One of the first teachings I came across in the early years of my yogic journey was an article about the teachings of love referred to as the Bramaviharas. The teaching is a way to show us a kinder more compassionate way of being and the third step on that path is called Mudita. It is written about in the Yoga Sutra (The guidebook and written teachings of Yoga) , where Patanjali (Known as the sage who wrote the Sutras) advises us to take delight in the good fortune of others as a means to attain a calm mind and a settled contented heart. Mudita is defined as a practice and an antidote to the feeling that one's happiness is threatened or diminished by the happiness of others. This false threat is something that I think is largely experienced without conscious awareness; almost an assumption and pretty much accepted that we wish we had what the other has and that their gain is our loss. In truth it it the exact opposite, when instead of being truly happy for someone we often use the term jealous. The term jealous insinuates that we wish we had what they had and that they did not. It is a form of stealing instead of sharing. So why are we using this term so loosely and so often. I wonder if we paused and reflected as to what it means to be jealous, would we use a different phrase instead - perhaps "I am so happy for you!" It is a phrase that indicates a shared joy, a bliss, and a feeling of having gained something simply from being in happiness for someone else. knowing in our heart that happiness of others IS our happiness. Jealousy, though it is most often not meant to come across that way, is in fact the opposite of Mudita.
In the article I read years ago - it brought the teaching of Mudita back 2,000 years to Buddha and Patanjali - stating that it was taught as a means to counter balance the common feeling that happiness or gains of others are threats to our own happiness and gains. This is certainly still relevant today, particularly with the advent of social media - where there is a lot of comparing. Having said that, there is certainly a great deal of support and celebrating in other's gains, creativity and fortune. It might be one step farther to consider that we actually, truly share joy when someone wins. We all win when someone is well; we share that wellness. It is because we are all connected and do not need to compare.
Frank Jude Boccio writes "Another major obstacle to feeling joy is comparing yourself to others, whether you deem yourself better, worse, or equal. By the act of comparing, you are looking to others in order to define yourself. The spirit of Mudita affirms that you deserve to be happy simply because you are, not because you are the same as others or smarter, richer, nicer or better than anyone else. When you believe and understand this truth, you can take delight in the happiness of others instead of feeling threatened by it. Your relationship to the world becomes one of communion rather that competition...Mudita can be a powerful liberating force, freeing you from judgement and envy and lifting the sense of isolation and self constriction."
When we recognize that envy and jealousy are painful feelings that significantly affect our mental well being and health, we might reconsider the words that we use. Our expression of joy, when coming from our own sense of abundance, is entirely about sharing and not about stealing. Quoting from The Dalai Lama "If you can be happy when good things happen to others - your opportunities for delight are increased six billion to one". Tich Nhat Hahn wrote " A deeper definition of the word Mudita is a joy that is filled with peace and contentment. We rejoice when we see others happy but we rejoice in our own well being as well!" Can we recognize that when the light within someone's heart shines - it is a light that we share...."And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same...and we are meant to shine this way, we are meant to shine." Thank you Marianne Williamson.
Perhaps we can start by changing our words simply from "I'm so jealous" to " I am truly happy for you" - and let the light bring brightness to us all!
"No one gets to Heaven until we all get to Heaven" Montigue Bingham