The First Word

Let us be candid. Didn’t you feel the glee when your neighbor’s son didn’t clear the Entrance exams? Hasn’t your colleague not getting the posting of choice given you vicarious pleasure? Our daily lives are routinely poisoned by us deriving satisfaction from other people’s difficulties. The German word, ‘schadenfreude’, defines this widely prevalent emotion. And even without mentioning, ‘schadenfreude’ cannot be good as we are devotees of Sai Maharaj, who is our ‘Antaryamin’ and mentor of our inner Self, our interpersonal relationships, and a healthy family and social life.

So, what is the alternative state? Sai Baba suggested a pleasant outlook to Tatya Patil. ‘Mudita’ in Sanskrit means ‘joy’ — derived from the well-being of others. In German, it is called ‘freudenfreude’, an exact antonym of ‘schadenfreude’. A good example is the joy parents feel seeing their children doing well, particularly Justice Tatya Saheb Noolkar bringing his sons to Shirdi. This joy is not guided by self-interest but gives the greatest delight if practiced. True joy only comes from empathy and reveling in the success and achievements of others.

In our scriptures, joy is the most difficult to achieve amongst the four immeasurables — benevolence, compassion, and equanimity. We can easily obtain the other three as we can discern direct benefits for our well-being. Feeling good about the well-being of others is a task of a high order, difficult to achieve, but gives the most enduring satisfaction. It makes relationships intimate, enjoyable, and long-lasting and Sai Baba enabled Kaka Dixit, Nana Chandorkar, and Hemadpant to achieve this specific joy.

Sri Narasimha Swamiji in his gospel – ‘Life of Sai Baba’ has stated that positive empathy propelled kind acts, including being helpful and cooperative. It fostered resilience and a high degree of satisfaction in daily life. Swamiji adds that while the benefits of empathy-derived joy are enormous, it is hard to practice. Baba’s dictum of two paise ‘Dakshina’ of ‘faith’ and ‘patience’ is to be fully practiced. The enemies of joy are jealousy and greed. We are often being opportunistic in gauging if someone else’s loss can mean gain for us. On many occasions, negative feelings about the other may lead to social and professional bonding amongst a peer group, such as amongst football fans or soldiers waging war. However, allowing it to affect our interpersonal relations can be emotionally draining. ‘Schadenfreude’ in a social group such as Hari Vinayak Sathe faced wrath from Nanavalli and other Shirdi residents at the time of his establishing ‘Dakshina Bhiksha Samstha’. Sathe left Shirdi with Baba’s consent. Society can make people intolerant of others’ views. It generates toxicity in relationships and can create long-lasting harm like lowering a person’s self-esteem when one is always comparing oneself with the other.

We greet the readers of ‘Sai Aura’ on Guru Poornima’ on a one-to-one level, to cultivate empathetic joy as a virtue to aspire for and inculcate. It is elevating to remind ourselves that when Guru Poornima was started in 1909 at Shirdi, Sai Baba instructed his devotees to worship Upasani Maharaj as Sadguru first and then himself. In other words, Sai Baba considered Upasani at par with him. Let us add the extra mile by seeing Sai Parabrahman in every devotee.

We need to encourage the feeling of empathetic joy and work on it. There are many ways to do so — show an active interest in others’ accomplishments; congratulate them on their achievements; not hold back in expressing positive sentiments; be open and welcoming by listening to others; share the credit and give credit; and view your success because of the efforts of others. Ask for good news from those around you. Asking about other people’s happiness turns you into a joy magnet. You are not only making the other person happy, but you are deriving empathetic joy.

Since emotions are contagious, showing appreciation can increase ‘freudenfreude’ for both the giver and the recipient. The more you do so, the bigger it gets. The opposite of diminishing returns comes into play. It is not that practicing ‘freudenfreude’ means that jealousy and envy will disappear, but they certainly get attenuated. So, when your friends or relatives have something good at their places convey your joy that you are a part of them.