Maitri – Marvin Casper

The following is from this
booklet I was given at Naropa Institute in

Maitri can be translated as
‘love’. It means a warm, friendly attitude. In making
friends with someone, it means accepting their neurosis as
well as their sanity. Maitri is an all-encompassing
friendship that relates with the destructiveness of nature
as well as with its creativity. But the first step is trust
in ourselves. Such trust can only come about when there is
no categorizing, no judgment, but a simple and direct
relationship with our being.

Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

The Maitri program was developed by
Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist meditation
master. The program is designed to nurture compassion
through participation in a meditative community. Students in
the community practice sitting meditation, space awareness
postures and meditation in action. These practices
exaggerate both the neurotic and sane aspects of each
individual. The exaggerated expressions are projected onto
the screen of the community and are mirrored back. Thus
community members can become more sensitive to their own and
others styles of relating to the world.

In order to understand the Maitri
approach it is necessary to review the basic principles of
Buddhist psychology upon which the program is based.
According to Buddhist psychology, the basis of neurosis is
the tendency to solidify energy into a barrier that
separates space into two entities, “I” and “Other”, the
space in here and the space out there. This process is
technically termed “dualistic fixation”. First there is the
initial creation of the barrier, the sensing of other, and
then the inference of inner, or I. This is the birth of ego.
We identify with what is in here and struggle to relate to
what is out there. The barrier causes an imbalance between
inside and outside. The struggle to redress the imbalance
further solidifies the wall. The irony of the
barrier-creating process is that we lose track of the fact
that we have created the barrier and, instead, act as if it
was always there.

After the initial creation of I and
Other, I feels the territory outside itself, determining if
it is threatening, attractive or uninteresting. Feeling the
environment is followed by impulsive action-passion,
aggression, or ignoring–pulling in what is seductive,
pushing away what is threatening or repelling, ignoring what
is uninteresting or irritating. But feeling and impulsive
action are crude ways of defending and enhancing ego. The
next response is conceptual discrimination, fitting
phenomena into categories, which makes the world much more
manageable and intelligible. Finally, whole fantasy worlds
are created to shield and entertain ego. Emotions are the
highlights of the fantasies while discursive thoughts,
images and memories sustain the story line. A story of ego’s
hopes and fears, victories and defeats, virtues and vices is
developed. In highly neurotic people, elaborate subplots or
“problems” then develop from the initial drama. The subplots
become very complicated and compelling, often overshadowing
the main drama. In psychotic people, the subplots completely
overshadow the main drama. The different stages of ego
development — the initial split of I and Other, feeling,
impulse, conceptualization, and the various fantasy worlds
are technically referred to as the five skandhas. From
moment to moment the five skandhas are recreated in such a
manner that it seems like the ego drama is continuous.
Clinging to the apparent continuity and solidity of ego,
ceaselessly trying to maintain I and Mine, is the root of
neurosis. This effort clashes with the inevitability of
change, with the ever-recurring death and birth of ego and,
therefore, causes suffering.

If a person feels that his inner
resources for coping with and appreciating life are very
limited, then the world outside seems highly alien,
seductive and threatening. He feels compelled to struggle to
remove threats and draw in what is valuable. But the
struggle is self-defeating. It intensifies the solidity of
the barrier and results in feelings of inner poverty and
restricted space. Thus, to a highly neurotic person, the
outer world is extremely claustrophobic and confusing. The
level of psychosis is reached when the fear of outside is so
great that we panic and become absorbed in a fantasy world
that has little connection with our surroundings.

The goal of the Maitri program is to
give a student a sense of more inner space, more strength
and intelligence, more acceptance of himself and the world.
The clarity and calm possible with such an inner space is
the first step toward sanity. The relationship of inner and
outer spaces is stabilized sufficiently so that the struggle
with the world is relaxed. Further psychological development
involves clearly seeing how the emotions and fantasies
develop, and how they are used as entertainment and defense.
But before we can fundamentally question the dramas in which
we are involved, there must be some calmness and clarity,
some spaciousness in our inner world. Only then, after the
turbulent waters become gently flowing and clear, can the
barrier of itself be seen. So, in a sense, the goal of the
Maitri program is to have the student become more familiar
and comfortable with ego, to make friends with his neurotic
ways. Thus, the process of becoming sane from the Buddhist
point of view begins with clearly seeing. the transparency
of the sub-plots, then the dramas, then the concepts and
finally the barrier itself. One works with more and more
refined levels of dualistic fixation.

The sub-plots and dramas are
neurotic distortions of basic styles of relating to space.
The meditative process is not to eliminate these styles of
relationships but to cut through the ego game of
territoriality associated with each style. The whole idea of
Buddhist meditation is therefore to work with the core of
the neurosis, clinging to territory, rather than trying to
change a person’s style of relating to the world. Individual
differences in energy flow, and in cultural and historical
circumstances are not problems. Released from the
distortions caused by territorial clinging, the styles
manifest as sane expressions of intelligence. Thus, we need
not build up positive or sane qualities. If we part the
clouds of confusion, the sun of sanity will Shine

The basic styles of relating to
space are classified in terms of the “Buddha families” —
Karma, Vajra, Ratna, Buddha, Padma. According to Tibetan
Buddhist Tantra, the Buddha families are fundamental
patterns of energy, which manifest in all phenomenal
experience. Thus landscapes, colors, sounds, foods, climates
as well as personality types can all be classified in terms
of the Buddha families. In the following descriptions of the
basic styles of relating to space the neurotic aspect will
be emphasized.

Vajra movement Involves sweeping
over and surveying the entire area facing you, clearly
mirroring the field of vision. It is like clear water freely
flowing over a surface. It fills all the space but the
surface underneath it can be seen clearly. Vajra neurosis
involves fear of being surprised, confused, or overwhelmed
by outside, so one continually monitors the environment for
threats. When a threat is detected, we respond by cold or
hot anger –pushing the world away by creating a cold wall
that holds phenomena at a distance or a hot front that
repels them. Vajra is associated with abstract intellect,
with mapping relationships so as to have a clear,
comprehensive view of a situation. In the neurotic state,
the abstracting process becomes compulsive and loses contact
with phenomena. One becomes self-righteous, justifying
everything in terms of one’s “system” and filtering out
inconvenient facts. It also leads to intellectual
frivolousness, getting caught up in word games divorced from
experience, or compulsively figuring out how things fit
together and what rule of conduct applies to a situation. On
a bodily level it involves excessive visual and head
orientation, always trying to see around the corner or
behind your back, watching every corner.

Ratna is associated with substance.
It involves expanding to fill up and solidify every
container. Ratna neurosis is connected with feelings of not
being substantial or solid enough. The world in here is
insufficient, poor. The richness, the substance is out
there. So the tendency of the Ratna neurosis is to expand
its substance to incorporate the outside into its territory.
There is a tendency to be overbearing, mothering, imperious-
-trying to be the center of one’s world, the principal
object of affection, attention, approval. One is always
hungry and needs the food of more possessions, more
psychological gratification’s, more confirmations of one’s
richness. Intellectually, Ratna neurosis manifests as
indiscriminate collecting and spewing out facts, words,
ideas, contacts, an overstuffed mind. The emotion associated
with Ratna is pride. One is continually building monuments
to oneself, reassuring oneself of importance and worth–you
are heavy, significant, central in relation to your world.
Physically Ratna is very concerned about material
comfortable surroundings, much rich food, soft furniture.
Life is a series of nourishing or unnourishing

In Padma neurosis one tries to draw
things into one’s world, to seduce phenomena. There is a
sense of incompleteness, a seeking of something to entertain
or enrich ourselves. The basic quality of Padma is relating
to the immediate presence of “other”. While Karma is
associated with direct movement and Vajra with clear seeing,
Padma is feeling presence. The more we panic about losing
the presence of “other” the more we struggle to hold onto
“other” so as to feel its presence. We want to draw “that”
into “this” area and keep it here, possess it in order to
feel it. Intellectually Padma neurosis involves getting
caught in a succession of unrelated details, scattering
one’s attention. One gets lost in the surfaces.

(I am missing a section

Space Awareness…….

…………great breathing process
is most common. Gradually our world becomes more spacious,
our dramas less intense and all-consuming. The meditation
carries over into everyday life and we begin to see more
clearly how we create our worlds.

Space Awareness is a specialized
meditation practice that focuses attention on the five basic
patterns of relating to space. Students maintain a posture
within a specially designed room for one hour, two to four
times daily. Attention is focused on the space in the room.
The rooms highlight the view of the world characteristic of
each neurotic style and the postures highlight the neurotic
response to that world. Of course, the inside and outside,
“my response” and “the world’s response to me” are
intertwining parts of one process. To contract the space
around you in response to claustrophobic surroundings
intensifies the claustrophobic quality of the outside. To
attack space in response to its seeming threatening quality
invites more attacks. To grasp at phenomena intensifies
their resistance to your clutches, which intensifies your
struggle to hold on to them. Likewise, straining to know
panoramically narrows one’s perspective, which in turn leads
to greater strain.

In each case, struggle intensifies
the solidity of the barrier, the imbalance of inside and
outside, and the vulnerability and impoverishment of inside.
From moment to moment one is faced with the alternative of
letting go, of opening to a saner, more balanced
relationship to the world, or panicking and intensifying the
struggle to manipulate it.

The long period of holding the
posture, the monotony of the surroundings and the task of
attending to space, allow the possibility of being less
caught up in habitual thought patterns. Furthermore, the
postures are all somewhat uncomfortable and, therefore,
demand attention to the body and ground as well. These
conditions can break the chain of thoughts sufficiently so
that a person glimpses his neurotic relationship to space.
He may come to realize that the “external world” is always
the same in these rooms and therefore his shifting
perceptions of the room are his own creation. This insight
may allow him to relax his struggle with space sufficiently
to glimpse a sane way of relating; to it.

In the Vajra posture, one lies belly
down, hands extended to the sides, palms flat on the ground,
and face to the side. In the blue Vajra room the windows are
small slits along the wall. Since a person with Vajra
neurosis is always scanning his surroundings, facing the
ground and looking at windows that only tease him can be
very frustrating. He doesn’t know what is above him or
outside the room. The positions and rooms, thus force the
practitioner to confront how he relates to his world by
frustrating or exaggerating his ordinary style. The positive
potential in the Vajra posture is to discover that you don’t
have to literally see what is above or around you. There is
the conviction that you already know what is happening,
excessive confirmation is unnecessary.

In Ratna posture the arms are
perpendicular to the body, legs are spread wider than in
Karma posture and the hands are flat down against the
ground. The Ratna room contains a large circular window on
one wall. Its color is gold. From the posture one sees the
outline of the window without being able to see out. This
suggests the possibility of expanding beyond the room,
incorporating the richness outside, but one cannot.
Extending the arms and legs as much as possible also
suggests expansiveness. But since the richness is outside
one’s reach it is very frustrating and poverty stricken.
This exposes the Ratna tendency to compensate for feelings
of poverty and insubstantiality by expanding its territory
to feed itself. In the positive case, one feels rich, the
external world doesn’t especially need to feed

Padma posture is lying on the side,
one arm extended out fully and the other resting on the hip.
The room is square with large windows on two walls and is
red. The room suggests something seductive outside it, and
the posture suggests keeping your door open to seduce
passersby to come and visit. But nothing passes by, nothing
entertaining happens, there is no new presence to feel, your
seductive gestures are futile. The positive potential is
that one discovers an already existent presence to which
nothing needs to be added.

The Karma position is lying flat on
the back, hands close to the sides, the back of the hand
flat on the ground, legs spread apart. The room has a 4′ x
4′ square window on top and is colored green. Attending to
the limbs accentuates the Karma tendency toward movement and
the window high above invites thrusting movement toward it.
Thus, the Karma tendency to speedy movement is exaggerated.
Furthermore, being forced to lie on the ground, motionless,
frustrates the impulse to activity and heightens the Karma
fear of vulnerability. The space seems to be cutting through
you. The positive potential in this posture is that one
gives up the struggling to defend oneself by jumping about
and realizes that space is not attacking you and you need
not attack space.

Buddha posture is resting on one’s
knees and elbows, chin between the palms of the hands. The
room is small with no windows, a low ceiling, dim light and
is colored white. The posture suggests contraction, drawing
inward, protecting by closing up. The room reflects the
ignoring of environment, the creating of a closed, secure
space to cope with an acute sense of claustrophobia.
Positively one discovers the possibility of being open even
in such a potentially claustrophobic situation.

Usually students participate in the
Maitri program for a three month period. During the first
part of the program students practice all the postures. This
enables them to discover the qualities of each of the Buddha
families. During the second part of the program each student
concentrates on becoming friends with his or her basic

The effect of the rooms is not
limited to the time spent in them. The atmosphere created in
the rooms is carried into everyday life. Especially when the
same posture is done regularly, one’s mental and emotional
life becomes colored by the rooms. It is as if we put on
yellow, red or green glasses each time we step out of a
room. Tuning into these psychological spaces inspires a
knowing acceptance, a sympathetic appreciation of oneself
and others. It teaches one to respect the extraordinary
subtle and limitless particularities of energy and the
ultimate simplicity of its basic characteristics.

See more on Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
from the first issue of the
published in