Matsarya – ‘Envy’
by Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura
The word matsarya is used with different meanings in different contexts. Among its various meanings we find ‘enviousness of others’ good-fortune’, ‘distressed because of their success’, ‘malice’ and ‘jealousy’. Wherever the word matsarya has been used in the Vaisnava scriptures, it refers to that mood which is adverse to prema (pure love).
dharmah projjhita-kaitavo ’tra
paramo nirmatsaranam satam
vedyam vastavam atra vastu sivadam
kim va parair isvarah
sadyo hrdy avarudhyate ’tra krtibhih
In this Bhagavata Purana, where fraudulent religiosity and all other mundane goals of humankind have been utterly forsaken, the supreme spiritual duty (parama-dharma) has been expounded. That parama-dharma is pure bhakti-yoga, exemplified by those saints who are absolutely free from envy and full of compassion for all living beings. The Supreme Truth within uproots the three forms of misery and grants the highest form of bliss. When those with ample spiritual merit desire to listen to the message of this beautiful Bhagavatam, which was authored by Mahamuni Sri Narayana Himself, then the Supreme Lord Sri Hari is immediately and permanently captured within their hearts. What is the need of any other message?
This statement defines who is fit to practise parama-dharma – that supreme spiritual duty propounded by Srimad-Bhagavatam. And to relish the liquid humours of pure love (prema-rasa) is truly the supreme spiritual duty that this gospel enjoins. Those who are without envy (nirmatsara) are the only ones fit to practise this parama-dharma. Nirmatsaratameans ‘the quality of being free from matsarya (envy)’. Within the context of this verse, commentators have explained matsarata as feeling happiness upon seeing the misery of others and misery upon seeing their happiness, but if the meaning of the word matsarata is not illuminated in detail, it will not be understood by common people.
The Gang of Six Foes & The Cause of Their Combined Appearance
The jivas, confined by ignorance, have been entrapped in mundanity by the rope of the six foes (sad-varga). Lust (kama), anger (krodha), greed (lobha), delusion (moha), pride (mada) and envy (matsarya) – these six are called sad-varga, and they are nothing but other forms of the five types of misery, namely ignorance (avidya), egotism (asmita), infatuation (abhinivesa), vehemence (raga) and hatred (dvesa).
Extreme absorption in gross material objects gives rise to lust. In Srimad Bhagavad-gita, lust is described as follows:
dhyayato visayan pumsah sangas tesupajayate
sangat sanjayate kamah kamat krodho ’bhijayate
krodhad bhavati sammohah sammohat smrti-vibhramah
smrti-bhramsad buddhi-naso buddhi-nasat pranasyati
Srimad Bhagavad-gita (2.62–63)
The meaning of these verses is as follows: [By meditating on the sense objects, one inwardly mingles with them. As such] association with the sense objects, in the form of acute absorption in them, gives rise to lust (kama), which inevitably leads to anger (krodha). Anger gives rise to (sammoha) – that is, greed (lobha) to enjoy the sense objects even by unfair means. Greed for sense objects leads to loss of memory (moha) which in turn destroys the intelligence, or in other words it leads to pride (mada), wherein one fails to distinguish between virtue and evil. That pride leads to utter ruination – matsarya, which severely distorts the living entity’s natural, loving tendency.
The Means to Conquer the Enemy
Bhagavad-gita instructs us:
evam buddheh param buddhva
jahi satrum maha-baho
Srimad Bhagavad-gita (3.43)
The meaning is as follows: Realize that the soul, who belongs to the spiritual domain, transcends the intelligence. Controlling the mind through the principle of resolute determination, conquer that inextinguishable enemy known as kama.
All the Foes Are Within Matsarya
From all these instructions it is clearly understood that by misunderstanding the nature of our true self – in other words, due to svarupa-bhrama – the seed of lust sprouts in our hearts and gradually grows into the tree of envy, thus sending prema – which is jaiva-dharma, or the true nature of all living entities – far away. Lust (kama), anger (krodha), greed (lobha), delusion (moha) and pride (mada) are all included in envy (matsarya). Lust is included in anger. Lust and anger are both included in greed. Lust, anger and greed are within delusion. And lust, anger, greed and delusion are found within pride, which refers to all kinds of pride, including pride in one’s wealth, in one’s beauty, in one’s bodily prowess, in one’s high caste and in one’s erudition. But envy (matsarya) encompasses all of this: lust, anger, greed, delusion and all kinds of pride.
All Sorts of Miseries Are Included In Envy & A Man Prone To Envy Is Devoid Of Compassion for Other Living Beings
All the miseries of the living beings are truly embodied in envy. Two types of ignorance, namely, unrighteous ignorance and righteous ignorance; wicked acts and the desire to act wickedly (papa and papa-vasana); and commendable acts and the desire to act commendably (punya and punya-vasana), are all included within envy. The principles of Vaisnavism (vaisnava-dharma) – namely compassion for all living entities (jive-daya), the loving inclination to chant the holy name (name-ruci), and service to the Vaisnavas (vaisnava-seva) – stand directly opposed to the condition of envy. Those who feel distress upon seeing the happiness of others can never feel compassion for the living entities, and their hearts can never be suffused with the nectar of love of God. They maintain hatred and jealousy towards Vaisnavas, a hatred that arises from the long standing distortion of their constitutional nature.
Only Those Who Are Free from Envy Can Embrace the Import of ‘Even Humbler Than Grass’
Only those who are free from envy have imbibed the true meaning of the verse beginning trnad api. Sriman Mahaprabhu has said:
trnad api sunicena taror api sahisnuna
amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih
Sri Siksastaka (3)
Only he who feels lower than a blade of grass and who is more tolerant than a tree; who expects no honour for himself but who is able to give due respect to all others is qualified to perpetually chant the holy names of Hari.
A person who is free from envy possesses no false pride for wealth, beauty, high caste, education or mundane physical strength, and therefore regards himself as even more insignificant (sunicena) than a blade of grass. Such a person is also free from anger, aggressiveness and violence. On account of that he is even more tolerant (sahisnuna) than a tree. That is, he is exceedingly compassionate. A person such as this, who is free from envy and false pride in his caste, education and so on, despite being blessed with all virtue, never craves recognition or adoration from others. Thus he is amani, one who does not expect honour from anyone. That person, being free from envy, always feels happiness in the happiness of others, and pain in their sorrow. And so, he treats all living beings with due honour (manada).
In general, by being compassionate toward all living beings, he shows respect to them all. By offering great honour to noble souls like brahmanas (priests) and vaisnava-praya (unperfected Vaisnavas), he pleases them. And while devoting himself to the lotus feet of perfected Vaisnavas, he serves them.
The Ten Symptoms of the Non-Envious
(1) He who is free from envy, by his very nature, never criticizes sadhus (saints).
(2) He does not consider demigods to be independent lords, for his intelligence is absorbed only in Sri Krsna, yet he does not disregard them.
(3) He has faith (sraddha) in sri guru and all other superior devotees as befits each of them.
(4) He offers respect to the bhakti scriptures like Sruti*.
(5) Abandoning meaningless arguments, he apprehends how the holy name is the topmost, meaningful attainment (paramartha), a perception rooted in perfect conviction that the holy name (nama) and its owner (nami) are one and the same.
(6) He never engages in wickedness while depending on the protection of the holy name.
(7) He does not consider the auspiciousness of ordinary piety – such as societal dharma, religious vows (vrata) or renunciation – to be comparable in any way to chanting the holy names.
(8) He tries to inculcate faith in the faithless, but never grants them the holy name until that faith has awakened.
(9) He believes completely in the glories of the holy name as described in the scriptures.
(10) And he is devoid of any sense of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ in relation to mundanity.
* Which includes Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Upanisads.
O readers! Non-enviousness alone is liberation for the living being, and envy his only bondage. In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta it has therefore been said:
caitanya-carita suna sraddha-bhakti kari’
matsarya chadiya mukhe bala ‘hari’ ‘hari’
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-lila 9.361)
Endowed with full faith and devotion, listen to the lifework of Sri Caitanya… Cast aside envy and let your mouth sing, “Hari, Hari!”
Translated from Sri Gaudiya Patrika, Year 5, Issue 5
by the Rays of The Harmonist team
CC-BY-SA Published in English for the first time in
Rays of The Harmonist – “Krsna is Only Hungry for Love”, No.22 (Karttika 2010)
Next Issue – Year 5, Issue 9: “The True Meaning of Being Humbler Than a Blade of Grass”, 5 October 2012
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