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.

Advertisements

On Contentment

Contrary to what many may think, Yoga does have rules. In fact Patanjali places the ten injunctions as the first two steps, before asana (postures) and pranayama (breath control). There are many ways to understand the first two steps known as yama (moral principels) and niyama (observances). That is not the subject of this discussion but I should mention that all practitioners (and especially teachers) of yoga should strive toward maintaining these ten rules. I would like to discuss the second niyama: santosha (contentment).

A yogi must be content, satisfied. We should first draw a difference between happiness and contentment. Happiness comes with unhappiness, two sides of the same coin. If we have great highs we will also suffer crushing lows, we can count on it. Contentment is stable and strong. It maintains equanimity in your life. We sacrifice the highs in order to save ourselves the terrible lows. Not an easy virtue to practice.

A good start is having a non-comparative/competitive view of our own lives. By nature humans compare themselves to others: “The grass is always greener”. If we are always looking at our neighbour’s lawn we will never enjoy, appreciate and be satisfied with our own lawn. We have the choice not to look or even better, not to compare it to our lawn. The truth is that in life there will always be someone younger, fitter, better looking, thinner, wealthier… than us, always. By constantly comparing ourselves we block our own chances of self-satisfaction. I leave you with one of Jesus’ parables found in the Gospel of Matthew (20:1-15) that speaks exactly to this point.

______________________________________________________

There was a vineyard owner whose harvest was great. He sent his servant into the market place early in the morning to get extra labourers to work in the fields. He promised them each a denarius (a Roman silver coin) for the day’s work. Near midday, seeing that there still remained much work to do to, again the owner sent his servant to fetch more men to work in the vineyard. workers in the vineyardLate in the afternoon again the owner found much left undone, he sent his servant to the marketplace to get more labourers. At the close of the day all of the workmen gathered before the vineyard owner to receive their wages. The owner happily gave one denarius to each man. The men who had worked since early morning protested but the owner rebuked them. He told them to take their pay and go home. He had not been unfair as he had given them exactly as he had promised. The men’s unhappiness and dissatisfaction came not from the owner but from their checking the wages of the other men.