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Ideals and Values/Mātsarya (Jealousy) The Sixth Internal Enemy

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

What is Mātsarya?[edit]

The word ‘Mātsarya’ literally means the feeling of jealousy when ‘someone else gets ahead of us.’ Śankarācharya defines jealousy as “a state of intolerance born by seeing excellence in someone else.” Jealousy is a feeling of wanting to have something that other person has and resenting that person for having it! If we are honest,  all of us would admit that we all have or still do experience this feeling. It usually arises out of comparing oneself to another. If one sees or perceives that the other individual has possessions and/or desirable qualities that one feels one lacks, the other individual is perceived as superior.

Harmful Effects of Jealousy:[edit]

  • Mental and Physical Harms of Jealousy: In a fit of jealousy, we can go to the extent of harming the other person. But even if we do not do that, we still end up harming ourselves. Jealousy is a very negative feeling that lowers our mood and saps our mental and physical strength. Once jealousy arises, it is difficult to get rid of. Just as fire has the capacity to grow and consume whatever is placed in it, so too jealousy has the power to grow and consume the individual who nurses it. In many Indian languages the word for jealousy means "to burn." The mere sight of possessions or accomplishments of others gives us a sense of deprivation and smallness. We become more and resentful of our condition because we start feeling that we deserve better. Indeed, jealousy has the effect of shortening our life-span.

The feeling jealousy towards others shortens one’s life span. Therefore, jealousy should be forsaken.[1] Just like the inert and non-living earth does not have a living mind, and just like a corpse’s mind does not work, in the same way, the mind of a jealous person is dead.[2]


  • Hinders the success of others and oneself: Overcome by jealousy, we start spending more time probing the progress of the other person, instead of focusing on our own progress. As a result, we get farther and farther behind in the race of this world. Conversely, a person who is free of jealousy towards others is always successful in life. In this connection, a wonderful example is given of how jealous creatures neither progress themselves, nor do they let others progress. If we put a dozen crabs in a class jar, some of them start climbing up the wall to escape. But the moment they climb up a little, the crabs at the bottom pull them down. When other crabs climb up, they get pulled down too. No crab is able to get out, because they keep getting pulled down by other crabs. But the crabs who pull down others do not get out themselves too, because they are just too busy pulling down others! Therefore, in the Mahābhārata, Bhīshma says:

    That person who is not jealous of the wealth of others, and is not attached to luxuries of life is indeed a saint, and will always overcome his life’s adversities.[3]

  • We claim credit for the Success and Hard Work of Others: An English proverb goes, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.” When a project succeeds, everyone wants to claim credit for it because they are afraid that the person who gets the credit might earn a promotion, an award or a lot of praise. Even people have had little or no role in the success of a project want to claim credit for the hard work or guidance that they really never provided. On the contrary, when a project fails, everyone washes their hands off and claims they had nothing to do with it! This is obviously very unethical behavior, which arises from a combination of ego, jealousy and dishonesty.
  • Loss of a Balanced Outlook: When we are jealous of someone, we start exaggerating their faults or even invent faults that do not exist. We view the positive qualities of others in a negative light. In other words, we lost the correct and objective perspective of others.
  • We take to Unethical Ways Ourselves: A particularly dangerous situation arises when we become jealous of people who have used unethical and illegal means to achieve their success. Overpowered by our jealousy, we start believing that we too can succeed and beat them only if we start using unethical and illegal means like them. Before long, we hurtle down the path of evil and use every trick of the trade to become ‘successful’ without caring whether what we are doing is right or wrong, and whether our actions are hurting others.
  • Jealousy is Bad Karma: When our driver towards success is jealousy of others, the fruit of our hard work is also tainted with the evil of jealous. Bhagavān does not give us the fruit of our efforts fully when they are inspired by jealousy for the success of others. The story of Ṛṣi Nārada and Gandharva Tumburu below illustrates this very well.

Overcoming Jealousy:[edit]

  • Pratipakṣa-Bhāvanā: The best way to deal with it is with Pratipakṣabhāvanā. It means first accepting one's feelings and then making deliberate attempt to replace them with the opposite, understanding that everyone has positive qualities (e.g. Rama teaching Lakṣmana, who is given to anger and makes erroneous judgments and talks harshly about their father Daśaratha and his stepmother Kaikeyi.). One first needs to recognize this kind of feeling and earlier the better. Then one should carefully examine its origin and understand it to be illegitimate, since it is not based upon a complete examination of the object of jealousy. It is always helpful to invoke positive thoughts and feelings about others' accomplishments and gains every step of the way in our life. That way we may improve our attitude and actions for our ultimate improvement.
  • Karma-Gati-Vichāra: Recognize that all of one's gains are the direct results of one's own actions. Sometimes, these actions were done in the present lifetime, and sometimes in previous lifetimes. Therefore, if the other person is becoming successful then he must have done something good in his earlier years in this life or in his previous lives.
  • Pancha-Karmayoni-Jnāna:Understand that the laws known and unknown, that operate to give one results of actions are uniform and unbiased. Our personal efforts are only one of the factors in determining what we get. Understanding the workings of Karma in this way helps us overcome the belief that we are ‘entitled’ automatically to rewards for all of efforts. Therefore, when the other person gets a promotion, a prize or something else that we thought we ought to have, then we should assume that there were some unknown factors beyond our present control that lead to this outcome. One of these factors is called ‘luck’ in everyday language. This understanding helps us accept the success of others and our own failure with grace and without the feeling of jealousy arising in our mind.
  • Dhṛti: Fortitude or perseverance. Do not lose heart but continue to work hard for what one desires. Jealousy is a negative feeling which causes us to wallow in self-pity and indulge in hatred and anger towards the successful person. But fortitude keeps driving us to continue to work harder and it is then just a matter of time before we too become successful.
  • Prasāda-Buddhi:Appreciate the grace of Bhagavān in whatever is given as a result of one's actions. When we acknowledge that everything comes from Bhagavān, Who is completely just, then we start treating the success of others as His grace.
  • Maitri:Friendship towards all. Typically, we are jealous of ‘other’ people who are not very close to us. It is comparatively rare to see a child who is jealous of his parents; and rare to see a parent who is jealous of the success of his or her child. We actually feel elated when our children, parents and best friends do good because we consider their success as our own success. Similarly, if we were to think of everyone as a close friend in this world, then we will always treat their success and prosperity as ours and will no longer feel jealous towards them.
  • Muditā: Delighting in the success of others. One must make a conscious attempt to check any feelings of resentment, unhappiness, hatred or jealousy that crop up in our mind when we see the success of others. Likewise, we should make a deliberate attempt to feel delighted and happy at the success of others.

Jealousy and other Evils:[edit]

Jealousy can combine with other evils with a disastrous effect. The Sanskrit language has several words to name the combinations of jealousy with other evils. Jealousy when merges with vain-glorious nature becomes Asūyā. Such a person cannot tolerate the praise of anyone else, be he an elder, a friend, spouse, one’s own son etc. When jealousy combines with Greed it is called as Mātsarya. A person with this flaw becomes upset when he sees others acquiring material possessions or when others prosper in their life. He says to himself, “How come he is overtaking me in success? I too should get the same things in my life, probably even better things.” When jealousy is combined with desire, it becomes anger.

Distinction between Jealousy and Healthy Competition:[edit]

Jealousy does not mean that we do not compete with anyone. Everything in life involves some amount of competition between us and others, whether it is a position in your high school tennis team or a job when you graduate. There are only limited opportunities available in life and there are more applicants than the number of these opportunities or positions.

Competitiveness means that you should try to keep learning new skills, become more and more qualified and capable in life and become more ‘sale-able’ due to your unique skills and qualifications. When you compete with someone else for the same position, you should be motivated and driven by your own success, and not by the desire to put the other person down. You should put your best foot forward in front of the interviewer or any other person who will make the selection and highlight your special skills. In this way, you will be a ‘healthy competitor’ and not a lowly and degraded ‘jealous person’.

Causes of Jealousy between Students:[edit]

Some situations that can cause jealousy are:

  1. Your classmate appears more ‘cool’ and is more popular than you are. He has more girlfriends and is more handsome.
  2. Your friend has richer parents and he wears more expensive brands of shoes and clothes and has more electronic gadgets than you have.
  3. Your classmate scores higher grades than you.
  4. Your neighborhood friend is praised more than you by people in the neighborhood.

You must constantly watch for this situations and correct yourself should you feel jealous.

Story: The Jealousy of Kekeyi in the Rāmāyaṇa King Daśaratha of Ayodhya had three wives – Kauśalya, Kekeyi and Sumitrā. Rāma, the eldest son of Daśaratha from Kauśalya was the favorite of all the three mothers, and the people of the kingdom. Therefore, he was declared the crown prince. However, just a day before the public declaration that he is the crown prince, Mantharā, the maid of Kekeyi, poisoned her ears. She convinced her that if Rāma became the king after Daśaratha, then her status will get reduced to that of a maid of Kauśalya. This evil advice sowed the seeds of jealousy in the mind of Kekeyi. She forgot that Rāma was her favorite son as well and not Bharata who was her biological son. But overcome by jealousy, she manipulated Daśaratha. As a result, Rāma had to go to the jungle for 14 years and her own son Bharata was declared as the crown prince.

Story: The Jealousy of Duryodhana in the Mahābhārata Yudhishthira, the nephew of King Dhṛtarāshtra of Hastinapura, was deemed to be the crown prince. However, Duryodhana, the eldest son of Dhṛtarāshtra wanted to be the king instead, after his father. Duryodhana was extremely jealous of Yudhishthira and his four brothers, who were epitomes of nobility, virtue and bravery. Out of jealousy, Duryodhana tried to kill his five cousins, called as Pāṇdavas, numerous times, and threw tantrums that Yudhishthira was declared as the crown prince instead of him. Overcome by his ‘moha’ for Duryodhana, Dhṛtarāshtra divided his kingdom into two halves. The barren western half was unfairly given to the Pāṇdavas and the fertile eastern half containing the capital was given to Duryodhana. But through their hard work and the guidance of Kṛṣṇa, the Pāṇdavas soon converted their part of the kingdom into a prosperous land. They built a fabulous capital called Indraprastha.

Duryodhana was once again overcome by jealousy and through various intrigues; he usurped the half ruled by the Pāṇdavas. According to their agreement, the Pāṇdavas were supposed to go in exile for 13 years and then get back their half of the kingdom. But when the period of exile was over, Duryodhana refused to return their kingdom to them. Blinded by his jealousy for the Pāṇdavas, he believed that the entire kingdom belonged to him alone. This resulted in the great war of the Mahābhārata between the Pāṇdavas on one side and Duryodhana and his brothers on the other. The results of this civil war were catastrophic, and millions died – all due to the jealousy of Duryodhana for his cousins.

Story: The Jealousy of Ṛṣi Nārada makes him an Inferior Musician Gandharva Tumburu and Ṛṣi Nārada were both great devotees of Viṣṇu. Once, they both went to Vaikuntha where Tumburu sang a melodious hymn in praise of Viṣṇu and Lakshmi. Please with his song, They presented him many divine jewels and clothes. Nārada became jealous of Tumburu. He decided to please Bhagavān Śiva to learn music from Him and become the best musician. Śiva was pleased but Viṣṇu and Lakshmi still did not feel impressed enough with his music to give jewels and clothes to Nārada as gifts.

Nārada then practiced music for several years in the hope that he would best Tumburu. But even that was not sufficient. Finally, Nārada decided to give up his jealousy and hatred towards Tumburu. Therefore, he approached Tumburu and requested him to teach music. Tumburu agreed, and taught Nārada all that he knew. Thereafter, Nārada went to Dwaraka and sang a song for Kṛṣṇa who said, “Now your music is indeed wonderful, because it is not tainted with jealousy.” Saying this, Kṛṣṇa then gave some divine gifts to Nārada in appreciation.

Internet Research Assignments:[edit]

1.       Find out about the controversy surrounding Nancy Kerrigan and Tanya Harding

Notes & References[edit]

  1. Mahābhārata 13.140.137
  2. Atharvaveda 6.18.2
  3. Mahābhārata 12.110.17