How Can We Handle Our Jealousy?

Spiritual cultivation is but the
actualisation of our pure potential
and deactivation of our defiled habits.

– Shilashanti

When we see those worse off, such as the very poor and sick, we usually genuinely wish that they be free from suffering, to be well and happy soon. However, we tend to readily be jealous of those who are better off, even possibly secretly wishing that their good karma run out soon. How are there such ‘conflicting’ responses, and what should we do to solve the problem of jealousy?

Well, the above are not directly conflicting responses. What described is compassion for those worse off, and jealousy for those better off. Compassion is not the opposite of jealousy. The opposite of compassion is cruelty, while the opposite of jealousy is rejoice. However, in a sense, wishing ill upon others is a subtle kind of cruelty too, at the level of thought, yet to manifest as speech or action. Ironically, wishing others to run out of good karma creates bad karma for ourselves!

While compassion easier arises when seeing those with great suffering, when seeing those with the opposite of suffering, who are doing very well, it is habitually easier for most unenlightened beings who crave to also do well, to give rise to jealousy instead of rejoice. This is why there is a need to more actively cultivate rejoice as the cure for jealousy, as part of the Four Immeasurable Minds of loving-kindness, compassion, rejoice and equanimity. (Wishing others to be well and happy is loving-kindness, while wanting others to be free of suffering is compassion.)

To overcome jealousy, we should reflect that as the law of karma functions impartially, when others are doing better, what they experience are their just karmic rewards, which they deserve. For this very reason, we should rejoice in their well-being, for their good done, seeing them as inspiring examples – with an overall sense of equanimity. Not differentiating so much between us versus them since we are interconnected, being happy for others brings us some happiness too. (Of course, if others are not ‘spending’ their blessings wisely, or are spending ill-gotten gains, we should not rejoice in such evils, which there will be karmic retribution for.)

Also, as worldly good karma that most people have is not dedicated for liberation, such as by aspiring to reach Amitā(bha) Buddha’s ( Āmítuófó: 阿弥陀佛) Pure Land, for it to be swiftly possible, such good karma will run out naturally in Saṃsāra in this or a future life. As such, there is no need to pine much to have such limited karma, to be jealous over it. Other than reflecting as above, regularly in everyday life, and once we are aware of jealousy arising, we should also immediately be mindful of the name of Āmítuófó. As his is the ‘Great Name Of Ten Thousand (i.e. All Immeasurable) Virtues’ (万德洪名), that helps to connect us to our pure Buddha-nature, the Four Immeasurable Minds as crucial virtues are embedded within too. 

Thus, whenever there is sincerely mindfulness of Āmítuófó’s name, his blessings will flow over to us, to aid our nurturing of all virtues at the same time, while countering their opposing defilements. There should be such mindfulness till the defilement of jealousy dissipates in the moment, to be replaced by equanimous rejoice, or at least equanimity. We should never wish that others’ good fortune depletes quickly; and only be swiftly mindful of Buddha, to reduce and eradicate our jealousy. When this is practised readily and frequently, nursing of jealousy as a bad habit will be replaced by the pure habit of being mindful of purity instead. This also creates much meritorious virtues (i.e. pure karma) while eradicating negative karma.

With enough understanding of the Dharma,
there must be enough practising of the Dharma too,
as even having much but mere understanding
is never enough for realisation of the Dharma.

– Shilashanti

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