On Jealousy or “the Eagle & the Kite”

In the same forest there lived a kite and an eagle. Both birds enjoyed their freedom and never interfered with each other. Whenever the kite flew, he always looked up toward the eagle. He grew envious that the eagle could fly over the forest at such great heights. Naturally, because his size and build, the eagle could easily climb nearly out of sight. Despite the eagle’s indifference, the kite grew more jealous and plotted to destroy the eagle.

eagle flightOne day a hunter entered the forest. The kite approached and spoke to the hunter: “That eagle up there has long terrorized this forest; they say he is possessed by a demon. All the creatures of the forest will be indebted to you if you destroy this menace. It will be a great service you are doing”. A little surprised at the request, the hunter nevertheless understood the kite’s true intentions. The hunter replied “I wish I could help but it is an impossible task. My arrows can never reach so high. Perhaps if you give me one of your long feathers it will allow my arrow to fly higher.” At this the kite plucked one of his choicest feather and handed it to the hunter. The hunter tried a shot but the arrow fell back without nearing the eagle. The hunter said “Perhaps another feather will help it to go even higher”. Even though it hurt greatly, the kite thought of killing the eagle and removed another feather. Again the hunter tried, the arrow rose a little higher but then fell back again. “Perhaps another feather will do the trick” said the hunter and again the kite yanked a feather; each time with the same pain and the same effect.

After numerous efforts the kite found himself suffering from removing his own feathers and no closer to destroying the object of his jealousy. Angrily, he shouted at the hunter “You said my feathers would be enough to reach that eagle. Now look, he still sores high above me and I have lost so many feathers I can no longer even fly. What am I to do?” The hunter answered by promptly turning his arrow on the kite and killing it.

______________________________________________________

Often when faced with our own jealously we try to justify it to ourselves and others. Rather than try to rise to the other’s height, we instead try to drag down the other person. Like anger, jealousy only consumes the one who carries it and never touches the object of our jealousy. The most positive options are 1) to strive to achieve whatever we jealous of to satisfy that desire and if that is not possible, 2) to learn to be satisfied with ourselves and our lives (please see my post On Contentment). Contentment (santosha) is the best protection against envy. In the end, jealousy only ends up destroying the one who harbours it.