Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Shame of Envy

A recent event, my reaction to it and resulting actions brought forth last night what had been brewing for quite some time:

I have been feeling envy
Wanting what they have
and that I don't have

It's been taking me
down the wrong path
and I didn't even see it

Forgetting to focus 
on the real problem,
of craving mind

I don't like to admit
to such shameful leaning
so petty, so small

I was consumed,
and now, the freedom 
of chains broken.

U Pandita's teaching about 'The Ten Armies of Mara' comes to mind:

Meditation can be seen as a war between wholesome and unwholesome mental states. On the unwholesome side are the forces of the kilesas, also known as “The Ten Armies of Māra.” In Pāli, Māra means killer. He is the personification of the force that kills virtue and also kills existence. His armies are poised to attack all yogis; they even tried to overcome the Buddha on the night of his enlightenment.

Here are the lines the Buddha addressed to Māra, as recorded in the Sutta Nipāta:

Sensual pleasures are your first army,
Discontent your second is called.
Your third is hunger and thirst,
The fourth is called craving.
Sloth and torpor are your fifth,
The sixth is called fear,
Your seventh is doubt,
Conceit and ingratitude are your eighth,
Gain, renown, honor and whatever fame is falsely received (are the ninth), 
And whoever both extols himself and disparages others (has fallen victim to the tenth). 
That is your army, Namuci [Māra], the striking force of darkness. 
One who is not a hero cannot conquer it, but having conquered it, one obtains happiness.

To overcome the forces of darkness in our own minds, we have the wholesome power of satipaṭṭhāna vipassanāmeditation, which gives us the sword of mindfulness, as well as strategies for attack and defense.

In the Buddha’s case, we know who won the victory. Now, which side will win over you?

What really got to me was my blinded-ness to the forces of envy. So focused was I on the outer object, that I got lost, and failed for a long time to fully investigate the source of my suffering. This is what delusion does to the mind. 
Envy, such a powerful teacher. 
When is the last time you felt prey to its twisted-ness?


  1. I fall prey to a little bit, a soupcon, of envy everyday! I'm a little envious for example, of this wonderful, thought provoking blog and I have my coterie of mindfulness based teachers that I enjoy reading, listening to and to whom I aspire, want to learn from. But truth be told I'm also, in my darker moments, a little envious of their achievements and presence in the world.

    I work with it, try to hold it lightly, notice the felt sense of its expression in my body and say to myself gently....yoo hoo I see you oh envy of mine! And when I can see it, I am aware of it and when I'm aware of it, I can work with it, learn from it, accept it, not constrict around it. And it is this noticing which is the moment of mindfulness, that brings my envy out into the light, taking away its power.

    Thank you for your post Marguerite

  2. Struggling with it as we speak... Even though I know better, still getting stuck again and again in the lie that craving can ever be satisfied, and that pleasure equals happiness.

  3. James, thank you so much for sharing your live practice. Isn't it what this is all about? Envy is so wrapped into delusion. Illusions of separateness, illusion of a solid self, illusions or permanency . . . A very rich emotion, that is teaching you and I both, a lot about the Dharma!

    I wish you to continue to practice well.

    With loving kindness.


  4. Yep, Dala, we keep getting stuck don't we? :) The mind is stubborn . . .

  5. Maybe just maybe... we'll learn that we are truly our own worst enemy.