Forest Sangha Newsletter October 2002

Suffering Should Be Welcomed; Luang Por Sumedho
Reading the Heart; Upasika Kee Nanayon
Mudita: Shared Enjoyment; Ajahn Sucitto
Reflections; Ajahn Pannasaro
Mt. Kailash; Luang Por Sumedho
Nourishing our Hearts; Sister Thaniya

Shared Enjoyment
From an on-going collection of articles on meditation by Ajahn Sucitto.

The practice of mudita attunes us to sensing others and ourselves through the reference of joy. It is an acknowledgement of the common happiness that all beings seek, a buoyancy of awareness that occurs at every moment when their presence is sustained rather than afflicted; or whenever an affliction ceases - even temporarily. It is an experience of appreciation that we can lose contact with. This is because the mind is programmed to easily imagining how much better things could be than they are right now... and it takes an effort to imagine how much worse things could be. This is the programming of ambition and craving, and even spiritual matters are affected by it. These forms of desire never appreciate anything, and the resultant mood is arati - negativity and contractedness of heart. Jealousy, cynicism, and more subtly, indifference, can stain our hearts when other people enjoy good fortune. Arati often manifests as an 'inner critic' that whinges and moans about everything and everyone; even in a suppressed form, this sense of being at odds with others embeds us in loneliness. So if one is to experience any degree of contentment, or even appreciation of one's own good fortune, this programming has to change. We do have the ability to receive and empathetically attune to the specific presence of people and things without adding comparisons of self with others, or past with future; this has to be brought to the fore of attention. Then there can be some letting go. As one develops letting go in terms of the tendency to judge in terms of who deserves what, and how things should be, the appreciative joy of mudita arises.

It's not that discriminative comparisons play no part in life. We need to discern whether an action, our own or somebody else's leads to a good result or not. But problems arise when an action or a behaviour is understood to be a person. This 'self-conceit' seriously limits our perception of the range of possibilities that we all carry. It also blocks the potential for change. And as impermanence fades from the picture, the heart hardens into a series of standpoints. Out of that arises the judgemental self. But who has the right to judge how things should be and how fair it all is? And why respond to others' good fortune with negativity?
The skill of a trained awareness can meet the arising without the fear or craving that is at the root of contraction.

Like the other brahmavihara, mudita is to be cultivated 'to others as to myself': this rounds out the practice into a wholeness in which aspects of self-differentiation are put aside. The furtherance of the practice is then to develop insight into that sphere of empathetic joy - attuning to its nature as that which arises dependent on conditions and not a final truth in itself. In this respect it is called one of 'the doors to the Deathless.' (Majjhima 52.)

The cultivation of mudita is said to lead to the 'sphere of unbounded consciousness.' (Samyutta 46:54.) Whereas the flow of experience is holistic, consciousness establishes boundaries on a moment-by-moment basis: i.e. this experience is 'in here', that is 'out there'; this feeling and perception is derived from 'this' sense-base, not 'that' one; 'this' impulse is to be acted upon through 'this' response, not through 'that' one. Although consciousness as it arises establishes boundaries that ascribe location to elements of experience, whatever arises out of consciousness - such as a feeling or a thought - is a non-locational experience. Where is the worry that tints one's world? To whom is it ascribed? In itself it has no 'here' or 'there' (or 'in-between'). However the result of the moment-by-moment arising of consciousness, is the establishment or 'this is me and that is you.' This of course is the normal functional aim of consciousness. Yet there can be a consciousness that lays aside the boundaries; with this, 'in here', 'out there', 'you', 'me', and any location are laid aside.

The point to catch is the arising of consciousness; particularly to be with the kammic drive in that volition. The skill of a trained awareness can meet the arising without the fear or craving that is at the root of contraction. This pleasant and skilful awareness becomes a brahmavihara - an abiding place that does not set up boundaries. The furtherance of the practice is in understanding the volition that sustains even that abiding, and relinquishing attachment to that. (Majjhima 121 presents teachings on 'emptying' the volition that carries the sense of self. Anguttara: 8:, 63 presents an overview of how the brahmavihara practices dovetail in with the cultivation of samatha and vipassana. As in the Buddha's advice to Bahiya (Udana, Ch.1, 8). "Then Bahiya, thus you must train yourself: In the seen there will just be the seen, in the heard there will just be the heard, in the sensed there will just be the sensed, in the cognised there will just be the cognised. Then Bahiya you will have no 'thereby.' You will then have no 'therein.' As you will have no 'therein' it follows you will have no 'here' or 'beyond' or 'midway between.' This itself is the end of suffering".)
While sitting, standing, walking or reclining, establish the base of mudita in oneself:Centre your awareness in your body, being aware of the general form, the central core, and the breathing. Explore the relatedness of all this: the whole body being an interplay between the light flow of breathing and the firm stability of the body mass. Acknowledge the inner space of the body and the outer space around it, with the breathing connecting the two - now reaching out, now reaching in...a sharing sense.

Every few moments a breath comes to be. Every few moments the boundless shared air enters, permeates, saturates the body. Every few moments the body empties its breath into the shared air. Let yourself be held in this interplay.

Finer even than breath, each moment mind comes to be. Thoughts, attention, moods well up and move out into the silence. Each moment, something is received, a sight, sound, touch or intuition. Some with purpose, some without; some with reaction, some with just a faint resonance of awareness. Sense the present vibrancy.

Acknowledge the conscious system that you are, born moment-by-moment out of conscious space. The sense of wonder. The sense of thankfulness. Pass that through the mind and into the silence.

Consider your own body, the parents whose genes establish it, the many life forms that sustain it. Allow your mood to be part of that sustenance by adding the blessing of your appreciation. In doing that attune and enjoy the participation which that sense affords.
Enjoy, with mindful awareness rather than thoughts, your own presence. Attune to the specific uniqueness of how that is right now. Appreciate your presence. Acknowledge any need for boundaries, such as the wish to be private or unnoticed: appreciate that protective function, but check whether now there is a need for defence or fear. Notice how those senses affect your body. If the present space around your body, chest, throat etc. is safe... can the body relax? Work on laying a boundary aside, temporarily. Feel the relief.

Soften the impulse to do or be something special; all that you need right now is here. Allow yourself to feel exposed and keep acknowledging the nourishment that the air is bringing you, the steadiness of the ground beneath and the willing receptivity of the knowing space that wraps around you. Feel the steady support of your own bodily centre.

Enrich this mood with reference to wholesome actions that you have done, or kindly aspirations that you have, or on-going intentions for supporting others. These recollections, which the negative mind obscures, may now be more apparent. Give yourself the full allowance to recollect, sense and get a feeling for them.
. . . o o 0 o o . . .

Practise extending mudita to others:
Recollect an occasion when you felt that your presence was enjoyed by another person. Recall how that felt, return to that feeling, and try to stay within that in the present.

Acknowledge what is coming to be around you. Living beings, alive a moment at a time; everything turned towards its own well-being. Recognize in all of them, the vitality that rises up, the wish to be that is met in their incarnation. Attune to the well-being that the shared air brings. Join in their interest that this well-being not be parted from them.

While staying connected to your own centredness, practise introducing the perception of others. Sense the joy that arises when a person meets again a dear friend, a relative that they had been separated from. Attune to that. Attune to the happiness that occurs when someone attains a goal that they had been working for. Acknowledge that that does not lessen you. Stay connected to the arising of a happiness that you feel they have.

Work through the perceptions of those who one feels are worthy of good fortune, then advantaged, then over-advantaged, then privileged. Stay connected to your own ability to empathise when you bring to mind people who have greater good fortune than yourself. Stay connected to the sense of happiness but let go of whose it is.

Introduce the perceptions of people who are worthy and who have little good fortune, but not much suffering. Attune to their goodness and contentment, then let go of the attribution.

In this conscious space, acknowledge living beings in duress, energising their sensitivity and intelligence to adapt and to bring them to safety and well-being. Appreciate that guiding sense. Remember the happiness that arises when one comes out of trouble and duress into a refuge again. Consider that this as happening any time when the mind lets go of its suffering for a moment.

Introduce the perception of people who experience a lot of suffering. Attune to the simplicity of the relief related to any diminution in that suffering, and the ability for people even in states of deprivation, to bear with that and care for their families or friends. Recognise that the ability to be uncorrupted by suffering is the strongest and most reliable base for happiness.

Bring to mind the dying and passing forth of beings. How their struggle melts and they are received. And how they fare on according to their kamma, not separated from the results of good deeds; nor separated from the possibility of making good kamma.
. . . o o 0 o o . . .

Settle into and contemplate the 'boundless sphere' of mudita:Move from considering any object or person, into the awareness that attunes to the joy of sharing.

Contemplate that sphere, letting the mind take in the boundlessness of that way of conceiving. Acknowledge that dualities of 'you', 'me' and 'how he was', are a play of consciousness. Sense the separateness of beings to be like currents in the wind, that give the wind its manifest qualities.

If this image is meaningful for you, attune to the volition, the 'push of the wind' that holds the phenomenal sphere. What does the arising of things depend upon? Can that condition for arising be released with something like trust?

After an appropriate period of time, return to the interplay of the breath, and allow your sense of yourself to get re-established. Welcome this as you would a friend coming home from a long journey.