Interview with Shubha Vilas, Author of Magic of friendship: Understand it, Cherish it and Keep it

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I was born in a very small town in India called Kanchipuram. It’s a holy place and an ancient city in Tamil Nadu, but I grew up most of my life in Goa. I studied law, specializing in patent law in Bangalore. While I was studying, I also was working in an international law firm there. And for that, I joined as a monk in a monastery for almost 12 years, lived in temporary, literally nothing, and studied the scriptures very intensely and lived a very simple life. And no bank account had absolutely no possession. But I gained a lot of wealth, the wealth of knowledge, the wealth of experiences of people, aspects of life, and also about spirituality. So while I was in the monastery, that’s where I began writing. That’s where I began traveling around the world, and speaking and sharing my knowledge with people.

Then I felt I should share this knowledge that I have gained. And speaking in various firms, almost every big company in the world, whether it is Microsoft, Google, Amazon, one of the biggest companies in the world, as they are world headquarters. Over at MIT in Boston, I’ve spoken at almost all the IITs and IIMs. I was a visiting faculty at IIMs as well. And so I have, you know, I teach in Chartered Accountancy firms and many other things. In addition to that, I write books. I feel very strongly that the knowledge that the scriptures hold has a very strong and immediate relevance today, and I felt that the medium of writing can really open up a lot of hearts.

Your book, “Magic of friendship” – understand it, cherish it, and keep it impart the lessons of the perfect bond of friendship? Have you ever found an ideal friend in your life?

I have many, many wonderful friends. One of my longest-lasting friendships is with my school friends. Even I have begun the book by talking about that friendship. You know, interestingly, when the book launched, last year, we were celebrating our 25th year of friendship together. From my standard onwards, we have been best friends. We have ever since stayed in touch and been very closely connected to each other, respecting whatever we’re doing, but at the same time sharing a very close bond. 

After completion of your education, why did you choose the path of spirituality? What made you take this big step?

I find that the path of taking you to know the entire world is living, a life of taking right we take so much it takes too much from a world we take too much from people I find that there is greater joy in the path of giving than in the path. So I wanted to really explore what it means to live a life of giving and what it means to live a life of being selfless, loving for the sake of others. And I find I found great satisfaction in that. That is the reason I decided to explore models to quality men the opportunity to live a selfless life and think about others.

In today’s world, the meaning of real friendship is way more different than it used to be in Asia in ancient times, like Krishna and Robbie’s friendship and Mahabharata, tell us something about this notion? 

My understanding, friendship now has become more superficial than in the past. I can see it in our own generations, you know, the generation which we grew up in. I found that there was greater depth than connections. And when I interact with youngsters today, the depth of connections that they have is so true. I’ve been doing hundreds of seminars, and workshops on friendship for teenagers and for young adults. And I find them speaking about their problems and their struggles with friendship, and their struggles. That’s such a basic level. And to the extent that many of them haven’t even formed a very strong bond, there is so much suspicion, there’s so much competition, jealousy and a lot of them also struggle with even having one friend that they can trust. And even if they get that one friend, after some time, that person starts behaving poorly.

I find the difference between the past and the present, of course, the past when we go back to 5000 years, but before when you look at the friendship of so many of the great personalities, Krishna and Rama. You can find very strong depth in the friendship. But remember, even at that time, superficial friendships did exist, like Groupon and Drona, they just couldn’t get along in a major clash. So it’s not bad, now it only exists in the past. It was always there at both times. But the reality today is that two possible ways in which our society is functioning, you seem to be having more individual differences today, than deeper ones. But at the same time, people simply are told the importance of having different tools, and also guide on how to develop differentials, people will be happy. And in fact, they will have differences. I mean, the very fact that social networks are prevalent, why is it so prevalent, because everyone is looking for a good friend. That’s all. The only problem is that you don’t know how to make a good friend. That’s why I thought I’ll write a guidebook on how to make good friends. I feel like we need to have that one friend, which we can love unconditionally, without expecting anything in return. 

How much time did you spend writing this book? 

I spent about one and a half months writing this book. But my research has been for quite some time. So it’s not easy to write a book on a deep subject matter without having experienced it.I have been studying it from a realistic point of view because I deal with people. You know, I counsel people all the time, day in and day out. So I’m seeing challenges and relationships. I’m seeing delegation, in all kinds of friendships. And also, my own journey. And friendships have been many years that I’ve kept and managed to sustain. So all active together, and plus my study of the Scriptures put together that helped me write the book. I physically wrote it in one and a half months. But that’s not exactly what it takes to write a book like that.

Why did you choose the concept of friendship in the first place?

I did a survey of 2000 youngsters and I tried to find out what are the key things they’re struggling with. And in my slow way of talking to problems of youngsters to find out what exactly they’re struggling with. So I thought I should begin by writing a book on friendship bonds. And if you actually look at it, you know, from a realistic point of view, almost all the biggest struggles of youngsters. But, in fact, all the bad habits, whether it’s drugs, whether it be smoking, drinking, or you know, self-abusive habits are all connected essentially including things like opacity, your you’re directly connected directly or indirectly. Peer pressure, you can say, directly. People make their career choices based on principles.

How has the emergence of the digital world changed friendships and relationships? Is it true that we all lose the essence of heart connections from each other?

The digital world makes it easy to access people. But it also makes it complicated in the sense that when you are connected with someone just over the phone, it’s easy to block a person and that person can’t do anything. Yes, so many relationships go through so much complication simply because one person has control over a gadget or the gadget, or the way you access that person. That’s not how human beings work. Right? Yes. When you have real relationships in the world, if somebody is angry at you, stop speaking to you. But you can still approach the person and talk to the person and convince the person that you know that you’re not wrong. 

Technology gives you access to people from around the world that you can connect to. But it also gives you control in relationships. Control doesn’t work and you should not try to control relations and need to control on both sides rather than one side. Distance makes it much more open to debate discussions and even misunderstanding in friendships because every conflict helps you understand one another better. Today, most people are used to running away from conflicts and confessing feelings as well. When there is any difficult situation, they just leave the friend behind. But for me, Conflict makes your connection healthy, more healthy than toxic. Everything has good and bad sides. A knife has a good side and a bad side. It can be used for cutting vegetables or cutting somebody’s throat as well but nothing in this world is absolutely good or bad. Depends on how you tackle it and react in a particular situation.

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