On the quality of Maitri, friendliness.
Maitri is the sanskrit word for friendliness. We see it in the yoga sutras book one verse 33: " maitri karuna muditopeksanam sukha duhkha punyapunya visayanam bhavanatas citta prasadanam", “By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.”
Great spiritual teachers say that’s where we have to start if we want to be happy, have good relationships with others, and create the human society we all aspire to. It begins that simply: Love yourself as a true friend would. Thich Nhat Hanh describes it as the tender love of a mother. Pema Chödrön, as the honest love of a true friend. Karen Armstrong, as the wise and universal love of a sage.
Some of the attributes of maitri are: tenderness, unconditionality, instinctive and immediate caring. When we begin to deeply understand that the happiness of another being is equally as important as our own, and take a leap of faith in aligning our actions to this concept, our trouble-making ego dissolves. As a Yoga community we can practice this together, walking each other down the brave path of unconditional maitri.
Community in sanskrit is sangha which literally means to “bring together” into a group. It can refer to a flock of crows or a herd of deer, but in Buddhist literature it is primarily used to refer to the Buddhist community of practitioners. The Sangha is the third of the Three Jewels, along with the Buddha (the awakened one) and the dharma (the teachings) and the sangha (the community of practitioners). Taking refuge in the sangha means embracing kinship with all living things, starting this practice in your community can be a powerful way to support each other to extend that out into the world, and know you are not alone in your bravery to meet all with an attitude of friendliness.
Practicing in India, you experience being part of a world wide community, where you don't particularly now someone fully, but there is a shared memory of the intensity of what you experience, the personal growth you encounter in the space and the feeling of being on this path of yoga together as a community. It makes it easier to stay on the path of these deeper practices when you know you have others walking the path with you. In NYC we had a big mysore program at the Shala Yoga House, with 50 plus students, and when someone was missing for more then one practice students would ask about them. They would all gather for coffee once a week, and share in the experience of being on a similar path within a bigger context of life.
Maitri begins with ourselves and then extends out towards our loved ones, our community and those who challenge us.