monks, a disciple dwells pervading one
direction with his heart filled with
sympathetic joy, likewise the second,
the third, and the fourth directions;
so above, below and around; he dwells
pervading the entire world everywhere
and equally with his heart filled with
sympathetic joy, abundant, grown great,
measureless, free from enmity and free
from distress. Buddha
On the path of "the liberation of the heart which
is love," you have studied and practiced the qualities
of lovingkindness (metta) and compassion (karuna).
In this lesson you will explore mudita (sympathetic
joy), the third of the four brahma-viharas.
to pain and sadness
Let's explore how we
associate the qualities of love and compassion with
the misfortunes of others.
With metta, the first brahma-vihahra,
we wish ourselves health, happiness and freedom from
danger. And we offer
metta to others—that they be free of danger,
ill health, and sadness.
We experience compassion (karuna),
the second boundless
states of consciousness, as the trembling of the
heart in response to someone's suffering—opening
our hearts to pain rather than rejecting it, fearing
becoming embittered by it.
In practicing metta and
karuna we experienced how difficult it can be for
us to open our hearts to
pain or sadness.
But surely we are open to joy!
Isn't that what we wish for ourselves and others?
Isn't this the
Before you proceed with
this lesson, reflect for a moment:
you appreciate that which is good
in your life? Do your accomplishments
bring you joy? Do you feel happiness
when you're with the important
in your life?
Do you experience
joy and satisfaction from the accomplishments
of those you love? Your friends?
Recollect a time when someone
else rejoiced at your happiness, success
or accomplishment. Can you remember how
When someone rejoices in our happiness,
their appreciation fills us with joy and gratitude.
Yet is it not a
rare quality to feel truly happy when others are happy?
of gladness Buddha
The root of the Pali word mudita means "to be
pleased, to have a sense of gladness." When
we take delight in the happiness of another,
when we genuinely
rejoice at their prosperity, success, or good
fortune rather than begrudging it in any way,
we are abiding
this vision of mudita the Buddha awakens us to the
potential of happiness to actually liberate us.
Yet… Sympathetic joy is considered the most
difficult of all the brahma-viharas to develop.
If you answered no to any
of the reflection questions above (most
of us do), reflect on your own experience
responding to the prosperity of others.
Why is your experience of joy limited?
What kinds of obstacles make
it difficult for you to rejoice in
Think of someone whose
happiness does make you feel joyous.
experience the thoughts and feelings.
of someone whose happiness does not
make you feel joyous. Notice
thoughts, experience the feelings.
you find yourself reluctant to
rejoice when someone else does
well, even though
you think you should?
below the surface—a
nagging negativity, dismissal.
to cut down their
you have difficulty experiencing
the obstacles to sympathetic
joy, try some of these experiments:
So while we may think we wish others well, in fact
much of out unhappiness comes from the constricting
effect of our negative reactions to others. We judge,
demean and envy each other. We compare ourselves to
each other - unfavorably! And we suffer the strangling
effects of these limitations.
joy can help to free us from the afflictive mind
states that prevent us from sharing
and rejoicing in the happiness and success of others.
Liberating the mind
through sympathetic joy
We can't just will
ourselves to feel sympathetic joy. That it should be
In this lesson you will learn
practices that can help you uncover your capacity
for appreciative joy and
free you from the enemies of mudita, such as envy
and jealousy. You will explore some of the tormenting
of mind that contrive to get us and keep us stuck:
afflictive states of mind (often called the "far
enemies" of mudita) inhibit our sense of
sympathetic joy—and thus make us miserable.
and honestly experiencing these mind states
can open a path to a joyous engagement
with the world
and with others.
As you engage in the practice of uncovering
mudita, remember the Buddha's encouragement