And being envious of others in their supreme achievements,
Wastes the mind night and day in efforts to exceed,
Truth, if you cleave to it as truth, turns into falsehood.
Ah, at last, I have a ‘way in’ to talking about this section of the poem by Zen Master Ryokan. Envy, when it is more than just a fleeting thought or emotion it acts over time on body/mind, rather like a poison would. Slow acting but going deep into one’s system there to be activated when the object of envy comes into mind or view. We all, no doubt have been there but it’s a hard one to acknowledge to oneself and even harder to speak about. Oh, the shame!
Nearly a decade ago I wrote a post titled Mudita-Sympathetic Joy. Mudita is one of the Buddhist virtues and is, or can be an antidote to the poison of envy and jealousy. There are a number of references in the article worth reading.
This quote comes at the very end of the article and it’s important, critical I’d say to understand what we DON’T do in this tradition. Mudita is an important teaching, but not a deliberate ‘practice’ as it might be in other Buddhist traditions. This is Zen, the non-doing non-seeking Way.
Just to make it clear, in Zen the closest we come to cultivating virtues (mudita being one of them) is seamless sitting. That’s meditation in daily living, formal Zazen within the heart and intention of the Precepts.
The word ‘exceed’ caught my attention too. To exceed, to ‘better’ or surpass the perceived ‘supreme achievements’ of those who have ignited envy. Well, in short that’s a road to nowhere. Sad and understandable as such a drive might be. All, oh so understandable though.
“Truth, if you cleave to it as truth, turns into falsehood”.
Let us not ‘cleave to’ our version of reality and then believe that to be true.
even the deepest insight,
the most profound experience
fall to the ground
in sadness and tears
The Universe surely weeps