Meditation practice doesn’t save all its pleasure for the end.
You can enjoy it now.
Click for PDF | Joy_Of_Meditation_PartOne
When explaining meditation, the Buddha often drew analogies with the skills of artists, carpenters, musicians, archers, and cooks. Finding the right level of effort, he said, is like a musician’s tuning of a lute. Reading the mind’s needs in the moment—to be gladdened, steadied, or inspired—is like a palace cook’s ability to read and please the tastes of a prince.
Collectively, these analogies make an important point: Meditation is a skill, and mastering it should be enjoyable in the same way mastering any other rewarding skill can be. The Buddha said as much to his son, Rahula: “When you see that you’ve acted, spoken, or thought in a skillful way—conducive to happiness while causing no harm to yourself or others—take joy in that fact and keep on training.”
Of course, saying that meditation should be enjoyable doesn’t mean that it will always be easy or pleasant. Every meditator knows that it requires serious discipline to sit with long, unpleasant stretches and untangle all the mind’s difficult issues. But if you can approach difficulties with the enthusiasm with which an artist approaches challenges in her work, the discipline becomes enjoyable. Problems are solved through your own ingenuity, and the mind is energized for even greater challenges.
This joyful attitude is a useful antidote to the more pessimistic attitudes that people often bring to meditation, which tend to fall into two extremes. On the one hand, there’s the belief that meditation is a series of dull and dreary exercises, allowing no room for imagination and inquiry: simply grit your teeth, and at the end of the long haul your mind will be processed into an awakened state. On the other hand, there’s the belief that effort is counterproductive to happiness, so meditation should involve no exertion at all: simply accept things as they are—it’s foolish to demand that they get any better—and relax into the moment.
While it’s true that both repetition and relaxation can bring results in meditation, when either is pursued to the exclusion of the other, it leads to a dead end. If, however, you can integrate them both into the greater skill of learning how to apply whatever level of effort the practice requires at any given moment, they can take you far. This greater skill requires strong powers of mindfulness, concentration, and discernment, and if you stick with it, it can lead you all the way to the Buddha’s ultimate aim in teaching meditation: nirvana, a totally unconditioned happiness, free from the constraints of space and time.
That’s an inspiring aim, but it requires work. And the key to maintaining your inspiration in the day-to-day work of meditation practice is to approach it as play—a happy opportunity to master practical skills, to raise questions, experiment, and explore. This is precisely how the Buddha himself taught meditation. Instead of formulating a cut-and-dried method, he first trained his students in the personal qualities—such as honesty and patience—needed to make trustworthy observations. Only after this training did he teach meditation techniques, and even then he didn’t spell everything out. He raised questions and suggested areas for exploration in the hope that his questions would capture his students’ imagination, so they’d develop discernment and gain insights on their own.
We can see this in the way the Buddha taught Rahula how to meditate. He started with the issue of patience. Meditate, he said, so that your mind is like the earth. Disgusting things get thrown on the earth, but the earth isn’t horrified by them. When you make your mind like the earth, neither agreeable nor disagreeable sensory impressions will take charge of it.
Now, the Buddha wasn’t telling Rahula to become a passive clod of dirt. He was teaching Rahula to be grounded, to develop his powers of endurance, so that he’d be able to observe both pleasant and painful events in his body and mind without becoming engrossed in the pleasure or blown away by the pain. This is what patience does. It helps you sit with things until you understand them well enough to respond to them skillfully.
To develop honesty in meditation, the Buddha taught Rahula a further exercise. Look at the inconstancy of events in body and mind, he said, so that you don’t develop a sense of “I am” around them. Here the Buddha was building on a lesson he had taught Rahula when the boy was seven years old. Learn to look at your actions, he had said, before you do them, while you’re doing them, and after they’re done. If you see that you’ve acted unskillfully and caused harm, resolve not to repeat the mistake. Then talk it over with someone you respect.
In these lessons, the Buddha was training Rahula to be honest with himself and with others. And the key to this honesty is to treat your actions as experiments. Then, if you see the results aren’t good, you’re free to change your ways.
This attitude is essential for developing honesty in your meditation as well. If you regard everything—good or bad—that arises in the meditation as a sign of the sort of person you are, it will be hard to observe anything honestly at all. If an unskillful intention arises, you’re likely either to come down on yourself as a miserable meditator or to smother the intention under a cloak of denial. If a skillful intention arises, you’re likely to become proud and complacent, reading it as a sign of your innate good nature. As a result, you never get to see whether these intentions are actually as skillful as they seemed at first glance.
To avoid these pitfalls, you can learn to see events simply as events and not as signs of your innate Buddha-ness or badness. Then you can observe these events honestly, to see where they come from and where they lead. Honesty, together with patience, puts you in a better position to use the techniques of meditation to explore your own mind.
Click here for Printable PDF of this Post: Shared_Joy_Mar20_201
Four Divine Abodes:
Joy or Mudita, Compassion or Karuna , Loving-Kindness or Metta, Equanimity or Upekka
(Mudita: gladness at other’s good fortune, or empathetic joy)
– C.F. Knight
A feature of the Buddha’s teachings is recognition of the pairs of opposites to get beyond them. The Buddha’s method of mental training and development was to first define unwholesome or unskillful thoughts, words, and deeds, or practices which characterize many of one’s habits, and then to show the opposites of wholesome or skillful nature as an achievement to be sought after for the abolition of them both, eventually, when even the good must be left behind as well as the evil; when even the Raft of Dhamma Teachings is to be abandoned — after crossing the flood of samsara. The Buddha’s method of expounding the negative and the positive, the passive, and the dynamic aspects of behavior, in both abstract and concrete terms, is to create awareness of what is to be abandone and what is to be sought after and nurtured.
The basic ignorance pointed out by the Buddha is not so much a rejection of the truth, but a failure to perceive truth. It is, as it were, a “blind spot” in our perception akin to the weakened section of the brain or the nervous system which results in limited understanding. In other words, the depth of our ignorance may be measured by our lack of consciousness of it.
This is why it is so necessary that we should see and recognize our ignorance if we are to eradicate it. It is also important that we should be mindful of “the good that has arisen,” and to foster and develop it to the point of wholeness. To realize our ignorance is the beginning of wisdom — the first light to shine on the darkness of our obscured view. While we are blissfully unaware of unwholesome states of mind within ourselves, such states will continue to flourish, and their roots will dig deeper into our very being. Just so too, in our relationships with our fellow men, the unperceived evils will be repeated unconsciously and unrecognized, building up a cumulative unhappy future for us under the retributive causal law of karma.
As with all wholesome states, these four desirable characteristics are the antidotes to the poisons of their opposite unwholesome states. Less has been said or written of mudita than of the other three of these four characteristic. While loving-kindness and compassion are objective, reaching out to all sentient beings, mudita and equanimity are subjective, or personal in their application.
How is Joy an antidote to other unwholesome stats?
We never tire of asserting the interdependence of every aspect of the Buddha’s teachings. We have already stated that ignorance is a failure of perception, and it is true that greed and hatred do arise through the lack of understanding of their source and lack of understanding of their results; that craving born of ignorance is the culprit, and the purpose of the Bhudda’s teachings is to eliminate craving. It is craving that gives rise to jealousy, envy, covetousness, avarice, and greed in all of its manifestations. Here mudita, when practiced and developed, becomes a “sublime” and “boundless” state of mind to be “dwelt in” as a corrective characteristic—one has taken fuel away from the unwholesome, by turning one’s intentions and attention instead to the wholesome state of gladness.
One of the most frequently used similes by the Buddha was that of fire. At times it was the destructive quality of fire that was likened to the destructive nature of the ignorance. At other times it was the ardent nature of fire that was to be emulated in the pursuance of the path of liberation. In its uncontrolled existence fire is a destructive danger. When fire is understood it can be one of our greatest boons and blessings.
The three roots of evil — greed, hatred, and delusion — are also known as “the three fires.” On one occasion the Buddha and his band of monks were staying on Gaya Head, a mountain near the city of Gaya. From their elevated position they watched one of the great fires that from time to time ravaged the countryside. This inspired what is known as “The Fire Sermon,” which is the third recorded discourse delivered by the Buddha subsequent to his Enlightenment, and at the beginning of his long ministry. To the Buddha, the world of ignorance was like the flaming plains below, “Everything is burning,” said the Buddha, “burning with the fire of greed, with the fired of hatred, with the fire of delusion.” (Vin. 21)
It is these three fires that give rise to jealousy, envy, covetousness, and avarice. The craving for possessions, the craving for sense pleasures, the begrudged success of others, the hatred that is begotten by the gains of others, the odious comparison of greater status compared with our humble circumstances, these are the “fires” that burn endlessly, causing suffering, if unattended..
It is now evident why gladness is such an important characteristic to be cultivated. When we view the success of others with the gladness—in the same way we would offer compassion and loving-kindness to those who suffer grief and distress, sadness and tribulation, sorrow and mourning—then we are experiencing empathetic joy, and are eradicating our own greed and craving. Developed still further, we can reach the stage of sharing with others their joy of possession, their financial or social successes, their elevation to positions of civic or national importance, or their receipt of titles and honorifics. In such a manner joy is an antidote to conceits of all kinds, and its growth and development removes craving’s grip and our own suffering.
Finding Joy in the Joy of Others: How to Cultivate It
– Patrick Zeis
Before we explore four ways that you can begin practicing Mudita in daily life, two words of caution should be mention. First, when practicing Mudita, it is important to remember to not celebrate the material acquisitions or possession another receives, rather only the feelings of joy they experience. Because external objects, social status, and financial wealth are impermanent in nature, it is vital that we do not attach ourselves to their obtainment. Secondly, it is also important to express Mudita with internal equanimity and avoid over-exuberance, as this signals a deprivation from moments of happiness. Now, let’s look at four ways we can practice Mudita in our daily lives:
1. Using intention and attention to develop Mudita: One of the best strategies that we can use to develop and cultivate any personal quality is through the power of intention and attention. After deciding that the practice of Mudita is something we want to start utilizing, we can take five to ten minutes each day to focus on the benefits others and ourselves will obtain from our practice. Similarly, we can use this time to focus on the negatives that come from living with envy, hatred, and resentment.
2. Cultivating Mudita while using social media: Social media websites and Apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are oftentimes used by individuals who want to celebrate the good things happening in their lives. Over the past decade, scientific research has shown how individuals often experience feelings of jealousy when seeing or reading about the good fortune of others. We can use social media to first become aware of the feelings that arise when others post or tweet about their success and/or happiness. If we have negative or envious feelings, we can consciously make the effort to replace them with feeling of joy.
3. Practicing Mudita in everyday encounters: There are particular times throughout each of our lives when we see individuals living expressively happy. Due to cultural conditioning and society’s overtly negative outlook on life, it is easy to get annoyed when individuals openly express joy. We may judgmentally ask ourselves, ‘Why are these people so happy?’ before giving them a look of scorn. If we are able to consciously be aware of our resentful reactions to others who exhibit happiness in our everyday encounters, we can begin to purposefully replace our negative feelings with Mudita.
4. Cultivating Mudita in meditation: There are a number of Buddhist meditation practices that focus directly on the cultivation of Mudita. One such practice tells us to cultivate Mudita inside of ourselves and visualize a number of people we can send positive feelings towards. In sequential order, we may want to send feelings of Mudita towards an affectionate friend, a successful benefactor, a neutral person, and a person we dislike, before sending it towards all beings. Moreover, we can use a number of mantra based sayings after we sent joyful feelings towards one individual and once again when we have completed the practice. For example, you may want to say: I’m happy that you’re happy. May your happiness continue. May your happiness increase. May your good fortune shine.