Four Straight Hours of Joy
Words are powerful. Encouragement and praise are two of the most wonderful ways to employ our power. They make the receiver feel good, feel gratified. They help deepen mental pathways we wish to see deepened.
The Seven Branch Prayer is a foundational Buddhist practice that serves to strategically reinforce positive states of mind and simultaneously weaken negative states of mind. The fourth of these prayers is རྗེས་སུ་ཡི་རང་།—rejoicing in the virtuous deeds of others. Cultivating this mental state is believed to diminish jealousy. This prayer is made daily by countless Buddhists around the world in various languages. It’s so ubiquitous that if you begin reciting the prayer among Tibetan Buddhists, many may chant along with you by heart.
What does it mean that rejoicing is an essential part of Buddhist practice? Why does it matter? Buddhist scripture teaches that rejoicing in the goodness of others and generating gladness for one’s own good deeds are both virtues. As virtues, they are to be cultivated in abundance, increased endlessly because of the positive effect they have on one’s self and others. It’s become commonplace to hear of a person experiencing four straight hours of depression. Why is it so uncommon to hear of a person experiencing four straight hours of joy?
This past year I witnessed much to be glad about. More and more, I see Tibetan and Himalayan women writers and scholars come to the fore as representatives and creators of their own cultures and stories. The scattering of Tibetan people after 1959 has been like seeds in the wind, and now new growth is happening across the world. After generations of displacement and trauma, Tibetan people are establishing themselves in new and empowering ways.
Last spring the University of Virginia hosted the Tibetan Women Writing Symposium: A Celebration of Tibetan Women’s Literature. As Tashi Dekyid Monet aptly states in the “Conference Notes” published last fall in the Journal of Tibetan Literature, “While women writers prior to the twentieth century were undervalued and overlooked by Tibetan Studies scholars, the last few decades have witnessed an explosion of powerful literary works across many genres by new generations of Tibetan female writers.” In autumn of 2022, the second Lotsawa Translation Workshop: Celebrating Buddhist Women’s Voices in the Tibetan Tradition took place at Northwestern University. These were inspiring occasions. Tibetan and Himalayan women writers filled the seats as panelists and shared their perspectives on literature and their own creative writings.
The takeaway from both conventions was unanimous: encouragement. The need for women to support women, to role model for each other, and to uplift each other resounded throughout the events. And I already see it taking place. I am seeing new Tibetan women writers, scholars, artists and teachers. I feel heartened by their meaningful and courageous work. I wish to rejoice in this goodness and lend my support to this effort. This was the message these women traveled across the world to relay. It still echoes in my mind.
As a Tibetan-American poet, my cultural heritage is voiced through my poetry. When writing poetry, I give myself the freedom to play. When at play, I let go of self-interest. I can simply create while rejoicing in my own essence, unconcerned with my own importance. Through play I loosen the grip of self-attachment, and in that moment of selflessness I can find genuine happiness. From that place of selfless happiness, it is easy to rejoice in the success of others. Once self-interest is transcended, love and appreciation for others overflows naturally.
In the spirit of mutual uplifting, encouraging, and rejoicing, I have asked the gathered contributors to share some of their wisdom.