Thoughts on "mudita"

I don’t remember to have read much about the third of the Brahmavihara-“states”, mudita , and aside of our training many years ago, where we did meditation in the Osho/Shree Rajneesh-style and one form has been the dancing while trying to let the Brahmavihara-states “blossom” in the heart, and mudita has its own, and equi-timed, sequence, I don’t remember to have been come across the explicite meditation on and in mudita in the centers where I’ve been to in the years up to today.

Recently I’ve been on some nice and green park, with long meadows, a bit hilly, and while I sat on a bench, I could see a couple of small dogs, playfully running after some ball thrown for them. They seemed to be really happy running after that ball, both very fast for their short legs, one even a bit faster than the other, and their running pathes made more and more superfluous excursions - forgetting about the ball, and seemingly running for pure joy of running and rushing, the full body getting more and more involved. I got aware, that this enormous joy directly transmitted itself into my heart; it did not need words to talk about it, to formulate what I was seeing, just the heart went open and in full resonance to that infinite -supposed by me- joy of that young dogs, especially the faster one.

When I was later thinking over this, the term “mudita” came, from my memories of the Brahmavihara-states, to mind, and I asked myself: is it just that, what I’ve experienced on the meadows, what is meant whith, adressed by, the term “mudita”?

Today I thought, I’ve a bit quiet time, let’s look what the Pali-Canon has to say about it. And, of course, as well what we do already have about it in D&D? In short: I was surprised how little is really there! I’ll refer something here, although half of it in german (the sources however should help to find it in english, too) :

AN 3.95 (AN 3.93) (…) Zustande, nämlich der gemütserlösenden Mitfreude (mudita). In dem von Freude Erfüllten aber entsteht Verzückung (…)

Hmm, that’s not much. Let’s see further:

SN 46.64 (Hecker)
(62-66) Die Liebe, ihr Mönche, das Erbarmen, die Mitfreude, der Gleichmut, bedachtsame Ein- und Ausatmung, oder
(67-76) Die Wahrnehmung der Unschönheit, des Todes, der Widerwertigkeit der Nahrung, der Freudlosigkeit der ganzen Welt, der Unbeständigkeit, des Leidens, des Nicht-Ich, der Überwindung, der Entreizung, der Auflösung, entfaltet und ausgebildet, hat große Frucht, hat großen Segen, läßt zwei Früchte erwarten: Höchstes Wissen zu Lebzeiten oder, ist ein Rest Anhangen da, Nichtwiederkehr, führt zu mächtigem Heil, zu mächtigem Frieden des Yoga, zu mächtiger Ergriffenheit, zu mächtigem Wohlbefinden. Und wie?
Da entfaltet der Mönch, ihr Mönche, mit solchen Wahrnehmungen verbunden, die Erwachungsglieder Achtsamkeit bis Gleichmut, auf Einsamkeit gestützt, auf Entreizung gestützt, auf Auflösung gestützt, die in Loslassen übergehen".

This is how to use the experience of mudita, not so much how to be able to identify more precisely.
One in english, (but still on the german page palikanon.com)

47 . Muditá
Derived from ??mud, to be pleased.
It is not mere sympathy but appreciative joy. Its direct enemy is jealousy and its indirect enemy is exultation (pahása). Its chief characteristic is happy acquiescence in others’ prosperity (anumodaná). Muditá embraces prosperous beings. It discards dislike (arati), and it is the congratulatory attitude of a person.

Ah, this helps a bit more. “appreciative joy” comes near to my feeling with the young dog, however, congratulatory attitude not so much, but in this text it is focused to that for a person, not for another sentient being (“congratulatory” might be too far away in such cases).

Here I have now one sutta (DN 33), which takes the description of the mental state, of the quality of the feeling into discourse:

Die Entfaltung der Mitfreude (muditá-bhávaná)
D. 33 <…/…/digha/d33_04.htm>

  1. Da, ihr Mönche, durchdringt der Mönch mit einem von Mitfreude (muditá) erfüllten Geiste erst eine Himmelsrichtung; darauf ebenso die zweite, die dritte und die vierte; und sich in allem wiedererkennend durchdringt er nach oben, unten, überall die ganze Welt mit einem von Mitfreude erfüllten Geiste, einem weiten, entfalteten, unbeschränkten, frei von Groll und Übelwollen.

Diese Übung mag man zuerst mit Hinsicht auf einen von Freude überschäumenden lieben Freund erwecken, denkend: ,O, wie sich dieser freut! O, wie gut! O, wie schön!’
In Vibh. XIII heißt es: „Und wie durchstrahlt der Mönch mit einem von Mitfreude erfüllten Geiste erst eine Himmelsrichtung? Gleichwie man da beim Anblicke eines lieben, teuren Menschen Freude empfindet, genau so durchstrahlt er alle Wesen mit Mitfreude."

Ok, well; but this discourses on mudita seem to me really short, bloodless, even a bit poor, again the given example the “dearest friend”, and in no way reflecting the richness in which -in my example experience/in my thoughts now- we can have it, when aware (and in resonance) with the living creatures.
Here another one

  1. A.III. 96 Drei Versammlungen
    (…)
    Zu einer Zeit, ihr Mönche, wo die Mönche in Eintracht und Freundlichkeit leben, ohne Streit, milden Herzens sind, sich freundlich anblicken, zu solcher Zeit schaffen sich die Mönche viel Gutes, und zu solcher Zeit verweilen die Mönche in göttlichem Zustande, nämlich der gemütserlösenden Mitfreude (muditá <…/wtb/mudita.html>). In dem von Freude Erfüllten aber entsteht Verzückung. Verzückten Herzens wird sein Wesen beruhigt; beruhigten Wesens empfindet er Glück, und des Glücklichen Geist sammelt sich.

Here, the mudita, as understood as “common-joy”, “shared-joy” (or “rejoicing” as in Ven. Sujatos comment? - see below) has been given another aspect, here at least detached from the “thinking of a good friend”. Similarly here:

Vis. IX.5. Vermischte Erklärungen
Muditá (Freude, Mitfreude) sagt man, weil die davon Erfüllten vermittels dieser Fähigkeit sich freuen oder weil sie sich selber freut; oder das bloße Sichfreuen gilt als die Freude.

Well, then today I found in our D&D one remark of Ven. Sujato from nov. 2015

Well, this shortness of explication, of rendering, of illustrating, of putting out with actual experiences as lively examples - in contrast to much deeper experiences in my own life (where this small young-joyful- dogs-example is only one and only a recent one) made me ask this question for broader exposition of this so much valuable third “state” mentioned in the four Brahamaviharas.

At the moment I would like to resort to one of my favorite simile: the resonance of two triangles, where the second gets into the same singing, when the first has got started singing, as simile for two hearts where the second comes into joyful resonance when the first one is getting in true joy. And this need not be by talking. We know it in music, especially when music is played together, but even when we truely listen to well played music (even of a long-dead componist!). We know it in arts, when we arrive in resonance with the artist. But we even know it, when our children played successfully their sceneplay in school and come home, their heart filled and overflowing with joy and we can fall in resonance with this. But even, so it occurs to me, we can know it when some animal, some sentient being, feels deep joy or deep peace and we can get in same resonance with it.

One clue, more natural-science, modern, might be the modern concept of the mirror-neurons, which allows even the babies to line-in with the emotions and wantings of their parents, without any talk, by just the ability to resonate in/with mental states. So it is a true natural ressource to us, anyway…

What are some of your experiences of mudita, suitable to share here in this thread? I’d like to get even deeper in the discourse on this curious third state of the Brahmaviharas… :slight_smile:

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Thank you for your post on muditā, Interestingly, I’ve been pondering this for the last week or so. The term I knew was sympathetic joy but that never resonated well with me, didn’t seem to fit. My understanding of muditā is in line with what you’ve written and what Sujato wrote and thus appreciative joy feels like a breath of fresh air.

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Hmmm… Mudita. You’re right… Mudita is pretty much overshadowed by its glamorous sister Metta!

More on what Mudita is…

Vb13
And how does a monk dwell with mind accompanied by altruistic joy, suffusing one direction? Just as (he), seeing, may have altruistic joy for a lovely, pleasant person; in the same way he suffuses all beings with altruistic joy.

Therein what is altruistic joy? That which in beings is altruistic joy, act of altruistic joy, state of altruistic joy, altruistic joy that is mental freedom (from jealousy). This is called altruistic joy.

Mudita is the cure to negativity (I didn’t know that! :smiley:), properly developed it leads to release of the heart…

AN6.13
Take another mendicant who says: ‘I’ve developed the heart’s release by rejoicing. I’ve cultivated it, made it my vehicle and my basis, kept it up, consolidated it, and properly implemented it. Yet somehow negativity still occupies my mind.’ They should be told, ‘Not so, venerable! … For it is the heart’s release by rejoicing that is the escape from negativity.’

and here’s a modern day resource by Nyanaponika Thera… I must confess I still have to go through it though! :thinking:

So much work to be done… so little time! :slightly_smiling_face:

Life is running out as days and nights pass.
Strive hard when there is still time.
- Dhammapada

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I’ve worked on and cultivated this recently. It’s not an orthodox way to do it if we take the Vsm to be the standard of orthodoxy but i am quite content with how it works out.

I do it similarly to how i cultivate metta in order to rejoice on the behalf of others and all beings.

I focus on the good deeds & qualities of the past, those in the here & now and those to be inevitably performed & cultivated in the future.

When cultivating metta i wish for all beings to be successful and when cultivating mudita i rejoice in their progression towards the goal.

Ie i will think about the beings in various states and that even the hungry ghosts and beings in hell will inevitably leap onward, having payed their debt they too will be merit-makers, of them currently paying their debt & getting reformed and of them having been merit makers in the past.

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SN 42.13 and its parallel MA 20 (see BDK America for an English translation) gives some instruction.

Excerpt from MA 20:

Again, headman, a learned noble disciple refrains from killing and abandons killing, abandons taking what is not given . . . sexual misconduct . . . false speech . . . (and so on up to) abandons wrong view and attains right view.

During the daytime he instructs people to farm and cultivate the fields and, when evening comes, he rests from this and goes indoors to meditate. When the night is over, at dawn, he thinks:

I refrained from killing and have abandoned killing, I have abandoned taking what is not given . . . sexual misconduct . . . false speech . . . (and so on up to) abandoned wrong view and attained right view.

Then he examines himself:

“I have abandoned the ten unwholesome courses of action, and have been mindful of the ten wholesome courses of action.”

When he sees these ten unwholesome courses of action abandoned within himself and is mindful of the ten wholesome courses of action, joy arises in him; joy having arisen, rapture arises; rapture having arisen, the body becomes calm; the body having become calm,he experiences happiness with the body; the body having experienced happiness, he attains one-pointedness of mind.

Headman, a learned noble disciple who has attained one-pointedness of mind, imbues his mind with empathic joy and dwells [mentally] pervading one direction, likewise the second, the third, and the fourth direction, also the four intermediate directions, above, and below, all around, everywhere. With a mind imbued with empathic joy, free from fetters and resentment, without ill will or quarrel, he dwells pervading the entire world [with a mind that is] boundless, exalted, immeasurable and well cultivated.

Excerpt from SN 42.13:

Joy springs up in them. Being joyful, rapture springs up. When the mind is full of rapture, the body becomes tranquil. When the body is tranquil, they feel bliss. And when blissful, the mind becomes immersed in samādhi. This is that immersion based on understanding of principle. If you gain such mental immersion, you can give up that state of uncertainty.

Then that noble disciple is rid of desire, rid of ill will, unconfused, aware, and mindful. They meditate spreading a heart full of compassion … rejoicing … equanimity to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, they spread a heart full of equanimity to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will.

Some points that spring to my mind:

  • These suttas show the Buddha giving explicit meditation advice to a lay follower.
  • From MA 20, this seems to me like meditation advice to a lay follower “with a job”, e.g. “During the daytime he instructs people to farm and cultivate the fields…” – so this is a person who has to deal with ordinary life during the day.
  • Meditation is causally anchored in the practice of morality.
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I think mudita is likewise related to reflection on one’s own virtue but it’s virtue of all beings that is perceived.

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Mudita, perhaps, is what I felt when reading your description … thanks for making my heart rejoice! :heart:

After all that has been said so far, maybe we can say that mudita is characterized by

  • it’s cause: something good and positive that someone else receives or achieves;
  • a joyful and positive emotional quality;
  • and the result: the heart becomes peaceful and is inclined to Samadhi.
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Not an EBT, but you might find this booklet by Ajahn Amaro helpful :slightly_smiling_face:

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Thank you for the link, Venerable @Khemarato.bhikkhu!

@Nessie - I found your description of dogs playing wonderful. Thank you. :heart:

The one teacher I’ve heard talk about mudita used the example of the feeling that arises when we watch children or animals playing joyfully. :heart:

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@cdpatton What would your translation of muditā from MA 20 be?

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喜 just means feeling good, glad, happy, pleased about something. The translators are offering a technical interpretation by adding “empathic” to the term.

Like @sujato, I prefer to keep my ideas and later technical definitions out of the translation and just translate the Chinese for the four as kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity.

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That’s quite illuminating in itself. @sujato said rejoicing, an accurate rendering without an extra connotation.

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I’ve edited / re-worded my response here - sorry… I just felt it needed better clarity of expression, and have tied myself in knots :rofl: :joy: :rofl: It is such a complex and inter-related topic :slight_smile:

There is a variety of different ways/perspectives to look at these things.

  • give/send/extend/radiate metta to all beings
  • see, acknowledge and understand, and experience (deepest empathy) the suffering of others (karuna).
  • see, acknowledge and understand, and experience (deepest empathy) the joy of others (Mudita)
  • understand, and remain/abide ‘peaceful/un-agitated’ in the face of all emotional movements (Upekha)

Depending on a range of things, one will be able to access the different levels from simply seeing and acknowledging, through to co-experiencing.

Furthermore, I find that Mudita and Karuna, (and even more so Upekha), has a direct relationship with Self/identity view.
A self centred perspective limits the degree to which one can co-experience the joy and pleasure of other beings, and may limit it to the lower levels. EG it is easier to feel the joy in the pleasure a dog takes, (or someone that doesn’t impact on sense of sense), as opposed to feeling Mudita for a rival at work who got the promotion ahead of you. The less the sense of self, the less constraint in accessing the joy here.

Great topic for contemplation! :smiley: :dharmawheel:

Note - these observations come from practice - I have no idea if they are stated anywhere in written form…

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Now I understand. Now the question is. Not everyone seems recommended in Nettippakarana to have to practice it. It seems we need a Bhikkhu that can recognize if we need it. But Learnings of our temperaments. Although we know how we are. But it seems the Trainings in these can still bother the path if for example the training in two brahmavihara that doesn’t go good with each for your type of person.

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Thank you! That’s a really intriguing insight.

I’ve always thought in terms of Mudita, Karuna, and Metta being externally focused, generating positive feelings towards people’s joy and good fortune (Mudita), towards people’s suffering (Karuna), and towards people in general (Metta). And I’ve seen Upekha as the odd one out by not focusing on positive feelings towards others, but on an internal non-reactive acceptance of whatever comes.

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:slight_smile:
I’d just like to add, that one of the things that seems to get forgotten in discussions about meditation is that it is a means to an end. I’ve found having an attitude of exploration of the deeper states of mind to make all the difference.

Then the focus isn’t on attaining specific pre-defined states, but on understanding and penetrating the whole of mind. As one goes deeper, this is when the amazing things happen :smiley:

So whether the characterisation I gave above is “correct” or not doesn’t matter - what is important is the process of exploration, and what one finds on the way :smiley:

If one is just focused on measuring what one experiences against prescriptive texts this gets lost and even, in my opinion, hindered! :slight_smile: And this is why I prefer the Buddhas suttas, to anything else… Here it is clear that the purpose of meditation is to ‘crack’ the shell of conditional view (dispell delusion)… And there is so much fun to be had!!!

Added: Care needs to be taken not to keep adding more layers of conditioned view, by having such ‘faith’ in the views of others, that it just obscures the Buddhas message of putting things into practice and seeing for oneself… I often think that too many books/texts/articles/opinions etc etc etc just make it into a super-shell that becomes almost impossible to crack

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It’s true. It’s like science experiments. I think that’s the way actually to atleast learn about the teachings and have same attitude as the bodhisatta did. Figuring everything by himself. Being your own Refuge. :pray:t4:

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Exactly!
I’d say that we need to have faith in Buddha’s words and try to understand them, but the most important thing is to check everything out by ourself.
And don’t get lost in all those details, translations and other small things, but remember were all of this should lead - real insight and final cessation😊

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First I want to say “thank you” for so many and nice comments, especially that real nice compliment of Sabbamitta :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:
From Viveka’s post I like the term “co-experience”

which is a very straight formulation of what my feeling, and intention in this discussion, has been.

However, the question is really, what the Buddha meant with “mudita”, and whether that sort of deep joy, which is reflected and resonated by several friends here, is really meant in the texts and tradition.
Of all, what I’ve seen so far, the texts seem to not to support this interpretation of the term “mudita” - I now see essentially two situation-descriptions:

  • the joy one can have, when they reflect their achievements on the path (for instance Eric’s mention of MA20 , but as well in the palikanon.com -text.
  • the joy a mendicant feels in a company of other mendicants which stay in harmony and “create a field of loving kindness”, so to say… which I understand here rather as a simple, deep feeling “without word” - perhaps best described in A.III.96 (the three assemblies) and or in the sutta about the three bhikkhus living together in harmony and whom the Buddha has visited one day, than a joyful reflection on what one has achieved (but I recall that report of the Buddha’s awakening, when part of the process has been, that he had reflected, whether, and that, he had indeed realized the conditions for the full awakening, liberations by selfinspection: because I’ve lived the 8-fold path, I can trust myself that this awakening is the true and full one (or so). We can see the “achieve”-aspect here in a much more elaborated and deeper way, and so it as well might be a/the core of the emotion/mood “mudita”).

The second description resonates in me much stronger than that which arises, “when I see” that I’ve abandoned such unwholesome things (but still a deep joy, sometimes…).

Draft conclusion: I don’t -as yet- see something in the texts so far which is remotely like what I’ve described about the joy induced by some resonance from one deeply joyful sentient being to that one which gets in resonance with it - which is nothing primarily about achieved things, but rather, as Viveka so well introduced it: “co-experience”.
At the moment I thus tend to accept, that my deep and elementary impulse (and which many of here appreciate) might not be meant/included/covered with/by that concept of “mudita” in the texts.

But let’s see, perhaps we’ll find something more… :slight_smile:

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Does the definition you are looking for stem more from the commentaries? In the section on Mudita in the Visuddhimagga (Chapter 9, 84 - 87) there is this passage (this is the translation by Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli, which translates Mudita as Gladness):

Or on seeing or hearing about a dear person being happy, cheerful and glad, gladness can be aroused thus: “This being is indeed glad. How good, how excellent!” For this is what is referred to in the Vibhaṅga: “And how does a bhikkhu dwell pervading one direction with his heart endued with gladness? Just as he would be glad on seeing a dear and beloved person, so he pervades all beings with gladness”

Note: As a newbie to the study of the EBTs, going beyond the EBTs and tooling about the Visuddhimagga is way beyond my pay grade. :wink: Please feel free to correct if I’ve totally misunderstood. :heart:

Link to PDF of full translation here:
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/PathofPurification2011.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwjp2vbgvcHqAhUjGzQIHYNuCJMQFjAAegQIAhAB&usg=AOvVaw0INO1pOgc6cWSiwWm1jfe8