Mudita is a Buddhist concept which is often translated as “sympathetic joy”. It’s considered the antidote to envy and is one of four qualities we can cultivate infinitely (the others being loving-kindness, compassion, and equanimity) according to Buddhist culture. These are known as the Four Immeasurables and whatever our beliefs may be, it’s hard to disagree. Mudita is recognizing that life is not a zero-sum game, just like there isn’t just one slice of cake in which someone else’s taking means we get less. Instead, Mudita sees joy as limitless.
Here’s how it works: if someone has something we want — say, a bigger house — we can consciously take joy in their good fortune by telling ourselves, “Good for him. Just like me, he, too, wants to be happy. He, too, wants to be successful, He, too, wants to support his family. And you know what, he deserves to be happy. I should congratulate him; he should have more success and I, too, want that for him.” Once you say that to yourself, you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll start to believe it. It’s a natural out-growth of compassion.
The opposite feeling of this comes from a German term Schadenfreude for the feeling of satisfaction in hearing of others’ misfortune. It puts us in a constant struggle of one against all others so if someone else succeeds or accomplishes something, then we are somehow less acceptable, less successful, less lovable. But Mudita is based on the recognition of our interdependence. It understands that someone else’s achievements or happiness is also, in a very real way, our own. We are all talented and beautiful beings and it’s unfortunate most of us want to cut each other down to our self-perceived size because we sometimes see ourselves as small and weak. But if we realize how wonderful we all are and remember this great interdependence we have, we can discover that we are actually incredibly large and strong. We would learn that rejoicing in others’ good fortune actually brings a lot of benefits. We all have the same right and same desire to have a happy life. We are part of the same society. We are part of the same humanity. And when humanity is peaceful, our own lives are peaceful. Just like when your family is happy, you are happy.
We need to develop a stronger sense of “we” and rid ourselves of the sense of “I” and “me”. It’s difficult in the beginning, especially when we feel initial jealousy in the wake of a moment, but it’s something we can learn to cultivate in our mind through practice.
And eventually, we’ll be able to recognize it before it even arises.
DAY 23. Love, Ro