Maitrī is one of the Four Immeasurables in Tibetan Buddhist thought, and one of the Ten Perfections in Theravadin Buddhism. Maitrī can be defined as an active feeling of kindness and goodwill towards all other sentient beings.

In Pali, it is known as Metta, and it is usually translated into English as lovingkindness or benevolence. Meditation on maitrī is popular in many traditions of Buddhism, and has even gained popularity in the West as part of the mindfulness craze.

These meditations are simple but potent. Though they often consist of no more than repeating benevolent phrases such as “may you be happy” while visualizing family, friends, strangers, and even one’s enemies, the effect is very powerful.

Six Realms of Existence

According to traditional Buddhist cosmology, there are six realms of karmic existence; these are (in ascending order of “niceness”).

  • hell
  • ghosts
  • animals
  • humans
  • asura
  • heaven

Rebirth in hell, or as a ghost or an animal is considered “unfortunate,” not only due to the hardships one must endure in such incarnations, but also because it is very hard to escape the cycle of samsara in those realms, or even simply obtain a better rebirth in the future.

Although rebirth in heaven as one of the celestial beings is considered highly desirable for many people, it too has drawbacks. Despite living in luxury and ease, the celestial ones know when they will die, and are often overcome with anxiety and despair as their time of death approaches.

If you want to escape samsara, a human birth is ideal, though far from necessary. Buddhist writings often characterize those in the “lower realms” as too consumed with suffering to attend to their spirituality, while the celestial beings are too distracted to worry about anything much at all.

A Meditation on Equanimity

To love My Lady I must love myself
As much as I love the morning dew

To love My Lady I must love my mother
As much as I love the flowers in spring

To love My Lady I must love my sister
As much as I love the moon in autumn

To love My Lady I must love my friend
As much as I love the first silver frosts

To love My Lady I must love my neighbor
As much as I love the golden light of dawn

To love My Lady I must love my enemy
As much as I love those who love me

Buddhism Isn’t a Contest

The goal of Buddhism isn’t to see who can get to enlightenment the fastest, but you wouldn’t know that if you spent too much time online, as I do. I confess, I have been seduced (yes, I think that’s a good word for it) by the dazzle and glitter of Tantric practices, which are mostly out of my reach.

My current practice is pretty bare bones. I recite the Refuge prayer every morning, along with making offerings of water and incense, and flowers from the garden if they’re available. I don’t meditate as often as I should, but I’m doing it more than I used to. That’s pretty much it. No fancy rituals. No secret commitments. I’m fine with that. Buddhism isn’t a contest.