2020-12-25 Brahmavihāras: Appreciative Joy (5 of 5)
5:16PM Dec 25, 2020
rose colored glasses
So then now we come now to the fifth and final talk on muditā. I like to call it rejoicing or 'rejoicement,' sympathetic joy, or appreciative joy. And with all these Brahmavihāras, with all these four divine abodes of loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. I think it's very useful, important to see them as an expression or as a manifestation, or as a consequence of inner freedom.
And that, depending an inner freedom is a metaphor for that is an open heart, the doors of the heart are open. If there's a lock on the door, then the heart is not open. And in some ways that protects us. From the sufferings of others. These difficulties of the world - we don't take it in, we keep everything away. But it's at a tremendous cost. Because any, any ways in which the doors of the heart are locked, it also locks it from our capacity for joy and happiness, for love and kindness.
And if those doors can be wide open, what we discover is that, Yes, we will take in and experience the suffering of the world. But it'll just flow right through, almost as if what the, what the heart is, it's just a door. And to have that door, right wide open, everything goes through, and in a wonderful way. And we do experience suffering of the world more acutely. But with a door open, it doesn't have to, we don't suffer because of it. We're not a victim of that. What's happening in the world, but we do experience it.
But the very ability to experience the suffering of the world more is, is the very way of being that allows us to experience joy and happiness more, that it's just a symptom of the open door. And, and so with an open door wide, and we experience suffering there, we can have compassion. But if we experience the joys of the world, we can feel joy and delight. So in Buddhism, this is very important. Because in Buddhism, our natural capacity for being ethical, being virtuous, living a good life, is very much connected to our capacity to be happy.
The more happy we are, in this deep dharmic way, deeper appreciate, you know, a deep way that is not because we won the lottery. But because we're really settled and at home and not in conflict with ourselves. That the more we have this inner happiness, the more natural it is to live an ethical life, to live a life that's wholesome and supportive for the world. So rather than thinking of cultivating happiness, and wellbeing, to be a selfish thing or thing to do, it's really a vehicle in Buddhism, for living a selfless life, for living a life that's beneficial for the world, that supportive for others.
And so, cultivating happiness here for oneself, can be seen as a part of the path to living for the welfare and happiness of others. It's also the path for greater and greater freedom. And so muditā is seen as a practice of that's freeing. And so it frees us from being having envy, frees us from having a closed heart, from envy from being jealous. There's a certain kind of freedom from fear that comes with sympathetic joy, with appreciative joy.
Because this ability to live with an open heart, you know, is a heart that is not closed in any way. It's not closing down, not locking itself up, in the way that envy, jealousy, fear, discontent, might feel. And so this movement towards freedom. As we develop this more and more, this sympathetic joy, something keeps opening in us.
Joy is an opening. It's like the oil on the hinges of the door perhaps. It just keeps opening. And it's more and more freeing. And this is important because in Buddhism, freedom is the reference point for how we live our lives. It's a reference point for how we keep growing and developing, for how we expand. We're expanding freedom, we're out to further and further dimensions of the heart, the mind, the body, how we live. But we have to have some feel - real feeling for what is like in the heart, or the mind, or the inner life, for there to be freedom - for there to be an absence of clinging, an absence of contraction.
And to begin getting that feeling, getting that sense of knowing what it is and experientially knowing for oneself, "This is what it is." At first, it might be like a door opens a little bit. But now we know that the door can be opened. We didn't even know it was a door before because it always closed. And then we start seeing, "Oh, this is a door; it's open. Let's see what we can do to open it more and more and more."
And the Brahmavihāras are all ways that we can keep opening. And so with sympathetic joy, appreciative joy, 'rejoicement' that, to do it in a way, not blindly, not naively, not sentimentally, but do it maturely and powerfully as a way to greater and greater freedom. And the more inner freedom we have, the more will rejoice. The more will delight and appreciate what should be appreciated. And the more we delight and appreciate which can be appreciated, then the more will be come free. This wonderful reciprocity, or mutuality of these two movements.
And so to go through a day, and appreciate - not because it's a duty, or an obligation, not because we have to kind of be sentimental, or be kind of make them have rose colored glasses on. Not at all. But there turns out there's a lot to appreciate. Without the rose colored glasses. It's just a lots of things.
And we can appreciate that it's a new morning for those that are it's it's morning. We can appreciate the fact that we have electricity for those of us who have electricity. We can appreciate the fact we have candles when there's no electricity.
One of the in the collection of year here and photographs we gather together to give to a relative, there's a picture of my younger son doing his homework in candlelight. It's such a beautiful picture and delightful picture to see. He's, you know, I don't know just by probably half a dozen a dozen candles around him. And he's working on his on his homework and the power outages that have happened.
And things are more delightful and 'appreciatable' than we many, many times give ourselves credit for. And can you appreciate others? The other people really thrive and appreciation? Appreciate them realistically. But in doing so, can you become freer?
And when you don't appreciate, when you're grumpy or critical of others? Can you recognize as mindfulness practitioners, can you recognize how you are not free? What is closed in you? What is the movement? What is more towards contraction, in being closed into opening and expansion?
As muditā becomes stronger and stronger, the freedom of muditā is expressed or discovered in what's called, "breaking down the barriers." And this is barriers are the ways in which we have walls between ourselves and other people. So if we have someone is our enemy, we might have big walls, but to break down the walls, so we can be able to appreciate them as well.
Not to deny they're difficult, not to condone how they are, or be naive about how to take care of ourselves with them. But everyone is more than just the ways they're difficult.
And so to break down the barriers is to have this broad, open ability to love, to experience with muditā to experience joy, appreciation for everyone that you encounter. And there's no limits. There's no barriers between one category of people and another. You don't just appreciate your family or your friends. You appreciate the people who are neutral in your life, the people you pass on the streets and just vaguely know. You appreciate the people who are difficult in your life.
And in classic Buddhist language, you find some sympathetic joy and appreciation, even for your enemies. And now, they're still called your enemies for good reason, perhaps because you have to be careful around them, but still, to open up. And it's such a good thing to do. And what you probably will find is that some of the difficult people in your life, some of your enemies, some people who there's hostility with - sometimes their hostility lessens. When we are no longer hostile, we're not we're alone, no longer defensive, but we actually can open our hearts and appreciate other people as well.
So this movement towards freedom, breaking down the barriers, and having an open door to the whole world. And this is the direction of Buddhist practice to greater and greater freedom. And as we become fully free, we become a force of love and kindness and goodwill for the world. And what a great thing to do, especially on this day, 25th of December. Joy to the world!
To become, to bring that joy, to be the bringer of joy to the world, to be inspired, to really be a force of good and joy, for the welfare and happiness of all.
And I want to finally paraphrase a passage that I think I've read recently that when a person becomes free, liberated, emancipated, and comes to the destruction of suffering, the end of their own suffering – this person then, naturally, without intending it even, creates love and respect, conduces to social cohesion, to non-dispute, to concord, and to unity.
May our capacity for appreciation and joy in that joy of others - may it be for concord, for unity, for social cohesion, for respect and for love. And may that be how we go forward into this coming year. Thank you all.