During this workshop, we explored what friendship means, the qualities one expects in a friend and how it could help us on our path to moksha. The key words and themes that came up in the group discussions were:
- unconditional love
- no expectations
- like mindedness and
- a positive vibe/energy
We touched on friendship v. enmity and how emotions come into play determined by raag and dwesh (like and dislike). This led onto a debate on how far we would go to help our friends. For example, would we lie or harm someone else to protect a friend?
There were some very interesting views on this that all had two central themes, namely the situation in question and the principle of anekantavada (multiplicity of viewpoints). There was agreement over how there is always more than one viewpoint on the situation from the parties involved and each action to protect our friends depends on the situation and each individual’s judgement and assessment of it. We talked about attachment and how it dictates much of how we feel, what we do and what we say with our friendships. We are always attached to something or the other and this dictates our actions.
The important thing we realised about maitri, as opposed to just friendship, is that maitri is not born out of attachments, but is completely unconditional, universal and with no expectation. Anything we do with kashay (e.g. anger or deceit) cannot be an act of pure maitri and can only come from our attachments to people.
This feeling of maitri need not just be associated with those we call our friends, or to everyone whom you know or even have encountered. It is to everyone, that’s all souls, including creatures and other humans that you may never meet. It is in essence seeing all souls as oneself. We delved into what an act of maitri might encompass in later discussions on the other three qualities.