Mudita, a Pali and Sanskrit word, has no precise counterpart in English. The third Brahma Vihara, it is variously translated as sympathetic, altruistic or unselfish joy, finding joy in the good fortune of others, or pure joy unadulterated by self interest. HH the Dalai Lama observed that if we cultivate mudita, “our chances for happiness multiply by 7 billion!” Yet mudita is perhaps the least discussed and practiced Brahma Vihara. Is it that difficult?
The opposites of mudita are jealousy, envy or schadenfreude, (a German word that means taking pleasure in the misfortune of others), negative emotions marked by selfishness and malice. We may tend to emphasize our negative impulses over our positive tendencies. Yet, we can activate and develop our positive potential. “If it were impossible to cultivate the Good, I would not tell you to do so,” said the Buddha. Methodically cultivated, the seed of mudita will flower into other virtues, as a kind of beneficial “chain reaction”: generosity (emotional and material), friendliness, and compassion; and many tendencies that lead to suffering such as jealousy and envy, ill will, cold-heartedness, and miserliness (also in one’s concern for others), will naturally die or lessen.
Mudita is an antidote to indifference and boredom. The joyful heart gains more easily the serenity of a concentrated mind: “… thus the [disciple] continues to pervade [the whole world] with a heart of unselfish joy, abundant, grown great, measureless, without hostility or ill-will.” It is a calm mental state open to deep insight, an important prerequisite for enlightenment. Does that inspire your curiosity?