Mudita stands for joy, empathetic joy, rejoicing in the happiness of “others”. Om Swamiji often refers to gratitude as the mother of happiness. Mudita is an emotion that is beyond gratitude.
Think of the people who are having a good time, and good fortune and see and feel how great it is. Their happiness becomes your happiness. By thinking of them, by reflecting on them, their happiness becomes your happiness. Mudita, then also acts as an antidote to jealousy.
I heard this from a teacher, “Mudita is the lazy person’s way to enlightenment.” This is because all you have to do is to rejoice in the happiness which other person has.
Practicing Mudita helps in increasing your feeling of oneness with the universe. It also increases compassion and kindness in us.
The universal oneness is the state one reaches after Samadhi or being self-realised/enlightened. We have learnt that we can inculcate compassion, gratitude, kindness with practice, and thus it follows we can also inculcate the feeling of oneness with all.
It can also help as an antidote of jealousy and make us more compassionate, and less about ourselves/me-me/ego all the time.
Let us learn the practice of Mudita with the help of a few real-life examples:
- Your child’s classmate did very well in a recent exam or excelled in a sports event
- Your friend or relative bought his new car, or a new house, and posted on FB/Instagram about it
- You are in an IT services company, and you were supposed to go onsite for that assignment to the USA, but instead of you, your friend got to go first
Close your eyes, and take a few breathes, and let us be calm and more centered.
Now think about the classmate who has done well and think how happy you feel with his happiness. Or about the new car or house that your friend has bought and you are enjoying it. If this is proving to be hard, then imagine you are like his father, mother, of that child and imagine how happy you would feel, if they excelled. Or that the car/house is as if being owned by you yourself, and your friend is not different from you. Feel the oneness with all and feel the joy.
What’s even better is that you are rejoicing in the happiness with your friend/relative, without the extra overhead and worry that comes with any purchase of the new object, or with fear of will my child continue to perform!
For each of these scenario, you can practice for about 1 minute in silence and rejoice the happiness to absorb the virtue.
Short story about a beggar
A beggar is sitting with a bowl. In the bowl are a few coins and a sign that reads, “Please spare change”. That means, if you have any coins in your pocket, please give it to me, please spare change.
On another road, in the same city, is another man sitting on the ground. He also has a bowl, few coins in it, and a board that says, “If you need, please take”. If you need, please take —can we even call him a beggar? One would have to call him a king. He has got so little and even then he is saying, “If you need, please take”.
This is the abundance mindset, an example of Mudita, and we realize having this feeling doesn’t depend on how much we have.
Mudita is one of the Brahma Viharas in Buddhism. The Brahma Viharas in Buddhism stand of the sublime attitudes or virtues that make us like Brahma. The four brahma viharas are
a) Maitri (Loving Kindness),
b) Karuna (Compassion),
c) Mudita (Empathetic Joy),
d) Upekkha (Equanimity).
The same four virtues are part of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras (1.33), which is the central text in Raja Yoga, and Ashtanga Yoga, and based on Samkhya Yoga, and this is before Gautam Buddha’s time. Sage Kapila is considered the founder of Samkhya school.
In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says (10.26), among the sages, I am the sage Kapila.
It’s in not surprising because Gautam Buddha initially went to learn from Alara Kalama, who was the specialist in Samkhya philosophy.
Let us examine the verse from Patanjali Yoga Sutra
मैत्री-करुणामुदितोपेक्षाणां सुख-दुःखपुण्यापुण्य-विषयाणां भावनातश्चित्तप्रसादनम् ॥३३॥
Maitri Karuna Muditopesanam sukha dukkha punyapunya visayanam bhavanataschitta prasadanam.
The purification or pacification of the mind can be brought about by cultivation of
a) Maitri — Friendship or Loving Kindness,
b) Karuna — Compassion,
c) Mudita — Empathetic joy, and
d) Upekkha — Equanimity
We must have these four sorts of ideas. We must have friendship for all; we must be merciful towards those that are in misery; when people are happy, we ought to be happy; and to the wicked we must be indifferent. So with all subjects that come before us. If the subject is a good one, we shall feel friendly towards it; if the subject of thought is one that is miserable, we must be merciful towards it. If it is good, we must be glad; if it is evil, we must be indifferent. These attitudes of the mind towards the different subjects that come before it will make the mind peaceful.
Most of our difficulties in our daily lives come from being unable to hold our minds in this way. For instance, if a man does evil to us, instantly we want to react evil, and every reaction of evil shows that we are not able to hold the mind down; it comes out in waves towards the object, and we lose our power. Every reaction in the form of hatred or evil is so much loss to the mind; and every evil thought or deed of hatred, or any thought of reaction, if it is controlled, will be laid in our favour.
Om Swamiji has covered few of these attitudes in his article on Four Aspects of Parenting, which you can read here. I have seen Om Swamiji in the state of Mudita and compassion many times. He is so happy when any of us do well and excel, and if you have interacted him at that time, you know what I mean.
Mudita is an abundance mindset. As it is said, an ounce of practice is worth thousand pounds of theory. So go ahead and try the Mudita meditation for a few minutes and rejoice in the happiness of “non-self” to realise the self.
1. Practicing Mudita – Real Life Stories – Soundcloud recording of Nithya Shanti ji’s session
2. Four Aspects of Parenting, blog post by Om Swami ji
3. Patanjali Yoga Sutra, Commentary and Meanings by Swami Vivekananda