Mushim’s Buddhist Word for the Day is Mudita, Sympathetic Joy

Mushim’s Buddhist Word for the Day is Mudita, Sympathetic Joy June 30, 2021


One of the people I consistently follow on Facebook is Mushim Patricia Ikeda. She’s a teacher with East Bay Meditation Center and just an all around interesting and wonderful human.

One of the things she does on her Facebook page is list “a Buddhist word of the day.” Today she posted “mudita.” Which, interestingly, my spell check wants to make “nudity.” But, it is mudita from both the Pali and Sanskrit and literally means, if I understand correctly, “joy.”

Mudita is specifically that feeling of pleasure we can experience from someone else’s well being. It’s sometimes rendered as “sympathetic joy.”

Personally, I love Mushim’s personal definition for mudita as “cheering when the other team wins.”

It is both naturally arising, and it is something that can be cultivated.

As an example of natural arising, I find myself thinking of when we lived in Rhode Island.

In those days the Boston Red Sox had their AAA farm team in Pawtucket. They were called the Paw Sox.

They met in McCoy Stadium, which I’d guess was three quarters the size of a major league stadium. And that kind of marked the experience, right at the edge of the big leagues, but just a bit looser. The tickets were fifteen bucks or less and everything was built around a family experience. It is the baseball that I think of when I think of “America’s pastime.”

As regards mudita, I find myself thinking of a game between the Paw Sox and the Toledo Mud Hens, the AAA farm team for the Detroit Tigers.

The Paw Sox player hit a ball way out into left field. The Mud Hen player had to leap in the air and twist mid flight in order to catch the ball. For a moment it seemed like he was floating in the air. It was magical.,

And as his feet touched the ground, the park, filled with Red Sox fans erupted into cheers at the sheer beauty of the catch. And then midway remembered this was an opposition player and shifted into half hearted boos. Totally halfhearted boos.

Their natural response was joy in the beautiy of it all, pleasure in the wonderful moment of another. Mudita.

And in a moment they recalled, oh, right, teams, us and them, and, with that the boos.

This sense of joy in another is something deeply human. One article I read about mudita noted how the feeling is beautifully expressed in the Christian scriptures, in Paul’s letter to the Romans (12:15), “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”

Hearts touching, marks of the intimate. And. As natural as natural can be.

And, we lose that experience. Or, can. I find it near incomprehensible that in a game between the Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers played at the Green Monster, where a Tiger player catches a ball hit into left field by a Red Sox player, ever, ever pulling cheers out of the Red Sox fans. Higher stakes. Well. In people’s minds.

But combativeness, and grudging anything that accrues to someone seen as the other, is also as natural as natural can be.

So, on the Buddha way, on the intimate way, we are encouraged to cultivate our naturally recurring mudita.

Practice, as in preparing, and practice as in doing.

Practice as growing into who we are and who we can be.

As natural as can be…

Here’s one nice article on the practice. If you prefer videos, here’s one.

Try it. You might like it…


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