Why Rejoicing Is So Important

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche

In this teaching Lama Zopa Rinpoche advises that rejoicing is a simple way to achieve enlightenment. Rinpoche says rejoicing is a genuine feeling of happiness and joy, appreciating one’s own qualities and those of others. The teaching includes an outline of the practice of rejoicing in the merits created by oneself, other sentient beings, bodhisattvas and buddhas.

Compiled and edited by Ven. Sarah Thresher at Tushita Retreat Centre, Dharamsala, India, in March 2010.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching in Hong Kong, 2010. Photo by Ven. Thubten Kunsang (Henri Lopez).

Each time you rejoice you collect skies of merit, making it such an easy way to achieve enlightenment.
– Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Why is rejoicing so important?
  • It can be done anytime and anywhere, requires no particular physical effort or special equipment and costs absolutely nothing.
  • All the answers for success come with rejoicing: it is the quickest way to create extensive merit in a short time with little effort. While we have such an opportunity to practice rejoicing it is a great loss not to do so.
  • Rejoicing in the good qualities and success of others creates the cause for us to be able to do extensive works for others and to gain the same qualities.
  • It is a very pure practice; a genuine feeling of happiness and joy in the heart appreciating one’s own qualities and those of others.
  • If we don’t rejoice in our own virtues, we can easily become discouraged, focusing on our faults and omissions instead of maintaining a steady joy at what we are accomplishing.
  • If we don’t rejoice in the happiness of others, jealousy and anger can arise.
  • Sincere rejoicing eliminates jealousy, pride, competitiveness and feelings of self-importance. 
  • While jealousy distances us from others and creates obstacles, rejoicing in their good qualities and success brings us closer to them and opens the heart with joy.
A simple practice for rejoicing
1. Rejoice in your own merit

Rejoicing in your own merits strengthens them and makes them “double up.”

Begin by understanding and reflecting well how every single happiness and success we experience in this life can only arise in dependence upon a cause and that cause must be virtue or merit.

Nagarjuna said in the Jewel Garland:

From non-virtue come all sufferings and likewise all miserable realms.
From virtue come all happy realms and the joys in all rebirths.

We find it very easy to understand the importance of money because we can do so much with it, but even having money or being able to enjoy having money depends on virtue or merit. Every single good thing we ever have experienced, are experiencing or will experience depends on its previous virtuous cause. Therefore these causes, the merit we create, are the most important thing for happiness and success.

No matter how smart we may be, or how well-educated, without merit there is no happiness and no success. We cannot achieve realizations on the spiritual path or even happiness of this life. Therefore, merit is extremely precious.

Without merit life is so difficult, nothing good can happen, not even moment-to-moment happiness. But as we collect more and more merit, life becomes easier and everything can change. When there is a lot of merit everything can happen—even beyond our imagination. Therefore every single merit that we accumulate is so precious!

Now rejoice by thinking, “I have been collecting merit in the past, from beginningless rebirths up to now. All this merit is so precious!” Also think, “I am collecting so much merit right now. Every single virtue I collect is so precious!” and “I will collect so much merit from now up to enlightenment. All this merit is so precious!”

Think over and over again how amazing, how fortunate, how precious it is to be able to generate all this merit. Each one is the cause for the happiness we are seeking. Generate the thought over and over again, like generating electricity. The main thing is to feel happiness in the heart over and over again. Saying words is not enough. If it is just words you are not rejoicing, you must make the heart happy by rejoicing and appreciating. This way all the virtue increases.

2. Rejoice in the merits of other sentient beings

If you have the same level of realization as the person in whose merit you are rejoicing, you gain the same amount of merit. If they have higher realization, you gain half their merit, and if they have lower realization, you gain twice their merit.

Begin by reflecting that what sentient beings want is happiness and what they don’t want is suffering. The cause of the happiness that they seek is virtue. Therefore every single virtue that others accumulate is so precious. This is what fulfills their wishes for happiness, both temporary and ultimate. Every happiness and success comes from this.

Shantideva said in the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life [5:77]:

All the virtuous deeds of others are the source of a joy
That would be rare even if it could be bought with money.
Therefore I should be happy in finding this joy
In the good things that are done by others.

Rejoice, thinking: “Sentient beings have accumulated so much merit in the past from beginningless rebirths up to now; they are accumulating so much merit right now and they will accumulate so much merit in the future. How amazing and how precious! How wonderful it is!” Generate this deep joy in your heart over and over again.

3. Rejoice in the merits of the bodhisattvas

By rejoicing in the merit that one bodhisattva accumulates in one day you gain half that much in one second—the equivalent of 13,000 years of merit in one second!

Begin the reflecting that there are numberless bodhisattvas who have generated bodhicitta in their minds. Every single action they do with their body, speech and mind, even every breath they take, is for others. There is never a single thought of working or seeking happiness for the self; there is only the thought of working and seeking happiness for others. Because of this, bodhisattvas create limitless skies of merit continually in each second and they dedicate all of this to fulfill the wishes of sentient beings.

Then rejoice in:

  • All the merits of the past, present and future of every single bodhisattva. 
  • All their realizations—those bodhisattvas on the seven ordinary impure grounds (Skt: bhumis) and those on the three exalted pure bhumis. 
  • All the incredible extensive benefit they are able to offer to others. 

Generate the feeling of joy over again and then make the prayer, “May I become like this.”

4. Rejoice in the buddhas’ merits

By rejoicing in the merits of the buddhas you gain one tenth of their merit.

Begin by reflecting on the infinite skies of qualities that each buddha has. In brief:

  • The omniscient mind—seeing all the past, present and future as well as all relative and ultimate phenomena simultaneously; 
  • Perfect compassion without any discriminating thought; 
  • Perfect power—being able to manifest countless forms and do perfect work for sentient beings.

Rejoice in:

  • All the limitless skies of qualities of the buddhas’ holy body, speech and mind. Feel great happiness in the heart. Each time we rejoice, we create the cause to achieve these qualities ourselves. 
  • Rejoice in all the inconceivable merit these buddhas collected in the past, are collecting in the present and will collect in the future. 
  • Rejoice in the extensive deep benefit that these buddhas are able to accomplish in each second—continually liberating numberless sentient beings from suffering and bringing them to enlightenment.

Pray to be become like this in all future lifetimes, having all these qualities and being able to offer such extensive benefit. 

When there is more time, you can also rejoice by thinking in detail about the life stories of all the buddhas, including:

Guru Shakyamuni Buddha: The Buddha practiced the six perfections for three countless great eons. He sacrificed over and over again, achieved enlightenment and revealed 84,000 teachings to liberate us from samsara and bring us to enlightenment. If you have studied the qualities of the Buddha in the great treatises, bring these qualities to mind and rejoice.

Lamas of the extensive and profound lineages: Remember all the qualities, merits, activities of the great Indian pandits, such as Nagarjuna, Asanga, Shantideva, etc. Rejoice in the eight great pandits and the fourteen Nalanda masters.

Lama Atisha and all the Kadampa masters: This includes Dromtonpa, Potowa, Chekawa, etc.

Milarepa: Rejoice especially in his incredible guru devotion and how he practiced with great hardship, achieving enlightenment in one lifetime.

Lama Tsongkhapa: He did extensive study, reflection, meditation, accomplished the path achieving all the qualities of Buddha, extensive benefit to others, clearest explanation of sutra and tantra making it easy for us to gain unmistaken understanding and unmistaken realization of the path to enlightenment without wasting time on wrong views, protecting us from misunderstanding and wrong practice. Not only extensive, but the purest practice, even in this degenerate time, without the slightest worldly dharma—black, white or mixed. It's very important every day to rejoice in Lama Tsongkhapa's qualities and benefit for others, to do Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga, and when we do dedication prayers, to pray from the heart in all our lives to become like that.

New Kadampa lamas: Lama Tsongkhapa’s eight close disciples, Panchen Lamas, Dalai Lamas and all the lineage lamas down to:

Our present kind gurus: His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Choden Rinpoche, Denma Locho Rinpoche, etc.

Rejoice in:

  • Their qualities and how they sacrificed to practice with great effort and generate realizations and benefit others. 
  • Their past, present and future merits. 
  • The extensive benefits they are able to offer to the Buddha’s teachings and to sentient beings.

Pray from the heart to be able to do the same. At the end, dedicate all the virtue created by thinking:

May I be able to collect as much merit as all the buddhas and bodhisattvas and all sentient beings, in order to bring every single living being to the state of full enlightenment.