‘Let people have joy in each others’ joy’
~ Pacific Zen dedication
We all know our lesser angels’ feeling of schadenfreude, taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others. As we practice, however, we increasingly feel the very opposite of that. I was pleasantly surprised that a Buddhist term, mudita, is sometimes cited as the antonym of ‘damage joy.’, which is the German translation.
Several weeks ago a friend put up the following on a PZI chat group: “So I have been hanging out with the ‘one’ koan and last night we’re just doing our thing getting my son ready for bed. He is in his pajamas and has his night time pull-up on initially. He goes into the restroom and comes out. We go to get him in bed and he suddenly realized that he took off his fresh pull-up thinking it was morning and threw it in the trash. He finds this incredibly funny and I start cracking up too. He decides he has to go tell mommy and I’m sitting on the floor in his room leaning on his bed and out of the blue comes ‘There’s another way through.’ The situation was it. It was everything. It wasn’t set in opposition to anything. It was full and pure.”
His story allowed me to relive a small experience I myself had a couple of years ago and had all but forgotten. I was on PZI Talk and sent in a silly response to a cartoon of a man standing on the beach with a TV wand aimed at the waves, writing something like: ‘You can change the wave any time you want’. As I hit send, something in me sort of shook loose. I grabbed my cat and started rough housing with her, becoming lost in the play with an utterly delicious sense of freedom, laughing and crying like a lunatic. Then it was gone.
Until a couple of weeks ago, when I was allowed to have joy in another’s joy.