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By Slaking Others’Thirst, We Refresh Ourselves

Have you ever heard of duplicating happiness? Do you know how to sow the seeds for happiness? Do you know why fools are favored with blessings?   

Recorded in the biography, Mencius, King Hui of Liang , there is a dialogue between Mencius and King Hui of Liang that goes as follows. Mencius asks, “Which is the more pleasant -- to enjoy music by yourself alone, or to enjoy it with others?” “To enjoy it with others,” was the reply. “And which is the more pleasant -- to enjoy music with a few, or to enjoy it with many?” “To enjoy it with many.” The implications are that enjoying music alone is not as happy an experience as doing this with others, and the pleasure of enjoying music with a few people is likewise not so great as that of doing it with many people. So one should be happier with the awareness of sharing with others.    

Oscar Wilde, the British writer, wrote a fairy tale called, The Selfish Giant, about a giant who was so angry to see children play in his garden that he built high walls around it. Henceforth, the garden became desolate, full of winter scenes. One day, the children crawled in through a hole in the wall, spring came, and the garden revived. Later, the giant was awakened to this fact. He pulled down the walls to share the beautiful garden with the children and enjoyed unparalleled delight ever after. A saying goes: “Share your pain with others, then your pain is halved. Share your joy with others, then your joy is doubled.” Whether it be a warm spring or a cold winter, joyful or painful, all hinges upon how you think at the moment. 

A woman, whose life spanned three centuries, since passing away has become a legend. She was a Bodhisattva in reality and devoted her more than 100 years of life to caring for other people. Her name was Xu Zhe. She was born in Guangdong province in 1898 and worked as a volunteer with an international anti-war rescue team during the War of Resistance against Japan. After the war, she volunteered to care for the poor and the sick, while running her own free retirement home for the elderly. While others hope to become rich and famous, she enjoyed her indigent but peaceful life, eating just one vegetarian meal each day and wearing clothes discarded by others or even taken from the trash. During her entire life, she worked without pay except when she was a secretary. At the age of 101, she converted to Buddhism, putting her faith only in Amitābha. In 2011, she passed away serenely at home at the ripe old age of 114. Having dedicated herself to poor and sick old people who had no one to fall back on, she enjoyed good health, long life and great joy. Maybe some would think her foolish, but “fortune favors fools,”  just as the proverb says. It goes without saying that equity does exist in the world – no pain no gain. How can people unwilling to sow reap a golden harvest in autumn? Only by dedicating ourselves sincerely and honestly to others, do we deserve a happy return.

Such being the case, how can we find joy in life? The answer is to rejoice in the welfare of others and find good in them. Rejoicing in the welfare of others is Buddhist terminology meaning that we are glad to see others do something well or succeed as if we had the success ourselves. People who can rejoice in the welfare of others are sunny in nature, having removed all mean jealousy from their hearts. The Buddha made a comment metaphorically in the scripture, Sutra in Forty-Two Sections: “Consider the flame of a single torch. Though hundreds and thousands of people come to light their own torches from it so that they can cook their food and ward off darkness, they do not diminish the light of that single torch. Blessings, too, are like this.” The flame we take up in our own hands can be passed on to many others for the use of cooking or lighting and, while in doing so, we suffer no loss. Conversely, by benefiting others, our own blessed virtues increase.

Rejoice in the welfare of others, and commend others with your words. Og Mandino, the American writer, wrote: “I will laud mine enemies and they will become friends; I will encourage my friends and they will become brothers. Always will I dig for reasons to applaud; never will I scratch for excuses to gossip. When I am tempted to criticize I will bite my tongue; when I am moved to praise I will shout from the roofs.”

It is an expression of courage, breakthrough, victory and wisdom to rejoice in the welfare of others and to commend them. By doing so, we can change our entire way of thinking and so dispel the darkness of jealousy, just as we refresh ourselves by slaking others’ thirst.

Article Information

Published on Life Times. Written by Ven. Master Xuecheng, and translated by Beijing Longquan Monastery Translation Center.
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