I recently read a lovely thing that said ‘Take delight in the good fortune of others to create more happiness for yourself’. It made me think about how often I am surprised by how many people seem to struggle to rejoice in other people’s good fortune, luck, success, achievement, joy, happiness – call it what you will.
Case in point: having had the staggering privilege of my firstborn coming into this world healthy and happy and, within a relatively short period, sleeping through the night, I was astounded when not one but two of my dear friends commented, when I fell pregnant again: ‘well, you’re going to get your comeuppance with this one’ and other comments along the lines of ‘you’ll never get so lucky a second time around’. It was all I could do to stop my jaw from literally hanging open. Never mind the fact that we worked hard at it (thanks to a fairly strict bedtime routine – it doesn’t work for everyone and not everyone approves, but it worked like a charm for us), whatever the reason for our good fortune, I would have really thought that the wish would rather be for me to have exactly the same wonderful ‘luck’ with the second baby (who, by the way, slept through even earlier than my son). I know it’s unyogic to gloat, but I did have a little, tiny, miniscule gloat as I typed that. As I said, I have a way to go along my ‘evolutionary path’ (as my yoga teacher calls it) and I obviously have a lot to learn from Patanjali’s teachings…
I was reading recently about the brahmaviharas (the yogic teachings on love), which show us the way to a kinder, more compassionate relationship with ourselves and others, and thought how interesting it is that so many people seem to be scared of yoga, finding it all esoteric and a bit spooky, where in fact the teachings of the ancient sages are actually so beautiful, so helpful, and so very focused on helping us become more. I was amazed when I first read Patanjali’s Sutras and realised that they are actually very similar to the Ten Commandments – only, in my opinion (and it’s all subjective, obviously), more user-friendly and easier to digest.
More than two thousand years ago, both Patanjali and the Buddha taught the practice of mudita as an antidote to the feeling that your happiness is threatened or diminished by the happiness of others – mudita is the ability to take active delight in others’ good fortune or good deeds. In one of the Sutras, Patanjali advises us to take delight in the virtue of others as a way to develop and maintain calmness of mind. We’ve all probably experienced how painful envy can be, and how much it affects our mental well-being, and the fact is that any feelings of envy that we may harbour don’t diminish the happiness of those we are jealous of, but they do diminish our own serenity. And then I read a lovely thing about the Dalai Lama who speaks of mudita as a kind of “enlightened self-interest.” As he puts it, there are so many people in this world that it’s simply reasonable to make their happiness as important as your own; if you can be happy when good things happen to others, your opportunities for delight are increased six billion to one! It works for me!