I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you this, but my favorite practice in the world is rejoicing. One reason for this may be that I’m basically very lazy and don’t like doing practical things. Anyone who knows me well would probably agree. If I could, I would just sit around all day long and do nothing. That’s my happy place. You may not believe me, but it actually is true. It may be why I have never minded long plane flights, let alone days (or years) off.
Of course, I regularly have to come out and do stuff, like right now. I could be sitting at home in my pajamas or I could be at this café fully dressed and talking to you. I’m actually very happy sitting here talking to you, no doubt about it. But there is also something very appealing about sitting home in my pajamas.
Therefore, rejoicing in others’ happiness and good deeds has been my favorite practice for about 100 years now, ever since I can remember. This is because Venerable Geshe Kelsang even says that you can slouch on your couch or lie in your bed and create absurd amounts of merit or good karma just through rejoicing in others. In Great Treasury of Merit, he says:
Gungtang Jampelyang praised rejoicing as the easiest and most powerful method for accumulating merit. As he pointed out, this practice can be done even while lying in bed! ~ Great Treasury of Merit
When I first heard about this practice, I thought, “Wow, it’s very good news that this practice exists. Now I can create so much merit and gain all the realizations, and I can also concurrently sit around in my pajamas.”
I spent the last couple of weeks in the UK at the International Kadampa Spring Festival, attending uplifting teachings on The Liberating Prayer, hanging out with great people, and partaking of the Mahayana Refuge Ceremony with Sangha all over the world. I visited KMC Southampton, which was a joy – the Sangha there are warm, lively, and lovable, not least because their teacher is. I spent time with my precious parents and their carers – joining in for week #86 of my mother’s bizarre bedbound journey. I’m sure I got a bit of merit for some of these things, but I reckon I’ve created more merit just this morning. For even though I’ve done very little on the face of things since I got back to Denver last night – basically unpacked, did some gardening (hint to housemates), slept, and biked over here – out of the corner of my eye I have been observing what everyone else is up to. And, more to the point, feeling happy about it.
So many people are doing incredible things. In general, when I make a point of practicing rejoicing, I often start by contemplating what all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, including Venerable Geshe-la, must be up to. Even when his body was still in this world with us, observable, I knew I was only able to fathom a fraction of his daily activities, his mind of bliss and emptiness spreading throughout universes blessing people to find the liberating path – and when I spend a few minutes contemplating that, I don’t find it hard to feel happy about it. Then I contemplate assorted Sangha and Buddhist centers near and far, including teachers, students, managers, and yogis, and what they are up to today; and feel happy about all that as well.
Venerable Geshe-la dedicated his life to setting the foundation for temples for world peace in every country and centers in every town. All centers present and future, I think, serve as portals. Recently I’ve also been contemplating how they are doors out of the burning building of samsara. Through realizing the true nature of reality, how we are dreaming all this suffering into existence, we can stop this relentless dismality and finally break free.
When people of any background or race or even faith meet Buddha’s teachings, they find themselves holding the key to mental freedom in their hearts. These centers also mean that a stream of Bodhisattvas and Buddhas can appear in this world. The more centers there are, the more likely it is that sooner or later our friends and family and their friends and family, ad infinitum, and their pets, will escape this burning building. Large or small, therefore, all these centers are important. And, seeing as all these centers depend on the teachers, managers, and practitioners to function, all of this is a powerful object of rejoicing.
Then I feel happy about the good things that people everywhere are doing, including my mothers’ carers, those who trying to rescue dogs from the Yulin meat festival, anyone who is laughing and happy today, etc — whatever is appearing to me, until my heart sings. Within samsara, except for those in the hell realms, there do exist pockets of relative freedom and happiness. For example, I just read how infant mortality has declined precipitously in recent years – far fewer people are having to watch their children die.
We happen to live in a transformational era in which 96 percent of the world’s children now survive until adulthood. ~ Nicholas Kristof, New York Times
The share of the world’s people living in extreme poverty has plunged from 38 percent in 1990 to about 8 percent now.
If I pause to digest this — ie, not immediately doomscrolling back to the latest politics — I feel happy.
Rejoicing and compassion are the two main practices of a Bodhisattva, and there is no shortage of opportunities to practice either of them. Right now, in another café a few days later, I am watching the family who just smiled at me as they sat themselves at the next table. The son is in a wheelchair, severely physically disabled but perfectly talkative; and his dad is injecting a milky “drink” through a tube into his stomach. The parents and his sister are joking with each other and him, “Does that taste like cinnamon?” And they are laughing. And I look at them and think, man, they are so brave. People have to be so brave to stay in samsara. I feel happy about their resilience and mutual kindness, and sad for what they all have to go through every day.
Wherever I am, whether in a meditation session or sitting in my car or talking with others, in the space of not too many minutes rejoicing I can feel like I’m on top of the world.
I’m also ahead of the game – all further good karma I may create today is a bit like an optional extra. 😆
Out of time … your comments are appreciated!