Teachings on Jealousy

Excerps of this article were published in the July 2007 issue of Swagat.

Jealousy has been the major source of conflict in the world since history has been recorded.

In India every child knows the stories of Duryodan in the Mahabharat, and Keukeyi in the Ramayan. In the Old Testament we meet jealousy as soon as Adam’s sons, Cain and Abel arrived. Even today, wars start just with the thought, “Why is he so powerful? He could become a threat to me.” Those who crucified Jesus, those who stoned the Prophet Muhammed, and the hill kings who attacked Guru Gobind Singh all were jealous of their powers. If we remember, as a baby Moses was put in a basket to save him from the jealousy of the king who was told that one day a son of the Israelites would challenge his power, just as Lord Krishna’s parents were imprisoned by Kans.

All God’s messengers came to the world to teach us to share whatever we have, to share food, to share our houses, to share our land, to share good ideas. But within our minds there is a great storehouse of crime, hatred, anger, and jealousy. Only when we clean these away can the light enter our hearts. To remove them, we must meditate.

On a personal level, jealousy stems from our finite vision. We think that if another gets something there will not be enough for us, that if another gains we have to lose. But God’s supply is endless. It is often said that it is like a small bird taking a sip from the ocean. Guru Nanak has written, God’s bounty is so infinite that the one who receives gets tired.

Secondly, we tend to look at what another has or what another does and feel, “Why can’t I have that or do that too?”

We are all students in the course of life. Each one of us has their own trials or tests. If we want another’s path, we may not be willing or able to pass their tests. We should understand that we haven’t yet passed the tests to reach that step. If God places us on a step without our preparing for it, we might indeed fall off or slip further down the ladder.

God knows what tests we need. They are written, much like a computerized exam, according to our karma. If we prepare our lesson well and pass the test, we will be promoted. Even if someone has something we want, or think we need, we might be surprised that if they don’t manage it well they too will fall. A senior student who is poorly prepared is just as likely to fail as a student in a lower standard. If we are passing the tests at our grade level, in our standard, and even getting outstanding marks, why should we want to move into another standard where we in fact may fail? We should be happy and learn the lessons given by God and God will automatically promote us.

If we are constantly questioning why God didn’t give us more, or something other than what we have, what is the difference between us and spoiled children who never appreciate what the parent gives them and always want what their brother or sister has.

It is one thing to always strive to be better, or even to be the best, and to work hard at our goals. We must do this to progress in life as well as in school. But let us be so busy in our own work, in our own pursuits that we don’t have time to worry about what someone else has or is doing.

The Gurus teach perform that service which the Guru has commanded. If the Guru has given you the job of cleaning shoes, clean shoes and don’t complain that you’d rather work in the langar (community kitchen). The solution to jealousy lies in knowing that everything you need lies within you, and in the faith that the Guru has and will continue to give you everything.

When we surrender to the Guru, we will feel that everything is ours. We will see the light of the Guru everywhere. The hatred, fear, jealousy of others, the enmity will all be gone because we see him in everything. The Gurus teach, “There is no enemy, no outsider. We get along with everyone.” All are our friends because the Guru is sitting within everyone. If we learn to see the Guru in everyone, then how can we be jealous? Then we will realize that everyone we meet helps us along our path. Everyone has something to teach us, whether we understand it then, or much later. This realization comes only through meditation.

There is one simple formula to avoid jealousy:
Understand that we are climbing the ladder of life. Respect and encourage those above you. Make friends with those at the same level, and be kind to those who are still coming up the ladder behind you. This way you will always be happy.