In June one ‘Buddhist talk’ in The Conscious Club was on mudita, altruistic joy, one of the four Brahmaviharas (literally meaning ‘divine abode’, just like metta, compassion and equanimity).
First, let me explain about ‘mana’ and the common disease of comparing ourselves to others. Mana is a Buddhist term meaning arrogance or pride.
Naturally, we prefer to imagine ourselves better than others. Our mind knows how to interpret things in such a way that it makes us look good.Our thoughts are continuously creating some self-image, some idea of who and what we are. But because nothing in us is static, this self-image is falling short all the time. A lot of thought-effort goes into adapting the picture. (Very tiring.)
This self-image is subsequently compared to the image we have of others: we consider ourselves superior, inferior or equal. Whatever our assessment, with all of this we have to live in constant anxiety, a sense of competition and separation.
Moojibaba sometimes ironically remarks: ‘Comparing the best in yourself with the worst in others.’
When we ourselves are making mistakes, we can find numerous excuses for it. Basically, it wasn’t our fault, really… But when someone else is making an error, we are quick to judge and even feel justified to reject them entirely.
Let’s say for example, a colleague never cleans up after themselves, and you are deeply annoyed; probably you yourself also have some bad habit in another area. Still you will say: ‘What an idiot, I could never behave that way!’ Thus a sense of superiority arises, and with it separation, distance, tension.
If only we could place ourselves in the other’s shoes, we wouldn’t judge so harshly. A mildness would most likely arise.
This limited perspective also happens, by the way, when you enter the traffic. As a pedestrian I am annoyed by the wild bikers in town, as a pedestrian I am getting tired of those slow pedestrians. In the car I feel impatient with the bikers and the other car drivers, and so on. My own position is always the benchmark.
Of course, it can be the other way around as well, when it feels like we’re failing all the time. Or when we can’t forgive ourselves. Just for once you snap at someone and you keep feeling guilty! Cringing every time you blame yourself: ‘How could I ever be so rude?’ If it were someone else, you might forgive much more easily.
Too many judgments and thoughts!Start by noticing how all of this feels. The heart is contracting, we feel tense and suspicious. Sometimes there may be pride, and ego is content, but still we can’t relax nor feel connected. This is what comparison does! It makes the world into a very unsafe place.
Now here is the way out: stop comparing. Stop judging. Don’t try to be perfect. Don’t try to be anyone at all. Just be quiet and open in the moment. You are much bigger than all of this, like endless space.
Mudita is enjoying the success of others. Instead of feeling jealous when your friend just got this amazing new home, just be completely happy! Without this private thought ‘Yeah, but why not me?’ Simply enjoying their happiness and luck. What freedom.
With mudita-meditation you focus on this joy by wishing everyone well, wishing their success will stay with them, will increase even. You don’t feed the envious little voice. Paradoxically, this will make you feel happy yourself instantly, because your heart is warm and open.
In essence we are never separate. We are together living this life that is one big whole. When a bush is blooming beautifully, are you jealous? No, of course not, you just admire it. The bush is leading it’s own life and has now become part of yours.
In just the same way, also enjoy it when a fellow human being is blossoming in their life. This empathy is in fact our most natural state. No self-worries come in between.
You may wonder: ‘But isn’t this exactly what the social media are enforcing all the time? To compare and brag?’ If so, you might want to pay attention to what feels pure when using social media, and what makes you feel competitive and separate.
When do you feel relaxed, warm and connected? Mudita-practice can help you here.
The beauty of practicing together is that all outer appearances become irrelevant. We share our inner experience, discuss things openly that are universal and essential, and through meditation we finally enter a higher place in ourselves, beyond all worldly definitions. Pure being.