Sunday, October 19, 2014

Beware! Jealousy Will Turn a Sweetheart into an Enemy, by Shang Rinpoche

Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche Blog Image
Some disciples visited from Malaysia two days ago. Before they arrived, one of them asked me over the phone if they could also bring along a female friend. After I agreed, he brought five friends along with this middle aged woman and they requested for teachings. Afterwards the woman remained behind with another of my students to ask some personal questions. As we talked, it came to light that she has a daughter who fell for a senior student during her three years at university. After graduation, the man started on a new job, soon after which he met another woman and turned the relationship into a love triangle. The woman’s daughter had a naturally strong disposition with an extremely strong sense of pride and found the situation unbearable. In the beginning, she became emotionally unstable, trying to negotiate with the man on several occasions, but he could not promise to terminate the affair. Then the unthinkable happened - the woman’s daughter tried to use household detergents to end her own life. Fortunately, the woman’s son discovered in time and rushed his sister to the hospital. They pumped her stomach and pulled her back from the brink of death. However, the story did not find resolution just yet. The woman’s daughter even went so far as to seek out her boyfriend’s lover… This woman was extremely worried and troubled by her daughter’s situation, which had completely taken over her mind and about which she felt utterly helpless. As such, she really hoped to get my advice on how best to resolve the situation.

In Buddhism, the suffering of unattained aims is mentioned as one of the facts of life. The suffering of not obtaining what one desires mainly arises from humanity’s innate propensity to possess as well as our greed. When we cannot attain what we love, what we think about, or what we desire, then what is called jealousy gradually takes shape. Jealousy then burgeons into hatred, a situation which is intrinsic and common to the human realm. Any person without special training in wisdom and stillness will certainly encounter a situation where they cannot attain their heart’s desire, and that kind of dejected and depressed feeling of sadness simply springs up unbidden. Jealousy is intrinsic to our human nature and exists for all regardless of age or gender. However, if not dealt with in an appropriate manner, it often festers into some of life’s biggest mistakes and traumas. History is full of such precedents. Wu Zetian of the Tang dynasty, the only female Emperor ever to rule China, was a woman naturally disposed to extreme jealousy and hatred. Even before she became Empress, she was locked in constant strife with Consort Xiao as they struggled to win favor, eventually leading to the latter’s unjust imprisonment, humiliation, and eventual murder. Her burning jealousy even drove her to get rid of her own sister by extreme means. There were, in fact, numerous murders out of jealousy by Empress Wu recorded in history. In her later years, after turning into a devout Buddhist, she became filled with remorse and penned the famous repentance letter. Alas, it was too little too late as the karma had long been incurred! In the past, there are also stories about people who grew up like peas and carrots and yet in the end, on account of jealousy incited by the talent and fame of their childhood companion, one schemed to bring ruin to the other. Pang Juan is one such example who stubbornly schemed to harm and eventually framed Sun Bin and had his kneecaps removed. Zhu Xi (1130-1200) is one whose brilliance was such that it influenced the imperial court, inciting the jealousy of Han Tuozhou, a fact which nearly brought chaos upon the whole country. In the history of the Jin Dynasty, Jia Chong originally had a bad reputation. His wife was also a very petty woman who, on account of her jealousy towards her son’s nurse maid whom she caught flirting with Jia Chong, beat the wet nurse to death. In a word, in any place or time where people exist, the mind of jealousy can be found. Yet if there is no way by which to transform this habit, it may at times bring a great deal of inconvenience and unseen pressure into one’s life, all the while creating negative cause-and-effect relationships and karma for oneself.

The Medicine Buddha Sutra especially mentions that, “[Some sentient beings are] avaricious, envious, jealous, and accustomed to praising themselves and disparaging others. They are bound to sink onto the three Evil Paths, suffering intense misery for countless thousands of years. When this intense suffering comes to an end, they will be born in the human world as oxen, horses, donkeys or camels. Often beaten and mistreated, they will suffer hunger and thirst and constantly travel along the road carrying heavy loads.” It is evident that for the people in the time of the Buddha, jealousy and greed were also an issue. The Buddha realized the crux of this issue early on, and so when he taught the Medicine Buddha Sutra, describing the compassion of the Medicine Buddha, the main point was to help sentient beings keep away from covetous desire, as well as the jealousy and possessiveness which arise from such covetousness. Furthermore, it addresses the heavy, irredeemable karma which is sewn by those who fail to attain what they covet and love. For this reason, it particularly admonishes those beings of the future to at all costs avoid falling into the calamity and torment of the realms of hell, hungry ghosts, or animals on account of the obstructions caused by ignorance and desirous greed. It would be even worse to have to be reborn as an ox or a horse in order to repay one’s karmic debts - in that case, the gains certainly couldn’t make up for the losses!

This is a short section of a conversation which I, Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche, had with a group of fellow practitioners from Malaysia.

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