Rejoicing in merit
Lama Gendun Rinpoche
The most effective way of accumulating merit is to rejoice in the good performed by others. We think about all the positive actions accomplished by the buddhas, the bodhisattvas, monks and nuns, men and women, by everyone, everything ever done directed towards enlightenment, and we rejoice in it all. We associate ourselves with it by rejoicing mentally at these good deeds, and so take part completely in the actions of these beings, thus earning as much merit as they do. This is the ultimate way to accumulate merit.
To rejoice in the virtues of others, rejoice in the fact that they practise, that there are positive things being done, is the best way to accumulate merit. Often we are wrapped in jealousy because someone practises better than us, because he has more time, because he seems to understand the Dharma more easily than us, and so on. All these jealous ideas make us uncomfortable and are extremely negative. Just as rejoicing over the positive actions of others links us to them and leads us to enlightenment, feeling resentful, jealous and angry when faced with the positive actions of others cuts us off from enlightenment. All the emotions that are generated are so many potential obstacles to our progress towards enlightenment since they will ripen one day and interfere with our practice.
In everyday life, we come up against this all the time. We see other people practising and this irritates us. We are a little jealous, as when we are jealous of someone else's success. We are a bit irritated by this person who is too intelligent and understands everything while we understand nothing, by another who said something out of place, by someone who does things this way when anyone knows they should be done like that, and so it goes on. All the nastiness we develop creates a corresponding number of obstacles in our practice.
Instead of focusing on the outside and saying, "He didn't do that very well, he shouldn't have said that", it would be better to look inwardly and say to ourselves, "If this causes an unpleasant echo in me, it means there is something wrong with me. If I am irritated by the words of this person, it is because somehow my pride is hurt, it means that my pride that makes me say that things should be like this and not like that is injured, it means my jealousy is awakened".
What should we do? We must concentrate on ourselves and say, "There is jealousy in me that has to be got rid of, and I also have to get rid of my fixed ideas, my strong attachment." In this way, we work on our own faults and, in the end, what is outside no longer has very much importance.
If we don't act in this way, we cannot diminish our faults, we cannot reduce our emotions, and the situation quickly becomes intolerable. If we don't work from within, what happens? The emotions will continue to get bigger, especially jealousy. As the emotions within increase and we become better and better at picking out the faults of others outside, we start to find ourselves in a state of constant pain. We are hurt by everything people say or do, we see negativity everywhere, we are critical of everyone, and sooner or later this comes into the open and we start to express it in words, we are stirred to act and start to be aggressive with people. Finally, we take the last step and actively cause enormous pain to others, who will then obviously return aggression with aggression, and we will enter an infernal realm of never-ending hatred and unpleasantness.
The problem is that we have eyes that by nature look outwards, and so we see the faults of others, but those same eyes cannot look inwards and see what is inside us. So we have a natural tendency to look away from ourselves and criticise, judge and evaluate what is outside of us. There is a Tibetan proverb which says, "It is easy to see the fly on the other person's nose, while ignoring the horse on your own".
We can counter this incapacity of our physical eyes to look inwards by developing the eye of wisdom. Contrary to our normal vision which is turned outwards, the eye of wisdom is inward-looking and can be used for introspection. When we start to look inwards, we realise that we are not as brilliant as we thought, and our self-confidence receives a jolt. We see ourselves as we are, our pride and conceit get smaller, the emotions related to pride also get smaller and there is a general improvement in us. This necessarily leads to better relations with others, since we project our own ideas on others much less and are no longer so preoccupied with the tiny faults we used to see in them. There is a definite improvement in ourselves and our relationship with others.
Without this inner examination that allows us to see our own faults, we can never correct them. If our face was dirty, we could remain totally unaware of it. Everyone else would see that we had a great mark on our forehead, but we wouldn't be able to see it unless we found ourselves in front of a mirror whose reflection could show us our dirty face. This inner look at ourselves, to see what we are really like, allows us to realise that our face is dirty and clean it, thus making a quality out of a fault.
That is why, when we start to really practise the Dharma, there has to be a major change of perspective, one where we willingly bring ourselves into question. Before that, nothing can change. All is well, we don't really look at ourselves, we are fine, nice to know, there are no problems and so there is nothing to change. Then one day doubt creeps into our mind, "Maybe there is something to be done?". We take the advice of the Dharma and start to take a closer look at ourselves, and in the process see a lot of unpleasant things. This is necessarily a disturbing experience. There is a time in our practice where we don't feel too good, when we realise what we are really like. This is the moment when we look in the mirror and see what a dirty face we have. That is part of the path. It is the recognition of what we are really like, a moment of honesty and one of great value, since it is only then that we can really get to work on ourselves.