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Posts Tagged ‘sympathetic joy’

If you spend much time on Facebook, you may have noticed the response that so often follows an announcement of personal achievement. “Congratulations!” exclaims a respondent, sometimes within minutes of the announcement. “That’s wonderful,” writes another. “We’re very happy for you,” declares a third. If the achiever’s circle of Facebook friends numbers in the hundreds or even thousands, the roster of congratulants may extend to thirty or more, creating a visible avalanche of affirmation, a collective expression of unselfish joy.

Such expressions are common at weddings, graduations, and other real-life occasions, but their virtual presence on Facebook is something new. At the same time, it is something very old, insofar as it resembles a state of mind known to Buddhist practitioners as mudita, or “sympathetic joy.” One of the four “immeasurable minds” (brahminviharas) of Buddhist teachings, mudita may be defined as the capacity to feel and express joy in someone else’s happiness or success. Like the other “immeasurable minds”—loving-kindness, compassion, and equanimity—mudita is both a mind-state and a practice. It is to be contemplated and cultivated on a daily basis. And, as the Buddhist scholar C.F. Knight has noted, mudita “multiplies in ratio to the extension of its application, quite apart from its purifying effect on our own lives.”[1] Yet, unlike the other “immeasurable minds,” mudita is seldom discussed in the meditative community. And should one venture to bring it up outside that community, one must be prepared to encounter raised eyebrows, looks of puzzlement, or even tacit derision. Cultivate sympathetic joy? Feel joy at others’ success? You must be joking. (more…)

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