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We all have those friendships that last or fizzle out. Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda shares his thoughts on what it takes to make friendships last. The following is from a question-and-answer session with Ikeda and young people from Discussions on Youth (pp. 47–48).
Is there some secret to making friendships last?
You may think friendships just happen spontaneously and develop by themselves, but they must be infused with and supported by the eternally youthful spirit to grow and advance. They involve an unflagging commitment to always be there to encourage and help one another as you work toward your respective aims and goals in life. It is important to have some ambition—such as graduating from university or making a meaningful contribution to society. Friendships among people who lack a clear positive purpose or direction in life tend to be complacent and dependent in nature. Friendships among people who cheerfully encourage one another while striving to realize their dreams are the kind that deepen and endure.
What is friendship? It is not simply a matter of being favorably disposed toward someone because he or she spends a lot of time with you, or lends you money, or is nice to you, or because you get along well and have a lot in common. True friendship implies a relationship where you empathize with your friends when they’re suffering and encourage them not to lose heart, and where they, in turn, empathize with you when you’re in the same boat and try to cheer you up. A friendship with those qualities flows as beautifully as a pure, fresh stream.
True friendship implies a relationship where you empathize with your friends when they’re suffering and encourage them not to lose heart, and where they, in turn, empathize with you when you’re in the same boat and try to cheer you up.
- Daisaku Ikeda
The purest and most beautiful stream that can be found in human existence is friendship. When the pure streams of friendship flowing from each person converge, they give rise to an even broader, deeper and purer river of friendship, which will inspire all who see it to proclaim its beauty and clarity and want to drink from its waters.
It would be truly wonderful if we could all develop that kind of friendship. Ultimately, it is all up to the individual, isn’t it?
Yes. The key lies in creating a beautiful stream of friendship in your own life as you strive together with your friends toward your respective dreams—struggling and growing together, sharing one another’s problems and hardships and always encouraging and supporting one another.
If your friends share the same feelings about the friendship as you do, then it is likely to last a long time; but if they decide to opt out, then it will be short. You yourself may unintentionally let a friend down, causing a rift in your relationship.
In any event, should a friendship end, there’s no need to grow despondent. You don’t have to beat yourself up, thinking friendship should last forever. The important thing is that you never forget the true meaning of friendship, and that you make it the basis for your interactions with others.
Nichiren Daishonin writes of a “friend in the orchid room” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 23). This expression means that, just as orchids in a room impart their exquisite fragrance to all who enter, we should strive to be the kind of friend who has a positive and uplifting effect on others.
All you have to do is become like the orchid. In the East, the orchid is symbolic of a person of lofty character. Therefore, please develop your character so that it exudes a beautiful orchid like fragrance.