by Swami Sivananda
Sakhya-Bhava is the cultivation of the friend-sentiment with God. The inmates of the family of Nandagopa cultivated this Bhakti. Arjuna cultivated this kind of Bhakti. The Bhagavata says: Oh, how wonderful is the fortune of the people of Vraja of cowherd Nanda whose dear friend is the perfect, eternal Brahman of Absolute Bliss!
To be always with the Lord, to treat Him as one's own dear relative or a friend belonging to one's own family, to be in His company at all times, to love Him as one's own Self, is Sakhya-Bhava of Bhakti-Marga. The devotee of Sakhya-Bhava takes up with eagerness any work of the Lord leaving aside even the most important and urgent and pressing work, assuming an attitude of neglect towards personal work, and totally concerning himself with the love of the Lord. How do friends, real friends love in this world? What an amount of love they possess between one another? Such a love is developed towards God instead of towards man. Physical love is turned into spiritual love. There is a transformation of the mundane into the Eternal.
The devotee considers all his actions as merely nothing, though he has done really a superhuman act. He always does what may please God in all respects. He considers all as God. He treats every being of the world as his own relative or friend. He treats everyone as belonging to himself. There is no selfishness, no hatred, no separateness in him. He becomes one with all in feeling. He loves all, for all are his friends. All is God. And God is the Supreme Friend of his. He is always satisfied with what is ordained by God. He is supremely joyful if anything of his own comes to the service of God. He feels that God has similar powers over his belongings as he has got himself. He moves with God and treats God as not a dignified, terrifying, hard task master, but a friend, sweet and loving. He longs to see God. He does not want to leave the Lord even for a moment. He says, My Lord! My Beloved! How can I live without Thee? My Dear! Where are You? And loses himself in the Love of his Beloved. He considers that his existence and the existence of what belongs to him is fruitful only if it is useful in the service of God, for he cannot live without God. To live without God is an impossibility. God is the innermost and the dearest of friends. All friends may desert a person, but God will never desert His devotees. He loves you even if you do not love Him. The devotee feels himself merged in the ocean of joy on seeing, touching or thinking of the Beloved. Mere hearing of His Name kindles the devotee's love for God. He jumps and sings in ecstasy. He is overwhelmed with joy when anybody brings a message of the Beloved. He feels anguish at his separation from the Beloved. He is ever expecting to meet his Beloved. These are some of the characteristics of a Bhakta who follows the Sakhya-Bhava.
Vibhishana, Sugriva, Uddhava, Arjuna, Sudama, Sridama and the playmates of the Lord in Vraja are the examples of devotees who cultivated the friend-sentiment of Bhakti.