This is Post 21 in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series. Summaries of the other articles in this series can be found by clicking here.
As previously, when reflecting on the brahmavihāras, I feel a need to emphasise that muditā, which is often translated as Sympathetic Joy, but better translated as Appreciative Joy, is not merely a mental state, but an attitude of Consciousness, and a way of being that gives expression to a quality of the universal Consciousness as we relate to the practicalities and specifics of human life. While we need to acknowledge that it is a cosmic attitude, it is also an attitude that individual people will often embody in rich personal ways even if they are not choosing to adopt the practice of resting as Consciousness. Muditā involves being in this physical world in way that is informed by, and supported by, the healing, evolutionary, and compassionate energy of our transpersonal source – so if we express this consciously it is extremely powerful source of blessing and creativity.
Muditā can perhaps be better understood by contrasting it with its egoic counterpart, which is the ordinary egoic Sensation function, which Buddhist tradition speaks of in terms of the vedanā skandha. Through meditative self-inquiry we come to recognise that we habitually and unconsciously bring multiple assumptions to the experience of Sensation and the experience of being in a physical body – assumptions that we come to recognise as untrue. Foremost among these incorrect assumptions, is the way we take the physical body to be absolute evidence of our ultimate separateness. This sense of separateness, and the ways in which we live with it, or seek to overcome it, is fundamental to, and characteristic of, the experience of being human. Buddhist tradition speaks of this habitual perception of separateness and the associated preoccupation with ‘looking after number one’ in terms of the klesha of māna, which is usually translated as ‘pride’, and sometimes as ‘conceit’.
The Human Realm – Separateness healed by Appreciative Joy
Of the Buddha’s Six Realms, which I have talked about briefly in a previous post (here), the realm associated with the Southern Quadrant of the mandala, is the Human Realm. This Human Realm, in which we find ourselves, occupies an archetypal position in the mandala of egoic styles, and can be regarded as the egoic counterpart, and polar opposite, of Appreciative Joy. The Human Realm is regarded, in Buddhist tradition, as a very special and fortuitous place to be reborn, but it is also the realm associated of the egoic Sensation function, and has particular problems for us, and a particular style of egoic unconsciousness, which we need to explore and become familiar with. Continue reading