An Indian friend of ours recently mentioned a phrase that really caught my attention. While guiding her son through a challenging period she told him, “Show me your friends, and I will show you your future.”

This phrase can also serve as a noteworthy reminder for ourselves. At times we can get a little careless about this aspect of life, but its significance is indeed profound.

Paramhansa Yogananda said, “The company you keep is important. If you leave your coat in a room where people are smoking, pretty soon it will smell of smoke. If you leave it outside in the garden, later on, when you bring it indoors, it will carry with it the fragrance of fresh air and flowers.

“Such is the case with the mind. Your garment of thoughts absorbs the vibrations of those with whom you mix. If you mingle with pessimists, in time you will become a pessimist. And if you mingle with cheerful, happy people, you yourself will develop a cheerful, happy nature.

“Environment is stronger than will power. To mix with worldly people without absorbing at least some of their worldliness requires great spiritual strength.

“Beginners on the spiritual path, especially, should be very careful in the company they keep. They should mix with other devotees, and try not to mingle with ego-saturated, worldly people. They should especially avoid people who are negative, even if those people are devotees.

“Whether one becomes a saint or a sinner is to a great extent determined by the company he keeps.”

We generally think of friends as the people we choose to be around. But we also spend time with the characters in our books and films. The next time you read or watch something, ask yourself, “Is this character smoke or perfume?” You might want to show the smoky ones to the door.

Another layer of friendship relates to the thoughts and memories we habitually invite into our mind. Master said, “One should not bring back any wrong thought and relive it, for then it will stay longer in the mind. Memory was given to us to keep alive only life’s good experiences and lessons. Get rid of wrong past thoughts by avoiding recalling them. If they come to mind in spite of you, refuse to entertain them. . . . Let me repeat: to remember bad experiences and dwell upon them is an abuse of God’s gift to us of memory.”

show me your friends

Delving deeper yet, there is another layer that I would like to address. Beyond the physical and mental aspects lies our spiritual nature. In deep meditation when we withdraw the life-force from the body and mind, we find ourselves in a new and wondrous environment. Here we can transcend the mind altogether.

Doing this successfully allows us to go into the Inner Silence—a friend truly worth cultivating. When we visit his house we will find that he, in turn, has invited his friends. Who are they, you might ask? Among others, they are AUM, the inner light, and ever-new joy.

Listening to AUM, both inwardly and outwardly, helps us see that all things in creation, including the ego, emanate from that sound. Tuning in to this sacred vibration gradually dissolves our bundles of self-definitions, much like grains of rock salt melt when submerged in pure water.

When we look into the inner light, a magical transformation begins to happen. Gaze into it deeply, and then visualize it expanding until it fills your entire head. The divine light is an extension of God’s own intelligence, and will rewire the circuitry of your brain, amplifying the light and banishing the dark.

If we spend more time with friends like these, we will become sweet-smelling and delightful company.

In the joy of God’s presence,

Nayaswami Jyotish