Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Mudita (appreciative/sympathetic joy)

I often feel uneasy after I put up a post about the gifts I receive from friends. I know that I don't do it to brag. I make sure that my intention is about thanking others and to show how generous they are. The givers are the ones deserving merits. But still, I feel uneasy.

This time it is no different. After the last post I started worrying if I was bragging. I wonder if I was being perceived as boasting my good fortune. This led to self questioning, "What do I feel when I see that others are the fortunate ones?" I can honestly say that most of the times I don't really feel anything. Other occassions I feel very happy for the lucky ones. But, I have to admit that there are also times that I feel jealous and envious. Wishing that I was the lucky one.

Fortunately, I was doing this reflection in front of the altar. So, my thoughts wandered toward the Buddhist practice of mudita, sympathetic joy.

Why feel happy when someone else is getting all the good? First, we have to keep in mind the Buddhist practice of ending suffering and stress, which leads to Nibbana (Nirvana in Sanskrit), to awakening.
Nibbana is...
"This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Nibbana."
— AN 3.32
Nibbana is not...
"There is that dimension where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor stasis; neither passing away nor arising: without stance, without foundation, without support [mental object]. This, just this, is the end of stress."
Ud 8.1
OK, all that copying and pasting was to give an idea of Nibbana, which requires the practice of ending suffering and stress. Without getting into details of Buddhist practice, I think it's easy for us to see that peace and happiness cannot occupy in the heart at the same time with suffering and stress. When we are happy, we are not sad. When we are suffering, we are not peaceful.

Isn't jealousy suffering? Isn't envy stressful? They don't make us smile. And all that suffering and stress belong to us and only us. No one esle is feeling it. So wouldn't we want to get rid of them from our heart? How? Replace it with joy, sympathetic joy. When we have joy, suffering and stress cannot enter. It won't be easy at first. But just remind ourselves that stress really comes from our own heart. Not from others. It doesn't help anything to feel envy. In fact it might be harmful to our health. Even harmful to others when it gets out of control. So try replacing it with joy. For our own benefit, if not for others'. Stop suffering and stress from entering our heart. Choose peace instead.

Next time I start to feel jealousy or envy, I will think of mudita and smile instead.


Sachi said...

It's funny... I rarely find myself feeling jealousy or envy. I am usually just so happy for the person receiving the gift. If often find that I am much happier seeing joy on someone else's face rather than receiving gifts myself.

This wasn't always the case, of course! It's only in the last few years that I feel this way.

Thanks for posting this! I hope it brings others some joy to read it!

Dave said...

Rather than bragging, consider it sharing your happiness.

How much less stressful would we be if the percentage of good stuff we read vastly outweighed the percentage of bad stuff we are inundated with every day in the news?

Dave Daniels said...

Thanks for posting that. Very interesting reading. I've been feeling the same as you lately about posting about receiving gifts. Just share the joy!

Andy's Crafts said...

Interesting Posting, Suffering comes from attachment. Attachment is a tricky subject. I find that sometimes suffering comes from not enjoying what you have, instead you attach yourself to what you don't have. Sometimes we live in the future or in the past, unable to live in the present which is actually all we have.

Jane said...

Dear jason,

Very interesting post. I always feel happy when I see that someone has given a thoughtful gift. In your case You don't strike me as boastful of what you have received and I bet you are rarely envious. When posting what you have received, I get the sense that you are truly appreciative and touched. No self flagellation allowed here! Bring on the Joy:)

Jason said...

Thank you all for sharing this moment with me. I value all your input. :-)