“Give your enemy a thousand chances to become your friend, but never give your friend a single chance to become your enemy.”- Imam Ali
I teach my students that no relationship is permanent; that the person who is your friend today may be your enemy tomorrow, and your enemy may be your friend tomorrow. It might seem difficult to understand at first, but, as always, if you look to nature, you will understand.
Adi Sri Shankacharya was a famous 8th century teacher and sage of India, who spent many years consolidating the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta. Over his lifetime he established four Amnaya Peethams (Ashrams) to foster and grow these sacred teachings. How he came to establish the first of these in Sringeri is a great lesson of nature.
As he approached Sringeri he saw something very unusual unfolding on the banks of the river Tunga. A cobra was spreading out its hood over a frog in labour pains, to give it shelter from the scorching sun. He felt, if these two natural enemies could co-operate with love like this, they were showing him this is the right place to build his ashram. This is what I mean when I say your enemy may become your friend. Even today, in the Wild, where it is predator against prey, you can read many stories of predators reaching out to what would normally be their prey, when extraordinary circumstances arise.
The Dalai Lama understood this when he said: “I defeat my enemies when I make them my friends.” This wisdom was also applied by Emperor Sung after the fall of the second imperial dynasty of China, The Han dynasty, in 220AD. He invited all his generals and offered them wealth and riches fit for a king, on condition they would give up their posts as generals. They happily accepted his offer, and so instead of potential enemies who had the power to overthrow him he created loyal followers.
On the other hand, sometimes in life we allow our friends become very close to us and share our deepest confidences and secrets with them. We trust they will always be our near and dear, but friendships can break for many reasons, and this is when your friend may become your enemy. You have all heard many stories of people who have achieved success in life, and then people who would have called themselves friends, betray them by speaking publicly about private matters. Jealousy, envy, and greed can quickly make an enemy of a friend. Be wise in your dealings with all people.
In the words of the 9th century Islamic scholar, Tirmidhi:
“Love your friend moderately lest he become your enemy one day, and hate your enemy moderately, lest he become your friend one day.”