• Developing Mudita

    In early January I attended a talk given by Venerable Buddharakkhita. It was a very special evening devoted to a guided meditation and talk on Mudita - sympathetic joy. It is not a topic I have heard spoken of much before so I have written down what I learnt from him. Mudita is one of the 4 Brahma Viharas or Divine Abidings, the others being loving-kindness, compassion and equanimity. These are all powerful antidotes for self-doubt, unfriendliness, cruelty and unbalanced destructive mind states.

    Venerable Buddharakkhita explained that Mudita is resonating with the prosperity of another and cultivating a sympathetic joy in another's success, irrespective of one's own situation. It is being able to appreciate the good fortune in others and one's own self. By acknowledging the worth in others, the little or large deed well done, then we too can be genuinely delighted in that goodness which someone else has achieved. Sympathetic joy is the antidote to feelings of envy, jealousy or discrimination, or a lack of self-worth.

    Venerable Buddharakkhita used a very simple phrase throughout the meditation of "Well done" to associate with our feelings of joy. In acknowledging people and the successes they'd accomplished we'd say silently to ourselves, "Well done, well done mate, well done".

    He suggested that by using such a simple and everyday phrase as "Well done" we could develop it to be a trigger word for sympathetic joy in our lives. Venerable Buddharakkhita also encouraged us to remember people who have done good things or been successful so that we could easily evoke joy in our hearts. He gave us three examples of his own.

    • One was of the USA pilot, Captain Sullenberger, who in 2009 safely landed an aeroplane full of passengers in the Hudson River after both engines failed. Well done Captain, well done.
    • Another involved the residents on Christmas Island who in December 2010 dropped everything to rescue the people from the ocean in the refugee boating disaster. Well done Christmas Islanders, well done.
    • His final example was of Lasith Malinga, the young Sri Lankan cricketer who took 4 wickets in 4 balls in 2009. Well done Malinga, well done.

    Venerable Buddharakkhita's own radiant joy as he talked of these people was contagious. He guided us to share sympathetic joy in 12 different directions, e.g. to the North East, the East and so on. We also shared it by location, radiating it from the room out to an ever increasing area until the whole universe was included. And finally, we scanned our own bodies from head to toe and back again, part by part, appreciating those parts of the body that were not in pain or suffering, "Well done lungs, well done leg - thanks a lot!".

    Of course, Mudita acknowledges and shares in the joy of our families and the people we like. However, it is much more than that. It is also sharing the happiness of people we aren't interested in or don't even like. It is about being able to celebrate people's prosperity equally, and thereby connecting with one and all with a deep sense of well-being. Naturally when we feel self-worth we don't want anything in return. We feel happy because another person is happy which alone is our benefit. Of course, though, we do get much in return, we get joy in our hearts and contentment in our minds.

    Credits: Thanks to Venerable Buddharakkhita for checking this blog entry.

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