This morning our copy of Tricycle arrived – the Buddhist equivalent of Vogue. In it are glossy photos of Buddhas and mandalas, adverts for zafus and malas, and lots and lots of names of famous Dharma teachers – doing talks, writing books, and generally being inspirational and awesome.
This magazine often invites my jealousy out to play. I flip between feeling outraged that I’m not already in the magazine myself (with a regular three page feature), to feeling despair at the smallness of my influence and the futility of ever wishing for anything more.
After putting the magazine down and coming down to earth, I remembered that I actually already have been in Tricycle, with an extract from the Buddhist book I wrote with my husband. This is the trouble with jealousy and a lust for fame – seeking relief through receiving affirmation is like trying to quench our thirst with sand.
Of course, we all know what the Buddha said about praise and blame. In 8:6 of the Anguttara Nikaya he says:
Bhikkhus, these eight worldly conditions revolve around the world, and the world revolves around these eight worldly conditions. What eight? Gain and loss, disrepute and fame, blame and praise, and pleasure and pain.
Gain obsesses his mind, and loss obsesses his mind. Fame obsesses his mind, and disrepute obsesses his mind. Blame obsesses his mind, and praise obsesses his mind. Pleasure obsesses his mind, and pain obsesses his mind. He is attracted to gain and repelled by loss. He is attracted to fame and repelled by disrepute. He is attracted to praise and repelled by blame. He is attracted to pleasure and repelled by pain. Thus involved with attraction and repulsion, he is not freed from birth, from old age and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection, and anguish; he is not freed from suffering, I say.
(translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi)
We know it’s not helpful to have these feelings, but unfortunately most of us are not Buddhas yet. What will actually help us with these feelings when they do inevitably arise?Here’s what helps me.
Recently I have been looking at my contribution to the ‘Buddhist world’ as the same as my contribution I make in our little temple when the rest of my Buddhist Order are present, as they will be next week for our annual retreat. I am available to help in whatever way our teacher sees fit. Sometimes this is leading a service, and representing the Dharma at the front of a shrine room full of people. Sometimes this is cleaning the toilets before people arrive, or picking flowers for a guest room, or running to the shops to get some emergency basil.
I can perform each of these tasks with the same levels of care and attention, and know that they are all offerings to the Buddha, regardless of whether other people notice them or how much praise I receive.
I’m seeing my job as a blogger here in the same way. I’ll keep writing these blogs to the best of my ability, and sending them out into the ether. Sometimes lots of people will read them and enjoy them, sometimes not. That’s okay.
What also helps me when jealousy arrives is not to castigate myself, but to have empathy towards the parts of me that perhaps feel overlooked, or overworked, or lonely. The jealousy is pointing to something inside me that needs attention – and this won’t be achieved by just ignoring it, but instead by asking the Buddha to shine his golden light on it and soaking it in.
When the jealousy fades, I’m left with something different – an ability to discern between the teachings in the magazine I find helpful and those I don’t, inspiration from what I’ve read, and a feeling of gladness that there are so many people out there in the world, spreading the good seeds of the Dharma. I can also feel grateful that I’m not a big name in the Buddhist world, which I’m sure brings its own heavy responsibilities and complications.
Where do you tend to feel jealous in your life? What might need attention in you? How can you be kind to your jealous part? What is your equivalent of my work during retreats, and how can you offer your work up to the Universe?