure break down under the pressure of circumstance. They have not yet learned the art of life and living.  Sometimes we think that when we are excited and angry we exhibit strength. It is the weak person who yields to these lower emotions. A weak person is more unforgiving than a strong one. It can be seen among athletes. The strongest athletes are those who can best endure insults from an inferior. He who is nervously disorganized naturally has less endurance.

    We cannot sever our mental and physical evolution from our spiritual. What we manifest in body and mind are the results of what we are in our spiritual consciousness. They are absolutely inseparable. Self-realization means that we have become consciously connected with our Source of being. Once we have made this connection, nothing can go wrong. If we have not made it, then no matter how much we may try, everything goes wrong.

    Realization is born of our own experience, is inseparable from us. In an emergency, in moments of great tragedy, the man of tranquillity, of serenity, of wisdom remains stable, while another man possessed of the knowledge that all the books can give, loses his control or his balance. Why does he lose it? Because he never had it.

    What is ingrained in our nature we are incapable of losing. We carry our light with us, always. Plato declares a wise man will be as happy in a state of slavery as in a state of freedom. Therefore self-mastery is a vital necessity if we would enjoy in full measure all the blessings of life. Our blessings are now often carried away by our shortcomings.

    Many a person after his first failure or when he meets with some obstacle settles down and says: ‘I am not born equipped; it is not in my nature to do this.’ He has not even investigated his inner nature; he is judging only from the surface. If he would go deeper he would find that he has all the inherent powers and possibilities, more than he can possibly use. Let us remember our dual nature: faltering, failing, weak and unstable on the one side and on the other: majestic, potent, invincible. As we reflect upon the higher Self, as we try to find access to it, the lower nature will fade away.   With right attitude of mind, with right control over ourselves, we work for our own welfare, but when our mind is distorted or clouded it becomes our enemy.

    Every time we indulge in self-depreciation we go against our higher Self. Self-depreciation means that we have no faith in the higher Spirit. That is the reason we run ourselves down. Likewise whenever we are puffed up with vanity or are full of egotism, we turn away from our divine nature. Ego works in both ways. It exists as much in the life of wretchedness and despair as in the life of ostentation and pride. What we need above all else is the balanced state of mind where we do not go to one extreme or to the other, where we do not exalt ourselves because we are rich and powerful or debase ourselves because we are miserable and poor. No teaching gives this middle path with so much force and practical wisdom as the Vedic revelation. The Gita constantly reminds us that above all other things we need this balance not merely on the heights of spiritual consciousness, but in our every day life. Some people can be over-sensitive in little things. If it is the least bit too warm or too cold they magnify their sufferings. But it is all in their own mental attitude. Even what we call a tragic situation is almost always magnified by our own life.  Let us take note of ourselves. If we start one day with an exalted attitude of mind, with courage, consecration and fearlessness, and another day with depression, doubt or dissatisfaction and observe their  I  effect upon our life, we shall realize very quickly why it is declared that we are our own friend and our own enemy.

    Through depression we not only drag ourselves down, but we drag others down with us. A great teacher used to say that one who is melancholy has no right to touch another person’s life. Life is not meant for sadness; we should not throw our burden on another. We cannot be self-indulgent.

    Some indulge themselves in unhappiness; they seem to love it. You pull them out of it and again they settle down. They have formed the habit of staying in that sphere and they alone can rescue themselves from it. All the religions, all the high ideals cannot help them from without till they have awakened themselves from within. That is the reason why the Gita says so forcibly: Raise thyself by thine own self—never lower thyself.  Sometimes people have the foolish notion that they cannot be spiritual unless they show a certain self-abasement. But the humility which is essential to spirituality is illustrated by the fruitful tree bending its boughs in fruition. A barren tree stands stiff and gives nothing. When our life becomes fruitful it cannot help but show forth gentleness, mellowness, beneficent qualities, leaving no room for harshness. A life which is unproductive always finds fault with others and strikes a harsh note somewhere. That is why we should cultivate and unfold these inner principles. The same mind which is capable of thinking evil, hateful thoughts, also has infinite capacity for good and, constructive thought.  One of the most beautiful concepts that the Buddha gave to his disciples was that a well-ordered mind will do greater good to a man than a friend or a father or a mother or any one from outside. People who live on other people’s opinions, do they ever accomplish anything? When we perform a good action with our whole being and with unselfish spirit, whether others see it in the same way or not does not matter, it gives us joy and a sense of uplift.   If we depend on praise and recognition, if we have any self-glorifying attitude, we are undone.

    He or she who is dependent on praise is equally affected by blame. When our inner life is empty we cannot help but depend on the exterior, but after our inner life is filled we care less and less for all outer conditions. We are happier because of this, we create a happier atmosphere—an atmosphere of strength.  If we do not have all that we desire, let us make the best use of what we have. The greatest artists are those who have creative genius within themselves and with little material produce the best. It is not the material which makes the artist; it is the artist who shapes the material. If we bear this in mind we shall cease to complain or to find fault either with ourselves or with others.

    .Previous Article                                                                                                                                 Next Article

    Nederlandse versie

    Je bent je eigen vriend of vijand

    Swami Paramananda

    In hoeverre is het waar dat we onze eigen vriend en onze eigen vijand zijn? In de grote Indiase spirituele klassieker, de Bhagavad-Gita, vertelt de Heer van Wijsheid ons: “Laat een mens zichzelf verheffen door zijn Zelf, laat hij zichzelf nooit verlagen; want hij alleen is de vriend van zichzelf, en hij alleen is de vijand van zichzelf. Hij die zichzelf heeft overwonnen door het Zelf, hij is de vriend van zichzelf, maar hij wiens zelf onoverwonnen is, zijn zelf handelt als zijn eigen vijand als een externe vijand. ” Maar wie zou willens en wetens zijn eigen vijand zijn? Misschien zouden we niet als onze vijand optreden als we onszelf bewust in bezit hadden, maar dat hebben weinigen van ons gedaan. Wanneer we iets beginnen te doen met een neerslachtige geest, of een slechte impuls in ons hart hebben, handelen we dan niet als onze eigen vijand? We weten ethisch en intellectueel de slechte uitwerking die deze hebben op ons morele en fysieke wezen, en toch wankelen we bij het dragen van een last die ons uitput.

    Hoe kunnen we het uitleggen, dat een intelligent persoon zijn geest met schadelijke gedachten moet laten vullen. Hier zien we het onderscheid tussen theoretische kennis en de praktische toepassing ervan. Totdat we volledig bezit van ons wezen hebben verkregen, zonder dat we dat van plan zijn, zullen we ons vaak naar beneden halen door onze verwrongen gedachten, onze verkeerde geesteshouding. We zijn als een man die aan zijn riemen trekt, maar geen vooruitgang kan boeken omdat hij het anker niet heeft opgetild. Zolang we worden belast door het gewicht van de materie, kunnen we niet vooruitgaan. Het Zelf is de vriend van het zelf voor hem die zichzelf heeft overwonnen – zijn lagere zelf – maar iemand wiens zelf niet overwonnen is, zijn zelf handelt als een vijand. We worden onze eigen vijand als we door woede, haat, verdriet of een intense emotie uit balans worden gebracht.

    We zijn voorlopig geobsedeerd door iets buitenaards. Woede is zo’n obsessie. Het is iets heel lelijks in het leven. Het ontsiert een persoon. Iemand die aangenaam en liefdevol is, kan zo veranderd worden door woede of jaloezie dat zelfs als we het proberen, we geen spoor van schoonheid meer in zijn gezicht kunnen vinden, het is zo verwrongen. Toch zijn we niet allemaal geobsedeerd. We zijn als twee personen: de persoon die boos is en de persoon die dat niet is. Er is in ons een tweeledig principe. Een deel van ons streeft naar het hoogste, beste, puurste en beste; de andere is aardgebonden, verzwaard door materiële zorgen.

    Sommigen leven zich uit in ongeluk; ze lijken er dol op te zijn. Je trekt ze eruit en ze komen weer tot rust. Ze hebben de gewoonte gevormd om in die sfeer te blijven en alleen zij kunnen zichzelf ervan redden. Alle religies, alle hoge idealen kunnen hen niet van buitenaf helpen totdat ze zichzelf van binnenuit ontwaakt hebben. Dat is de reden waarom de Gita zo krachtig zegt: Verhoog uzelf door uzelf – verlaag uzelf nooit. Soms hebben mensen het dwaze idee dat ze niet spiritueel kunnen zijn tenzij ze een zekere zelfvernedering tonen. Maar de nederigheid die essentieel is voor spiritualiteit, wordt geïllustreerd door de vruchtbare boom die zijn takken tot bloei buigt. Een onvruchtbare boom staat stijf en geeft niets. Wanneer ons leven vruchtbaar wordt, kan het niet anders dan zachtheid, zachtheid en weldadige eigenschappen te tonen, waarbij geen ruimte is voor hardheid. Een leven dat niet productief is, vindt altijd fouten bij anderen en komt ergens hard aan. Daarom zouden we deze innerlijke principes moeten cultiveren en ontvouwen. Dezelfde geest die in staat is om slechte, hatelijke gedachten te denken, heeft ook een oneindig vermogen tot goed en constructief denken. Een van de mooiste concepten die de Boeddha aan zijn discipelen gaf, was dat een goed geordende geest een man meer goed zal doen dan een vriend of een vader of een moeder of iemand van buitenaf. Bereiken mensen die van de mening van anderen leven ooit iets? Wanneer we met ons hele wezen en met een onzelfzuchtige geest iets goeds doen, maakt het niet uit of anderen het op dezelfde manier zien of niet, het geeft ons vreugde en een gevoel van verheffing. Als we afhankelijk zijn van lof en erkenning, als we een zelfverheerlijkende houding hebben, zijn we ongedaan.

    Hij of zij die afhankelijk is van lof, wordt evenzeer getroffen door schuld. Als ons innerlijk leven leeg is, kunnen we niet anders dan afhankelijk zijn van de buitenkant, maar nadat ons innerlijk leven is gevuld, geven we steeds minder om alle uiterlijke omstandigheden. Hierdoor zijn we gelukkiger, creëren we een gelukkiger sfeer – een sfeer van kracht. Als we niet alles hebben wat we wensen, laten we dan het beste gebruik maken van wat we hebben. De grootste artiesten zijn degenen die een creatief genie in zichzelf hebben en met weinig materiaal het beste produceren. Het is niet het materiaal dat de kunstenaar maakt; het is de kunstenaar die het materiaal vormgeeft. Als we dit in gedachten houden, zullen we stoppen met klagen of fouten bij onszelf of bij anderen ontdekken.

    Previous Article                                                                                                                         Next Article

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *