In the Buddha’s teachings it says that even if you can’t do an activity that benefits others, by simply rejoicing when other people do good things, you’ll get the same merit as them. It’s like when someone changes a light bulb— even though only one person actually replaces the bulb, everyone else gets to experience the benefit, just as if they all changed the bulb! Similarly, rejoicing in others’ good activities is a very skillful means, and you don’t have to do anything! Just sit back and think, “Wow, this is so great.” Buddha Shakyamuni and Guru Padmasambhava both said that by rejoicing you receive the same benefit as the person who actually performs the activity. So let them do the job! We can just feel happy with that. In one way, this is very simple, but it’s also very special.
Rejoicing also benefits others by inspiring them to do more. They will feel happier, excited, and supported. This is our practice. Making others happy is our job—it’s bodhichitta’s job. Bodhichitta means making everyone happy and peaceful so they feel nice and comfortable, both in the short and long term. That’s really the goal of Buddhist practitioners. Creating suffering, sadness, and difficulties for others is not the Buddha’s teaching. We all know this. As much as we can make everyone happy, peaceful, and joyful, that is really good.
Of course, I’m talking about rejoicing as a Dharma practice, but we should also rejoice when someone does anything good, even if it doesn’t have a spiritual name or isn’t an official Dharma practice. Doing good things like humanitarian projects and social work are wonderful. They really benefit and help others, creating peace and harmony in the world. When anybody does this, we should feel happy and pray, “May I be able to act similarly in the future.” Wishing for this and joining with their good activities is so special.
There are so many stories about the benefits of rejoicing. In the Buddha’s time, the king of Shravasti, named King Prasanejit, was very devoted to Buddha Shakyamuni. He was also born at the same time as the Buddha—they shared not only the same birthday, but also the exact same moment of birth. There were about five other princes who were born at the same time as the Buddha, and so many beautiful signs occurred, like glowing lights and other miraculous events. Due to the Buddha’s power, this light spread out very far. Of course, each of the kings thought that the signs were for their own newborn princes, so they named them accordingly. “Prasanejit” is roughly translated as “glowing light of victory.” Prasan means “light” and jit means “conqueror.”
Later King Prasanejit became so devoted to the Buddha. He often invited him to his royal palace to offer him lunch, along with his monks and nuns. This happened so many times. There were many beggars around the palace. In particular, there was an older beggar who thought, “How wonderful and beautiful that King Prasanejit has so much merit to become such a great king, and still he’s continuing to do such big meritorious activities. If I ever have the capability, I will also do the same thing for the Buddha and all these bodhisattvas and arhats.” She thought this sincerely from her heart. In the teachings it says that she accumulated the same merit as King Prasanejit because her intention joined with his activities.
The mind is so powerful and special. Everything we do starts from the mind. All visible activities come from this invisible mind. Whether we see it immediately or not, everything is connected to the mind and it affects every level of every system. This is why rejoicing is so important.
Rejoicing in your own deeds is also very important. The teachings always say that we should inspire ourselves. If you do something good in eyes of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, or in the presence of your friends, it’s very good. Even if your friends and family don’t see what you did, if it benefits others, yourself, or your meditation—such as by doing the six paramita practices or even having a single good thought—we should be happy and dedicate the merit. Whether it’s visible or invisible, we know our own mind. Every time we do this we’re progressing and moving forward, rather than walking backward or hovering in the same place. That’s how “practice makes perfect.” We don’t just do something once, but by repeatedly and continually doing good things with joyful effort, we illuminate ourselves. Therefore, we should rejoice in whatever we do with our body, speech, or mind that benefits others—rejoicing in every way, at every level, and with every opportunity we get, both in our own deeds and in the deeds of others.”
The Essential Journey of Life and Death, Vol. 1
Chapter Twenty: Foundation Practice (pg 278-281)
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