Motivation and emotion/Book/2022/Mudita

What is mudita and how can it be developed?


Figure 1ː Commonly seen emotions

Emotions are amazing when they are positive but when they are negative, emotions can possibly cause issues (Proctor, 2017). Positive emotions can be experienced during celebratory events, such as graduation and wedding parties etc. Negative emotions usually occurs during terrible or threatening incidents or having trauma. The field of positive psychology analyses the positive aspect of humans with the aim of promoting well-being and finding methods to assist human to flourish. It tries to make people feel optimistic instead of being pessimistic (Proctor, 2017).

Emotions then beg the question, or the concept of why other human beings are happy for others' achievement or good fortunate but some people are not (Kupfer et al, 2022).

Exploring the idea of why some individual[grammar?] rejoices in the good fortune of others is something that is fascinating to understand. Some people appear to naturally celebrate the good fortune of others, and some tend to fake being happy for others and certain individuals cannot resist hiding being jealous (Kupfer et al, 2022). Therefore, the question of What makes someone happy for another fellow human being and what make others jealous instead of rejoicing in the good fortune of others might be something that mudita will shine a light upon (Nelson-Jones, 2004). This book chapter will be exploring mudita and its application in order to achieve sympathetic joy.

Focus questions:

  1. What is Mudita?
  2. How can we achieve Mudita?

The definition and the origin of muditaEdit

Figure 2ː Temple bouddhiste de Brahma Vihara-Arama

Mudita is considered as a heighten[grammar?] emotional state in Buddhism and the word Mudita comes from Sanskrit and Pali(Nelson-Jones, 2004). Sanskrit is an Indo-Aryan language which is the classical language of India, and Hinduism (Nelson-Jones, 2004). Whereas Pali is middle Indo-Aryan Languages formed from Sanskrit (Nelson-Jones, 2004)[grammar?]. When translated to the English language, Mudita means sympathetic joy or enjoying the good fortunate of others (Nelson-Jones, 2004). In sense, a Buddhist would practise to become or be happy for others through process of Mudita. It is absolute[grammar?] the opposite of jealousy. The practise of mudita focuses on finding joy in the good fortunes of others. Buddhism perceive[grammar?] mudita significantly due to it being part of the four immeasurable Brahma-Vihara.

The four divine abodesEdit

Mudita (Sympathetic joy) is located under the third category of the four divine abode of Brahma-vihara (Nelson-Jones, 2004). Brahma-vihara is a set of four highest emotions which are regarded by Buddhism to be experience[grammar?] through the process of meditation (Nelson-Jones, 2004). Brahma means highest and vihara means to dwell or to live (Keown, 2004). Hence, these four emotions cannot simply be experienced because a person might be limited to sense them in an ordinary state of mind (Nelson-Jones, 2004). To experience these four emotions, a Buddhist would suggest meditating on them to cultivate them.

Below is a table highlighting the four divine abodes

Skt.; Pāli, abode of Brahma. English Translation
maitrī Kindness, benevolence, or goodwill.
karuṇā Compassion, it is well valued in the school of Buddhism.
muditā Sympathetic joy or gladness.
upekṣā Equanimity or impartiality.

A Buddhist would practice these four virtues through mediation to cultivate them. The achievement of Mudita indicates a heighten[grammar?] state of spiritual experience or simply positive emotional state (Nelson-Jones, 2004).


Emotions are fascinating aspect[grammar?] of humans which philosophers have been examining to understand them (Kurth, 2022)[Rewrite to improve clarity]. Currently the field[grammar?] of philosophy, cognitive science and other disciplines of studying are still doing research on the area of emotions (Kurth, 2022). Emotions might appear as a small proportion of human beings but when you start uncovering it, it starts expanding especially when questions around the subject goes beyond the barriers of human beings (Kurth, 2022). For instance, researchers question whether emotions are not limited to humans but do other animal species have them?(Kurth, 2022).

In the study of psychology, emotions are identified as intricate patterns of reaction involving cognition, behavioural and physiological elements (Lench, 2018). Individuals experience emotions through a rise of significant events based on a situation that they are facing ( Rolls, 2015 & Lench, 2018). The experience of emotions can be categorised into three components such as subjective experiences, physiological and behavioural responses (Lench, 2018). When examining emotions particularly in cognition, difference structures of the brain plays a major role (Lench, 2018). When experiencing fear, most psychologists and neuron biologists would immediately refer to the amygdule (Rolls, 2015). The amygdule[spelling?] function at its highest state during terrible situation which a person is encountered by (Rolls, 2015). But generally, the limbic system is responsible for emotional response (Rolls, 2015).

There are various forms of experiencing emotions, an example of this is artwork such as music[grammar?] (Podlipniak, Eerola & Reybouck, 2018). Artist must consist of passion to produce an artwork which some people can become a fan of (Podlipniak, Eerola &Reybouck, 2018)[grammar?]. Usually, fan relates to the artwork through emotional provocation which is triggered by a stimulus (Podlipniak, Eerola &Reybouck, 2018)[grammar?]. With the emotional provocation, this might make a reader who might have a knowledge of psychology studies think about multiple theories of psychology that are relevant depending on the psychological perspective (Porter, 2022). For instance, the work of Ivan Pavlov and B.F.Skinner in conditioning behaviourism (Porter, 2022).

Psychological perspective of muditaEdit

Humanistic psychology does not focus on religion or spirituality but instead it communicates the important[grammar?] of studying a whole person and the uniqueness of everyone (Schneider, Pierson & Bugental, 2015). This perspective of psychology concentrates on existential[grammar?], indicating that people have free will and are motivated to achieve their potential and self-actualisation (Schneider, Pierson & Bugental, 2015). Psychologists such as Abraham Maslow wrote that some humans have unhealthy selfishness and unhealthy unselfishness (Nelson-Jones, 2004). What was portraying is that unhealthy selfishness and immature unselfishness arise from emotional insecurity and poverty (Nelson-Jones, 2004) .

In the contrary[grammar?], healthy selfishness and mature unselfishness indicates phenomenon of personal abundance coming from comparative basic satisfaction Nelson-Jones, 2004). What Maslow was stating was that people who have a healthy respect for one’s own health, growth, freedom, and joy, tend to have a positive influence on themselves and others (Nelson-Jones, 2004). Maslow[grammar?] research is great at describing human conditions instead of suggestive practical procedures such as a what a clinical psychologist or psychological therapist could do to assist a client to become an affectionate human (Nelson-Jones, 2004).

Psychotherapist[grammar?], particularly Western psychotherapy appears to think on improving clients to obtain happier and more fulfilled lives for the betterment of the individual (Nelson-Jones, 2004). One of the reasons is probably since Western societies are very capitalistic in terms of economics, the system might influence people to be very individualistic (Nelson-Jones, 2004). For example, a client and therapist can be in a session without focusing on the aspect of capitalist.

Cognitive humanistic therapyEdit

Cognitive humanistic therapy is the latest approach to psychotherapy and self-development based on the concept of exploring what it means to be fully human (Nelson-Jones, 2004). This type of therapy perceived people as beings who have an innate capacity for goodness, aggressiveness and destructive behaviours (Nelson-Jones, 2004). Therefore, it aims to enable humans to try and develop their minds to actively demonstrate more of their potential for human sympathy (Nelson-Jones, 2004). This means that people can gain skilful psychological state to reach sympathy which then can reflects in their behaviours (Nelson-Jones, 2004).

Promoting and attaining good qualities such as goodwill, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity can potentially be liberating and can create positive connection with others (Nelson-Jones, 2004). Clients can be trained and become free from negative and aversive things by contributing to their emotions which have been alienated and separated from their fellow humans (Nelson-Jones, 2004). For instance, his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, the Late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams in 2016 produced The Book of Joy which educate the readers on creating lasting happiness in a changing world. The Dalai Lama and Bishop both shared and told personal and spiritual stories regarding how they maintain a joyous state regardless of any Situation.

Each chapters[grammar?] of the book of joy dives in and elaborates on the particular title of the Chapter (Vich, 2019). For example, the first chapter after the introduction, it views humans as a fragile creatures, and apparently within that weakness is where true joy can possibly be discovered (Vich, 2019). The Archbishop stated that, life is filled with challenges and adversity, fear, pain and death is inevitable (Vich, 2019). He used his return of illness as analogy of why humans are fragile (Vich, 2019). What he was saying is that people have the ability to look at terrible situation in a positive manner by accepting the situation instead of dwelling in the negative aspect of the situation (Vich, 2019). Since he was such a positive person, he did not let his illness get the best of him, he accept[grammar?] the situation, made peace with it due to his wisdom and knowledge about knowing that humans are fragile beings and therefore there is no need in dwelling in the awful situation since it was inevitable (Vich, 2019). Cultivating loving human qualities can help clients and others to move away from hatreds behaviours (Nelson-Jones, 2004). Therapies and Clients can construct positive skills of thinking and communicating benevolently to themselves and towards other people (Nelson-Jones, 2004).

Cultivating muditaEdit

The cultivation of sympathetic joy (mudita) can be actioned through communication and emotional training so clients and others can feel freed and improve their relationships with others (Nelson-Jones, 2004). The foundation of sympathetic joy enables goodwill and lovingkindness to convey rejoicing in others’ good fortune (Nelson-Jones, 2004). This means that being genuinely happy for others in regards of others’ happiness and success. People who contain these emotional abilities are sincere in providing their delight and pleasure from the hearts to people (Nelson-Jones, 2004).

In[grammar?] the other hand, people who are jealous tend to be threaten[grammar?] by others’ form of success (Nelson-Jones, 2004). This can be seen through judging, comparing, and competing for themselves during negative feeling of jealousy or envy (Nelson-Jones, 2004). For instance, envious people will quickly change the subject if they hear positive things about someone else. This is a coping mechanise[grammar?] which make them divert from the topic which makes them feel uncomfortable about (Nelson-Jones, 2004). Maslow labelled these types of people using the term counter-valuing, it refers to people unconscious motives of fearing those who are more talented because it makes them feel less worthy (Nelson-Jones, 2004).

Methods of obtaining mudita

One of the methods which cognitive humanistic therapy does, is creating rules for clients to explore their pattern of thoughts and emotions to establish a healthy way of communicating sympathetic joy to others (Nelson-Jones, 2004). The reason being is to eliminate negative behaviours such as judging, comparing, and competing with other people (Nelson-Jones, 2004)[grammar?]. Those types of undesirable behaviours can damage a person self-esteem by creating a lower personal self-esteem which consequently reflects a negative behaviour towards other people (Nelson-Jones, 2004).

Additionally, therapies can support their clients by exploring such rules in the aspect relationship people who are close to them (Nelson-Jones, 2004). So, asking clients about how they feel when people whom they are in a relationship disclose happiness and success to them? (Nelson-Jones, 2004). Apparently, clients who lack mudita might have set themselves demanding rules such as people must not talk about their good fortune or bring their success to their attention (Nelson-Jones, 2004). In the client’s view, it might appear like the person is gloating about their success (Nelson-Jones, 2004). For example, most people who live in the western world don’t speak about their success unless, it is done through the lens of motivational speaking otherwise it is sorted regarded as taboo (Nelson-Jones, 2004).

When therapies explore such underlying demanding rules in their clients, they can then find solutions to promote positive emotions for the clients so that patients can show sympathetic joy to others (Nelson-Jones, 2004). An example of the solutions is the ability of therapies to bring awareness to their clients about the negative and positive consequences of such rules (Nelson-Jones, 2004). So, a therapist could highlight to the clients to state demanding rules as preferential rules (Nelson-Jones, 2004). An analogy of the preferential rules would be couples having an honest communication, speaking about their strength and weakness to others (Nelson-Jones, 2004).

Instead of having a demanding rule such as telling their partner not to bring their success to their attention (Nelson-Jones, 2004)[grammar?]. The demanding rule should be replaced by preferential rule, so, telling each other that they feel like their relationship can blossom if they can openly talk about their success and failure (Nelson-Jones, 2004). The preferential rule could enable the partners to be comfortable with showing one another mudita when appropriate (Nelson-Jones, 2004). Clients can apply the preferential rules to any situation such as employment environments.

Another form of unlocking mudita in the perspective of cognitive humanistic therapy, is by assisting clients to show appreciative joy to themselves (Nelson-Jones, 2004). Some clients might project a self-image which does not reflect their consciences or subconscious thoughts (Nelson-Jones, 2004). Underneath their social persona, they might have a negative self-talk, such as telling themselves that they are not good enough to maintain a consistent self-picture no matter how negative it is (Nelson-Jones, 2004). These type of self-denigration needs to be highlighted to clients so that they can acknowledge their strength instead of focusing on their negative self-talking (Nelson-Jones, 2004).

Finally, another method which can assist clients to promote sympathetic joy is by challenging the illusions which might interfere with creating mudita. Instead of being an individualistic[grammar?], patients can be challenged to perceived[grammar?] themselves in terms of collectivism (Nelson-Jones, 2004). Clients who see themselves in terms of being individualistic may experience a prevention of acknowledging the extent to which showing feelings, thinking and sympathetic joy to others (Nelson-Jones, 2004). Therefore, assisting patients by training them not to concentrate on the dichotomy of the universal reality is a step to train them to focus on the sameness of the universal reality of things (Nelson-Jones, 2004).

When patients focus on the universal differences of things, it can prevent them from participating as part of human race and so being able to feel and show sympathetic joy might be limited to just close relatives instead of extending such emotions to other part of humanity (Nelson-Jones, 2004). So, when patients are trained to perceived others as like them, they might have two benefits to such perception (Nelson-Jones, 2004). They might potentially develop the ability to accurately sympathised in the good fortune of others and they might be sensitive to their negative behaviours towards instead of rejoicing in the success of others (Nelson-Jones, 2004).

Case studiesEdit

Case study 1

Research by Zeng and colleagues in 2017 measured sympathetic joy in 1622 participants by examining appreciative joy in their behaviours toward their friends. In the first study, the researchers measured three components. First component was sense of joy, positive interpersonal bias, and self-transcendence. In the second study, they examined the concurrent validity and incremental validity of the first study. The researcher repeated the same method of analysis in the second study for the third study which was measuring the concurrent and incremental validity for the second study. In the fourth study, the researchers examined individual difference due to the religion, culture and gender and age factor of the participants. And lastly, the fifth study, actioned a test-retest reliability.

The outcomes on the series of studies confirmed that the content of the items were endorsed by Buddhists and that the Buddhist demonstrated a higher score on the scales of measurement. The scale revealed an expected correlations[grammar?] with the measurement of friendship on the four divine abodes and it also provided incremental contribution to multiple emotions and well-being. The scale of measurement was stable through all the studies and presented good reliability. The AJS-F measuring scales was concluded to be useful in measuring the traits of appreciative joy. The same measuring method can be forward to measuring other people such as strangers by simply rephrasing some of the words targeted for the participants.

Case study 2

Different research [grammar?] recruited 135 participants for the purposes of measuring sympathetic joy due the statement that the four immeasurable meditations can improvement peoples’ decision to be compassionate toward others ( Ng et al, 2019). The participants were randomly allocated into two different situations, the Meditation condition and Ultimatum game tasks which was considered the neutral visualization control group.

The finding[grammar?] indicate that the traits of appreciative joy was lined with both acceptance of the unfair offers and offer to others. The acceptance of unfair offers was more related with the dimension of self-transcendence in comparison with the other components in the Appreciative Joy Scale. The studies provided evidence that a quick practise[spelling?] of Appreciative joy meditation can make people be more tolerate to unfairness directed to against them. Furthermore, the study provided an angle of future investigation about appreciative joy, particularly inspecting the attitudes toward people in superior situations.


Figure 3ː The structure if the limbic system
Figure 4ː A portrait of Buddha


The following link direct you to a website which contain questions which measure the scale of an individual level of sympathetic joy.

Take a quiz on sympathetic joy


The following questions is designed to test your knowledge on Mudita. Please select the answers which you think is the correct one and submit it.

1 Cultivating Mudita can provide a positive relationship with others:


2 Cognitive humanistic therapy does not focus on religion and spirituality:



Sympathetic joy is a type of emotions[grammar?] which fall into the category of positive psychology since it is about rejoicing in the success of other people. In the Buddha’s education, Mudita is highly regarded by the religion due it being part of the four divine abodes. The religion state[grammar?] that appreciative joy can be [grammar?]it requires guidance by expertise who have the knowledge to assist people to get into the state of sympathetic joy. When people achieve this kind of emotional state, it can reduce negative emotions such as greed, jealousy and promote healthy relationship with others. Cognitive humanistic therapy has established methods of cultivating Mudita. The down aspect of the cognitive humanistic approach is currently the fact that there are no[grammar?] many research evidence on mudita. There are few cases which does support the approach of mudita in Buddhism.

See alsoEdit This is an amazing Youtube link which emphasis on Mudita in terms of a Buddhism perspective.


Dalai, L., Tutu, D., Abrams,D. (2016). The Book of Joy: Lasting happiness in a changing world. Penguin Random House UK.

Ensor. (2016). Mudita World Peace. Prairie Schooner, 89(4), 56–72.

Kaufman, S. B., & Jauk, E. (2020). Healthy Selfishness and Pathological Altruism: Measuring Two Paradoxical Forms of Selfishness. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 1006.

Keown, D. (2004). In A Dictionary of Buddhism (1st ed.). Oxford University Press.

Kupfer et al, (2022). Why are some people more jealous than others? Genetic and environmental factors.

Kurth. (2022). Emotion. Taylor and Francis.

Lench. (2018). The function of emotions: when and why emotions help us. Springer International PU.

Nelson-Jones. (2004). Cognitive Humanistic Therapy: Buddhism, Christianity and Being Fully Human. In Cognitive Humanistic Therapy: Buddhism, Christianity and Being Fully Human. SAGE Publications, Limited.

Ng, Lai, D. C. K. et al. (2019). Appreciative Joy Meditation Enhances Acceptance of Unfair Offer in Ultimatum Game. Mindfulness, 10(8), 1673–1683.

Rolls. (2015). Limbic systems for emotion and for memory, but no single limbic system. Cortex, 62, 119–157.

Podlipniak, P., Eerola, T., Reybrouck, M. (2018). Music and the Functions of the Brain: Arousal, Emotions, and Pleasure. (n.p.): Frontiers Media SA.

Porter, A. (2022). Pyschology[spelling?], Everything you need to know to master the subject- in one book!: Arcturus.

Proctor. (2017). Positive psychology interventions in practice (Proctor, Ed.; 1st ed. 2017.). Springer.

Schneider, Pierson, J. F., & Bugental, J. F. T. (2015). The handbook of humanistic psychology: theory, research, and practice (Schneider, J. F. Pierson, & J. F. T. Bugental, Eds.; Second edition.). SAGE Publications.

Vich. (2019). Review of The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. The Humanistic Psychologist, 47(2), 201–202.

Zeng. (2017). Appreciative Joy: Its Measurement, Cultivation and Effects on Subjective Well-Being and Envy. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Zeng, Liao, R., Zhang, R., Oei, T. P. S., Yao, Z., Leung, F. Y. K., & Liu, X. (2017). Development of the Appreciative Joy Scale. Mindfulness, 8(2), 286–299.

External linksEdit