We all need love. I believe deeply that love has the power to heal our planet, and I have always been drawn to people who understand the nature of true love and how to generate and nurture it.
The teachings on love given by the Buddha are as simple as could be – he breaks love down into four qualities – but this is truly the fundamental concept behind his entire message. The qualities of love are the very nature of the path to becoming an enlightened being.
(Some prefer the phrase “loving kindness,” which is also lovely, but I tend to use the word “love.” It is beautiful and perfect.)
The first quality of love is called maitri, which translates as the desire and ability to offer happiness to another. To love another, we must first be willing and able to offer happiness to that one. Also, the root word in maitri is mitra, which means friend. Hence we know that, for the Buddha, the root of love was friendship. It is all about benevolence and good will.
In order to develop this wonderful maitri in yourself, it is necessary to know what would make your loved one happy. You must understand the needs, aspirations, and suffering of the other. And by the way, the other might be your child, your lover, your parent or the entire universe. But this understanding is so important: more than just knowing what they are, we must practice in understanding our loved one’s struggles, hopes and needs.
Maitri, in my understanding, does not expect anything in return.
There are forms of meditation which help to cultivate maitri, including tonglen, compassionate meditation, the chanting of mantras and the sending of metta.
We all have the capacity to develop and practice maitri, the first of what are sometimes called The Four Immeasurables on the Buddhist path.
I’ll post about the other three soon – Thank you for reading!