Gratitude and reverence… culturally, they may sound like different ideas… but it’s all mettā right?
The Buddha spent the last year of his life touring India and all the communities that he had taught and visited throughout his 45 years.
And he reiterated the 37 Bodhipakkhiya and said, “Now carry these on into the future.”
Now, gratitude wasn’t one of them. Mudita was.
Talking about gratitude doesn’t work in a vacuum. It makes sense as a reference point; gratitude involves the giving of something. So not everybody is going to be able to immediately access it from their current experience. Now a hermit, who’s off in the woods, might access gratitude to their teacher, gratitude to their parent. They might not have an “immediate thing”. But for the person who is encountering the Buddhist teachings for the first time, gratitude is a beautiful state. But it might be harder to tease that out then simple, say, friendliness. Like don’t hate your neighbors, that’s suffering. Hate is suffering.
Mudita, the bhramaviharas , sort of melt together in some ways. Each one of them can be taken to a very exclusive point. You’ll find that, as they arise, you’re getting kind of a feeling of each one of them the moment you’re getting past the greed and hatred and delusion.
Mudita is talked about in terms of “it’s what happens when jealousy is not present,” or that it’s the antidote to jealousy.
Would you say it’s the same thing as gratitude? I would say “maybe”. Maybe a tiny bit different. This is from my personal practice– Mudita feels a bit more impersonal
A bit more often, when Mudita is arising, it is just so delightful to see the good thing the person is doing or enjoying that I kind of forget about myself and it’s just all about what’s happening at that moment. Whereas friendliness is often both people there in the scenario.
And we talk about developing metta- by starting with yourself and working with the people you really care about- your benefactor and so forth. I would think Mudita you don’t even need to start with yourself. You could. You definitely could, you could look at all the times you’ve had joy and just allow yourself to experience joy. But if that’s a bizarre notion, then just look at a kid. Watch some kid playing with toys and you remember what joy is… and it will kind of work out. So it’s not directly gratitude. Just any kind of joy can start with a spark of Mudita.
- Tahn Pamutto, 11/22/23