I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to take a few days off, get away from all my daily cares, connect back to Self. As I spend time by the tranquil ocean, watching the waves ebb and flow, I’ve been thinking a great deal about maitri, which, as defined by Wikipedia, is – benevolence, friendliness, friendship, good will, kindness, close mental union (on same mental wavelength), and active interest in others. It is one of the ten paramis of the Theravāda school of Buddhism, and the first of the four sublime states (Brahmavihāras). This is love without clinging (upādāna).
The teachings on true love offered by the Buddha are called the four brahmaviharas. Vihara means abode or dwelling place and brahmavihara means dwelling place of the god Brahma. These teachings are also referred to as the four immeasurables: loving-kindness (maitri), compassion (karuna), joy (mudita), and equanimity (upeksha). They are referred to as “immeasurables” because if you practice them, the love in your heart will grow so much it cannot be measured.
Maitri is the first aspect of true love, the intention and the capacity to offer joy and happiness. Listening and looking deeply –help us to develop this capacity so that we can be a good friend to ourselves and to others. Some Buddhist teachers define maitri as “loving-kindness” because they believe the word “love” has become tarnished in our popular language. Thich Nhat Hanh uses the phrase “true love,” encouraging us to restore love to its true meaning.
Until we’re able to embrace ourselves with love and care, our capacity to offer true love to others remains limited. Buddha’s teachings remind us of the Earth’s capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. He said we should learn to be like the Earth, because no matter what people pour on the Earth, whether milk, perfume, flowers, jewels, urine, or excrement, the Earth receives them all without discrimination. This is because the Earth is immense, so it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. It has been said that if you cultivate your heart so that it is open, you become immense like the earth and can embrace anyone or anything without suffering.
Our practice is to cultivate the four aspects of true love—loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity—that have the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform everything.
Interested in learning more, click here for a beautiful meditation on maitri.