Deconstructing Jealousy: No Special Me or Special You

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Last night we were speaking about jealousy and I thought that this would be a nice theme to carry us through into our discussion about the “self” – how we exist, how everybody else exists – since it’s very much involved in the issues of jealousy. We saw that jealousy is a part of hostility, according to the way that Buddhism discusses it. It is a state of mind, an emotional attitude that focuses on other people’s accomplishments: their good looks and their intelligence. It could be focusing on their possessions, the amount of money that they have; focus on their success, the position that they have in work; could even focus on their relationships – they have a partner, I don’t; they have a son, I didn’t have a son.

It’s an inability to bear this accomplishment: “I can’t stand it that they have accomplished this.” There’s resentment there. What it’s based on is attachment to our own accomplishment, to our own situation. If we look and see, well, what does this attachment mean here – using this word “attachment” – attachment is that we’re focused on this specific area of life. Let’s say the amount of money that we have in the bank. This area in which others have accomplished more that we have, and we exaggerate its positive qualities and its importance. In our minds, we make it one of the most important aspects of life, and we base our sense of self-worth on it. This is the most important thing in life, how much money you have in the bank; this is the important thing in life, how good looking you are. We can’t stand it that someone is better than we are in that area. That’s jealousy. Buddhism points out that the opposite of that is rejoicing in what they have achieved.

So, we can see, that’s the first level of dealing with this problem. But underling that – that we really have to work on to make sure that we don’t become jealous in some other area with somebody else – is this whole issue of “me.” Because really, what’s the faulty or confused way of thinking is to over-exaggerate one aspect of life and to base our whole sense of self-worth and self-value on this one area. That’s what’s really confused about the whole issue. It’s only on the basis of that, that you’re jealous that somebody else has done better in that area. And that gets into the whole issue of self-identity. “Who am I?” Do we define ourselves in terms of our money, or our good looks, or our position in life. Many people do, don’t they? You know, “I am a doctor;” I am a house wife;” “I am whatever.”

And overemphasizing the “me” into some solid thing that could have one solid identity, that’s the true “me,” that’s the real “me,” it’s the only thing that counts in life. And then, forgetting about everything else in life – that’s not so important. Only this one thing, how much money I have in the bank – that’s what really counts. So my parents told me. It’s important to recognize that this is dealing not just with material things, in terms of money or position and so on, but can also be focused on affection. Receiving affection, receiving love, this is the most important thing in life. And this other person has it, and I don’t have it. We base our whole sense of self-worth on that. That’s much more subtle, isn’t it? And of course we are insanely jealous if somebody else has all these wonderful loving partners and I’m at home alone. So, this is something important to deal with on a deeper level in order to really make sure that we root out this problem of jealousy.

Let’s take a few moments to just reflect on this. I’m sure we all have had moments of jealousy, perhaps longer than just a moment. We’ve had phases in our life in which we were really miserable, because of jealousy, and let’s try to identify within our experience what is it that was underling it? What were we making the most important thing in life, and then we were jealous if somebody else had more and we didn’t have that? And reflect is this really the only thing that is important in life, and is this the only thing that really describes me, of who I am? “I’m somebody who doesn’t have a partner” – and is that the only thing, that’s it, about us? Were we to die and someone were to sum up our life in one sentence, is that what we would like for our epitaph? The only thing about us that we would like anybody else to remember us by? It’s a good way to see the silliness of the whole thing. “He didn’t have so much money in the bank;” “She was not very good looking.”

By making it silly, then we see the silliness of the whole thing, of focusing on one thing: “This is who I am, this is the most important and I can’t stand it that anybody else is better than I am in this.” That’s the way that we start to overcome it, is to see how comic it is. Unless you can see how ridiculous it is, then you don’t drop it. Let’s think from our own personal experience, from our own experience of jealousy.


We have seen, perhaps from our own experience now, what it is that – at least in Buddhism – we are talking about when we talk about jealousy. In our Western way of looking at emotions, we also speak of “envy.” In Sanskrit or Tibetan there isn’t a separate word for this. But if we look at what envy is, it adds on top of jealousy what is called in Buddhist terminology “covetousness.” And this covetousness is, not only are we emphasizing one area in life as the most important and then we can’t stand it that someone is better than we are in that area, but what it adds on top of that is that, “I want to get that for myself.” That’s envy, we’re envious.

There can be two situations of that: either we don’t have any ourselves, and we want to get what somebody else has; or we have already some of that, which in fact could even be quite enough, and now it becomes “greed.” We want more because the other person has more. And in that second case, in which we already have a certain amount of this, but we want more because of greed – that leads to “competitiveness.” We want to outdo the other person.

There are many associated disturbing emotional states that arise from this very basic aspect which is defined as “jealousy.” And underling that is again a problem with our concept of “me,” because we think that “I am special.” This “me” is so important. “I am special and I should be the best, I should have the most.” We don’t consider everybody as equal or, you know, wouldn’t it be nice if everybody had the same. We have to be better because of the strong feeling of “me” – different from everybody else, special.

And we discussed yesterday – there’s no need to really repeat that discussion, because it’s not so relevant here – of how this jealousy and competition is reinforced by many aspects of our Western culture. We just pointed out this whole idea of capitalism as the best form of democracy. It’s all based on doing better than others, and the whole Western analysis of the development of society based on survival of the fittest: only those who are the fittest and the strongest are going to survive, so you have to compete with everybody.

Then that spills over into our whole unbelievable obsession with competitive sports, like football, and the glorification – going back to the days of the Olympics in ancient Greece – of the sports winner as being the greatest hero. Or these magazines that list the world’s richest people. These are the ones that get the most publicity. And then there’s the whole thing about voting, and candidates – “I’m better than everybody else” – and there’s so much in our society that reinforces this jealousy and competition. And of course this, like a disease, infects our attitude toward how we lead our lives and how we deal with work, how we deal with relationships, and so on. We’re jealous if anybody does better. We have to compete, outdo them.

But jealousy isn’t always associated with competition. Because there is another issue that revolves around the whole point about “me” and how I exist, which is involved here. And this is the whole issue of self-worth. If we have very, very low self-esteem, which is a rampant problem in Western culture for many various reasons, then we can be very jealous of what others have achieved, but we feel that, “I couldn’t possibly achieve that, I’m not good enough” and we don’t even try. So that jealousy doesn’t necessarily lead to being competitive. You just give up and feel bad about ourselves; so just feel “poor me,” that everybody else is so successful and “I’m a loser.” So that is another aspect in which this overemphasis, this preoccupation on “me,” really underlies in many different ways emotional problems such as jealousy.

Now, it’s interesting that from a Buddhist point of view that we analyze jealousy in terms of the focus being on other people’s accomplishments. In this, what we’re focusing on is the other person – “They received it and I didn’t.” So we are hostile toward that person who achieved it and I didn’t. Whereas in the West, we tend to experience another form of jealousy, which has a slightly different focus. And here it’s focusing on somebody who gives something to somebody else and not to me. Different, isn’t it? Related, but quite a bit different in its focus. “You gave your affection and love to somebody else and not to me.” We’re not so angry and upset at the person that got that love; we’re really upset and angry at the person who didn’t give it to me. They gave it to somebody else. This is our form of jealousy, isn’t it, that we usually think of. It’s interesting when you analyze it and see what is the difference is here.

Now, this is really very contradictory. If you think about it, how could we expect that this person that I’m angry with – because they’ve given their love to someone else and not to me – that if I direct that anger and jealousy, that they’re going to change their mind and now love me? That’s really very contradictory; that’s very self-destructive, isn’t it, in a very naive type of way. It’s funny, if you really analyze it. But that’s our strategy. It’s doomed to failure. Nobody is going to, “Oh, yes, I’m sorry, now I’ll love you,” when we’re angry with them. And we yell at them, “Oh, why are you going out with somebody else, stay home with me.” And if they do stay home, it’s only out of guilt. And so they’re not really with us; their mind is off with somebody else, their heart is off with somebody else. And we keep on being unhappy; it didn’t solve our problem at all. They’re feeling sorry for us and so they’ll stay with us and hold our hand. How satisfying is that?

That’s a little bit heavy, isn’t it? Let’s spend a moment to try to identify that, recognize that, if in fact that’s been a strategy that we’ve followed, and how successful has it been. It’s only when you could laugh at it that you see it’s so ridiculous that you really get the idea: this is not the way to solve the problem. The point being that the solution is even if we feel jealous and angry, don’t act it out. Try to get rid of that jealousy and anger through other means. But following it out is just going to doom the success of what you want to achieve.

Now, underling this type of jealousy – and this is the definition of jealousy as given at least in the English dictionary – this is the jealousy that is defined as an intolerance of rivalry or of unfaithfulness. They’re giving something to our rival and not to us, and in this sense of not being faithful to us. That is, either they were giving it to us before and now are no longer giving it to us, or they’ve never given it to us – there’s two variations obviously. Of course it’s much more painful if they were giving it to us before and now are no longer giving it to us. And this is more what we mean here in the Western sense, this unfaithfulness. But we wish that this person could love me, even if they’ve never loved us. So both forms occur.

Again, it’s overestimating one aspect of life – receiving affection from somebody, making this the most important thing. And it is again based on a very strong sense of “me” and “you.” There’s the big feeling of “me” – “I want to receive it; I want to receive this affection, not somebody else.” And what’s even stronger, actually, than this solidification of “me” is the solidification of “you.” “I want it from you. It doesn’t matter if there are ten other people who love me or a hundred other people who love me. That doesn’t count; I want you to love me.” Isn’t it?

If we think about it, this is this thing, which is usually false; I mean, there is the possibility it could be true, but in almost every case it’s false that nobody loves me. We think that, don’t we? “Nobody loves me, poor me.” Think about it, there are a lot of people who love us. Our mother loves us, our friends love us, our dog loves us; there are a lot of beings who love us in one degree or another, already. That doesn’t count – this is the point – that doesn’t count. We ignore that, underestimate the value of that and overestimate – way, way beyond any sort of reason – receiving this love from you. “I want you to love me” – that’s the only thing that’s important.

That’s true, isn’t it? And that’s a little bit exaggerated, wouldn’t you say? Especially if we’ve experienced that several times in our life with different persons; “This is the one that has to love me.” What’s so special about this person? Aside from the question what’s so special about me that they should love only me, and not somebody else. There’s these are two questions: What’s so special about me, and what’s so special about you?

Let that sink in for a moment.

Is there any basis why this person should love me and nobody else? And is there any reason why it’s so important that this person love me and anybody else who loves me doesn’t matter? What’s so special? So these are very deeps questions, aren’t they? Really, one has to reconsider the way that we’re viewing the world, the way we view ourselves and the way that we view others. Is there something that is really basically confused that’s there, that is underling our emotional problems?

This is very important to recognize because then we know what really we have to work on, on the deepest level, in order to free ourselves from these emotional problems so that they don’t arise again. We don’t just get rid of them when they arise; we want to take a preventive that they don’t arise again. Ever again. And the only way to really prevent them from ever arising again is to understand how we exist, how others exist, how the world exists. And to be able to really stop our unconscious projections of myths and fantasies. What is the reality of relationships with somebody? What can we realistically expect and what is absolutely unrealistic expectations with somebody in our relationship?

We can see that in this issue of jealousy, in this particular form that the West tends to focus on, what is also very much connected with it is possessiveness. “I want you to belong to me, and only me.” And there’s a very lovely image that can help with that, which I think is quite relevant – not only for the issue of possessiveness, but also for jealousy. This is the image of a wild bird. Let’s say we have a bird feeder, a little house that we put pieces of bread, or seeds, or something like that, in our garden; or maybe we put it by our window, to feed wild birds. And a beautiful wild bird comes to our feeder, let’s say to our window. Now, what’s our attitude toward this beautiful wild bird?

This is a free bird. If it comes to my window – how wonderful, how beautiful. And we can enjoy very much the beauty of the time that that wild bird spends with us. And maybe, if we’re really fortunate, that wild bird will feel so comfortable by our window that she’ll make a nest in the garden and stay for a season. And so we can enjoy the presence of a wild bird in our garden for a whole season – how beautiful, how lovely. But eventually, that wild bird either after a few minutes or after a season is going to fly away. After all it’s a free, wild bird. And if the bird returns again, well, that’s really wonderful, isn’t it? But this isn’t the only wild bird that there is, and it would be foolish to just want that particular wild bird to come back. If another wild bird came, we could also enjoy the beauty of that wild bird for the short time that he or she will be with us.

This form of jealousy: “I want that bird only to come to me and not go to anybody else, and I don’t want any other bird to come” – so we’re jealous if that wild bird goes to somebody else – that will be very foolish, wouldn’t it? It’s not appropriate for a wild bird. Actually if we really like the bird, we would rejoice – here’s the Buddhist thing – we would rejoice that, in this bird’s journeys over the year, that other people were kind enough to also feed her. And as I said, if the bird comes back, that’s a bonus. We didn’t really expect it or demand it, “You must come back next year.” We don’t say that. But, if when that bird came to our window, we try to catch it; the bird will get very frightened, wouldn’t it? And run away, fly away, wouldn’t come back. And if we succeeded in catching it and put it in a cage, which is basically a prison, how happy would that wild bird be? Because we want it for me, and would that bird feel so comfortable and will now make a nest and lay an egg in the cage? No, not at all, not at all.

This is a very, very a helpful image with loved ones who come into our life, even our children. They’re like wild birds who come in to our life for a short time. And they are free. They go here and there; they have other friends. And if they come back to us later in life and continue to visit us and all these things, that’s really wonderful, isn’t it? We can really enjoy the time that we have with each other now, and if they come back we can also enjoy that. But if we’re jealous if they go to somebody else, jealous that they don’t give all their time to us, how does that affect that relationship? Especially if we make demands that they stay home. Always be with us, not have any other friends. Not just the children, we’re talking about loved ones, friends, in marriages also. If we try to keep them in a cage, how happy are they going to be? And if we try to catch them and put them in the cage, don’t we scare them away? And if we do succeed in locking them in the cage, and they stay there out of guilt, how happy are they and how happy are we with that?

It’s very helpful to view our loved ones, whoever they might be, as beautiful wild birds who have come into our life. And to enjoy the beauty of the time that we have together. And of course, this person is going to have other friends, other interests, be with other people. They might live with us, stay with us, like making the nest, but they might also go. And, if we really love this person, we will really hope and rejoice that their friends were as kind to the one that we love as we’ve been, wouldn’t we? “I wish that you really had good friends and people who really loved you in your life.”

That’s a much healthier way with dealing with our relationships that helps us to avoid all these issues of jealousy and possessiveness – much more successful in terms of actually enjoying the time. If you ever go to visit somebody that you haven’t seen in a while, and all they do is complain that you can’t stay longer, rather than actually enjoy the time that you have together. Let’s think about that and try to apply this image of the wild bird to our loved ones. Especially the ones that we feel jealousy about, if we’re jealous that they spend time with others or that they love somebody else.

Good. So, in the discussion that we’ve had so far, we’ve been speaking the last part about the jealousy which is an intolerance of rivalry or of unfaithfulness. And which we’re really upset if somebody that we focus on gives their affection or gives some of their time to someone else instead of us. And underling it are problems about the “me,” and the concept of “me” and of “you,” that “You’re special, I have to have this from you; and I’m special, I have to be the only one who gets it.”

A further aspect of the problem with “me” that underlies that is the aspect of insecurity. We’re insecure of our self-worth, and we’re insecure of the other person’s love for “me” – a strong “me” – and we feel that this big “me” is going to be abandoned or has been abandoned, if you’re with somebody else. You spend your time with somebody else. Even if they leave us we’ve been abandoned.

So the issue of self-worth of course very much involves our understanding of who I am, and what is the “me.” But I wanted to, just for the sake of completeness, before we go into this, finish – briefly though – what might be left over from this image that we were using in terms of the wild bird. The thing is that we have looked at this from the point of view of the person who’s trying to put the other one into the cage, and often we find ourselves on the other side, of being the wild bird; that somebody is trying to put us into a cage and how do we deal with that.

I think that here there are several points that are involved. First of all is – and always very, very important – is to clear up the reality of the situation. Very often in a relationship, even in a marriage, but also outside of marriage, each person has a different idea of what the relationship entails, what the boundaries are. And I think that it’s really quite important to make clear. Otherwise, somebody is expecting something which is just not going to happen, or which is just not how we view things, whether we’re in a sexual partnership relationship, a marriage, or a friendship.

This is important for both sides of the relationship; both people need to make that clear, and preferably before problems arise. However, you have to avoid the extreme of constantly negotiating the contract and renegotiating it, and always talking about “our relationship” and how are you relating to “our relationship,” rather than living the relationship. And for both sides to be honest and not keep inside, but to make it known to the other person when they feel hurt. Either because “You’re not in my cage” or “You’re trying to put me into a cage.” But to try to be skillful enough to do that without the intention behind it to make the other person feel guilty and force them into doing what we want.

Because in life it’s important to know what are the effects of our behavior. I mean, often we’re very naive about that, and we think that we can act in any way that we want and it doesn’t affect the other person or anybody else. “Nobody really has feelings except us; nobody ever gets hurt or feels being hurt except us.” So, there are certain responsibilities in terms of sexual faithfulness, these sorts of things; well, these are boundaries that maybe we want to keep. But there are other boundaries that of course can be more flexible.

I think also that it’s important to not, if one area doesn’t work out, to throw the other person away into the garbage. “You are unfaithful, and now I don’t want to ever see you again.” You might get a divorce, that’s something else, but that’s no reason to stop loving the person, stop caring for them; I mean, and you don’t have to see them every day. But relationships don’t have to be all or nothing; they can be redefined. From a Buddhist point of view, I mean, there’s karma there. There is some karmic connection there, and you can’t just throw them to the garbage, it’s still there.

Now, we might want to say in that situation, “I’m really hurt, by your behavior and so on, and maybe we need to break up, but I don’t want to lose you as a friend, but give me time. Give me a couple of months off when I can sort of cool down and deal with the change in the situation, and then, I’d like to continue being your friend. I care for you; otherwise, I never would have gotten into these relationships to start with.” That’s a much more mature way of dealing with it. Regardless of which side we’re on, the one that’s the bird or the one that’s trying to put you in the cage. It would be a mature way of dealing with these situations. Because nobody is ever going to be in the fairy tale that we live happily ever after, I mean, that just doesn’t happen.

If we’re not dealing here with a sexual issue, but we’re just dealing with a time issue, of how much time we spend with the other person, as I suggested last night, if somebody is demanding all our time and that’s unreasonable, that we give them a certain fixed time that we’re going to be with them or a certain thing that we’re going to do with them, and then we’re totally dependable. They can always count on this. Then they don’t feel abandoned. And then when we are with them during that weekly meeting or daily time or whenever it might be, we’re a hundred percent with that person, with our full heart and full attention and not looking at our watch.

OK, so let’s just take one or two minutes to digest this point and then we’ll go on… One last point about this. We need to also be flexible in terms of currency – how other people pay us – which is the image for how they express or give us love. We need to be flexible about that, and we can understand that with the analogy of currency. This helps us to feel more secure in somebody’s love. Because this often is the problem, we feel insecure; “Maybe they love me, they don’t love me, I’m going to be abandoned,” and so on.

We might want to be paid in euros, but this person only has dollars or they only have Swiss francs. And so they can’t really pay us, they can’t really love us in the way that we would like them to love us. But we need to be willing to accept their currency, what they’re able to give us, and to realize that this is an expression of their love. This is what they’re able to do. And the same thing if we’re on the other side – this is the currency I have, I don’t have euros, I only have Swiss franc, or I only have dollars. And also to be flexible enough when the other person says, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any money now; I don’t have time now, I’m too busy. I can’t meet you this week, something came up, but we’ll meet next week. If I get some more money, then of course, I’d love to pay you, or be with you.” That we’re flexible, to be able to be understanding in terms of the other person – how much money they have, how much time they have to give us. And the same thing in terms of us; “I’m sorry; I just don’t have any money now.”

It’s a useful image. Although love and attention are not really commodities that we can pay; still, this image can help us very much with the problem of insecurity. And we’re not going to the deep root here, in terms of how we think how we exist and how you exist, but it’s a very, very helpful way of temporarily dealing with the problem – very useful, really useful.

You want a moment to reflect on that? It’s OK, you get the idea. The real issue is to recognize the other currency; what is the other currency that the other person has? Often we don’t even recognize that, hey, they are giving us something, this is the currency they have; we don’t even recognize that that’s a currency. “I don’t know it in Polish zlotys; I want it in real currency.”

Very often with couples, the husband works for the wife and the wife is unhappy because he doesn’t care so much…

Right. It works both ways, the husband is spending all the time trying to support the whole show of house and the education of the children and so on, and if the husband didn’t care and didn’t love you, why would he work so hard to do this? But then the woman complains, the one at home complains, “Well, you don’t spend enough time with me; you don’t really care.” And the other way around as well – the woman is putting so much time into raising the children, taking care and making it a nice place to come home to, and all these things, and maybe even sacrificing doing a career herself. And the husband thinks, “Well, you’re just home doing nothing. You don’t have to work, you don’t have to do anything, you know, you’re just having a good time.” The husband demands that, “When I come home, you should give all you attention and everything to me,” and doesn’t recognize that maybe she’s tired; maybe she’s had a difficult day with the children. Both of these are important points.

And as I said, when we learn about voidness, learn about methods to apply it, then, first thing that we’ve been emphasizing here is to see that it really is important, but the other thing is to realize that it’s a strong medicine. And in many situations that a less strong medicine might be the preferable way to deal with the situation, and then slowly, slowly go deeper.

Now, one of the big problems that is involved here with the whole voidness issue is projection. There are two aspects here. One is that our minds automatically make things appear in a way that doesn’t correspond to reality. And it automatically does that, we don’t consciously do that. And then, on top of that, we believe that this is true; that it does correspond to reality. And the reason why we believe it is because – it’s really, really very insidious, very nasty – it feels like that. It feels as though this is what the reality is. That’s a hard thing to say in Tibetan language, but that’s how we experience it; it feels like that. That’s why we believe it, so deeply, so fundamentally, we believe that it’s true. It’s why it such a deep problem, because often we think that our feelings must be true; what I feel – that must be true. We don’t even question that.

So let’s look at our old friend here, jealousy, for example. The mind projects this dualistic appearance, of a “me” and a “you,” in solid categories. And so what happens is that here a seemingly concrete “me,” who inherently deserves to achieve or receive something, but did not. Right? Inherently. “I deserve this. And I didn’t get it. And you, over there, you didn’t deserve it, and you got it.” And it feels like that, doesn’t it? And it hurts. That’s why we believe it’s true. So this is really confused, because unconsciously we feel that the world owes us something, and it’s unfair when others get it instead of us. And that gets into a whole long other discussion about why should the world be fair. And it’s a horrible question to ask, we don’t really want to ask that. But why should it be fair? Is there such a thing inherent on the side of the universe called “justice?” It’s very Western. That’s associated with the Western idea of “God is just.” And there is justice in the universe. Not everybody on this planet believes that or thinks that.

So, this feeling of unfairness is culturally reinforced. But, I mean, there is also an automatically arising form of that. But what is behind this, on this automatically arising level, is that we divide the world into two solid categories: winners and losers – two boxes of these seemingly solid, true categories. Here is the box of winners; here is the box of losers. It’s like sinners and the righteous. It’s the same thing, Biblical thinking, this dualism. So here are the winners and here are the losers, solidly stuck in this box. And poor me, I’m in the loser box. And it feels like that, that’s what so terrible. Two boxes, dualism, they’re either in one or in the other.

And we put ourselves in a solid permanent category, and this is this whole thing of permanence, forever. We put ourselves in a solid permanent category of “loser”; we put the other person in a solid permanent category of “winner.” And not only do we feel resentment, we feel doomed; it’s as if we’ve been punished, “Someone is punishing me. It’s unfair.” And often our projection is so out of touch with reality that we start to think that “I’m the only one in the loser box.” We’re so self-preoccupied and self-centered. “I’m the only one in the loser box and everybody else is in the winner box.” Then we really feel sorry for ourselves and suffer. Something inherently about me that makes me a loser, that I’m a loser. “I’m dammed.” And even if we don’t bring in feeling dammed by some God that should be just and fair but isn’t, even without that, we are stuck in this box, the loser box, forever.

What complicates this is that not only are we naive about how we exist and how these categories exist; we’re also naive about cause and effect. This is very much behind jealousy and envy, often. We think that the person who got that promotion at work or who is loved by this person didn’t really deserve it. They didn’t earn it; there’s nothing good about this person that would cause them to receive this thing that we didn’t receive. So we deny any cause and effect there. And from our side, we feel that we should have gotten it without having to do anything to get it. Or that, “I did a lot but I still didn’t get it. I didn’t get my reward. It’s unfair.” So, we don’t see that there are many, many, many other forces, causal factors involved, besides just what I did. The little bit I did.

I must say that there are sometimes that this feeling that we have is reinforced culturally in a socialist state, in which just because you were born there, you feel that you deserve to get certain things from the state without having to do anything to earn it. And that infects very much our feeling that, “I should get this. I should be loved.” Very interesting, if you look at it a little bit more deeply, the whole idea of what do I deserve? Somebody deserves something and do things happen with no cause? This gets into a very, very deep issue. And often you see this in behavior, like for instance of a teenager – “How bad can I be and you will still love me?”

There are many, many issues here. I’m sorry, I throw up a lot of issues all at once. So maybe we need a little bit of time to reflect on some of these. These issues of imagining the world divided into winners and losers and all these issues of “It’s unfair that I’m in the loser box, I don’t deserve it” – this whole issue of deserving something. And “I tried so hard, why didn’t you reward me? Why am I still a loser?” And of course, what goes often with that is that, “You don’t deserve to be in the winner box.”

Let’s think about that for a few moments. Now we’re starting to get to very sensitive points about “me” and our projections, and our naivety. When we talk about voidness – and just so that you understand what the relevance is – voidness is referring to these projections don’t refer to anything real, and you pop the balloon of the fantasy. The projection is like a balloon – there’s nothing inside, it’s empty. It’s not filled with anything; it’s not referring to reality. Like the emptiness inside the balloon, although that’s not absolutely precise, but that’s a good image. So that’s the relevance of where we’re going in our discussion, just in case you start to worry that, “Oh, my God, he’s going off into another side topic.”

But first let’s recognize these projections. Winner and loser boxes. There’s three issues we’re looking at. Do I divide the world, and is it true that the world’s divided into winners and losers? That’s issue number one. And do I believe that the universe must be fair and just? And do I believe that from my own side, I inherently deserve something, like to be loved? For no reason at all; no matter how selfish I am, not matter how horribly I act. Just inherently I deserve it.

When we start to challenge our beliefs, like for instance, we ask ourselves why should the universe be fair, why should I deserve anything with no cause whatsoever? Why should that be the way that things are? It’s difficult to come up with the answer. And often we are only left with the reason “should be.” Just should be. Which is really, “I wish that it could be.” It’s like we see people who in the street at Christmas time are dressed as Santa Claus. We think that they’re really Santa Claus and that there really is a Santa Claus. Is there really a Santa Claus? “Oh yes, there must be a Santa Claus.” Why shouldn’t there be a Santa Claus? “Well, there just should be a Santa Claus.”

But unfortunately, although it seems as though there’s a Santa Claus, because, hey, there’s one in the street; it’s not so. The appearance doesn’t correspond to the reality, even though we think that there should be one. Just because we think there should be one, and it seems as though there is one, it’s no reason why there should be one. “I should be like that.” It’s fantasy. But – this is so important in the understanding of voidness – voidness of well, there’s no such thing as Santa Claus, but what is there? There’s a person dressed as Santa Claus. The person that looks like Santa Claus is still there. It’s just that the appearance doesn’t correspond to reality. The reality is it’s a person who’s dressed like Santa Claus and looks like Santa Claus. Voidness doesn’t negate everything; it negates our belief in the projected appearance. To be more precise, that just because the person appears to be Santa Claus, proves that it’s Santa Claus – that’s what it’s negating. It doesn’t prove that it’s Santa Claus just because he looks like Santa Claus.

Just because it feels like I’m a loser, doesn’t prove that I’m a loser. Even if you tell me I’m a loser, that doesn’t prove that I’m a loser. I’m a human being, trying, I’m that’s all, nothing’s negating that. I didn’t succeed, just that. Let’s digest that for a moment.


Another example. Just because you came late or you didn’t call me, that doesn’t prove that you don’t love me. Feels like that, but that doesn’t prove that you don’t love me. This is garbage. You have the perfect word for it in German: Quatsch. And that’s in many ways the useful keyword to remind ourselves when we go on these trips. This is garbage, Quatsch! It’s not referring to reality, doesn’t correspond to reality. Think about it.

That is the mantra of voidness, Quatsch.

Yes, very good one. Impossible for a Tibetan to pronounce, but good one. Think about it… This inordinate fear that comes is really comic, that the person is late, or they don’t show up – “I’ve been abandoned.” That’s complete garbage, complete Quatsch. The only reality is that they’re late, or they didn’t come. That’s the reality. And then, we try to find out what the reason is. Not “Oh, I’ve been abandoned; poor me, nobody loves me. It happened yet again, I’m such a loser. Everybody lets me down.” Quatsch, garbage.

And just because it feels like that, that I’ve been abandoned and I’m always the loser, that doesn’t prove that I have been abandoned, that I am always a loser. The only thing it demonstrates is that it feels like that. And because I think it’s true and it’s corresponding to reality, it hurts. And so, if I stop believing it, it wouldn’t hurt so much, and eventually it wouldn’t even feel like that. I would eventually just see, well, the person is late or the person has found somebody else, or whatever. This is the situation and we deal with it.

And if we have a friend who’s always late, then we deal with the reality of that. We either tell them to meet us earlier or we set the boundary. I’ll wait until two o’clock and if you haven’t come, if you haven’t called, then I’ll eat or I’ll go out. You just deal with that, no expectation. Everything is clear, and you go on with your life, and don’t make yourself miserable. “Poor me, the loser, is abandoned.” It’s garbage, Quatsch.

So, just one last moment of digesting.


So we deal with the reality of the person; we don’t make a big deal that they’re always late, about their being late. “I know that you’re always late.” I have a friend like that, always late for any appointment, and in fact, any appointment that I make with him, I never take it as definite. Because I know that person’s very busy and always something else comes up, and I just don’t make an issue out of it. I love my friend anyway. It’s not an issue, I accept the reality. It’s very important in a relationship to acknowledge what is the reality of this person and not project all these expectations that they be the way that we want them to be.

And, if I may bring up something, what often is behind this is a misconception which often is a very culturally reinforced thing, of wanting always to be in control. This is, I find, particularly a strong among German people. Everything under control. Everything is in order, everything is clear – then you feel secure. You want to be in control. This is Quatsch; this is absurd. Nobody can be in control of life. Life is much too complex; too many things are happening and effecting what’s going on. One has to recognize many, many levels of what is Quatsch, what’s garbage, what is an unrealistic expectation.

So, let us end here and think about these things, discuss them among yourselves during lunch, and after lunch, at three, then we’ll have some questions and discussion. And if you’re not here on time, I will cry. I will start to cry, because you don’t love me. It proves that you don’t love me. Or even more devious, it proves you don’t respect me, ohhh. A lot of people feel offended, feel that you don’t respect them. This is also Quatsch, it’s garbage.