I thought it would be interesting to look further into the word Maitri. It appears in Yoga Sutra 1:33 and here’s how it translates into English:
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.
You could describe “Sutras” as aphorisms or short pieces of advice on how we should live our lives. There are 196 of them and they were compiled about 2,400 years ago by Sage Patanjali. In Sutra 1:33 Patanjali says that there are only four kinds of “locks” in the world, all of which have their own particular key:
Sukha — happy people
Dukha — unhappy people
Punya — the virtuous
Apunya — the wicked
If we are honest, at any given moment we can fit ourselves into one of these four categories.
Patanjali gives us four keys to open these locks. His advice is that we keep these keys on our person so that we can deal with any situation at any given time.
The four keys are
Maitri — friendliness
Karuna — compassion
Mudita — delight
Upekshanam — disregard
Patanjali tells us that there is a way of approaching all people, no matter what behaviours and attitudes they may be showing.
When you see a happy person, use Maitri, the friendliness key. Share their happiness or good fortune and try not to be jealous or resentful. If you are jealous you will not change the way the happy person feels, but you will disturb your own serenity.
When you see an unhappy person, use Karuna, the compassion key. When someone is upset, see if you can help or comfort them. Let them know you will be there for them when they need you. Sometimes you might feel pleased when someone else (someone you don’t like, perhaps?) is suffering — maybe even laugh — but remember how it felt when it happened to you and have compassion for them. By doing that, you will retain the peace of your own mind.
"Through compassion you find that all human beings are just like you." The Dalai Lama
"When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That's the message he is sending." Thich Nhat Hanh
When you see a virtuous person, feel Mudita, the delight key. You could try and be more like them and use some of their attitudes in your own life. Observing and admiring others is a virtue of the heart.
When you see a wicked (non-virtuous) person, use Upekshanam, the disregard key. There are always going to be others whose actions oppose our values; we need to develop a calmness and feeling of composure towards them.
I saw a post on Facebook recently praising a judge who reacted to a racist's expletives with those of her own. She was branded a "hero" and a role model for children. How is this showing calmness and composure? How can reacting in this way be a good example for children? My father said to me over and over again when I was growing up that swearing back at other people meant that you didn't have the vocabulary to find another way of expressing yourself and that you were sinking to their level. My father is in his 70’s now and I have never heard him swear. I’ve rarely even heard him raise his voice! I completely agree that the racist was a wicked person; the way that yoga teaches us to react is with disregard, however, not reacting to and adding to the wickedness.
In daily life we see people around who are happier than we are and people who are less happy than we are. Some may be doing praiseworthy things and others causing problems. If we can be pleased for those who are happy, compassionate towards those who are unhappy, joyful with those doing good and remain undisturbed by the errors of others, our minds will be at peace.