Mudita: fruits of unselfish joy | Daily News

Mudita: fruits of unselfish joy

A feature of the Buddha-Dhamma is cognizance of the pairs of opposites in the training to get beyond them. The Buddha’s method of mental training and development was to teach by first defining unwholesome or unskillful thoughts, words, and deeds, or practices which characterize many of man’s proclivities, and then to propound their opposites of a wholesome or skillful nature as an achievement to be sought after for the abolition of them both, eventually, when even the good must be left behind as well as the evil; when even the Raft of Dhamma is to be abandoned — after crossing the flood of samsara.

The trouble with so many of the unwise is their desire to abandon the Raft of Dhamma before reaching the further shore. The Buddha’s method of expounding the negative and the positive, the passive, and the dynamic aspects of behavior, in both abstract and concrete terms, is obviously to create awareness of what is to be sought after and nurtured.

The basic ignorance featured in Buddhism is not so much a rejection of the truth as it is a failure to perceive it. It is, as it were, a “blind spot” in our perception akin to the physical damage of a section of the brain or the nervous system which results in impaired vision or locomotion. In other words, the depth of our ignorance may be measured by our lack of consciousness of it.

Point of perfection

This is why it is so necessary that we should see and recognize our failings and shortcomings if we are to eradicate them. It is also important that we should be mindful of “the good that has arisen,” and to foster and develop it to the point of perfection. To realize our imperfections is the beginning of wisdom — the first light to shine on the darkness of our ignorance. While we are blissfully unaware of unwholesome states of mind within ourselves, such states will continue to flourish, and their roots will dig deeper into our very being. Just so too, in our relationships with our fellow men, the unperceived evils will be repeated unconsciously and unrecognized, building up a cumulative unhappy future for us under the retributive causal law of karma.

In dealing with mudita or altruistic joy, we are once more to some extent frustrated with the inadequacy of translations for “brahma-vihara” or “appamañña” [appama~n~na] — the former as “sublime or divine abode,” and the latter as “boundless state.” To reduce either of these terms to modern idiom is difficult. The four characteristics grouped under these terms are: loving-kindness, compassion, altruistic joy, and equanimity, extended to universal application. In their perfection they are “sublime” and “boundless,” and to be “dwelt in” as one speaks of “dwelling in Peace,” so we will leave it at that.

As with all perfections, these four desirable characteristics are the antidotes to the poisons of their opposite imperfections, and here is where the recognition of their opposites is apposite. Less has been said or written of mudita than of the other three of these four characteristics, perhaps, again, because of its somewhat clumsy translation. While loving-kindness and compassion are objective, reaching out to all sentient beings, mudita and equanimity are subjective, or personal in their application.

It may seem strange at first, until we critically examine the source, to speak of either selfish or unselfish joy. Joy is an emotional ecstasy arising from pleasure. It is something intensely personal. While we can and do share our pleasures to some extent with others, the resultant impact of them on various personalities will vary as widely as the personalities. At times what may give rise to rapturous joy in us, when shared, may give rise to positive aversion in another.

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