76 Writing Your Own Namtar - Empathetic Joy

12 May 2016

Following the classical sequence of the four immeasurables, Alan today turns to empathetic joy or mudita. He explains that the near enemy of compassion is grief and despair or, expressed in a modern term, depression. During the cultivation of compassion, we attend to a great extent to the evil things in the world. Especially for us, living in the 21th century, the exposure through the media to the myriad manifestations and sources of suffering can be overwhelming. Among many other reasons, this can be a reason too, to fall into depression. If we are dwelling in grief and hopelessness, without being able to help ourselves, we are useless to the world.

The natural antidote to the near enemy of compassion is empathetic joy. This is not a superficial look on the bright side of things, but rather balancing out deep insight into suffering with a vision and insight. The Dalai Lama demonstrated this when he was asked about his cheerfulness despite the immense suffering of his people. He answered that it comes from his insight into emptiness. Until we achieve this realization of emptiness, we can use empathetic joy to balance out the depression and despair.

Alan reminds us about the importance of being certain about the object of meditation. When cultivating compassion, we attend to sentient beings who are subject to suffering. In the meditation of Mudita we are taking delight in virtue.

This includes our own virtues too. Especially in the modern world we find very little encouragement to attend to and rejoice in our own virtues, because this can easily be conflated with pride, arrogance and vanity. In this light, it is even more important to focus on the things that bring meaning to our own life, like the cultivation of compassion and virtue. Cultivation of virtue is the only hope for the world in the face of all the mental afflictions that are destroying our civilization and disintegrating the whole planet.

In the search of the virtue that we have brought to the world, we must not overlook the virtue that comes from turning inward like going on retreats and transforming our minds.

The meditation is about empathetic joy.

After the meditation Alan reminds us of the quote from Stephen Hawking and Thomas Hertog about the universe not having one absolute history. Similarly, our own history can be seen in many different ways, especially if we consider the small amount of data points, i.e. exact memories we have of our own past. If we only concentrate on the crappy things of our own history, we easily get depressed. It’s like eating dirt. Thus writers of biographies try to concentrate on the important fact of a person’s life in an objective manner. In contrast to that, Tibetans write namtars, (total liberation) which are spiritual biographies to inspire others to reach liberation. Here a famous example is the life story of Milarepa, which also includes the evil part of his life, but then focuses on his liberation from the bad deeds and transformation into a yogi.

Considering the multiple version of our own history, Alan encourages us to write our own namtar. This can also include the times when we “screwed up” during our life and how we transformed.

Finally, Alan recommends for the time between sessions to attend to the kindness of others and taking delight in it. This can change our world. “Have the antenna up all day”.

Meditation starts at 15:50


Please contribute to make these, and future podcasts freely available.

Download (MP3 / 27 MB)

Transcript

This lecture does not have a text transcript. Please contact us if you’d like to volunteer to assist our transcription team.

Discussion

Ask questions about this lecture on the Buddhism Stack Exchange or the Students of Alan Wallace Facebook Group. Please include this lecture’s URL when you post.