Definition - What does Maitri mean?
Maitri is one of the four virtues of Buddhism, collectively known as Brahmaviharas or ‘the immeasurables’. The term maitri can be translated from Sanskrit as "loving-kindness," "benevolence," or "friendliness." The concept is central to the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness meditation and is also referenced in ancient Hindu and Jain scriptures.
Maitri was recently popularised by Buddhist teacher, author and nun, Pema Chodron. In her book How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind, she describes maitri as “unconditional friendliness,” not only towards others but towards oneself.
As such, it is an essential facet of mindfulness meditation, enabling the practitioner to cultivate a non-judgmental, non-critical and non-goal oriented attitude towards the practice.
Maitri is also known as metta in Pali.
Yogapedia explains Maitri
Loving-kindness is a fundamental aspect of both Buddhist and yoga philosophy, highlighted by their teachings of non-violence (ahimsa) towards all beings, including oneself. Early references to maitri can be found in ancient Vedic texts such as the Upanishads, as well as in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras in which it is synonymous with metta.
In Buddhism, maitri is the first of the four virtues that one must practice in order to dissolve any sense of a separate self, as a means of connecting to the divine within. Known as Brahmaviharas, these virtues build upon one another, starting with maitri:
Maitri: Loving-kindness, towards oneself as well as others.
Karuna: Compassion, resulting from maitri, in which one identifies the suffering of others as one's own.
Mudita: Empathetic joy as a result of knowing that others are happy, even if one did not contribute to their happiness.
Upeksa: Equanimity, a sense of even-mindedness and serenity that stems from treating everyone impartially
Mindfulness meditation and repetition of positive affirmations are the most common means of practicing maitri. Loving-kindness meditation, also known as metta meditation, combines these two practices in a way specifically designed to cultivate maitri.
It is a mindfulness-based meditation, in which the practitioner cultivates gentleness, compassion and benevolence towards themselves. Positive affirmations such as “may I be happy,” “may I be healthy” or “may I be at ease” may be used alongside basic mindfulness techniques such as breath and body awareness.
Metta meditation is not a practice of self-indulgence, but rather encourages practitioners to approach resistance with a sense of steadfastness and recognition of their own humanity. This attitude helps to cultivate loving-kindness rather than judgment and criticism towards oneself, a skill which is then transferable to others.
Developing unconditional friendliness guides practitioners towards mental equanimity and acceptance, in which there is no need to label any experience as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’
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