Bodhicitta, the mind of awakening, arises by paying attention to the interconnectedness of things. Bodhicitta comes from dwelling in tranquility and being compassionate toward ourselves and others. This is developed through cultivating awareness.
Maitri and Karuna are the two aspects of Bodhicitta.
Maitri (loving kindness) is rooted in being kind and gentle to yourself. When we really look into ourselves we can experience wakefulness and compassion. When we free ourselves from our attachment to self we can experience a kind of relaxation. There is relief in freedom. With maitri we can transcend our self centeredness. Maitri is central to the dharma because it is the basis of overcoming delusion. If we challenge our delusion, our attachment to our sense of self, then we automatically develop kindness to ourselves and others. We can realize that caring about others is natural to our being. If we can transcend our fixation on “I-Me-Mine” then we can dwell in our basic goodness. With maitri we can begin to unleash our Buddha Nature. All of us can dwell in basic goodness.
Karuna (compassion) is our work toward develop kindness toward others, which is rooted in our sense of kindness toward ourselves. When we understand that the people around us are suffering, just like we are, then we know we need to help. We know that compassion is our natural state of being.
Maitri is connected with wanting to walk the way of the bodhisattva. Karuna is connected with actually walking the path. In terms of the eightfold path, Maitri is having Right Understanding. Karuna is engaging Right Effort.
Maitri helps us overcome “I-Me-Mine”. Karuna helps us relate to the world.