With the impending Presidential election it’s become an onslaught of one-upmanship, with no concession that one or the other might actually be right or have something to offer. It’s an endless battle of my ego versus yours, my opinions versus yours, my brilliance versus your stupidity.
Which is a great example of how not to be happy. Being selfless brings far greater happiness than selfishness, giving is truly getting, and joy in other people’s good fortune is really where it’s at.
In Buddhism there’s a term known as mudita, aka sympathetic joy or deep gladness. This is a special kind of joy seen in our delight at someone else’s good fortune, or when another’s happiness makes us feel happy.
Now, in truth, feeling joyful for another’s good fortune sounds very easy. But someone else’s joy may be at the expense of our own—they got the job and we didn’t. Can we still be happy for them? Or another’s joy may make us feel less than, unworthy, unattractive. Can we actually be glad for another person’s good fortune when we are jealous of them?
How often do we really wish someone to not succeed, as their success simply highlights our own sense of failure? Judgment feeds the ego: we judge people who think differently or look different to us; we compare ourselves to those who have more or less than we do, feeding our unworthiness.
Mudita encourages us to look at these places that are wrapped up in ego, such as jealousy, envy, judgment and comparison. We get to see how jealousy doesn’t get us anywhere other than into further pain and suffering, as it takes us out of the present and we get lost in the future, in the ‘what if’.
But feeling envious of another’s success or beauty is looking at the superficial conditions of life, not the deeper reality of our essential interconnection. Mudita asks that we let go of jealousy and judgment by seeing the other as ourselves, seeing the interconnectedness between all beings.
This means letting go of fixed patterns of thinking so we can genuinely wish happiness and joy for others. We actually want them to be happy! We want them to be free from suffering! Our happiness and their happiness are no different so we experience a deep gladness when they are happy.
A meditation practice we love is:
Focus on a person you may be having difficulty with, someone you may be in competition with, or envious or jealous of. Picture them and hold them in your heart as you repeat: May they be well! May they be happy! May all things go well for them!