The Centerpiece of Your Holiday Table
And Your Life
Even though mudita, which is generally translated as sympathetic joy, is one of the four heavenly abodes, relatively little seems to have been written about it and it is rarely the topic of talks. When it is discussed, it is usually presented as "sympathetic joy at the good fortune or success of others," the most minor of the four abodes, and not much more.
But consider it from this wider dharmic point of view. Consider mudita as a prerequisite of lovingkindness (metta) and of compassion (karuna). Meaning that appreciation of others is one of the chief aspects of mudita.
Because we cannot appreciate another person without seeing the good in them, then how can we expect ourselves to experience joy at an incident of good fortune or success in their lives when we feel nothing for the other person, or even worse, dislike them? Mudita is the answer: it is the source for finding the good in others and learning to recognize and admire the wholesomeness that is always there, even and perhaps most importantly when those others seem to be making our lives difficult.
Unless one has the faith and confidence in mankind that the Buddha had, practicing lovingkindness and compassion is, I suspect, difficult if not impossible without the appreciation that arises from mudita, and from a solid practice of mudita. What the dharma is suggesting is that an appreciation for the goodness of others should flow within each of us, all the time. That’s what underlies a solid practice of mudita.
This would lead us to faith in mankind’s potential for good and to acceptance of our inherent worthwhileness.
What better practice could there be for the holiday season?