How to Overcome Jealousy and Envy

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Question: An ordinary person has jealousy—how to overcome this problem?

Answer: Jealousy comes because of ignorance and attachment to your own self or body. First, you should understand what jealousy is. These two words in English, envy and jealousy, have similar meanings but with subtle differences. Envy means that someone has more than you and you want what the other person has. You therefore feel envious of that person. Jealousy is when your possession of something or somebody seems threatened by another person. Ultimately, the root cause of both is ignorance of one’s own self. Everyone is different and unique; people have different karmas and capabilities. Some people may have more than you; others may have less. There are many factors in our lives which are not under our control. If things are not under our control, then it is wise to accept that instead of getting upset, envious, or jealous.

Jealousy arises when you want to possess someone exclusively, like your partner, a close friend, or even your spiritual teacher. This is due to material attachment. Actually, we don’t possess anything, not even this body. No one asked you, “Do you want a body like this? Do you want a male or female body?” You didn’t choose it; you just got it. Now you may become depressed, “Why did I get a body like this? Actually, I wanted to be taller or stronger or thinner!” In this way, you remain miserable unnecessarily. If you can understand that these things are a result of your past karma, then you may accept it. Then you won’t become disturbed, envious, or jealous.

Ultimately, jealousy, and envy create disturbances not only for our own mind but also for others. What is the use of creating suffering for myself and others? I can avoid this needless suffering with proper understanding about the purpose of life and about my own situation. We should ask ourselves: “Why am I jealous and envious? What do I gain from this jealously and envy?”

Loving someone also does not mean that we own him or her. The object of our love has his/her own thoughts and preferences. But in the name of love, we want to turn our object of love into an inert object that we want to possess and control. Just like the father who treats his baby like a toy. He may throw the baby up in the air and then catch and thus enjoy without concern how the baby feels. But this is not love. Love does not mean control or possession; love means that we desire to please and serve the object of our affection.

Due to jealousy, we generally treat our partners or loved ones like pet dogs. You may say that you love your dog but then you put a leash or chain around its neck and restrict its freedom. In the name of love, you chain your dog. This is not love. We similarly subdue and restrict our so-called loved ones and expect them to dance to our tune and jump at our command. However, human relations don’t work like this. People have their own likes, desires, and needs. Invariably, such possessive relationships disintegrate into tension, disagreements, bitterness, and finally separation.

Jealousy and envy are mental states that can be resolved by proper understanding. Just as our bodies may be diseased, our minds may also be diseased. However, bodily diseases are easier to cure than subtle, mental diseases, which are subtler. Additionally, we require the use of our minds to address our mental difficulties. How can a diseased mind diagnose and treat one’s own mental difficulties? Therefore, we need to take help from others for an effective cure.

Question: What is the word for “jealousy” in Sanskrit?

Answer: Jealousy is asūyā in Sanskrit. Have you heard the name Anasūyā? Anasūyā was the wife of the sage Atri. Anasūyā means “one who is not jealous or envious.” And –tri in “Atri” refers to sattva, rajas, and tamas while a- means “not,” so Atri Muni was free from the three guṇas. Atri and Anasūyā give birth to Dattātreya, Durvāsā and Soma. So if you want to have God as your child, you have to be anasūya because God does not manifest wherever there is jealousy.

Krishna and Gopis (Jiva)

You’ve seen paintings of Kṛṣṇa with the gopīs. Kṛṣṇa is there with many gopīs. The gopīs are not jealous of each other; this is why Kṛṣṇa is dancing with them. In the material world, if two women like the same man, they become very jealous of each other. In previous times, kings had many wives, and the wives hated each other. The gopīs, however, are an example of women who are free from jealousy; therefore, Kṛṣṇa is dancing and singing with them. If our hearts are full of jealousy, God will disappear from there, because He does not like the smell of jealousy.

Emotions are related to fragrances. Aroma therapy works on that principle. A fragrance incites a specific emotion in your mind. The perfume industry also works on the same science. Their business is to combine essential oils to create perfumes that incite passion in you. However, God is not interested in that kind of perfume. He prefers the fragrance of prema, which is free from jealousy and envy. He does not like kāma, which is the source of jealousy and envy. To be a servant of God, you have to be free from jealousy. When you harbor jealousy in your heart, God is not happy because the object of your jealousy also belongs to Him. It’s like a father with two children, one of whom hates the other. So, if you want to serve God, and for Him to accept your service, you should let go of envy and jealousy.

 

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