Bodhisattvacharyavatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI – verse 78

Transglomeration: [“It’s not that I am jealous of the merit of the person being praised, but it’s their happiness, not mine; their happiness has nothing to do with me.”] But again, in this way, if you, [O insular mind], allow yourself to be unconcerned or unhappy with others’ experience of happiness, then, logically, you had better give up paying wages or your bills, or giving any reward or benefit since it makes others happy. However, you should realise that this will amount to loss and adversity for you, both seen, in this life, and unseen, in future lives.

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

V. 76-77 overcoming envy/jealousy as a cause of anger: rejoicing in others’ happiness
↑ Stitch ↓
V. 78 but others’ happiness is none of my business; making oneself insular from others’ happiness adversely affects me

Stitch: this is still addressing ‘oh, my mind’ (oneself, some translators use ‘spirit’, whatever, this is a harrowing dressing down, up close and personal) from verse 77, still pointing out to the sulky, recalcitrant, self-obsessed mind what carrying on like this will result in, a consequentialist analysis: if you do this, then this will happen, with implacable cause and effect (karma) reasoning; and the way Śāntideva often achieves this consequentialist analysis is through the use of a …

Switch: not giving to others their due (whether wages, reward, recognition) leads to not being provided for oneself (support, livelihood, care) in the see-able future (i.e. immediately, and over days, months, years) and the unforeseeable future (i.e. future existences, situations which you just didn’t see coming).   What is done out of self-grasping and self-cherishing within saṃsāra is mirrored back to you magnified and distorted within that same saṃsāra that you perpetuate (with all your self-grasping and self-cherishing).   Yes, the opposite is also true, that if you provide for others (their due), then you will be provided for now and hereafter, but that is not the chief point being made in this verse: here is being illustrated one of the ways in which anger is the most destructive of un-virtues (ref. verses 1-2)

Stitch: it’s not clear whether to read the (albeit unstated, but implicit) objection as being un/happy about the person being praised or being un/happy about the person doing the praise, rejoicing.   The previous verse (77) certainly finished up with extolling the virtues of rejoicing, but both the last verse and this verse could be read equally as:

  • the rejoicer creating great virtue because of praising another (making the other happy and gathering people together in that celebration)
  • the rejoicer rejoicing because of the great virtue that the other person has developed in order to have the quality or fortune that is being rejoiced in in the first place

I suppose it’s not an either/or, it’s two aspects of the same activity; what is being emphasised in this verse, however, is that if you (a third party to the rejoicer and the rejoicee) don’t want the happiness of either the rejoicer or the rejoicee, then you experience the adverse results of that not-wanting … and that just doesn’t make sense for anyone …

Reflection: this seems to be in response to the stance: “I’m not bothered with others’ happiness; I don’t care” (and this is not to cast it as ‘evil’ but as usual, an attitude generally held in order to get through the obstacles of my own life, let alone have to worry about everyone else); the verse is ‘responding’: if you don’t want to be concenred about others’ happiness, you’d have to stop giving wages, presents (rewards, prizes, recognition, gifts, time etc.), and opt right out of the round of (even day-to-day mild) happiness, right out of your part in society, in your family, in your workplace.   Fine, but having done that you could then expect nothing from that society/family/employer, you would own nothing, you would be nothing – the only thing that makes you what you are and have in the world/society is what you give to it to be (“and in the end – baung beayinng – the love you take, is equal to the love – la la la la laa – you make”).   The practice of ‘looking after number one’ betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of how society works: it doesn’t just work because of the infrastructure and law, it works because of the giving and taking; and yes, this is just day-to-day happiness, this is happiness situated within saṃsāra, granted, but it is not the infrastructure and law that is saṃsāra, it is the self-centeredness that stops it working that is saṃsāra.   What has this got to do with patience – that we are often angry and frustrated because we aren’t getting our due (I’ve spent most of my life there since age eight) and this verse is graciously pointing out that it is our own making that we don’t get our due – if only we pulled back a bit from our self-centeredness to see)?   What is this verse teaching – guard against insularity, practise openness (almost with a Del-boy Trotter gurn, “you know it makes sense”).