For countless ages our species has struggled to understand itself, and find some 'general law' of how people should relate with each other in order to produce an 'ideal society.'
From "Might Equals Right" and the idea that POWER OVER OTHERS is the only way of keeping others from persecuting and manipulating oneself; to the Christian Ideal of "turning the other cheek" (forever!,) and freely allowing others to abuse and injure oneself and one's society; to the idea of Law And Order imposed by some concept of "Justice" (based upon the old notion of 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth' as embodied in the Code Of Hammurabi, the oldest known book of human Law;) we have experimented with many such Ideals.. without really finding anything that is truly workable.
Laws passed by Parliaments or Congresses or Kings are all subject to error and abuse; for all Laws are based upon the principle of PUNISHMENT for 'wrongdoers,' and experience has shown that the end result of Punishment is a prison-world in which every 'law-abiding citizen' must work about a third of their life just to pay for the prisons and armies to control an ever-growing segment of the society which refuses to accept some specific Law.
What we are left with today is a world devoid not only of Ethics (or principled self-control) but also devoid of anything that could be called a PHILOSOPHY.. or 'a wise way of Life' (from the Greek "Philo" or LOVE and "Sophia" meaning WISDOM.) A true Philosophy is thus not only a Wise Way of Life, but also a Wise Way of LOVING. The quest for Philosophical clarity could be called the Quest for Wise Lovingness as well as a Love of Wisdom.
About twenty-five centuries ago, a spiritual teacher from Asia predicted that in some far-away future, a genuine and lasting Philosophy would develop on earth. While he himself taught a certain way of life and thought which became the basis of one of the world's great religions, he acknowledged to his disciples that his teachings would require a 'further enlightenment' to complete or perfect them. That great teacher is today called 'the Buddha,' and he predicted the arising of a genuine Philosophy for mankind someday in the future, which he named 'MAITREYA,' and he said that this Final Enlightener would usher-in "a Heaven of satisfied Gods" that would perfect human society indefinitely into the future.
The word "Maitra" is from the Sanskrit tongue of ancient India, and means "friendliness to the friendly;" and as the root-word of the name Maitreya it denotes "(those) who are friendly to the friendly." Like almost everything else within Buddhist 'theology,' Maitra was an already well-understood part of ancient Vedic (Brahminical Hindu) teachings. The Buddha "distilled" or CONDENSED the ancient Hindu teachings into a much 'smaller package' to make them more accessible to ordinary people (just as Moses did for the already ancient traditions of Mesopotamia and Egypt;) and this smaller, more manageable 'package' (Therevada Buddhism calls it 'a basketful') of Universal Truth became Buddhist Theology. Just as Moses is recognized by virtually all theologians as having condensed the Ten Commandments out of the Fourty Negative Confessions of the ancient Osirian Rites of Egypt (no doubt, guided to do so by the voice of the Lord of Mount Sinai) without actually losing any of the important Truths of the older source material; so the Buddha is considered by his followers to have condensed the whole of Vedic Truth into the few, precise principles of his now-famous "Eightfold Path."
The ONE AND ONLY exception to this "complete basketful" of Universal Truth of Buddhist thought is the principle of Maitra.
Interestingly enough, that one omission from the Buddhist Basketful is itself so vastly important and so concise in it's Teaching, that all by itself it provides everything needed in order to qualify as a genuine Philosophy in itself. Little wonder, the Buddha recognized that it would someday suffice in itself to finally Enlighten the whole of our species; for in the simple practice of Maitra anyone of any cultural background can find A WISE WAY OF LIFE and a WISE WAY OF LOVING OTHERS all at the same time.
Buddhists may take pride in knowing that their great Enlightener accurately understood the future needs of our species; for in his prophecy of the Maitreyan Enlightenment, the Buddha foretold the LINK that would truly unite all of the great cultural traditions of humanity. Likewise Hindus may take pride in knowing that it was from their ancient cultural heritage that this new Unified Spirit would emerge.. allowing (just as Ghandian Passive Resistance did for political struggles) all people of all nations to attain genuine spiritual Power for the People. And finally, Maitra can be proudly claimed as their own by every one of the millions of people around the world who have found it on their own, and learned to use the power of Maitra in daily living, as part of a simply REALISTIC way of life.
As we examine this principled way of life which is called Maitra, let us try to keep in mind that (though it indeed was first recorded by Asian religions,) IT IS NOT A CREED OR A BELIEF.. just a Way Of Relating. That it is a Way of literally Perfect Wisdom, your own experience alone must decide.
"FRIENDLINESS TO THE FRIENDLY".. or Maitra.. as a Way Of Life means simply ASSOCIATING WITH THOSE WHO ARE NICE TO YOU. Unlike the many religions of the world.. who feel it their duty to destroy or 'convert' any non-believers.. the practitioner of Maitra is not expected to do ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR about the UN-friendly. A Maitreyan is simply enjoined by the principle of Maitra to PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR FRIENDS and let the Un-friendly take care of themselves.
This idea often really irritates some so-called 'monotheists' (who are actually just MONOPOLISTS) or religious believers who INSIST that there should only be One God known by all people (though in fact what they really want is one RELIGION obeyed by everyone even if they don't like or agree with it.) While we happen to agree with Moses, Mohammed and all the rest, that "there could be no God who is NOT the One God," we recognize that Maitra implies that there WILL be many different 'Paths of Spirituality' or 'faiths' probably as long as there are human beings. Maitra implies that if we each simply 'hang' with those who LIKE and ARE like us, we will not only avoid conflict with 'believers' with an ax to grind, but we will also strengthen our OWN peer-group and guarantee it's respect in the world.
The Buddha said that Maitra would bring us "a Heaven of Satisfied Gods;" and this is explained by the fact that if one allows Like to hang with Like, THERE WILL BE MANY DIFFERENT "GODS" TO SATISFY.. and many different groups devoted to Satisfying them each.
But, what can protect our species from those horrid wars and Crusades that have ravaged our planet for thousands of years, as religion battled religion for the title of 'the most Holy?' Again, it is Maitra alone that we need.. for if we each associate (and that also means such associations as Trade, Commerce, Tourism and Investment) ONLY WITH THE FRIENDLY, then the Un-friendly will have to get by IN ISOLATION. There is no worse a punishment for ill-will than Avoidance; in the long run, no nation or culture can prosper without the GOOD will of the rest of the world.. and only by becoming Friendly to EVERYONE can a nation or culture truly prosper and have peace.
The notion that everyone should think, feel, behave and even dress alike is typical only of the most PRIMITIVE or newly-founded societies. As soon as such a Uniformitarianism begins to develop any form of specialized Trades, Professions, Classes and Officials those begin to develop their own identifying dress, jargons or cliches of speech and other signs of social specialization. The white smock and Black Bag of the Medical Doctor is no more 'scientific' than the feathers and rattles of a Medicine Man from another society; BOTH are simply proofs of specialized skill. That many conflicts have developed between MD's and Medicine Men is well known.. though it took the development of yet a third Specialization (the Holistic Psychologist) to make peace between the first two by showing them BOTH that they need the help of the other.
The principle of Maitra recognizes implicitly that Specialization-created Diversity is both inevitable and GOOD for humanity as a whole; for any new approach to any human problem can be expected to (eventually) yield benefits for everyone.. for ANYTHING that mankind studies or applies himself to diligently will sooner or later yield Discoveries, Inventions and other signs of Progress. While these may not sound like 'gods,' they certainly are SOME of the 'gods' that Buddha predicted would be 'satisfied' by our future evolution. If we can come to think of humanity not as some vast, homogeneous 'mass' of "ordinaries" but a huge number of eventual "Specialties," we can forgive and even praise the non-conformity or unique tendencies-to-differ that arise among us; recognizing them as signs of another Specialty RISING.
By simply ALLOWING all new Specialty-groups to converge and formulate their emerging uniqueness, established Specialties or social 'orders' can increase their own respected status; while attempting to PREVENT such 'splinter-groups' from occuring actually DETRACTS from the prestige and respectability of a 'dogmatic' or 'tyranical' System. Maitreyan thinkers within any field or Establishment will naturally be the first to congratulate their fellows for being 'different' and not 'fitting-in;' for they will be able to SEE quite clearly that a new and specialized development is being born. Those who fight to PREVENT such Specialization are as doomed as the Dinosaur, for no power on earth can prevent human enterprise from refining itself into further Specialties.
All it takes is a walk through any college campus on earth to prove the fact that THE MORE DIVERSE OUR SPECIALTIES BECOME, THE MORE THEY NEED EACH OTHER. You will not find Professors of Mathematics trying to 'convert' Physicists or Botanists to their own 'belief!' Physicists likewise KNOW that they are DEPENDENT upon Mathematicians for many of their most fundamental building-blocks and tools of the trade. Likewise, Botanists RESPECT THE DIFFERENCE between their own specialty and all others simply because they are RESPECTED IN TURN. All of this is the principle of Maitra, at work.
You will find the same principle equally well-used in the business sector as well. Manufacturers (even of competing brands within the same product-line) are DEPENDENT on each other for the crucial 'difference' between their own product and others.. without which there would be little appreciation of their product's uniqueness. "Better" and 'cheaper' as well as 'easier' and 'faster' are so specialized in their value to the customer, that ANY DISTINCTION becomes a 'selling point' for SOME. Only the determined Monopolist would want it otherwise, and (happily) most societies have recognized Monopoly as a dead-end street which stifles not only competition but creativity as well.
Thus, though it does at times cause lamentation among Monopolists and other Establishments, Diversity benefits society greatly by forging links between it's Diverse Specialties; and greater SATISFACTION for the entire society is the eventual result. One need not be a Deist or spiritually-minded in order to 'satisfy the gods;' indeed there are many for whom material things are 'god.' In the principle of Maitra we find one unifying principle which works as perfectly for materialists as it does for spiritual devotees.. and it is this wide applicability which makes Maitra a PRINCIPLE OF LIFE worthy of the title 'Philosophy.' Mankind may agree on little else! Our Diversity is so powerful a force that any Specialty which can reach even a large minority of us has succeeded almost beyond belief. But in our universal recognition of the value of Friendly Relating, we have one common bond that transcends all our current and future uniquenesses and differing specializations.
We hope this brief exposition of the principle of Maitreyan Philosophy has helped you feel better about your OWN unique specializations, and FRIENDLIER toward those not 'like' yourself. Associate with whom you PLEASE, and you will please ME. There is nothing to stand between us but respectful space.. the space in which we may each find and SATISFY the values we each serve. THANK YOU!
Epiphany 1999, Ashby MassachusettsAbout The Author