Lesson
3

Sympathetic Joy [mudita]

14 of 14
Mudita meditation practice

Now that you have explored mudita, its obstacles and its allies, use these meditations to practice what you have learned.

Remember, to reside in the heavenly abodes you will need to apply what you have learned. These meditations will help you in this process.

Guidance for meditating on the brahma-viharas

In these meditations you imagine different people (including yourself), directing phrases to them that will help uncover thoughts, attitudes and emotions.

Remember: you are not trying to will yourself to feel and act more "compassionately." The goal of these meditations is to create a shift in your attitudes and emotions towards yourself and others.

The reflections you did during this lesson help affect this shift by focusing awareness on how you habitually think and feel in various situations with other people.

The phrases of these meditations then help reveal the compassion already inside of you.

The phrases

In doing meditation specifically designed to nurture mudita, use one or more of these phrases as a starting point. As your own come to mind, use those.

"May your happiness and good fortune not leave you."

"May your good fortune continue."

"May your happiness not diminish."

The sequence

The order of recipients of your mudita meditation is:

  • A friend or loved one who is enjoying some happiness; something good is going on for them
  • A benefactor
  • A neutral person
  • An "enemy"
  • All beings

To undertake sympathetic joy as a formal meditation practice, begin with someone whom you care for. Begin with someone you have good feelings toward, as we tend to more easily feel joy for someone on the basis of love and friendship.

Even with a friend or loved one, you may experience difficulty or resistance in rejoicing in their good fortune. Don't judge or resist this. The meditations will help diminish the conditioned tendencies of conceit, demeaning others, and judgment.

How does a meditator dwell pervade in one direction with his heart imbued with sympathetic gladness? Just as one would be glad on seeing a very dear and beloved person, so one pervades all beings with sympathetic gladness.  Buddha


  • Get into a comfortable posture. Your physical comfort is important.
     
  • Move if necessary, but do so mindfully.
     
  • Close your eyes and relax.
       
  • Arrive on the cushion.
       
  • Sense the body sitting. (Scan your body.)
  • Gently, and with kindness, bring your attention to the heart center (at the chest). Keep your attention there.
        
  • Notice any sensations that you feel there.
      
  • Breath in/out as if from your chest. Take several deep breaths.
     
  • Choose a friend, someone toward whom love flows naturally. Whoever comes to mind, visualize that person and allow them to rest gently in your heart and mind.
  • Focus on a particular gain or source of joy in this person's life. (Don't get stuck searching for some absolute, perfect happiness or enormous success. Whatever good fortune or happiness of theirs that comes to your mind, work with that.)
     
  • Say one or more of the phrase to yourselves silently. Allow these thoughts to be reflected in that vision of your friend. "May your happiness and good fortune not leave you""May your happiness not diminish." "May your good fortune continue."

                         
  • As you say the phrases, delight in thoughts and aspirations. Remember that mudita is appreciative joy.
  • Move through the sequence of people: A friend ior loved one, a benefactor, a neutral person, an "enemy", all beings.

   

Above, below, and all around, unobstructed, without hostility or hate.
Whether standing, walking, sitting, or lying down, as long as one is alert, one should be resolved on this mindfulness. This is called a sublime abiding here and now.  
Buddha

When we direct appreciative joy toward someone who is suffering a great deal, the relationship between sympathetic joy and compassion figures more strongly.

Can we can find within another's life some little happiness, something that is bringing them satisfaction, or faith, or maybe just an opening for changing a circumstance that is causing them pain? By rejoicing over any auspicious feature in their life we can be practicing mudita even toward those who are in great pain.

Sending mudita purifies your own mind of the tendencies toward envy or jealousy, even if you can't find anything to rejoice over.
  
This practice can ccc the possibility of your becoming less secure in relationship to another when their fortunes change and the tendency to resent them arises.

Mudita mediation and you  

Traditionally, sympathetic joy is practiced in sympathy with others, not in terms of oneself. What is essential to develop in terms of oneself are the abilities to rejoice and to have gratitude. Remember the reflection on good things you have done, or acts of generosity you have performed—it is important to be able to take delight in these, and to be able to distinguish that delight from conceit. Remember the reflection on the good within you, and the rightness of your wish to be happy, along with your understanding of a path to happiness—this is a source of exceptional gratitude.