We all have acquired certain deceptive attitudes as a consequence of identifying ourselves with the mind-body complex. Such identification naturally puts the preservation of the body and such mental paradigms at its forefront and thus, self-centeredness inevitably arises. Trying to please the mind-body duo, which is inert and lives by the infused consciousness of the ātmā, inevitably breeds cheating tendencies. Just as hunger cannot be quenched without food, the needs of the body-mind duo need external support to quench their hunger, physical and mental, resulting as a consequence of misidentification. Introspecting in the deepest recesses of our heart would reveal to us the dark truth of selfishness in the best of relationships masquerading as love. Indeed, the word “love” is employed as a doorway to fulfilling our selfish desires.
Jealousy will inevitably arise in a society where people deal with each other. Perhaps surprisingly, it is existent more so in spiritual circles. Since material resources are limited and only the best get the best of those resources, feelings of insecurity and thus jealousy arise as long as bodily identification persists. A mind conditioned by envy cannot even grasp the meaning of prema, let alone experience it. Prema is founded on the bedrock of compassion, which is in direct contrast with envy, and compassion finds its womb only in a soft heart— a quality of the feminine. The bhakti of Vraja is an absence of selfishness, entirely free of even its subtlest remains.
That dharma that completely wipes away all traces of selfishness is the subject of discussion of the Śrīmad Bhāgavata. Even a desire to study it captures the most powerful Īśvara in the heart of such a person, inaugurating the festival of love. The Śrīmad Bhāgavata is pure and free of cheating (kaitava) in that it grants the highest object everyone is looking for, which is unending love. But to reach this stage, one has to meticulously follow the path of bhakti. For this, the only condition is being free from offense—the goal of all sādhanā, an aim that is simple yet is one that is difficult to truly achieve. For not many truly believe in the word of the Śrīmad Bhāgavata.
Unlike anger, which is comparable to a blazing fire, jealousy burns the envious with its slow embers, and its damage can be deeply detrimental if not properly introspected upon. Actions such as putting on devotee dress, memorizing ślokas, being accepted in spiritual circles— if done without the intention of gaining a pure heart that is free from offense— make only a good show, while the heart remains smoldering in the embers of jealousy. Changing dietary or sexual habits will have little effect on spiritual progress if the internal setup, the saṁskāras, are not challenged and reformed. This is why Śrīmad Bhāgavata begins with changing the heart, which is the true revolution, and not with a recommendation on changing food or sex habits, since those are the secondary and natural outcomes of a changed heart.
The path of bhakti is one requiring dissociation with all selfish thought patterns and behaviors. Śrī Caitanya advised His followers to imbibe the mood of tolerance (sahiṣṇu). Such tolerance is limited not only to external physical discomforts but expands to resisting and modifying the internal self-serving saṁskāras—primarily jealousy in the present context of the discussion.
Feeling jealous is an indication of our faulty mental conditioning, drawing our attention to correct such unwholesome mental setups. In spiritual circles, it is common to see jealousy active among the practitioners. Sometimes the jealousy is passive and subtle, and at other times it is gross and manifests in executing plans to harm the object of one’s envy. Good singers administered with drugs destroying their voices and disciples poisoning gurus are some instances of how jealousy suddenly rears and bears its poisonous fangs.
Those new to spiritual life are considered neophytes by those who have spent considerable time in the institution. They have been seen blocking new practitioners from rendering service to guru or Kṛṣṇa, resulting in a grave offense. Age has no saying as to the advancement or qualification of a person to rendering service, and those discriminating against their youngers are victims of their jealousy, which is an unhealthy state of mind antagonistic to bhakti.
An impetus to be recognized lies at the root of jealousy and such impetus is in contrast with the very definition of bhakti, which is to please Kṛṣṇa devoid of self-aggrandizement.
There are two possible responses upon discovering that someone else better than us in our field of interest: The first is to pull down the other person—the way adopted by the envious—and the second is to try improving oneself and learning from the one who is better than us—the Vaiṣṇava way.
The gopīs are glorified and are dear to Kṛṣṇa because they are free of even the subtlest traces of jealousy, rejoicing in pleasing Kṛṣṇa and not being jealous of other gopīs who are closer to Kṛṣṇa. They are truly great, for greatness means to feel happy about the greatness of others. Prema manifests in such a heart that is free of jealousy.
The yogīs and the jñanīs prefer solitude since their paths require minimal association with others. However, one can be renounced and yet jealous. The path of bhakti, on the other hand, is a path that requires co-operation and for co-operation to occur, a heart free of jealousy is indispensable. The movement of Caitanya Mahāprabhu is one of saṅkīrtana, meaning coming together and serving Bhagavān. There cannot be a coming together as long as the disease of jealousy afflicts the citta. As long as the citta is not free of jealousy (mātsarya), śraddhā in bhakti cannot manifest and without śraddhā, anartha-nirvṛtti does not happen. With co-operation, great achievements can be made in a short duration; where there are tensions and fights, there is little progress.
The guru is the most common target of the disciples’ envy since the guru attacks the misidentification, i.e., ahaṅkāra of the disciple like nobody else. Being a guru is a tough task and not a bed of flowers as is misperceived by many. To grant dīkṣā to someone means creating one more trouble for the guru.
Becoming free from pride is not an overnight project and requires great work on oneself, but it is a prerequisite for bhakti to manifest. Therefore, bhakti is rare, since not many are willing to get rid of pride. It is a task both demanding and painful, comparable to an internal surgery in the citta without anesthesia.
The cardinal concept around which varṇāśrama was designed was to facilitate that internal surgery. From childhood, saṁskāras of respecting the elders and co-operating with others were imbibed. These saṁskāras fell in line with bhakti and those who harbored such saṁskāras could take to bhakti easily and understood its depths.
The material mind cannot even conceive of such a thing as the selfless love exhibited by the gopīs, which even Rukmaṇī fell short in attaining. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu gifted the world with this transcendental love, which is not of this world, but is the wealth of Goloka—golokera prema dhana, as Śrī Narottama das Ṭhākura sings.