illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)
There is this "realm of jealous gods", according to Theravāda, where sentient beings are gods and enjoy the fruits of wholesome karma, but are jealous of the higher gods… As many of you know, these 'realms' are interpreted literally by some, but allegorically by others.
Anyone with some success, or some ease in life, but still jealous of "more successful" others is susceptible of rebirth in this realm… Moment-to-moment rebirth however means the lessons from this realm are applicable now!
After 's 16'37'' video Jealousy & Envy: How to Overcome the Green-Eyed Monster I thought I'd address the topic from a different angle.
There are milestones for 'influencers'… You know: the first 10,000 or 100,000 followers, the entry in the 'top' 1,000 "most followed" profiles, the first award / recognition, the first interview, the first invitation to give a conference, etc.
There also are moments when doubt creeps in… e.g. when there's not enough food or heat in one's body to create content, regardless of how many people are reached.
There are moments when envy arises —often under the guise of desiring the widest influence "to promote a good message" (even though it might actually be about the ego…).
There are moments when jealousy arises from seeing others' influence —jealousy possibly disguised under the delusional 'truth' that one brings something 'better' to the world than others do (« it's not jealousy, it's just an observation, a fact »)!
For example, when I post a piece carefully crafted to support people to live wholesomely, it might easily seem 'unfair' that a fashion model gets more 'influence' (more followers, more plusses, more reshares…) from just a selfie!
I need a decent level in 'concentration' practice not to let the mind 'naturally' ('ignorantly') roam in this direction.
'Unfair' here is an utterly irrelevant label, but this is the sort of 'views', the sort of mental fabrications, that the mind creates! The key is not in suppressing them, not in wanting such thoughts never to arise; the key is in relating to such thoughts in a different way, it is in not believing them to be 'truth' (once we stop believing them, the mind loses interest in creating them… but the quiet mind (koan.mu/quiet_mind.htm) is a side effect of ending ignorance, not of forcefully repressing thoughts).
In her video, Mindah invited us to reflect on what we take for granted in our situations and do not appreciate fully, and on how we erroneously imagine our happiness would improve "if only" we too could get what another has.
I suggest we can also take the complementary approach: we can reflect directly on what we under-appreciate about the success of others.
It is useful to always reflect as to why it might be, or is, beneficial / wholesome that someone else has more 'influence' than we have, more 'rewards', more 'responsibilities', more 'visibility', more, more, more…
Firstly, it lets us see our own cravings for 'more' (and how this craving doesn't exactly 'help' our happiness); great lesson! Even 'for' a "good cause", craving is a root of suffering: navigating the opportunities wisely as they present themselves isn't the same as craving for more opportunities…
Secondly, it may actually allow us to appreciate a contribution this person made when we couldn't, a contribution which might have a very wholesome impact… It may thus allow us to turn jealousy into "sympathetic joy" or "altruistic joy", which is important!
So, as an example, here is a post dedicated to… a meditating !
By a couple of photos (including the one attached), she probably promoted meditation more than I could so far, and maybe more than I will ever be able to; what's not to praise? I could criticise her meditation posture, I could be jealous of her influence… or I can appreciate her contribution aligned with what I think helps many people suffer less! Which attitude I have is my choice here and now, it is not dictated to me by events.
What does this have to do with non-influencers?
We all are influencers! We all have friends, family, colleagues, dharma brothers and sisters, cellmates… Even the hermit might 'inspire' others, without 'apparent' (or 'traditional' form of) contact.
Making the effort to find the wholesome acts of others is a good practice, even in relation to 'small' acts. It isn't about competition (be mindful of that tendency!), it is about praising what's good in the world, nurturing it, encouraging it, and even getting inspiration from it! It may even be about sending the right signals, by way of what we pay attention to (gplus.wallez.name/JPFt9VDF1Dy)!
There are milestones for 'professionals'… You know: hierarchical promotions, first 'individual' client or first 'individual' delivery, first big contract on which one's signature is binding, etc.
There are milestones for 'spiritual seekers'… You know: first insight, first time one inspires —by one's acts— someone else to enquire about Buddhism, cessation of a first fetter, etc.
This is not about pretending that "it's all the same", or that there's no 'lower' or 'higher' on any particular metric of success (there's no doubt that Cara is more 'influential' than I am)… This is not about pretending that the wholesome tendencies you may find in others 'should' count more than the unwholesome ones you might also see. This is not about being naïve.
This is about choosing to be inspired by what's aligned with an understanding of wholesomeness, without letting judgements about anything else interfere with this (regardless of how wise, or ignorant, these judgements might be) i.e. without letting the mind make grand generalisations. Grand generalisations are what's naïve!
Making the effort to find the wholesome acts of others is a good practice, even viz. their 'small' acts.
'Small' acts might cascade into major changes in the world, we shouldn't neglect them: widespread fires start with a spark.
If we can be selfless enough to let ourselves be inspired by even a single act by others (instead of preferentially seeking what's wrong, or what might have been done "even better"…), there's usually one reason or two, or three, to rejoice about the success of others, without tainting this joy by jealousy!
By realising selflessness enough, I can rejoice about the 'reach' of Cara in promoting meditation, and be thankful that she promotes a better world. In a weaker moment, if I'm not selfless enough, I still can be thankful of how she thus supports my teachings by creating an interest in meditation, and of how she creates opportunities for me to practice… This isn't "being blind to what I may disagree with" (whatever this may be!); it is "seeing what I do agree with".
What I focus on is my choice!
What I cultivate (from where I am at, without wishing for another place to start from) is my choice!
Photo: Cara Delevingne by © Nigel Shafran,