At our group sit tonight, someone posed the question of how to open the heart towards difficult people with wishes for their success and good fortune. Mudita is the brahmavihara practice of sympathetic or appreciative joy. (For a definition of mudita, see my post 92 – Appreciative Joy.)
Mudita is about not begrudging or envying the good fortune of others. It is considered the most difficult of the heavenly abodes to practice and the key is to examine our mind states when we do so. Is envy present? Judgment, as in questioning whether the person deserves their good fortune? We are truly practicing mudita when there is no hint of grasping after someone else’s accomplishments. We truly practice mudita when we are able to experience happiness or joy for someone else at the same time we may be experiencing sadness or tragedy in our own life.
So what about extending wishes for a difficult person’s continued happiness, joy and success? It is best to practice mudita with people that we know who have real achievements that we are aware of, rather than abstract examples. It is not wisdom to wish success to those whose accomplishments are hurtful or sadistic; however, we can practice compassion (karuna) towards them instead. Some part of a cruel or unwise person craves happiness just as we do. Blinded by their own suffering and ignorance, they commit unspeakable acts against others–we do not condone or approve of their actions but we can connect in a compassionate way with their suffering.