For a few more weeks this blog will include teachings about the four immeasurables. We have been exploring what teachers from various traditions say about these fundamental heart-opening practices. We invite you to catch up on lovingkindness and compassion in the previous weeks here. And please comment below and let us know how these practices resonate with you.
The third of the Four Immeasurables is Sympathetic Joy, or “mudita” (Sanskrit). Sharon Salzberg teaches: “The quality of sympathetic joy is being able to actually rejoice, to take happiness, to be delighted in the happiness of others. It’s not just giddiness and being excited for no reason, it’s based on being able to take this kind of delight when we see that someone else is doing well, that they’re successful, or that they’re having good fortune, that they’re happy.”
In an article called “Wishing Well” that was originally published in O Magazine, Sharon explains how to use meditation and compassion to build our ability to feel sympathetic joy. Envy will only make you feel sad and isolated. But, as an alternative, you can sit and practice sympathetic joy. We can silently offer up intentions such as “May your happiness and good fortune not diminish. May they increase further and further.” In this way, one can “learn to rejoice in the good fortune of others and your own happiness multiplies.”
She ends the article with some simple math from H.H. the Dalai Lama – he said that there are so many people in this world, it simply makes sense to make their happiness a source of our own. Then our chances of experiencing joy “are enhanced six billion to one,” he says. “Those are very good odds.”