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Exemplars of bodhisattva Maitreya

The complex Maitreya archetype has three major strands.

The first is looking to the future, recognizing the unfulfilled potential of our own time or being, and envisioning a better one. This may mean hoping for an auspicious rebirth in Maitreya's heaven or on earth during Maitreya's buddhahood, or it may even manifest as political activity aimed at preparing this world for the advent of Maitreya's golden age.

The second aspect is the deliberate, introspective study of consciousness. This is yogic psychology, studying oneself to try to understand the workings of the mind and thereby help end the suffering of beings.

A third strand of the Maitreya archetype is loving-kindness. Maitreya expresses love actively going out into the world. This energy is more intentional and directed than the responsive, caring compassion of Avalokiteshvara, with her empathetic listening and immediate response.

Given these qualities of Maitreya, can you think of people—public figures or people in your life—who embody these qualities?

The Maitreya energy of the 60s

The outpouring of concern in the sixties counterculture, with a call for a new age of peace and love, represented Maitreya energy. Among youth of that time, there was a strong sense of imminent possibility: of new modes of living, thinking, loving, of bringing kindness and compassion into the political realm, or of "dropping out" to form new, "enlightened" communities. Despite the hedonistic excesses that occurred, many of the ideals, values, and new perspectives supported by the sixties counterculture have had lasting, positive impacts on the social landscape. The cry in the midst of America's Vietnam experience to "Make love, not war," and the call for "flower power" and sexual liberation, echo the hopes and idealism as well as some of the innocence and naivete in the archetype of Maitreya. The counterculture's explorations of new dimensions of consciousness, initially via psychedelics and then with yoga, meditation, and shamanic practices, also fit the Maitreya archetype.