Different Kinds of Envy

Gifts“Janaka sent so many gifts of all different kinds. Seeing this, the demigods became envious over the bliss of the baratis.” (Janaki Mangala, 126)

paṭhaī bhenṭa bideha bahuta bahu bhām̐tinha |
dekhata deva sihāhiṃ ananda basarātinha ||

We know that envy is a negative emotion. We know this from the fact that it can cause us to do things that are unwise. We also know that envy is not grounded in logic. Just because someone else has something that we don’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are worse off. Even if they are better off in that sense, there is no reason to feel displeasure. We would be happy if we were in the same situation, so why should we not take delight over someone else’s good fortune? As the material world is full of dualities and is a reflection of the purified form of everything, envy also exists in spiritual matters. Its nature is different, however, which is seen in what it leads to.

Wasn’t King Indra once envious over Shri Krishna? Didn’t this lead to something bad? How is that spiritual then?

One time the celestial named Indra became jealous over worship offered to someone other than himself. The worship traditionally went to him, but one year it didn’t. It was instead directed to a hill, with the residents not holding anything back. They cooked every delightful preparation, poured all their love into the festival, and then were supremely delighted in the outcome. Indra was so envious that he decided to retaliate. He tried to cause harm upon the citizens who ignored him.

Worshiping Govardhana HillThis is the wrong way to react to envy. It shows the darker side to the emotion. In this instance, the envy was still spiritually related because it ultimately led to a glorious act by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna. To defend the innocent people given unwarranted torture from Indra’s wrath, Krishna lifted the worshiped Govardhana Hill and used it as an umbrella. This saved the sacred town of Vrindavana from the devastating flood. Thus Indra’s wrath led to something wonderful. Govardhana Puja is now an annual occasion, and the hill itself is considered to be non-different from Krishna, who is God. He is the real thing, not just a sectarian figure who is exclusive to the Hindus. He is the detail behind the abstract concept of a Supreme Lord mentioned in every spiritual tradition.

On another occasion, there was again envy from the celestials, but it didn’t lead to any harm. If anything, it made their longing to associate with the Supreme Being stronger. The envy is described in the verse from the Janaki Mangala quoted above. The same Shri Krishna was on earth as the jewel of the Raghu dynasty. Known as Rama, He was famous throughout the world for His family ancestry and His transcendental qualities. In this particular scene, He is about to get married to the beautiful daughter of King Janaka. Rama was famous for having lifted the bow in Janaka’s assembly. Being the victor in that contest qualified Him to marry Sita, as stipulated by the rules set by Janaka.

Janaka welcomed the groom’s party with the utmost hospitality. Goswami Tulsidas tells us that Janaka gave so many gifts to the baratis, the arriving party of the groom. Janaka didn’t give an overabundance of just one kind of gift. Considering it in modern terms, he didn’t hand out one million Rolex watches. Instead, he handed out thousands of jewels, necklaces, rings, and so many other items of opulence as gifts. The bliss of the baratis was so high that anyone viewing from afar would be jealous.

If I see my friend after a long time, and they have suddenly lost a lot of weight, looking real sharp, I will surely be a little envious. I have a choice in how to deal with this envy. I can intentionally offer them doughnuts and other decadent things to eat, hoping that they will get fat again, or I can take the impetus to improve my own health. The latter option is better because it brings a positive outcome to the envy.

In the same way, if we envy the closest associates of the Supreme Lord for the bliss they feel in His association, it can challenge us to purify ourselves to the point that we’ll get the same association. This association is a reward guaranteed by Krishna Himself in the Bhagavad-gita, where He says that one who thinks of Him eventually will come to Him. He recommends that all of our actions be done as an offering to Him.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.27“O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.27)

Offering to KrishnaThe offerings have to be authorized. We cannot go up to animals, kill them and then present them to Krishna. This is a mentally concocted style of offering, and it is indicative of impure motives. If we’re told to not do something, and we do it anyway, we can’t think later on that we’ll purify it by somehow connecting it to Krishna. The Lord doesn’t accept offerings of meat. He does accept grains, fruits, flowers, and water.

The best offering is thought. How nice is it if someone tells us that they’re thinking about us? Imagine then, the pleasure God feels when others always think about Him. An easy way to think of Him is to say His name. An easy way to say His name is to repeat mantras that contain those names, like the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

The demigods were envious of the bliss of the participants at Rama’s marriage, but they still kept watching. They dropped flowers from the sky when the time was appropriate. Thus they had their own kind of service. They too had an enviable position, as they were able to watch the glorious wedding of Sita and Rama from above.

In Closing:

When friend in good position to see,

Natural if a little envious to be.

 

Key is from there knowing,

Towards dark or light to be going.

 

Seeing joy of participants many,

Demigods desired service any.

 

By dropping flowers along their way,

Close to Sita and Rama they did stay.

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