Throughout this life how often do we simply hate a person which makes us feel jealous? Or envious? And how many wars are waged by a thought of aggression? How many psychological struggles and physical fights? How often do we brand a person as non-grata because the person said something that we misunderstood? How many times has the grudge and inability to forgive kept us opposing someone or several others?
Joy usually comes easier for oneself than rejoicing in another’s happiness. One of the hardest things for many of us is to feel happy when good happens to somebody else. Judgment and envy, the tendency to compare and demean, along with greed and prejudice narrow our world and make sympathetic joy nearly impossible to experience. But learning to rejoice in others’ happiness can help transform suffering and self-centeredness into joy.
And envy, what a strange burden! We feel envious of the happiness of others but certainly not of their unhappiness. Isn’t ridiculous? Wouldn’t it be more natural to wish others to be happy? Why do we feel discomfort when people around us feel happy? Why this feeling despite the good qualities they have? The opposite of envy is to rejoice in all the joys, small or large, that others experience. Thus, their happiness becomes ours, too.
Envy and jealousy stem from the fundamental inability to rejoice with happiness or success of others. The jealous man rehearses insults his mind. In any case, envy is the result of a ego-wound, our self-importance. As ego is an illusion, so is envy. Furthermore, envy and jealousy are nonsense to the person who feels them. Unless one resorts to violence, the only victim of envy is the one who feeds it.
What about the jealousy that arises from a sense of injustice or betrayal? Of being fooled by someone with whom we have a deep connection of hearts. Here again, it is love for oneself that is responsible for this devastating suffering. La Rochefoucauld writes that jealousy is more self-love than love.
Even though it is difficult to maintain impartiality in difficult circumstances, what creates this difficulty but the ego? The fear of abandonment and the feeling of insecurity are closely linked to the lack of inner freedom. Worry about oneself, the absorption, yes even this, with its inseparable cortege of fear and hope, attraction and rejection, are the greatest enemies of inner peace. Open therefore your heart. Not only to feel compassion, but also to feel joy with others.
Small, indeed, is the share of happiness and joy allotted to beings! Whenever a little happiness comes to someone, we can rejoice that at least one ray of happiness has pierced through the darkness of their lives, and dispelled the grey and gloomy mist that envelopes their hearts.
Sympathetic joy means a sublime nobility of heart and intellect which knows, understands and is ready to help. A cause for our joy in others is when someone cultivates a noble attitude which securing happiness here and in lives hereafter.
Sympathetic joy holds compassion back from becoming overwhelmed by the sight of the world’s suffering, from being absorbed by it to the exclusion of everything else. Sympathetic joy relieves the tension of mind, soothes the painful burning of the compassionate heart. It keeps compassion away from melancholic brooding without purpose, from a futile sentimentality that merely weakens and consumes the strength of mind and heart. Sympathetic joy develops compassion into active sympathy.
Sympathetic joy gives to equanimity the mild serenity that softens its stern appearance. It is the divine smile on the face of the Enlightened One, a smile that persists in spite of his deep knowledge of the world’s suffering, a smile that gives solace and hope, fearlessness and confidence: “Wide open are the doors to deliverance,” thus it speaks.
The Four Boundless Abodes are loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. These are qualities of the mind and heart that are inherent to our basic nature. Buddhism calls these universal virtues the Four Boundless Abodes. By cultivating them in our activities, we strengthen their presence within us. As their presence grows stronger, so does their boundless quality.
May all sentient beings have happiness and causes of happiness,
May they be free from suffering and the causes of suffering,
May they never be apart from the sublime bliss that is free from suffering,
May they remain in a state of equanimity,
free from attachment and aversion to those near and far.
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