December 28, 2023

What is Maitri?

Maitri refers to friendship, kinship, loving kindness.

Maitri refers to friendship, kinship, loving kindness.

My dearest friend Varsha Sundararajan gracefully offered to open the series of blogs from Maitri Yoga Therapy with this important post on the meaning of our name.  

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.33 says:
 मैत्रीकरुणामुदितोपेक्षणां सुखदुःखपुण्यापुण्यविषयाणां भावनातश्चित्तप्रसादनम्॥३३॥ 

maitri karuna muditopeksanam sukha duhkha punyapunya visayanam bhavanatas citta prasadanam

This particular Yoga Sutra outlines the four fundamental problems that affect our relationships, and provides simple solutions.  The Sutra expounds that there are four types of people: the happy ones, the unhappy ones, those that are virtuous and the not so virtuous ones.    

With the happy people, practice Maitri.
refers to friendship, kinship, loving kindness.  Revel in joy along with those happy people. Rejoice with them and celebrate their happiness.  Keep jealousy or greed away and let it not cloud your mind and prevent you from experiencing wholesome joy.

Practise compassion [karuna] with those who are unhappy or sad.  Be supportive and offer comfort.  Feel sorry for their misfortune, don’t take pleasure in their suffering.

When you meet a virtuous person, feel the delight in that encounter and that feeling is Mudita.  Engage with the person, be inspired by the person’s qualities and learn to find ways to improve your behaviour and life.   

It is inevitable that your path will cross with that of a non-virtuous person.  When that happens, disregard [upeksha] that non-virtuous behaviour for the moment.  Imperfections in human behaviour exist within oneself and everyone else, too. Establish your focus only on the goodness of the person, do not pay attention to the non-virtuous behaviour.

And thus, Patanjali lays the path to managing our relationships.   

Maitri - loving kindness and friendship – are the primary qualities that nurture relationships. At the micro level, a gentle, kind and understanding approach to one’s own physical and mental health nurtures good health and promotes wholistic healing when required.  

In 1966, the UN General Assembly resounded with the voice of India’s famous musician M S Subhalakshmi singing a song written by the saint Swami Chandrasekara Saraswati of Kancheepuram.   

The song urges one to embrace Maitri – friendship – so that there is lasting peace on Earth.  It emphasizes the need to renounce war, give up aggression, forsake competition and bring the focus to the practise of non-violent acceptance and a “live and let live” attitude.

And the song ends with Shreyo Bhooyaath Sakala Janaanaam’ – May All People of this World be Happy and Prosperous.

This is the link to the song performed in the UN General Assembly:   

A more recent rendition of the song is here:  

Varsha Sundararajan

December 2023: Chennai, India