Saturday, June 22, 2013

service: the solution to envy

Verse 3.3: But those who, out of envy, disregard these teachings and do not follow them are to be considered bereft of all knowledge, befooled, and ruined in their endeavors for perfection.

In our last post we discussed how can envy can actually help us get a better idea as to our aspirations, interests and dreams. That is, we focused on the positive.

And that's what bhakti yoga is all about. It's about elevating not only our consciousness, but our very existence to the spiritual platform.

Sometimes the question arises however, "If bhakti is all about the positive, then why does the Gita (as well as all other bhakti texts) seem to focus on "negative" qualities and tendencies we may face within ourselves?"

And that, my dear readers, is an excellent question. As many of you may have experienced, the bhakti texts are holistic in nature. It is for that reason alone that they describe eternality and temporality hand in hand (i.e. the body and the soul) as well as all other aspects that relate to the material and the spiritual.

If bhakti is meant to elevate us, then we need to understand why we would want to be elevated and the present level we may be on. That's why the Gita speaks of three important topics. In sanskrit they are known as sambandha, abhidheya and prayojana. In English these words translate to - relationship, the activities performed to re-establish that relationship and the finally, the goal.

Yoga is all about our ultimate connection (i.e. relationship) to the Supreme. So in this way the Gita is outlining not only a path to get to the goal, but giving us the understanding as to why we should even try out the path.

In trying to establish our relationship with anyone, what to speak of the Supreme, there are many obstacles we may face. One of those challenges is envy. In today's verse we get to understand how envy can really hurt a relationship. That is:

Out of envy, we may reject not only a person but the valuable teachings the person may have to offer.

That's how destructive it can be. Krsna, the Supreme, is offering valuable advice as to how we can become happy. As a perfect guide and well-wisher, He's also giving us a "heads up" as to how envy can prevent us from implementing His loving advice. then how can one rid oneself of envy? The bhakti texts give a simple solution:

Serve the person you are envious of.

I said simple, not necessarily easy! This solution may seem counter-intuitive to many of us. I don't know about you, but my first inclination is to avoid those I am envious of! However, it's important to remember that that type of thinking is self-serving in the short-term. Bhakti is, after all, about "rising to the occasion".

Although it may be tough, by actually serving those persons we are envious of, we get numerous benefits.

1) As we mentioned in the last post, often we are envious of someone because we are attracted to what they are doing. This offers one an opportunity to learn from the individual.

2) We get a "reality check". Often we may looking at someone or something through rose-coloured glasses thinking that everything was just handed to them on a silver plate. WRONG. 99% of the time, this individual has worked hard and sacrificed to get where they are today.

3) We are effectively ignoring our false ego. By trying to serve the individual, we are tuning into our eternal position of service.

So the next time you feel a surge of envy, understand that it is not you (the soul) who is feeling envious and take the opportunity to serve.

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