HJ: The habit of comparing yourself to others is a recipe for unhappiness and yet the urge to do so can be overwhelmingly powerful. When we see others who have seemingly been handed a ‘golden spoon’, especially when they don’t seem to deserve it or are ungrateful for what they have, it can often stir up intense feelings of jealousy or resentment. In order to neutralize this habit it is important to see things clearly in the larger context of the experience of life.
We often only see a glimpse into other peoples lives and believe we have them pegged down and figured out, but the truth is that we do not know the content of their minds or the larger circumstances of their life. Frequently those who have great material wealth have greatly materialistic lives that lack substance and depth. This is not always the case, but often times is. Furthermore, you do not know if that person suffers greatly internally. The ego projects what it believes the world wants to see and that often times masks deep unhappiness or vapidity. In these cases, one would be wise to replace comparison and judgement with compassion for the one who suffers. Compassion can effectively neutralize the tendency towards comparison and actually help you to develop even deeper gratitude for the positive circumstances in your own life.
On the other hand, many who have great wealth or have achieved great things actually deserve it and have worked very hard or suffered and struggled greatly in order to get where they are. Typically we only see the end result, which is accomplishment and success. In these cases, one would be wise to stop comparing themselves and learn what they can from these individuals. Those who achieve great wealth and success while living in alignment with spiritual principles are role models. In this case, jealousy or resentment keep us from learning how we can improve our own situation.
In either situation, the solution to the problem is to stop judging and adjust your own perspective to see reality more clearly and escape the overwhelming emotional charge that jealousy and resentment can engender.
One must also be cognizant of the habit of comparing oneself to others as a reinforcement for feelings of self doubt, as this is also a significant problem many face. Always remember that there is a reason why things are as they are and once you discover that, if you are coming from a place of self doubt, you can use this knowledge to potentially overcome your own lack of confidence. Again, by observing the successes of others who have achieved more than we have, we can gain great insight into the solutions to our own problems.
No Complaints, No Comparisons
By Pujya Gurudev Shree Namramuni Maharaj Saheb | Speaking Tree
At various points in our life, almost all of us have experienced the following thoughts/sentiments:
“Life has been unfair to me. At every step of my life, I have had to face struggles to achieve small moments of joy. Yet, I see so many people around me, who get their way very easy. Numerous people have not seen even a fraction of the sorrows life has thrown upon me. He has a luxurious mansion, whereas I live in a small apartment. Every year, he manages to score more than me, even though I study so hard. He hardly does anything constructive, but still garners so much praise for his work…"
Sounds familiar? These thoughts do not belong to merely one individual, but almost everyone goes through this phase at some point or another in their lives. Consciously or unconsciously, our mind is constantly in a state of calculation. Much of our time goes in comparing ourselves with others. However, is this comparison fruitful or constructive? For example, apples and oranges belong to the family of fruits. However, comparing the two is futile. Both have distinct qualities which are not comparable on a common scale. So also, every soul comes with a distinct identity and a distinct set of Karmas. It is these Karmas, coupled with our Purusharth (efforts), which dictate how much we get and what we don’t. The fruits we bear today are a result of our present efforts as well as the actions of our past. Hence, are any of our comparisons worthwhile? Do they yield any constructive results? Or do we compare only to vent our complaints and frustration?
Comparison is not always bad. In healthy competition, one strives not to defeat someone else, but to conquer their own shortcomings and progress ahead. When our vision is directed towards admiring someone’s virtues, we automatically aspire to imbibe those virtues within us. This is a positive competitive spirit. It inspires us to grow and develop from within. And this constructive competition always inspires us to challenge our shortcomings, propelling us to work harder and fulfil our dreams. It acts like a check point, not letting us stray away from our path and constantly motivating us to progress.
However, more often than not, we do not indulge in such constructive comparisons. Most of our comparisons are a result of our complaints and resentment. We are always dissatisfied with what we have, always aspiring for what someone else has. Whether it is position, power, status, possessions, or any object of happiness, our comparison causes insecurity within us, and this insecurity is the root cause of jealousy. Negativity engulfs us, thus making our thoughts the instrumental cause of our sorrow.
So how can we overcome this web of comparison which surrounds us? Obstacles are a part of every journey. However, to reach the destination, we must learn to convert every obstacle into an opportunity to succeed. So also is the case with comparisons. Until today, we have always compared our condition with someone or something better, thus welcoming resentment. However, try to compare yourself with someone who is not as privileged as you are. This shall become an opportunity for you to count your blessings.
Take an example:
A poor man visited the temple daily. Even after several years he found no change in his financial conditions. He was thus frustrated and one day, he complained to God for being unfair to him and not paying any heed to his needs. He cried that he was not even in a position to buy a pair of sandals for himself. He blamed God for not answering his prayers and vowed never to visit the temple again. He left the temple in frustration, determined never to pray again.
When he was halfway down the stairs, he saw a disabled man walking towards the temple. This man had lost one leg and was walking with the help of crutches. The poor man could not control his curiosity and questioned the handicapped man, “Why do you come to the temple to pray when you have lost one leg?" He was astonished to know that the man had lost his leg in an accident just outside the temple. He further questioned the man, “Don’t you feel cheated? Don’t you feel dejected that God has been unjust to you?" The answer he received to this question transformed his thoughts. The disabled man replied, “Look down my friend. Can you see the man who has lost both his legs? I am very lucky indeed. I met with an accident but lost only one leg. Parmatma has bestowed immense grace upon me due to which I still have the ability to walk and commute. The accident was so horrendous that it was impossible for me to survive. I too could have suffered from the same fate of being totally handicapped forever."
The poor man who could not afford a pair of sandals was stunned at this response. He wondered to himself, this young man is leading a happy life even though he has lost one leg, and I am crying just for a pair of sandals? He is so grateful to God, as he has the ability to count his blessings. I am abled by all means, yet I am merely cursing my life. My greatest poverty is my disability to count my blessings!
Counting on others’ blessings makes us forget our own and invites dejection. On the other hand comparing our situations and problems with those less privileged than us, makes us feel grateful and satisfied with what we have. How much we get, what we get, when we get, how we get is all due to our own Karmas. Every individual binds different karmas and thus reaps accordingly. However, we can choose how to percept every situation the way we like; we can choose our reaction in every situation. No karma has the ability to determine our reaction and our perception. Hence, strive to change whenever you can, but learn to accept wherever you cannot. Train your mind to avoid unhealthy comparison and unhealthy competition.
Parmatma Mahavira has revealed that Samata and Sambhāv (keeping equanimity) in all situations is the key to inner peace. People pray, meditate or attend religious congregations to attain peace. However, these can help only when we are able to practice the art of acceptance. Real dharma starts with the first step of equanimity.
“Accept what you cannot change; Change what you cannot accept"
Another secret why we should avoid complaining is the prevalent “Law of Attraction" in the Universe. Successful people never utter pessimistic statements even in the midst of a thousand adversities. Why? Because they understand how the law of attraction works. Complaining or uttering any negative statements only attracts our negative thoughts to materialize into reality. It is said that, “Thinking makes it so!" meaning that our thoughts guide our actions and often become self-fulfilling prophecies. Our thoughts are thus responsible for the destiny we create for ourselves. As per Jain Darshan, this process is known as Vishwa Shakti; which means that every single thought reflects in the entire Universe and the strength of the thought compels the Universe to convert it into action, irrespective of the goodness or illness of the thought.
Thus, it is for certain that complaining doesn’t solve the problem. Complaining gives the problem oxygen to keep it growing. Hence, even when stranded in the midst of the most troublesome waters, don’t breed negative thoughts in your mind. If your mind compels you to compare, channel it to compare your situation with those who are going through worse situations. Your sorrows will soon seem meaningless, and experiencing gratitude will easily become a part of your life!
“What you deny or ignore, you delay
What you accept and face, you conquer"