Posts Tagged ‘Mudita’

Mudita: The Joy of Joy

April 14, 2016

Sympathetic Joy is the most common translation of the Buddhist term mudita. Mudita is finding joy in the joy of others. It is spontaneous, unconditioned and unlimited. It is the joy of aliveness, of being itself. Mudita is spiritual joy.

We have all experienced mudita, most likely in presence of children. The joy of children is so pure and unbounded that it is contagious. Seeing a child engaged in joyous play, we ourselves are touched by joy. The joy we feel is not something we own. We did not produce it through our own efforts. It arises from outside ourselves. We simply enjoy the the joy experienced by another being.

laughing-buddha-figureIn Buddhism there are techniques to simulate mudita. They are valuable and can help us be more open to the arising of spontaneous joy. In their simplest form, one strives to wish others happiness and remember to celebrate others’ successes.

However, we must not mistake the map for the territory. The cultivation of joy is a close approximation but not the real thing. Since the practice is contrived, it is easy to get caught up in judging our success, or lack-thereof, in finding joy in others’ joy. We may become frustrated by the arising of negative thoughts, judgements, and jealousy – the antithesis of joy.  We may wonder how we can we feel joy in another’s success, when we are jealous of that success?

True mudita arises in spite of our imperfections and negative thoughts. Spiritual joy is a vast ocean upon which thoughts are only ripples. Negative thoughts may continue to arise but are insignificant in the presence of mudita.

Ultimately, mudita arises from beyond what we think of as self. Mudita is the nature of the measureless. It arises naturally when our hearts open to the unconditioned. When we are touched by the unconditional, we experience boundless joy in even the smallest moments of life. Unfortunately, we are usually too caught up in conditionality – planning for the future, reliving the past, judging and weighing each experience – to see the joy present in each moment.

Awakening to mudita begins by paying attention. This is why prayer and meditation are so important. They help us slow down. Through contemplation, we become comfortable with stillness and quite.

Our world is frantic, filled with information and activity. It is not a conducive environment for deep peace. Taking time – daily – to sit quietly can seem like a herculean task. Nevertheless, inner stillness – peace – is worth the effort. It allows us to see the world anew. Over time we become more capable of experiencing spontaneous joy. We begin to rejoice in the sights and sounds of nature, the joy of friends and family, or just in the joy of joy – our own or that of another.

Peace, Paul

Rejoicing in the Joys of Others

March 20, 2013

Rejoicing in the joys of others is one of the four boundless thoughts found in all schools of Buddhism. In Sanskrit the term is Mudita, which is often translated as Altruistic Joy.  Altruistic Joy is the mind-state in which we rejoice in the joys and good fortune of others and pray for their joy and good fortune to increase.

This basic Buddhist practice is radical in its opposition to the accepted worldly practice of disparaging individuals or organizations that are successful or are doing good in the world.  Altruistic Joy is an antidote to the negativity that seems to be creeping into every waking hour of our lives through various media and technologies.

If we want to stand against this pervasive negativity we should all strive to practice Altruistic Joy. However, as Buddhist, rooted in an understanding of the emptiness of self, we must not allow the practice of Altruistic joy to become part of our “self building” project. It cannot be something we do so we will be holy or become a better person. Rather we must cultivate Altruistic Joy with the aim of minimizing suffering.  We cultivate Altruistic Joy because we have faith in the Buddha, faith in the teachings of the Buddha, and faith in the community of Buddhist practitioners and want to join them in building a world free of suffering and causes of suffering.

While there are many wonderful practices to help us cultivate Altruistic Joy, the simplest is the recitation of the Nembutsu: Namo Amida Bu.  It is simultaneously a statement of faith in the triple gem as well as prayer for an end to suffering for all beings everywhere.  It is a joyous shout with those who are experiencing joy and fortune. It is also a lament and prayer for those experiencing suffering and distress. Through the Nembutsu the Tathagata’s compassion is made manifest.    To recite the Nembutsu is to turn our ear away from the negativity of the world and listen instead to the calling of Amida Tathagata.

Namo Amida Bu!

Peace, Paul