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Mudita: Exchanging Joy

There were two behaviors of my Dad that took me sometime to understand.

First, he always dressed his plate before he ate. He might rotate the plate as a start, butter his bread, and then cut what needed to be cut, and separate what needed to be separated. With one last look at the dressed plate, he would begin to eat. Then, after every meal he would always thank the tenzo.

Second, he had a difficult time with Christmas. Somewhat bittersweet, he would be emotional sometime crying while smiling. When asked what he wanted for Christmas his usually answer was a pair of black soxs. The behavior of opening a present was very similar to dressing his plate in reverse. He would cradle the present, look at the name of the giver look at that person and say I sure hope these are black soxs. Turning the package around several times, and sometimes shaking it, he would gently begin the unwrapping ceremony, which seemed to take hours. Upon seeing the gift he would usually simile and's just what I wanted.

Growing up on a farm in Maine during the Great Depression with six brothers and sisters, took its toll on what one had to eat and what gifts were given and received. Giving and receiving is necessary to survive and can become mechanical in times of plenty. Giving and receiving from the heart unfolds wonder. This awe is the seed of joy. That is, when one happens it co-arises with the other. There is a third behavior I noticed during opening of presents. He looked closer at our reactions than at the presents. Our unfolding joy was/is the real gift to the giver. Reciperical joy bounced around the room.

The Sanskrit word for joy is mudita and is often bundled as one of the four responses to off-set greed, hate, and delusion that are aspects of dukkha or suffering. These four immeasurables off-sets are compassion, loving-kindness, joy, and equanimity. I've posted a brief essay on Facebook by Amanda Gilbert that explores the unfolding and reciprocal nature of joy:

It is now evident why mudita is such an important characteristic to be cultivated. When we can view the success of others with the same equanimity, and to the same extent, as we would extend metta and karuna — loving-kindness and compassion — to those who suffer grief and distress, sadness and tribulation, sorrow and mourning, then we are beginning to exercise mudita, and are in the process of eradicating greed and craving. Developed still further, we can reach the stage of sharing with others their joy of possession, their financial or social successes, their elevation to positions of civic or national importance, or their receipt of titles and honorifics. In such a manner mudita is counteractive to conceits of all kinds, and its growth and development checks craving's grip.

Joy is all around us requiring Right View to see and Right Effort to share. Small things enable great joy. Experiencing the smile of a baby or young child enlightens the Universe. So my teaching tonight, is go forth and find joy, then share it... this is the mirror for the backward facing step!

106 Bows,


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