Our Wellspring of Appreciative Joy (Mudita: The Third of the Four Brahma Viharas)
The word “Mudita" is taken from the Sanskrit and Pali and it means appreciative - sympathetic or immeasurable joy. Interestingly, the word Mudita has no exact counterpart in the English language. It is important to note that Mudita or what I prefer to call Appreciative Joy is one of the Four Immeasurable’s or Brahma Viharas. I prefer the term “Appreciative Joy” because I feel it best describes the essence of joy which innately arises within us as a result of employing a consistent meditation practice. It has been proven over thousands of years by thousands of meditation practitioners that appreciative joy naturally manifests within an awakened mind and it makes perfect sense that it would. Appreciation for the precious gift of human life naturally grows as one increasingly becomes more aware of their life’s true meaning, purpose and many blessings. It is vital to remember that increased awareness is what meditation practice is all about. Consequently, as our awareness grows, our joy grows, and our hearts freely open so that the very notion of ill will toward others dissolves. When we feel a sense of joy for others, it is called Mudita; the opposite word for Mudita in Pali is envy. In Buddhism our Mudita or pure sense of joy is unadulterated by egocentrism or self-interest. As we gradually become conscious of the immeasurable quality of joy within, we also ascertain a healthy desire to extend our joy to all beings and all life around us.
Through the practice of meditation we learn how to live in the present moment which stimulates greater awareness, thus greater appreciation for the details of our life, and greater joy in appreciation for all that we have been blessed with in this life. Just as our other immeasurable qualities of loving kindness and compassion can be consciously awakened, we can also awaken to our innate wellspring of joy. This is a joy of consciousness that is not dependent on any specific outward conditions, but is deeply connected to our way of choosing to see ourselves and the world around us. It is an energized joy of consciousness that keeps us connected to our basic inner sense of what is positive and good in this life. As we foster a deeper appreciation for these positive qualities within ourselves, we come to see them more clearly in others. It would only make sense than that the person who actively cultivates any of the immeasurable qualities in their own life, would consequently begin to dissolve any negative feelings they have toward those around them. The Persian mystic poet Rumi sums up this concept nicely for us when he advises, “When you go to a garden, do you look at thorns or flowers. Spend more time with roses and jasmine”. Accordingly, as we cultivate our own inner garden, our sense of appreciative joy will by nature blossom and flourish, moving us to see the good in others because it keeps us connected to the basic goodness we all share. It is through that connection that our inherent sense of joy increases in and of its own volition.