Buddhist meditation on joy

Updated On — 28th May, 2021

In these past few posts we have been looking at the practice of the Four Immeasurables – Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity, also known as the Four Divine Abodes. Essentially these are four wholesome emotions that we intentionally develop and cultivate.

In the last four posts we practiced two of these emotions together — Love and Compassion — in progressive meditations starting with ourselves, moving on to neutral persons, then to persons we may dislike and finally extending love and compassion to all beings everywhere.

Today we start a meditation sequence in this similar progressive way, but we will concentrate on cultivating Joy and Equanimity separately, starting with Joy. We work through the meditations in the same way, starting with ourselves and ending on rejoicing in the joy of all beings everywhere.

What Makes Joy an Immeasurable Meditation?

This is what makes each of these four practices an “immeasurable practice” — by developing these four qualities and feeling them for all beings everywhere, we begin to genuinely radiate these spiritual qualities ourselves, and since we use all beings everywhere are our focus, these feelings become immeasurable, as sentient beings are numberless and immeasurable.

One of the key take-aways from this practice, even if you only read about it –  we see with sincere practice that we do not have to create joy, as if somehow we mediate “strongly” enough and poof, we make joy, like rubbing two meditation sticks together.

Joy Is Already There, Just Waiting For Us

We see unerringly that joy is an innate quality already within us, however hidden it initially appear to be. We also just may discover that it is hiding in plain sight, as if it didn’t learn the game of hide and seek very well as a child. As innocent babies we possessed some innocent, natural joy.  For the fortunate folks, at this point in our lives we may be able to get in touch with our natural joy, but only at times, and maybe only if the right circumstances are in place.

Meditation practice shows us very clearly, as our natural state becomes revealed, that we are joy. Our true nature is radiant joy. While so-called advanced meditation practices allow us a direct glimpse of our unconditioned Buddha Nature, and thereby allowing us to discover the Four Immeasurables as already present in our true nature, these meditation practices work to help us progressively develop this awareness of joy from a different angle — the angle of reflective practices that we have been doing in this yearly series of meditations.

These are how these specific practices of the Seven Points of Mind Training and the Meditation on the Four Immeasurables work, they help us live the Bodhisattva ideals and aspirations and discover them as already present full and complete just as we are – through direct access meditation practice and the reflections that are like prayer and spiritual rejoicing practiced in other religions with deep contemplative traditions.

The Joy we cultivate in these meditations helps us settle our often frantic mind, touches our hearts, makes us happy, and feel a profound inner well-being.

These simple meditations also help us dissolve the blockages to feeling happy for others – the main focus of the meditations. By doing these reflections on joy we also set in motion ripple effects. As we access these “divine emotions” in ourselves, and then meditate and feel joy in and for others, our meditations cannot but affect everyone we meet.

The Practice of Immeasurable Joy

With the reflective meditative practice of immeasurable joy, we reflect on the good qualities and positive circumstances that we and others enjoy, rejoicing in them and wishing that they deepen and deepen. These reflections especially recognize and rejoice in our own and others’ basic goodness.

This helps us connect with a deep sense of appreciation for all the good qualities we enjoy. These reflections just plain work, as we have seen with the previous practice of Love and Compassion meditation.

And they work I think because, as the Buddha said in one of the original Pali suttas — “Whatever the practitioner frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of their mind.” As we practice we make new and deeper skillful grooves in our mind, which directly counter the logjams of negative repetitive habitual and conditioned thoughts.

Meditation on the Immeasurables makes Skillful Grooves

These skillful grooves become more and more predominant as we act on those thoughts – which are what these meditations do. They are kind of like dress rehearsals. These divine emotions become more and more our default state, and we become more and more loving, joyous, compassionate and profoundly at peace with ourselves and the world.

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About Tom Davidson-Marx

Former Buddhist monk, now father of two and full time registered nurse, my passion is sharing what I have learned from a life-long love, study and practice of the early Buddhist teachings. Thanks for reading.

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