When asked what important concepts I’ve learned in my 10+ year Dharma journey thus far, two that stand out are: metta and mudita.
In short, here is why:
- These definitive Pali words have no singular equal in English.
- They remove the burden of one’s ego involvement in the practice.
- These concepts connect all beings in a positive non-clinging way.
The Pali word metta is defined in English by http://www.accesstoinsight.org as:
“loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship, amity, concord, inoffensiveness and non-violence. The Pali commentators define metta as the strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others (parahita-parasukha-kamana). Essentially metta is an altruistic attitude of love and friendliness as distinguished from mere amiability based on self-interest “.
What is important to note in the practice of metta is that of non-clinging. This non-clinging quality is the antidote for eliminating personal expectations – when you want your kindness and love to be reciprocated. Metta is unconditional love for all sentient beings; its inherent nature is that of non-clinging.
How does one know they are practicing metta correctly? In my experience, it can be an emotional and physical feeling. There is immense relaxation in the body and a warm energy that flows up and down my spine when I’m really in the metta zone. Sometimes this can lead to a physical shudder, which then feels like a minor reboot to my spinal column as the energy spreads throughout my body. This physiological reaction is then accompanied with feelings of warmth and kindness for all beings.
Additionally, this intense experience is not dwelled upon or craved for, as letting go of it completely is what finishes the cycle of a successful metta experience. All one has to do is simply be patient and wait for another opportunity for metta to appear.
This process will be different for everyone and what I’ve shared is only my limited experience. The purpose for sharing it here is to provide a personal perspective to encourage you to experience the transformative effects of metta for yourselves.
Your experience may be entirely different and that is excellent. Finding your own way with a language and method to describe and repeat your own process is the ultimate goal. Always be mindful and aware of your “point of view” with this practice.
I find it very comforting that there is a way to extend “loving-kindness” to anyone or anything you encounter in this world and at the same time not be burdened in any way by the act. Can you picture an entire world of metta practitioners?
The concept of mudita is an excellent companion to metta because in my opinion it is a more personalized extension of the metta ethic. Here is why:
The viture of mudita as defined by http://www.accesstoinsight.org : “Finding joy in the happiness and success of others…. . While compassion (karuna [karu.naa]) is, or should be, the inspiration for it, unselfish joy should be its boon companion. Mudita will prevent compassionate action from being marred by a condescending and patronizing attitude which often repels or hurts the recipient. Also, when active compassion and unselfish joy go together, it will be less likely that works of service turn into dead routine performed indifferently. Indifference, listlessness, boredom (all nuances of the Pali term arati) are said to be the ‘distant enemies’ of mudita. They can be vanquished by an alliance of compassion and unselfish joy.”
Once again, the important addition to this definition is to be without any clinging or judgment from one’s own ego. When practicing mudita, you are free to simply “find joy in the joy of others” without attachment.
This is particularly useful for counteracting envy and jealousy. To explain, I will share a personal experience.
Every evening I walk my dog in a particular area in the West End of Vancouver. When I arrive at a certain crossroad there is a nice view of a building overlooking Stanley Park that has an amazing 5,000 sq. ft. penthouse at the top. I know this penthouse is amazing because recently it was for sale and the realtor posted over 20 detailed photos of the property for prospective buyers to see. The list price was $10 million dollars.
On the days when I am without mudita, when I see the penthouse, I feel negative, tense and heavy because I don’t live there and reflect on how I probably never will. On the days when I am practicing mudita, when I see the penthouse, I feel a sense of joy, relaxation and lightness because someone lives there and gets to enjoy the view and luxury of such a magnificent residence.
I’m walking the same route, with the same dog, in the same way, yet the experience is completely different. This is what the practice is all about for me. Incorporating wholesome thoughts, speech, actions and habits to build good and virtuous character will lead to a meaningful life.
By intentionally being aware of your own conscious activity and practicing metta and mudita, you can minimize your own personal suffering and work towards incrementally adding more joy into your life. When you have completely eliminated all of your suffering, you are a Buddha.