Saturday, January 05, 2008

Mudita and the Pursuit of Happiness

This past week I met a buddhist writer and the founder of a meditation center, named James Baraz. We talked casually about writing with all the distractions from modern technology and he encouraged me to come to a talk he was giving at the NY Insight Center about "Awakening Joy" a course that he teaches at Berkley. Though I've always been hugely curious about Buddhist practices the new agey title of the seminar made me feel a little wary. I decided to go on a whim, he was standing there gazing at me expectantly with his hippie mustache, how really could I have said no.

I took a few notes while I was there but the idea that captured me the most was Mudita- the buddihist word for rejoicing in another's happiness. The wiki definition is finding pleasure in another person's well-being. It is supposed to be the most difficult of the brahmaviharas (buddhist virtues) to cultivate which I've find generally true in my dealings with people. We, selfishly, may be less happy if for instance, whatever makes someone dear to us joyful simultaneously takes them away from us or if someone does well while we experience misfortune, but Mudita encourages people to connect with a sympathetic sense of joy We meditated on the principal. I think it was my favorite part of the whole experience.

The whole thing strikes me as a bit over the top, but it was moving and cheesy and kind of great. I'm quite glad I met Mr. Baraz and look forward to keeping a regular correspondence with him.

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At 10:19 PM, Blogger dqerwin said...

if I can find happiness in the fact that you are joyful, and you have the same capacity, we will both die in a feedback loop, like putting two kilogram slices of plutonium right next to each other and just waiting for them to melt down.
Don't forget that God, in all her infinite wisdom, made us broken and spiteful and depressed - just how we love each other.
: )


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