Thursday, April 14, 2011

So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains: MAITRI and HOW TO BE

You may have heard the word "Maitri" bandied about with concepts like loving friendship or even love itself but it's also India's second permanent research station in Antartica! Seriously though, its the first of the "Four Immeasurable Minds' of Buddhist thought  that I will be discussing. They include Maitri, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity. The idea is that these four general lumps of ideas will foster a spirit in us to embrace the whole world, discover "real" happiness and make everyone around you happier too. The big 4 won't magically make you happy, but as Carlos Castenada would say, these paths have heart.

Pictured: Laughing out loud the meaning of life!

So to begin discussing Maitri as simply love, we must acknowledge how dangerous this overloaded ambiguous concept is, and that its true meaning needs to be healed, the word needs to be recovered. We've been using love in an all too general sense in as I love chocolate but we may need more caution. Etymologically, maitri is derived from mitra, meaning friend  and the Buddhist worldview places the meaning of love on establishing friendships artfully and authentically with the time we have. Thich Nhat Hanh waxes poetically about the blossoming beautiful seeds of love that are already within us. It's apt.
 We water some seeds more than other depending on the circumstances or group of people we find ourselves around, erecting invisible barriers as to who deserves our intentional warmness when really everyone deserves our love. 

Trungpa Rinpoche says, "the most powerful mantra is Om Grow Up Svaha.  But this issue of growing up, it's not all that easy because it requires a lot of courage. Particularly it takes a lot of courage to relate directly with your experience. By this I mean whatever is occurring in you, you use it,. You seize the moment? moment after moment? you seize those moments and instead of letting life shut you down and make you more afraid, you use those very same moments of time to soften and to open and to become more kind. More kind to yourself for starters as the basis for becoming more kind to others"

A flower being a flower. Maybe one day we could be humans just being humans.

This is the route of maitri for me. Will I have the courage to treat myself and others in ways that will develop the source; the bountiful, expansive, nurturing energy that does not expect anything in return. Lets make this tangible: picture your 'average' freshman walking into the dining hall, her or she sees groups sitting together and is not sure where to sit. Lets say they finally do find a seat next to a friend in one of their classes, will they be intimidated or too shy to talk to their friend's friends join them at the table. Will they be hesitant to ask questions. or overthink what they are saying for fear of feeling out of place? Maitri is needed here in both situations- our freshman should have more confidence but the others might as well offer a friendly vibe, to lower the barriers to conversation at the start. This means smiles and genuineness, not detachment and apathy. The basics aside, when it comes down to the great love, those people who we really spend a time with that may test our patience at times, we cannot resist forgiving them when we know their intentions and character deeply.

The Eagles say  "We don't know that we have the key." Maybe we do and we're just looking for the right doors to open. Now our self-imposed difficulty is that we see doors where there's only illusion and the miss the authentic ones right under our noses. 

                                              Maitri , maitri , maitri open your "self" to the kind ones!


  1. Out of the "Four Immeasurable Minds" mentioned, Maitri is my most difficult, really liked the post though, just I suck at doing some of those things you said at the end, haha.

  2. Very well explained. This is the type of love we all need to work on. The more accepted definition is much easier.