Updated: Jan 9, 2021
“What is envy? Envy means, ‘I want to be seen as important and great’ and if anyone is a threat to my own egoistic ideas, then there is negativity towards that person."
- Radhanath Swami
It’s so easy to fall into the envy trap and it can even happen before we realise it. It’s subtle and deep-rooted within the heart. The root cause, described in the bhakti tradition, is that we want to be the sole controller and enjoyer.
Acknowledging that envy is what we’re feeling can be tough. Instead we may see it manifest as anger or a range of other emotions. Envy can be displayed by deriding or humiliating someone we think of as lesser than ourselves, as belittling or making fun of a person, or as showing off how smart and witty we are. Envy may be expressed by becoming proud of our own accomplishments, boasting about ourselves to impress others, with the underlying hope of establishing that we are a little superior.
In the sacred text, Srimad Bhagavatam, there is a beautiful description given by the sage, Narada:
“Every man should act like this: when he meets a person more qualified than himself, he should be very pleased; when he meets someone less qualified than himself, he should be compassionate toward him; and when he meets someone equal to himself, he should make friendship with him. In this way one is never affected by the threefold miseries of this material world.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 4.8.34)
Bhaktivedanta Swami elaborates on this description:
“Generally when we find someone more qualified than ourselves, we become envious of him; when we find someone less qualified, we deride him; and when we find someone equal we become very proud of our activities. These are the causes of all material tribulations. The great sage Nārada therefore advised that instead of being envious of a more qualified man, one should be jolly to receive him. Instead of being oppressive to a less qualified man, one should be compassionate toward him just to raise him to the proper standard. And when one meets an equal, instead of being proud of one’s own activities before him, one should treat him as a friend. One should also have compassion for the people in general, who are suffering due to forgetfulness of Krishna. These important functions will make one happy within this material world.”
A non-envious person can connect with anybody on any level and have the sincere desire to help that person move up a level, even higher than themselves. Such a person sees each individual as a spirit soul, regardless of age, status, race etc. and wishes to act for their benefit.
How to apply this practically? Start by being more conscious and aware in your interactions. Can you seize opportunities to open your heart when connecting with others and consider: “What can I do to serve them in their journey?”
Yours in seva,
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