Spacious Passion

Chapter 4 – Coming up for Air

jealous gods

Eventually doubt about their self-definition as all-knowing beings will arise. When doubt about the permanence of their perfection arises, the idea of a need to act in some way to protract it also arises. This hint of struggle to maintain god perception is self-defeating and the defeat is immediate. As soon as a god struggles, the god becomes a ‘jealous god’ – because jealous gods are defined as those who struggle to be gods.

The slightest smell of failure is sensed in the air, and the other gods distance themselves from the one who is suddenly struggling. The rumour of failing ability and tarnished splendour spreads rapidly. Those who bask in the eiderdown glory of perfection drift away, as they do not know how to associate with failure. Having lost our fellow deities we struggle even more to find perfection again. We have lost the confidence of knowing that all we need to do is relax. We have lost the god realm. The suffering of this loss and inability to regain it is acutely intense.

In the perceptual realm of the jealous god there is a little more speed and energy. The state of relaxed self-absorption is not so complete. There is a degree of struggle and intensity, and things happen a little faster. The energy of the jealous god has the potential to accomplish whatever is attempted, but dualistic view distorts this energy so that its flow is impeded and there is a lack of confidence in the possibility of attaining one’s goal. Their neurosis is creative enthusiasm and activity—the jealous gods are actively ambitious—but they lack potency and commitment. Their need to always check that everything is going in the right direction pollutes the non-dual potential of their energy. Their dualistic view results in a nervous frenzy of continual observation and assessment. They have to be sure that they are keeping an eye on all aspects of their situation. This frenetic activity cramps and constricts the flow of energy that could accomplish whatever it set out to achieve.

The jealous gods associate with the god realms and yearn to be there. The perceptual state of a jealous god is one of ambition, of recognising the goal of god-ness but experiencing the actuality of dissatisfaction. Jealous gods recognise their capacity to be godlike, and feel that they simply have to work at it hard enough to achieve the smooth and glossy ease of a god. It is incomprehensible to them that relaxation is the key to the god realm. They insist that they must struggle and manœuvre.

In the jealous god realm I am so focused on where I would like to be, and checking that no-one else is getting there before me, that I am not able to appreciate my own situation. It is this struggle that keeps me from entering the god realm. If I could only relax, I would discover that I have already arrived where I wished so much to be. But the more I struggle to attain the god realm, the further away from it I find myself.

When I dwell in the perceptual realm of a jealous god, I see others’ unhappiness as somewhere I am glad not to be, or as a means to get to where I do want to be. I become a jealous god when my perception is dominated by continually checking and judging everyone else’s situation against my own. I delight if others are not keeping up with me and worry if they appear to be gaining on me. Alternatively I attach to a god being and hope that their shiny gloss will somehow rub off on me. I borrow their power and exist in the protection of their shadow. This is the sphere of middle management—people who are not quite at the top of the tree—or of the inner sanctum of the Buddhist centre. They have a clear idea of where they are aiming and measure everything against this. This is the realm of the rising executive who hardly knows his children and rarely spends time with his wife because he is so intent on getting to the top of his profession. He assumes that his family is content because they have a large and beautiful home, all the material possessions they could desire, and the children go to the best schools. He is unaware of his family’s unhappiness until he comes home late from work one day to find a note from his wife saying she has left him.

The energy of ambition of the jealous gods is particularly useless with respect to spiritual practice. Jealous gods do not seek to liberate themselves from samsara because they believe that they can make samsara work. They have seen the gods make it work, so they believe that they can make it work – if only they could become gods. In this realm I believe in the process of manipulation and struggle, and I commit myself to it. I have no intention of letting it go. It may require eventual success and the experience of this as hollow for a jealous god to let go of this realm.