What is rejoicing?

In Buddhism, it is one of the Four Immeasurables (Skt. The brahmavihāras).

To rejoice means mainly to cultivate contentment for other’s good fortune. But one can start with oneself:  cultivating joy for one’s own good qualities, for one’s small daily achievements, for the steps that have already been taken. Daily joy opens the space for virtue in our minds, so that contentment and gratitude sow the seeds of enthusiasm for tomorrow’s perseverance, to generate the aspiration to continue progressing, relying on the step that is already part of our inner treasure today. The joy, moreover, invites us to pause and observe what are the fruits that have already been harvested, how much anger we have transformed, how much Awe we have carved. Sometimes it is necessary to suspend the march to be able to contemplate the moistured Earth beneath our feet, a land that we have been working on since time without memory, and that we must learn to exalt in order to continue walking on it with lucidity.

Learning to rejoice over others’ happiness, for their achievements, for their good fortune, is also a very important practice. Why? Because it is precisely opposed to the emotional closure that we often go through being so absorbed in our own affairs: whether it is worldly or spiritual matters, being locked in oneself, captive of one’s self-image, inflicts suffering on us and others. So today I propose this practice to sow goodwill, kindness with oneself and with others and generosity with its development: why should we rejoice only in our flourishing? Let us also do it for the neighbor, the unknown man crossing the street, for the happiness of that friend who once betrayed us.

As we all know, each of our actions, thoughts and ways of dwelling in ourselves and the world in which we live, influences other beings directly and globally. Therefore, rejoicing in the material, intellectual or spiritual fortune of another, is rejoicing in the well-being and progress of all Humanity [i].

Practical Tips for Developing Rejoicing Today:

• Feel happy about the achievements shared by your friends on social media;

• Feel joy for the mother you encounter on the street giving love to her child;

• For that old lady in your neighbourhood feeding street dogs;

• For the solidarity of the people who donate part of their income to others in need. Think: “In this crazy world we seem to live in, how wonderful that is!”

• Rejoice in the promotion of your co-worker;

• Rejoice for your friend finding that much-desired couple;

• For the kindness of the adolescent who gives up his seat to the pregnant lady on the bus;

• For the good humor of the secretary of your company;

• For the attractive body of that model in the magazine;

• For the generosity and kindness of your parents waiting for you with the ready dinner;

• Rejoice in the way you are able to give joy to those around you ...

• and go on, and on and on. There are reasons to rejoice in every corner.

A tip from beginner to beginner:

At first, when we try to develop a new quality, our mind resists the threat of the unknown -and above all, that which threatens egocentrism-. We are accustomed to envy the happiness of the other and we are trained to compete. The other appears as a threat to our achievement and not as a condition for that achievement to happen. The reality of interdependence is overshadowed by the illusion of independence, that we can supply ourselves and that our happiness does not depend on the contribution of the other - of all others-.

Like any habit, it is necessary to devote time and effort to strengthen it in the mind, until it becomes spontaneous and natural. It even seems that we are pretending something we do not feel: yes, at first the rejoicing can be feigned! But there's an English saying that says "Fake it until you make it!" So, although at first our rejoicing is plastic and imposing, and demands great effort, as demonstrated by the Great Teacher Shantideva, there is nothing that does not become easier through practice.

As soon as you discover for yourself the benefits of rejoicing in your achievements, in your good qualities, and in the good qualities and achievements of others, as soon as you savor the taste of the contentment you can generate in your mind, and how much your tendency to jealousy and envy can decrease, you will feel inspired to apply effort in your practice. And one day, beyond external circumstances, rejoicing will be your best internal ally to sow your own joy.

 A Sikh man feeding street dogs daily, Dharamsala, India, 2017. 

A Sikh man feeding street dogs daily, Dharamsala, India, 2017. 

What benefits do you find in the practice of rejoicing? What are you rejoicing about today? Share and inspire!

[i] The first three paragraphs of this text were extracted and adapted from ''The Practice of Rejoicing'', an article published by Melisa Biondi in the Argentinian magazine Uno Mismo in July 2016.