Jealousy and How to Deal with it

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I was asked to comment on an incident highlighted in the newspapers recently about the mur-der of a Malay student by his fellow students who were apparently jealous of him. It seems he was better in studies and teachers tended to favour him above others.

When we chant the five precepts, there is no mention about abstaining from jealousy. How-ever, when jealousy arises and grows to a great intensity, it can lead to extremely horrifying consequences, such as killing. Even if it does not go that far, any hint of jealousy is still something that is unwholesome.

In Culakammavibhanga Sutta (MN 135), the Buddha said that a person who is habitually jealous of others’ good fortune may be reborn in hell. Even if he is reborn as a human being, he will become one who is insignificant; one who has no influence. It is not explicitly said in the sutta, but perhaps if the kamma of jealousy is bad enough, even his children may not bother to listen to them. Such is the consequence of harbouring jealousy.

So, how then do we overcome jealousy? First of all, we must recognise it. In comparison to intense emotions such as anger, jealousy is relatively harder to see and recognise as undesir-able. Yet, no matter what, for the sake of overcoming it, we have to recognise it first and see it as something that is not to be entertained in our minds. Otherwise, we will not stand a chance against it.

One of the most important things we must not do is to try to justify jealousy, taking it as something ‘natural’ in us and is therefore all right to feel. Instead, we should see jealousy as it is, an unwholesome thought, and let go of it as soon as we see it, just as we should quickly release a hot object the moment we touch it. It would be for the best if we could see how it is rooted in the idea of an ‘I’. However, this can only be achieved with well-developed concentration and frequent practice. Even during meditation retreats, we find that in group interviews, a yogi can still feel jealous of the achievements of his fellow yogis. While we are yet unable to prevent jealousy from arising, we should try to overcome it by being aware that it has arisen and mindfully let it go.

If our mind is not strong enough to overcome it like that, we must find means and ways to develop mudita, rejoicing in the good fortune of others. This is usually more easily done if we practise on people we like first. The Dalai Lama once said if you can be happy over the good fortune of others, you stand a better chance of being happy. Think about it. Isn’t that true?

However, as long as we have not eradicated greed, hatred and delusion, the potential for jeal-ousy is always there waiting for the conditions to arise. For example, sometimes when I see devotees giving certain things to Bhante Aggacitta but not to me, the thought may arise, “Hey! What about me?” At other times, however, I may feel joy over the act.

Jealousy is plentiful in this world, but that should not deter us from practising to overcome it. If others can’t help being jealous, let them be. We do not have to be jealous, knowing that it is unwholesome and brings about undesirable results, such as being insignificant in our future birth.

I hope that with this talk on jealousy, we will always be aware of jealousy when it arises and make the effort to eradicate it.

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