My Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, used to say that the highest relationship is friendship, because it is the only relationship in which there is no compulsion.
If we were asked, I suspect that many of us would assert that the most selfless love of all is the love of a mother for her child. But even here, there is a degree of compulsion.
From the moment the baby begins to grow in the mother’s womb, she has no choice in the matter. And once the baby is born, another form of compulsion arises, in the mother’s attachment for her child.
True friendship, however, is without conditions. Nothing compels us to be friends, except our sincere desire to do so.
(Cartoon: A heart that embraces increasingly wide circles of awareness is the secret of finding lasting fulfillment.)
In the Gita, Krishna calls Arjuna “friend.” Yogananda, pointed out that this is a very high compliment, because friendship is the ideal relationship, even between guru and disciple.
Freedom is of the soul. In our soul-nature, we are eternally free. Indulging our egoic desires can never give us the fulfillment we long for.
A saint of the West put it wonderfully: “Lord, Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”
If we want our romantic relationships to endure and be a source of happiness and growth, we must learn to shift our focus from “What do I want?” to “What can I give?”
It is not a question of imposing a rigid principle on ourselves – “I must give!” Rather, it is a question of acknowledging our own nature. For it is a simple fact that we feel more blissful when give than when we receive. As we mature spiritually, we learn that the satisfactions we hoped to find by cultivating our egos can only be realized by broadening our awareness to include wider realities.
The ego is the enemy of freedom, because it binds us to a monotonous, painful cycle of likes and dislikes. Expanding our awareness to embrace realities larger than the little ego-self enables us to be even-minded and happy in every circumstance.
Observing a person from the outside, it may strike us that they are bound by many obligations and duties. But if that person inwardly embraces his responsibilities as his God-given, appropriate dharma, then there is no sense of bondage, but only a liberating offering of the heart.
Naturally, not everyone can immediately rise to this level of freedom. It takes lots of time and patient practice, starting at our own level of ability. The divine reason we are drawn into relationships of various kinds is so that we can experiment and learn, over many lives, how to rise above the limiting ego and find the fulfillment we are seeking.
As Swami Kriyananda put it, simply living together for a lifetime is not necessarily a spiritual victory. Merely to endure is not the same as broadening our sympathies. There must be an inner awakening of the heart and an expansion of love.