The fifth limb of the seven-part practice known as yenlak dünpa (ཡན་ལག་བདུན་པ་) is jésu yirangwa (རྗེས་སུ་ཡི་རང་བ་), rejoicing. In this practice, one wholeheartedly rejoices in the good deeds of both oneself and others. It is a way of experiencing joy without effort or cost and is an easy method of accumulating merit.
This practice is aimed at overcoming jealousy, which is a negative state of mind that disapproves of others having desirable things and desires good things only for oneself. It not only deprives oneself of inner peace but is obstructive to social harmony and development, and also overcomes unhealthy regret after having done a good work. When one rejoices in one’s positive actions, it will help avoid the sense of regret.
What does one rejoice in?
According to this Buddhist practice, one should experience happiness and joy in all good deeds undertaken by oneself or others, irrespective of whether they are connected to oneself or not. Positive responses to good works undertaken by oneself or others helps increase the public good and creates community harmony. It helps one become selfless and accommodating, thus speeding up the process of enlightenment.
One can rejoice in good works carried out in the present and good things that have occurred in the past and will occur in the future. Similarly, one can rejoice in the good actions as well as their positive results. In addition to experiencing inner joy, one can also express such joy, praising the good works of others, which further spreads joy and thereby encourages others to do more good work.
In order to help rejoice easily, good deeds are often divided into several categories. One rejoices in the worldly good deeds such as happiness, prosperity, success, wealth, health, relationship, beauty, strength, and also rejoices in the many forms of supramundane merits on the path to enlightenment, which includes the spiritual achievements of the Buddhas, their disciples on the path, the bodhisattvas, and other spiritual persons. One rejoices in the positive bodily, verbal, and mental actions, in all good things in the ten directions and three times.
Rejoicing is considered the most effortless and easiest way of accumulating merit. There is a story from the Buddha’s life of how King Prasenjit invited the Buddha and his disciples to a big lunch. A beggar who had faith in the Buddha witnessed this event from the roadside and experienced heartfelt joy. At the end of the lunch, before the Buddha said the prayers of dedication, he asked the king if the prayers of dedication should be said for the one who obtained the most merit from the event. The king agreed and the Buddha, to everyone’s surprise, said prayers to dedicate the merit to the beggar as the latter has accumulated more merit from rejoicing in the act than the king has done from offering the lunch. This story illustrates how the merit, the positive impact on one’s mindstream, obtained through rejoicing is considered to be very significant.
How do we rejoice?
When one encounters someone doing good, even the smallest act, it is important to take the opportunity to rejoice in the act and also express it verbally. One should also rejoice in others’ good health, wealth, fame, and prosperity when obtained through positive means. Such a practice helps one psychologically by bringing the mind peace, joy and happiness. It also helps bring about more good in the world. When somebody does a good thing, instead of feeling jealous, trying to obstruct it, or defaming the person, one must honestly and sincerely try to support good deeds by praising the effort and further, emulate the person doing the good deed.
Often people give in to jealousy if others have done something good, or they become suspicious and try to undermine the work of others. It is important to be mindful of such predilections and undertake this practice to genuinely rejoice in good actions.
As part of the practice, it also important to be happy and grateful for the good things one experiences and not take life for granted. As for Buddhist practices, there are many verses and prayers which are used to instil such a sense of heartfelt joy. The most common is the following verse from The Prayer for Good Conduct.
ཕྱོགས་བཅུའི་རྒྱལ་བ་ཀུན་དང་སངས་རྒྱས་སྲས། །རང་རྒྱལ་རྣམས་དང་སློབ་དང་མི་སློབ་དང༌། །
འགྲོ་བ་ཀུན་གྱི་བསོད་ནམས་གང་ལ་ཡང༌། །དེ་དག་ཀུན་གྱི་རྗེས་སུ་བདག་ཡི་རང༌། །
I rejoice in all merits
Of the Buddhas in the ten directions and bodhisattvas,
Of Pratyekabuddhas, and all those on the path of learning and non-learning,
And in every merit of all sentient beings.
Karma Phuntsho is the Director of Shejun Agency for Bhutan’s Cultural Documentation and Research, the President of the Loden Foundation and the author of The History of Bhutan. The piece was initially published in Bhutan’s national newspaper Kuensel as part of a series called “Why We Do What We Do.”