Objectless Loving-Kindness & Compassion: Why anārambaṇā maitrīkaruṇā became unique to bodhisattvas.

Tsering Dorji


This paper analyses why anārambaṇā maitrīkaruṇā became an important and unique concept in early non-tantric Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism. Through the study of early Mahāyāna Sūtras and Śāstras, I explore what the early Mahāyāna Sūtras and Śāstras tell us about ‘objectless lovingkindness and compassion’ in the context of threefold maitrī and karuṇā. By examining these early Mahāyāna Sūtras and Śāstras, and also early non-Mahāyāna Pāli nikāyas, abhidhammas and commentaries, I argue that anārambaṇā maitrīkaruṇā became unique to Mahāyāna because of the fundamental shift of goal from mainstream Buddhism; why śrāvakas or Hīnayānists do not practise anārambaṇā maitrīkaruṇā is not originally because of lack of non-conceptual wisdom or lack of understanding of the emptiness of dharma, but because for śrāvakas and mainstream Buddhists
maitrī and karuṇā are not essential in attaining their bodhi.

Śrāvakas are those who learn and uphold the teachings taught by the Buddha by actualising the true nature of dharma (dharmatāṃ sākṣātkurvanti).

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