Blog article

On the Brahma Vihara of Muditā


Muditā is a state of being characterised by appreciative and authentic selfless joy. It embodies feelings of genuine joy for the welfare, well-being, happiness and contentment of others. It includes true gladness and heartfelt appreciation for the successes of another in terms of their practice, Path, health, peacefulness and Refuge. Muditā encompasses a deep and smiling happiness for their intentions, actions and efforts to be healthy and well and find love, understanding, meaning and Refuge in their lives.

When in the mind-heart state of Muditā, thoughts and feelings of jealousy, envy, conceit, and resentment are absent and non-arising. The desire for one’s own happiness is not at the forefront of one’s mind. This appreciation is selfless, not bound to or limited by one’s ideas or measures of success, importance or contentment. Truly, Muditā is experienced free of self-referencing.

Muditā unequivocally contributes to personal well-being. You can see this directly through appreciation and joy for the other, such as when finding happiness in the efforts and successes of a young person in friendships, relationships, livelihood, acquiring new skills and developing their natural talents. The joy of this appreciation nourishes mutually, whether knowingly or intuitively, and fills each person who experiences it with a calming and stabilising energy, filled with the joy of shared Refuge.

Muditā is experienced as warm and light, conveying respect and admiration for another. It evokes and carries a sense of being filled with gentle wonder, delight and regard. As a teacher, witnessing the power of mindfulness to transform someone’s life brings a heartfelt, joyful smile and a tear of happiness, along with deep appreciation for the Path of practice. The experience lights up and lightens their heart. Muditā also encompasses the sincere wish for others to find joy in their everyday lives and endeavours that align with the ethics and virtues of mindfulness.

To truly appreciate others and find joy in humanity, we must not deny ourselves the experiences of the joy of being nor chase and overindulge in them. The practice of Muditā requires discovery and awareness of meaningful respect, value, worth and appreciation for our unique being, the collective of humanity, and the living, breathing body of the World and life. Once we have direct experiential access to this insight, we can nurture and cultivate it, increasingly seeing its presence in the World. Muditā is a complex, nuanced, multi-faceted divine state, blending subtle relational aspects into a boundless sphere of warm-hearted joy. It is fully inclusive, embracing all life free of bias. Through the development of mindfulness, our hearts become more open, available and receptive to recognising and experiencing the beauty that emerges through understanding suffering, fostering joy within ourselves and expanding to embrace each other, humankind, and our place within the body of life.

Appreciation for the natural World often comes easily to many people. Involve feelings of gratitude and experiencing a sense of selfless love and joy for a tree, flowers, birdsong, forests, oceans or whales caring for their young calves. We find the same joy in the beauty of their various forms, their place in the world ecology, their grace, power, ease, and the efforts made for their protection and Refuge. These experiences and thoughts can bring a mix of human emotions to the surface, from happiness and hope to helplessness, vulnerability, and more. Through mindfulness, we can healthily embrace and understand the rich tapestry of emotions, developing our compassionate nature and revealing deeper states of appreciation, gratitude and selfless joy of others. Discovering and extending this same joy to humans is also warranted in the same way. In understanding their suffering, we find our way to appreciative joy for all beings. It is not achieved through condemning, excessively criticising, harshly judging or forming moral superiorities. We can practice Muditā as selfless and inclusive, not meaning devoid of or in denial of oneself, but rather not fixated on self-referenced orientations or formed by expectations of reciprocation or rooted in personal moralities. Muditā is born of mindfulness, awareness and understanding of suffering, affection for life, skilful engagement with experiences and conditions, and motivation for love and understanding. In turn, within and without, Muditā is nourished by these.

The teaching of Muditā encourages us to find appreciation and joy in the most ordinary, everyday things, done in a general manner, leaving specifics until the feel of Muditā becomes familiar within. In this way, the profound nature and mystery which is the Dhamma, the vast dynamic matrix of this exquisite existence, is revealed. We move towards specifics as self-governing mindfulness is sufficiently established and maintainable. To find happiness and joy in and for another is a precious gift, and allowing this joy to be experienced within one’s being is equally the same of gifts. Muditā is a potent remedy, awakening us to the gentle beauty and alive and vital energy of the world system, reconnecting the isolated heart back with the World and finding peace and Refuge through knowledge of the joys within life. Through the state of Muditā, we can further acknowledge the struggle inherent in human life and demonstrate our understanding of what it is to be a living, breathing aspect of nature. With regards to general practice, we begin by looking for the opportunities to be present in the naturally arising moments of appreciative joy available in this life. We allow ourselves to experience, feel and respond with sincere appreciation for others’ happiness and well-being. Please seek teacher guidance on formal and specific practice techniques and meditations.

Take time to contemplate this teaching in formal meditative and informal post-meditative practice. In others, look for their expressions of selfless joy and be nourished and inspired by the feel and possibilities. Find appreciation and enjoyment in the well-being of others and the development of their mindfulness, understanding and love of the good qualities of their being.

By Genyen – Ian Hackett

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