Are envy and jealousy the same thing?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Envy and jealousy often lie very close together, but we can distinguish them by looking at their causes. Jealousy originates from desire and lacking something, from the feeling of not having enough. A jealous person believes that they need the other person. They need to hold on and to take precautions. This is why they don’t like to see their hopes vanish. If there’s a person they like a lot and they suddenly lose that person, jealousy arises.

In contrast, envy doesn’t stem from attachment and lack but rather from anger and aversion. The envious person doesn’t like someone, and that’s why they don’t want that person to be happy. Although they don’t have anything to do with the person, they still fly into a rage if the other is doing well. This is envy.

In dealing with jealousy, it is of utmost importance to give the jealous person a feeling that you are there—even if you aren’t physically around. It is very important to show your appreciation for the connection you have with each other. A situation may arise in which you don’t share a lot of physical closeness. But if it is clear that you will not throw away or spurn what you have shared before, that instead you will honor it and be happy about it, then you can radiate this surplus into the world. If you handle jealously like this, it will dissolve.

This way, you have shared richness with each other; you pass it on here and the other passes it on there. Always come back to the feeling of richness, to the view, “Now we are sharing something rich. We will pass it on to all beings everywhere. Space is connecting us and holding us together, making us part of the same totality.” If you think this way, everything narrow minded disappears.

Space doesn’t separate us, it connects us. Space isn’t distance, it’s a container. Right now, there might be two meters between us here, and we experience this as a separation, as something we do not like. But taking a closer look, we actually see that there are countless kilometers behind us.

Our entire perception of space ought to change. We are used to letting our awareness solely work through our eyes, and thus we experience the world exclusively this way. As long as we only perceive through the eyes and only focus on what can be seen, we experience a feeling of separation. The sensation of being separated—of “a me here” and “a you there”—can be changed in a very positive way by opening up to space in all directions. One can practice being aware in all directions from one’s heart center or from the five energy centers at the same time, and experience the world this way.

For instance, if you try to expand your awareness through your back, you sense the pillow, the wall of the room, the wall of the house, the street, the cars there, the neighborhood, the city, the country, the world. This way, you can try out everything through all energy centers of the body and get more and more of a feeling of space. Let the sense of center and limit dissolve until there is only a state of awareness, which is totally open like space. This removes jealousy!

By the way, this is part of a whole meditation, but one can also practice it like this. In any case, it comes through meditation! Meditation removes the separation between you and me, between here and there. Then you are together anyway in the sweet state of the oneness of all phenomena, in the fantastic state of awareness. The experience of mind itself is even better and richer than having a lover on each side. It is a state that is far more all-embracing than everything else. Meditation is king!

If somebody has problems with jealousy, you can really say, “You don’t have a clue how rich you are. You can only see something beautiful in me because you carry something beautiful inside yourself. I only function as your mirror. I solely show you your own beauty, your own buddha nature, your own abilities. If you didn’t have all this in yourself, you wouldn’t be able to see it in me!” But it is quite difficult, especially if the other person doesn’t wish to develop but rather wants a cramped, exclusive relationship and puts great expectations onto the partner for their own happiness. It is difficult to help somebody like this, and you cannot protect them from every difficulty.

However, quite often pain is the motor of development. Only when the ordinary games and habits no longer function and a person experiences pain, only then do they come to understand that they need to change a bit. Otherwise, the mind is like a fat, lazy horse that prefers to lie down or stand around while achieving nothing. Generally speaking, since everything we experience is a reflection of ourselves, as long as something can be painful we are still learning. The moment nothing hurts us anymore, we have made it. It is as simple as that.

You can check it yourselves in your own lives. It may be in relationships or other life situations: as long as you find enough strength inside yourselves and don’t need anything else, as long as you are cool and happy and have surplus for other things—no matter what’s going on—you’ve made it. You are only still vulnerable to the degree that you need something again and again; or you want to hold on to something or push it away; or you need to prove yourselves, explain yourselves, or excuse yourselves.

If mind has been clear light from beginningless time, then why do disturbing feelings arise at all?

Lama Ole’s answer:

All disturbing feelings arise from ignorance. Ignorance is the fundamental inability of mind to see that the one experiencing, that which is experienced, and the experience itself complement one another—that space and its clarity are the same everywhere. Unfortunately, one mistakes space for an “I” and thinks that the clarity—all that appears in space—is a “you.” Out of this separation, the disturbing feelings arise.

We develop attachment to what we want and aversion against what we dislike. From attachment, desire and greed arise, and from aversion, hate and jealousy arise. Likewise, from ignorance—from stupidity—appears pride; one thinks of oneself as something real and important, even though one might die at any moment.

The Buddha teaches that there are 84,000 combinations of these basic disturbing emotions. They all lead to harmful actions and words, which again produce bad results. This suffering makes us believe that the world is against us. Then bad actions arise again, and the cycle continues on and on.

Because of Christianity, we here in the West believe that “clear” things cannot be holy. We think there can only be miracles if we leave things unclear, if they are a little bit mystical. But in Buddhism, we want to make everything as clear as possible! It is good to look at things carefully, to doubt, to differentiate, to be critical. This is how one becomes a really good Buddhist. Buddha explains the way things are, but the experience we must gain ourselves. It’s only unwise if we doubt the same things again and again. When we have resolved a doubt—and thus learnt something—we simply move on. But it is good to examine everything critically.

Whoever is critical in the beginning is like a diamond in the end: indestructible and clear. One has sorted out all doubts and internalized the essence of the teachings. Whoever is full of love and desire at first will be like a lotus flower in the end: open to everything.

People belong to different buddha families:

The transformation of anger is the diamond family.

The transformation of pride is the jewel family.

The transformation of attachment is the lotus family.

The transformation of jealousy is the action family.

The transformation of stupidity is the buddha family.

The strongest disturbing feeling—whatever puts the most stones in one’s way—is at the same time the best raw material for enlightenment.

What are the antidotes against disturbing emotions?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If anger is the biggest problem, then we should really force ourselves again and again to wish all beings everything good and to develop compassion.

If attachment is strongest, we should always remember that everything is impermanent, that we can’t take anything with us, and that instead we should let all beings take part in our joy.

And if confusion is strongest, then we should rest in whatever is there—we should go beyond concepts and simply rest in our center.

If pride is strongest, we should look at how everything is conditioned and falls apart again.

And if jealousy is strongest, we should go through with the experience completely to see that it is actually like a stream of awareness, like a stream of water in the ocean.

If I’m aware that my partner is suffering when I’m together with somebody else, don’t I create negative karma?

Lama Ole’s answer:

It depends. If you really think that this is your partner, then you have a certain responsibility to make him or her happy as best you can. On the other hand, you have a responsibility to help him or her grow and develop as a human being too. Ultimately, you need to weigh these two things against each other in such a situation.

It depends on one’s attitude, the way one thinks and experiences things. It depends on whether the partners have met on the level of “only you from now on to the grave” or if instead they have thought, “from now on, we are going to grow and develop side by side and manage the maximum possible part of the way together.” All this varies person to person. It is impossible to set fixed rules there.

With a jealous partner, for instance, one should indeed think seriously about whether an affair is of any use. On the other hand, if one’s partner thinks, “he knows what he’s doing” or “she knows what she’s doing” or “if she’s fine, I’m fine too, and if she falls in love with someone else, she’ll take more home and make everything new and fresh again.” In this case, it would be quite OK—always subject to the condition that the partners are healthy. But to do this, there must be a lot of trust between the people involved. If one goes to bed with somebody else, one goes to bed with all the partners that person has had since there’s something of all of them present. It is certainly a bigger thing.

One should always find grown-up partners and not small, dependent people with little surplus. It is not a question of morality, where we should think “bad” or “must not”—not at all. In Buddhism, the body isn’t considered something fundamentally bad, like in a few other religions. The body is considered a palace of light with 72,000 energy channels, all made of the nature of wisdom. The body is a tool to benefit and help others, to give them happiness and love.