Today, we start looking at the first o the four fascinating concepts that are together called Parikarma. We will also discuss four other terms that are closely associated with Parikarma. In case you are wondering what that word means, go read my introductory article about Parikarma and the concepts we will be discussing as part of it.
What is Maitri?
If you know any Indian languages, this is a word you will possibly be familiar with. It is a commonly used word in many Indian languages, both Dravidian and other languages. However, the way it is interpreted in Sanskrit can be a bit different from the commonly used interpretation in other languages.
In Sanskrit, Maitri can mean friendship like in other language interpretations. It can, however, be also interpreted as friendliness, which is the definition we are interested in as far as the Yogic definition is concerned. But wait, aren’t those two words synonyms? Let us look at what Cambridge Dictionary says:
- Friendship – a friendly relationship, or the state of being friends
- Friendliness – the quality of behaving in a pleasant, kind way towards someone
We see there is a definite difference in the meanings of the two words, although we tend to use them interchangeably in everyday speech. The second word, friendliness, and its definition are the bits we are interested in when trying to decide the meaning of Maitri.
Before we move forward, there is another word we want to be acquainted with in this context, and that word is Sukha. It can be used as an adjective or a noun. It is again a word common in many Indian langauges and has layers of meaning.
- Sukha as an adjective means pleasurable, agreeable, pleasant, charming, happy, joyous, easy.
- Used as a noun, it can mean happiness, welfare, comfort, wellbeing.
In the context of Maitri, we will mainly be considering the word as an adjective to refer to a quality or trait to look for in ourselves and others.
Maitri – a Parikarma in Yoga
In Yoga, our focus is primarily on working towards maintaining a balanced state of mind and being at all times. Parikarma principles help us reach this eventual goal and give us the techniques to get there.
The concept of Maitri urges us to practise friendliness towards every being we come across, human or otherwise. We do not need to be friends with everyone and every being we come across but we should try to be pleasant and kind towards them all. This also includes our behaviour towards ourselves; we should be kind and gentle towards ourselves. when we practise such behaviour, we work towards Santosha and Sukha (the noun – joy, happiness), the second of the five Niyama that we discussed earlier.
The Yoga Sūtra by Sage Patanjali goes a step forward and asks us to practise friendliness towards people who are Sukha. Be friendly and in the company of people who are satisfied, happy, virtuous, at ease with themselves and the world as often as possible is the guidance given by Sage Patanjali in the first chapter of the Yoga Sūtra. Being in their company can help us learn and imbibe these qualities in ourselves so that we can be happier and more content as people.
Does this mean that we should avoid or move away from everyone who does not match this description? What if we ourselves are not such people, what would that mean? We will be discussing more qualities in the coming weeks and what our behaviour should be like towards each of those, but in the context of Maitri, we should be cordial towards everyone without judgement.
Remember, of all the concepts and principles mentioned in Yoga, there are two that are considered supreme and form the foundation of every thought, word, action as a Yoga Sādhaka or a serious and dedicated practitioner of Yoga.
- Ahimsa or restraining from violence in thought, word, and action
- Dharma or duty towards the self and the universe
If we behave rudely towards those who are not Sukha or are cruel to another being intentionally, we go directly against these foundational teachings of Yoga and are no longer following the Yogic path.
I would connect the concept of Maitri with another idea I came across fairly recently but one that seems to be quite widely known in many parts of the world – Non-Violence Communication or NVC. It focuses on (please correct me if I’m wrong) building healthy, open, kind channels of communication where thoughts, ideas, emotions can be expressed freely without judgement and without violence towards ourselves or another being. Isn’t it an absolutely brilliant idea to do this? Shouldn’t this be our natural state of being?
If you would like to explore the idea of Maitri in greater detail or wish to discuss any of the concepts I write about, please do not hesitate to reach out to me, directly through the website here or through my Instagram. I would love to have conversations around these concepts and hear your views and experiences with them!