“Everyone should be friendly for the service of the Lord. Everyone should praise another’s service to the Lord and not be proud of his own service. This is the way of Vaishnava thinking, Vaikuntha thinking. There may be rivalries and apparent competition between servants in performing service, but in the Vaikuntha planets the service of another servant is appreciated, not condemned.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.12 Purport)
“I’ve reached the conclusion that the spirit of rivalry cannot be avoided in life. This is based on my personal experience, both in receiving outside opinion and noticing the behavior in myself when hearing news, good or bad, about others. I wish this weren’t the case, but I think there is no way around it. It seems like envy will emerge upon word of any change in situation.”
My colleague got a new job. We were both in the same situation. The company we worked for was going south, and fast. The employees had to scramble to look for something else. I certainly wish well for everyone, especially people with whom I am friendly, but with this particular person something strange occurred.
They got a new job at a different company, and part of me is jealous. I wonder, “How did they land that job? They are not that smart or capable, at least in comparison to me. Perhaps I will never find as good a situation.”
If I had moved on first, probably no issue. I would be settled and in the clear, free to be concerned about others.
I live in a small apartment, while others I know have a large house. Their situation is different, for sure. There is only one income in my household, while the spouses in the other situations have their own careers. In the end, my preference is for simple. Less to maintain, leaving more time for higher pursuits.
At the same time, there is a hint of envy. Others I know can host friends and family for parties. They have enough room to give the children their own living spaces. I am crammed in every direction, and sometimes it seems like I have no privacy at all.
Again, I opt for inexpensive and simple. It’s a car, after all. How much time do I really spend in there? I need it to be reliable, good on gas mileage, and long lasting. The prestige aspect is of no issue to me. It’s a hunk of metal, in my opinion.
At the same time, if I see someone driving an expensive car, I feel slightly threatened. I make excuses as to how they could have afforded something so luxurious. I shouldn’t have this opinion, since their experience has no bearing on my way of life.
In another person’s household, the wife takes care of everything. The husband works, earns the paycheck, and relaxes while at home. In other households, there is shared responsibility. No matter how much the husband tries to help out with raising the children, the wife seems to think he is useless, that he does nothing.
Things are not always as they seem. Behind the scenes there could be major problems with that family that looks like they have it together. Still, there is constant competition. I have no reason to envy someone else since their situation has no influence on my day to day issues, but there always exists some sort of rivalry.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that the Vaishnava spirit is something entirely different. As an example, a person can be well-respected for their understanding of Vedic principles. They regularly speak in front of gathered assemblies consisting of hundreds of people. They have their own dedicated followers, who travel the world in order to provide assistance.
This same person can look at the sweeper in the temple and appreciate their service:
“Oh, look. See how dedicated they are. Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, must be so pleased with their service. I, on the other hand, am very proud of speaking words that I have trouble following on a day to day basis. We are so fortunate to have these other Vaishnavas around, as they show the way towards transcendence for fallen souls like myself.”
On the other side, the sweeper considers the world famous preacher to be superior. If the rivalry spirit should happen to grow from within, it is used to effect a positive outcome. That is to say when I see someone else excelling, I use that as impetus to work harder myself. Not to tear the other person down, but to try to keep up, to properly serve the Supreme Lord in order to achieve liberation.
Vaishnavas like Prahlada Maharaja are already liberated, even prior to death. Neither do they seek any type of reward for the service rendered. The chance to connect with Bhagavan in what is known as yoga is enough to maintain the enthusiasm, which continues to grow. Such saintly people become even happier when they see others following that path and subsequently thriving in their connection.
Seeing others to strive,
Likely past me to arrive.
Not envy with job like so,
Or when in bigger house to go.
Since the Supreme Lord pleasing,
Any jealous tensions easing.
Maybe now I should do the same,
With more faith in holy name.