This song is an antidote for:

  • Jealousy
  • Competitiveness
  • Desire to control others
  • Neurotic behavior
  • Shame
  • Self-loathing
  • Self-hatred
  • Self-denial

Listen to the song (download mp3):

Bonus Track (download mp3): 

Watch the session with Satyaki:

The song as an antidote (Satyaki’s comments):

Preamble: The Secrets of Life album, released in 1994 to accompany a book of the same time (which is a compilation of many separate Secrets of… title, was the first of Swami Kriyananda’s primarily instrumental albums (except for the last track, which is vocal). Secrets of Life expresses a variety of aspects of higher consciousness as applied to common life questions like friendship. For the English-speaking world, the album includes Kriyananda speaking short passages from the Secrets books; in other countries, such as Italy, the album was released without those spoken overlays, and thus provides an opportunity to experience how, through melody, harmony, and rhythm alone, those different aspects of higher consciousness are expressed. That is, they give us an opportunity to ask, “What is that melody line saying? What is being said by the change in harmony, or a change in rhythm?” With the Secrets of Life album, especially, the title of the track offers a guide to what we can listen for, as do the spoken passages.

In the case of Friendship is Acting in Freedom, we clearly have a clue that the piece expresses aspects of higher friendship and also the idea of how true friendship is never binding, possessive, or jealous. True friendship cannot be conditioned on the other’s behavior (the thought, “I’ll remain your friend only if you do this or that for me.”) Friendship, as Yogananda taught, must instead be one of mutual service toward self-realization: acting in freedom to explore and acting to help the other be free of delusion and ego. As he wrote in the article, The Art of Gaining Friends (Inner Culture, 1936):

Cultivate true friendliness, for only thus do you attract true friends to yourself. True friendship consists in being mutually useful, in offering your friends good cheer in distress, sympathy in sorrow, advice in trouble, and material help in times of real need. Friendship consists in rejoicing in the good fortune of your friends and sympathizing with them in adversity. Friendship gladly foregoes selfish pleasures or self-interest for the sake of a friend’s happiness, without consciousness of loss or sacrifice, and without counting the cost.

Swami Kriyananda’s book, Secrets of Friendship, contains many of the same thoughts. On the English Secrets of Life album, Kriyananda offers some of those spoken excerpts at different points during the piece, which he specifically chose for the accompanying music, as we’ll see shortly.

Let’s then explore how the music, in fact, conveys not the ideas of true friendship but the consciousness.

As a whole, the piece is something of a journey of a soul exploring friendship, that is, a soul seeking to understand the value of friendship on the path toward self-realization. The soul learns that friendship doesn’t mean to be bound and restricted, but to be grateful for the mutual service, love, and sharing, even if it’s for a short time. Put another way, because friendships on the material plane are necessarily bounded by time, distance, and death, you cannot depend on any permanency of the form of those outward relationships (especially not the shallow “friendships” of modern social media, where people judge personal value on the mere quantity of these so-called “friends” and how many “likes” they give you on your various posts.)

True soul friends render service to one another across many incarnations, coming together time and time again, in many different forms, in their quest for God. The friendship exists in that soul connection, not in the specific roles each one plays in any given incarnation. This is why “acting in freedom” is so important. Yogananda described how true friends across many incarnations have likely had all manners of relationships: as parents and children, as lovers, as siblings, and so on. Accordingly, soul friends must always give each other the freedom to find their unique paths to work out their unique karmas, rather than being jealous of other relationships or trying to possess or control the other. For example, two souls who were married in a previous life but are born as siblings in this life must now allow each other to find suitable partners. Otherwise, they would block their ability to work out their individual karmas and likely create new karmas as well!

We can feel this consciousness in Friendship is Acting in Freedom across its different melodic phrases, which are played against a rhythmic background. The melody, which is carried by a flute, resonates primarily with the upper chakras, as if to represent one’s conscious awareness or, as Kriyananda says of melody in general, one’s aspirations. The rhythm, on the other hand, which is carried by a variety of different instruments, provides the heartbeat as well as the support of the lower chakras. Together, the variations of melody and rhythm tell a story as they intermix, the story, again, of a souls’ journey in friendship.

This friendship can be thought of on multiple levels. First is the usual ego-to-ego friendship that we have all experienced, where two individuals help each other and share love. There is also the ego-to-God relationship as found between a discipline and his or her guru. The guru, in that case, really needs no service from another, but accepts it as a means of helping another to grow. There is also the God-to-God relationship, as we see between friends who celebrate their mutual soul liberation. Such friendships were demonstrated between Yogananda and his most advanced disciples, Rajarsi Janakananda and Sister Gyanamata.

On a purely inward level, too, the “friends” we speak of here can also mean the different chakras in the spine, including the Higher Self at the spiritual eye, or the different mental citizens ruled by the Soul. In this case, the Higher Self invites the ego (at the medulla) to rise above its self-preoccupation and expand its awareness. The willing ego, in turn, invites all the other chakras in the spine (or mental citizens) to also rise, saying “Come join me, friends, and share my feast of joy!”[1]

Let’s now examine each phrase in turn to see how this all plays out—how energy is drawn up the spine. More specifically, there are four distinct melodic passages, which I’ll refer to as A, B, C, and D, along with a short tag I refer to as E. These melodies are then accompanied, in different ways, by three distinct background harmonies and instrumentations (the background rhythm is fairly constant, representing the heartbeat). I refer to these as H1, H2, and H3, along with a short H4 in the tag at the end of the piece.

The following table is a summary of the progression, with details given afterwards (with the harmonies, oc means “original chord” and cc means “chord change”; the difference is easily heard):

Phrase Melody Harmony Effect/Expression
1 A1, A2 H1 (oc) Harmonies awaken 1st and 2nd chakras while the melody is the Higher Self (at the spiritual eye) inviting the ego (at the medulla) to a partnership.
2 B H1 (cc) The melody is a hesitation of the ego; the chord change awakens also the 3rd chakra.
3 C H1 (oc) Ego relaxes into the upward flow, and all lower three chakras are open and joining in the celebration. The ego is ready to bring those lower energies higher.
4 D1, D2 H2 Pulling up more to 3rd chakra with plucks; a plucked string is the sound of the third chakra. The melody provide a kind of celebration and relaxation.
5 A1, A2 H3 (oc) Pulls the energy primarily up to the heart (with a little still in the 3rd).
6 B H3 (cc)
7 C H3 (oc)
8 D1, D2 H1 The energy remains in the heart, relating back to lower three chakras, serving to lighten them and pull them up now into the throat chakra.
9 A1, A2 (duet) H3 (oc) At the throat chakra, there’s an expansion of all lower chakra energies in partnership with the Higher Self. The ego is not blocking; the Higher Self can reach down to magnetize an uplift the whole spine.
10 B (duet) H3 (cc)
11 C (duet) H3 (oc)
12 D1, D2 H1 All the energies in the spine are now flowing up to medulla and the spiritual eye; the harmony is something of an echo.
13 E (close) H4 An upward run of notes that lightly touch all chakras again, like the kundalinit rising up the shushumna to the spiritual eye, where we end.

Phrase 1: The opening melody, A, has two similar but distinct parts, which I call melodies A1 and A2. Both parts begin the same but end differently—A1 goes a little lower, A2 stays a little higher. In both parts, the notes begin higher and end lower, resonating first with the spiritual eye, and then the medulla. In this way, the phrase expresses the voice of the Higher Self that descends to where the ego can relate to it; the impersonal descends to the personal level, not to affirm the ego by to invite it upwards, as suggested by the voice of the Higher Self in the spoken passage between melodies A1 and A2:

Realize that to have friends you must first be a friend. Make friendship a life priority.

The background harmonies during Phrase 1 are smooth, gentle chime-like sounds, with a lower beat followed by a higher chord, awakening the 1st and 2nd chakras. Thus, at the opening, here, the piece is activating both the highest and lowest parts of the spine as a first step to awakening the whole.

The shorter Phrase 2 comes next with the chord change in the background rhythm. The deeper, more powerful harmony here awakens the 3rd (lumbar) chakra in addition to the 1st and 2nd. And in contrast to Phrase 1, the notes in melody B move upwards, like the personal ego responding to the invitation from the Higher Self in melodies A1/A2. This melodic line, and the depth of the harmony, makes the phrase sound sounds somewhat tentative, like the ego hesitating at the invitation, or perhaps the hesitation of the rest of the energy in the spine to flow upwards.

Phrase 3 returns to the original background harmonies. Melody C, with its rising notes and especially the upward run toward the end, feels like it’s expressing a positive response by the ego (and the spine). We get our first glimpse of what’s possible with true, impersonal friendship.

With Phrase 4 there’s a distinct change in the background instrumentation, specifically adding in a plucked guitar. A plucked string instrument is, in fact, the sound of the 3rd chakra, and thus this change in the harmony (H2) serves to pull energy up more distinctly to the 3rd chakra. Melody D1 here first feels celebratory, after which we hear the words:

Never belittle a friend’s enthusiasms.

This saying is quite appropriate for the introduction of energy in the third chakra, which is often referred to as the power center. Belittling enthusiasms is an underhanded means to exercise power over another, so the piece here takes the opportunity to keep the energy of that chakra moving upwards, which is to say, celebrate another’s enthusiasms! With that realization, the music then relaxes into melody D2, completing the first broader arc of the piece.

Phrase 5 begins with another very distinct change in the harmony. H3 introduces slow orchestral strings, which resonate with the heart chakra and serve to pull much of the lower spinal energy up to that center. The simple guitar pluck, too, changes to an orchestral pluck (that is, the plucking of multiple stringed instruments like violins, violas, and cellos). The plucking is still resonant with the 3rd chakra, but with more energy, namely the energy that’s been pulled from the 1st and 2nd chakras.

On top of this background, we again hear the progression across melodies A1/A2 (Phrase 5), melody B (Phrase 6) with the chord change in the harmony, and melody C (Phrase 7). You can definitely feel that there’s greater energy in this, which is the gathering of strength in the spine as the Higher Self continues to invite us upwards.

Immediately after these phrases there’s a short interlude during which the piece returns to harmony H1, the gentle chime-like sounds with which the song began. This once again touches those lower centers and lightens them further, and during this interlude we hear the following words:

Don’t impose your moods, whether good or bad, on others. Give them the space to define their own feelings.

These two short sentences are full of appropriate wisdom for this point in the piece: the previous phrases awakened a lot of heart energy, and it’s that energy that can, when directed outwardly as in imposing moods on others, become another subtle way that we try to exercise control over people. Thus, the words here remind us—remind all the lower chakras including the heart—to give others that freedom of feeling.

The upwardly-flowing heart, on the other hand, wants instead of transform its energy, and that of the lower centers, to something even higher, which is what we hear in Phrase 8, with melodies D1 and D2 against the lightening background of harmony H1. Self-realization, or friendship with God, never denies the so-called “lower” aspect of our nature, because the pure energies of all the chakras are all “higher” qualities in themselves. The qualities of steadfastness and loyalty in the first chakra are those of yama in Patanjali’s Eightfold Path, the ability to avoid what one should not do. The qualities of the second chakra include flexibility and adaptability, and are related to niyama in the Eightfold Path, or clinging to right action (doing what one should do). The primary quality of the third chakra, too, is that of fiery self-control.

The overall effect is to allow the energy of all the lower centers, including the heart, to gently float upwards to the throat chakra.

At the throat chakra, now, we begin Phrase 9 with first a return to Harmony H3 (the orchestral strings and orchestral pluck) signifying the support of the heart and the lower centers. We also hear a duet with melodies A1 and A2 (Phrase 9), followed by duets on melody B (Phrase 10) and melody C (Phrase 11). This duet clearly expresses a partnership, in this case a partnership between the individual soul or ego and the Higher Self. In this partnership, the ego recognizes what the Higher Self is doing, and doesn’t block the Higher Self from reaching down to lift up the entire spine.

It’s really a lovely passage! Indeed, you can hear it also as expressing partnership between true friends who come together for a time in mutual service, knowing that although they will likely depart from one another on the material plane, their soul connection is never lost. The duet really expresses another level of harmony, that of two melodic lines, which is to say, two separate but harmonious aspirations. (Musically, again, melody expresses aspiration.)

It’s after these phrases that we hear words that are, again, very appropriate to this sense of partnership:

Demand nothing of others, but act and react with them in a spirit of perfect freedom.

In a duet, the notes in each part are independent, sometimes coming together in harmony, at other times offering a rich contrast to one another, but all the while serving the larger goal of the music they make together.

In Phrase 12, now, we hear an exact repeat of Phrase 8 with melodies D1 and D2 against the soft background of harmony H1. At this point, however, the energy has been lifted up to the medulla and even the spiritual eye. All the energies in the spine are flowing upwards. We’ve left the duet behind now, in the same way that the devotee gradually learns to de-personalize their relationships. In time, the devotee also leaves behind the earlier I-Thou relationship with God for the singular oneness of divine communion (“Knowing, Knower, Known as one” as Yogananda writes in his poem, Samadhi). It’s like we’ve now overcome the stages of personal relationships and are ready for and enjoying that union with the Divine.

Indeed, the piece ends with the short Phrase 13, which goes by quickly so you have to pay attention. First, harmony H4 is stronger and includes the lower harmony notes as well as some of the earlier plucking, to resonate with the whole spine. Melody E is then composed of just two longer notes followed by a quick, upward arpeggiation, as if representing the rise of the kundalini up through the deep spine (the shushumna) to the spiritual eye, lightly touching all the chakras along the way. This is where the piece ends.

Overall, then, Friendship is Acting in Freedom is a kind of musical conversation between the Higher Self and the ego to invite its participation, to open all the lower centers, and to let all their energies flow upwards past the medulla to the spiritual eye. The variations of melody and harmony move through the spine which, in a way, represents variations on relationships: ego to lower qualities, Higher Self to ego, Higher Self to lower qualities, as well as ego-ego (the duet), ego-guru, and God-God, with each one supporting each other at every stage.

What, then, are the negative emotions that this piece helps to overcome? The first is jealousy, as mentioned before, which is also competitiveness.[2] Jealousy is the quality in Day 25 of Secrets of Emotional Healing to which Kriyananda assigned this piece:

The secret of overcoming jealousy is to realize that no human being ever owns another; each stands alone before eternity. That man or woman most truly loves who is inwardly free, and who grants perfect freedom to all. Everyone must grow at his own pace, to find his rightful position in the great scheme of things.

Jealousy in this sense (which is different from envy of another’s possessions) is the indeed opposite of allowing others the freedom, again, to work out their karma as they need to, even if that involves other relationships than the one you yourself might desire. Another way of saying it is the desire to control or own others, which means feeling like you’re not getting the kind of attention from someone that you think you deserve.

It’s helpful to recognize that this sense of Friendship is Acting in Freedom certainly applies to the relationship between the Higher Self, or God, and the human/egoic or lower nature within us. On one level, as it says in the Bible, “I, your God, am a jealous God: Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” which means, as Yogananda explains, that if we want to know God, then we must want God above all else. On another level, however, God is never jealous in the sense we’re speaking of here. God gives use the freedom to explore his Creation however we want, for however long we want, waiting patiently—eternally, if needed—for each soul to return to Him by their own free will. God’s love is always there as a magnetic force, but He gives us the power to decide whether we respond to it or not.

Inwardly, too, this freedom is important to recognize because sometimes you have to accept that you likely do have “lower” karmas and desires to work out (those associated with lower spinal centers), or perhaps you need to accept the ramifications of those desires or commitments that have come from them. You might want to be a renunciate or a celibate, for example, but if you’re married and your partner isn’t ready to renounce sexual relations, then it’s best to accept your responsibility within the marital vows of fidelity lest you incur other negative karmas. That is, imposing your desire for renunciation on your spouse is to impose suffering, and might give him or her no other choice but to become “unfaithful” by finding another partner. In such a case, however, I would think the bulk of that negative karma would land on you, rather than your spouse, because you’re the one who forced your spouse into a difficult circumstance.[3]

Similarly, you might need to accept money-making, or outward activities like travel, sensual pleasures, even an attraction to alcohol because a devotee, whose love is for the highest, knows that it’s best to work through those things rather than suppressing them. As it says in the Bhagavad Gita, “Even the wise behave in accordance with Nature as it is manifested in them. Of what avail, then, is suppression?” A devotee instead seeks to transform or transmute those lower energies into something higher, rather than to simply deny them (or simply surrender to them), for ultimately, everything is part of God and one must find God at the heart of every experience.

In this way, such inwardly-focused jealousy, suppression, or repression is what leads to a number of negative states related to the lack of self-acceptance, namely shame, self-loathing, self-hatred, and self-denial.

In this sense I recommend Kriyananda’s book Secrets of Self-Acceptance, which contains a real treasure-trove of wisdom, as does the book related to this particular music, Secrets of Friendship.

Footnotes:

[1] This is the affirmation that Swami Kriyananda wrote to accompany the yoga posture, Ardha-Matsyendrasana, The Half-Spinal Twist. [Return]

[2] Along these lines, the vows in the Ananda Wedding Ceremony include the phrase, “I will never compete with you.” [Return]

[3] Swami Kriyananda relates a story in The New Path of a man in India who, when asked by his wife how one becomes a renunciate, tears off his clothes, announces that she and all other women are like mothers to him, and goes off to be an ascetic. Here, devotion to God overrides marital responsibility, which is acceptable in the cultural context of India. However, such an action isn’t acceptable in the West, especially given that western culture doesn’t support ascetics and wandering sadhus like India does. [Return]