by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes envy (issa) and stinginess (macchariya) contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as how the Āṭānāṭiya Paritta came to be Taught. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).
“Venerable Sir, all beings, whether deva or human, asura, nāga, or gandhabba, have an earnest desire to be free from enmity, danger, enemies, sorrow and anger. However, they live in enmity and danger amidst enemies, sorrow and anger. What is the factor that fetter them thus?"
To that question the Buddha answered as follows:
“Sakka, King of Devas, all beings, whether deva or human, asura, nāga, or gandhabba, have an earnest desire to be free from enmity, danger, enemies, sorrow and anger. However, they live in enmity and danger amidst enemies, sorrow and anger. This is due to issā (envy) and macchariya (meanness, stinginess).
Envy (issā) and Stinginess (macchariya) differentiated
Here envy (issā), means begrudging other’s well being and status.
(1) It has the character of feeling displeased with other’s gain, whether already acquired or about to acquire.
(When the sign or character of the displeasure in someone who begrudges another person’s gain, already acquired or is likely to be acquired, is noticed, the fact of the arising of envy in that person should be known through the knowledge of Abhidhamma, the ultimate truth about natural mental phenomena.)
(2) Envy has the function of dissatisfaction with others prosperity.
(It is the function of envy to feel distressed to get annoyed, when someone sees or hears other’s gain.)
(3) Envy is manifested to the insight of the yogi, as turning away from others' well being. (To the yogi, who has insight into mental phenomena, the result of envy is manifested as the turning away in disgust from the success and wellbeing of others. Of the four kinds of manifestation, this is the manifestation of result.)
(4) The proximate cause of envy is other people’s wellbeing or status. (Envy arises due to other person’s prosperity. If one has no occasion to see or hear of another person’s wealth, there is no cause for envy to arise.) (Commentary on the Abhidhamma)
The character of envy that reveals itself as begrudging others wellbeing and status should be explained regarding both lay persons and bhikkhus. To wit: Someone may have acquired through his own effort and qualities, in any form of enterprise, valuable things, such as vehicles or horses or cattle or precious stones.
Another person, with envy in him, may find it an eyesore to see that successful man prosper. He is very displeased with the other man’s good fortune. “When will this fellow meet his downfall? How I wish he become a pauper!” Such evil thoughts occupy the envious person. And if the successful man does meet with bad fortune, the envious one rejoiced to see it.
An envious bhikkhu sees another bhikkhu surrounded by fame and followership on account of the latter’s learnedness and efforts such as teaching the doctrine. The one with envy is all the time thinking about the decline of the successful bhikkhu. If the latter does sink in popularity, the former is pleased.
In this manner, the character of envy should be known as begrudging other’s well being and feeling displeased with other’s gains. (Commentary on the Abhidhamma)
It is in the nature of envy to feel irritated by some gain that someone is enjoying as a matter of fact. Even the likelihood of someone meeting with some good fortune cannot be tolerated by envy. Envy longs for another person’s failure and downfall. (Leda Sayadaw: Paramattha Deplane, Chapter on Mental concomitants) This is an explanation on envy (issā).
Macchariya: Stinginess, Miserliness, Meanness
Stinginess is also called meanness. It is a mean attitude concerning one’s own possessions.
(1) It is characterized by a secretiveness about one’s gains or status already enjoyed or about to enjoy. (One oppressed by macchariya, an evil state of mind, is secretive about one’s success.)
(2) Stinginess functions as a reluctant attitude about one’s own good fortune; the reluctance is the attitude that no one should enjoy similar fortune. One oppressed by stinginess is loath to share his gain or status with someone else. This meanness is the function of macchariya.
(3) Macchariya is manifested as unwillingness to share one’s gain or status with any other person. If perforce when there is occasion to share it, the stingy person feels very strongly against it. Or put it in another way, if it comes to sharing his property with someone or making any donation to someone, he would part with a very tiny portion of it reluctantly. (To a wise one with insight, stinginess is manifested as meanness about one’s property (or rights). This is the natural manifestation. Considered from another angle, stinginess manifests itself in anger when one is forced to part with one’s property (or rights). This is manifestation by way of function, i.e., how the manifestation works out itself. Or yet viewed in another way, it manifests itself as parting with only an insignificant part of one’s possession under unavoidable circumstances, i.e., giving away merely as name-sake which does not amount to a real meaningful gift. This is manifestation as result.
(4) The proximate cause of stinginess is one’s own possession or rights.
——Commentary to Abhidhamma——
Five Kinds of Macchariya or Stinginess or Meanness
(1) Stinginess or meanness about living place: monastery, dwelling place, park, day resort, night camp etc., (āvāsa-macchariya).
(2) Stinginess or meanness about one’s circle of friends or relatives, i.e., unwillingness to see one’s or relatives friends to be on friendly terms with others (kula-macchariya).
(3) Stinginess or meanness to share any form of gain with another (lābha-macchariya).
(4) Stinginess or meanness in being painful to see others look as attractive in appearance as oneself or gain as fair a reputation as oneself (vaṇṇa-macchariya).
(5) Stinginess or meanness to share doctrinal knowledge with others, (dhammamacchariya).
(To expand this:)
(1) “Living place” may mean any living space for bhikkhus, whether the whole monastic complex or a room or space allotted for residing by day or by night. A bhikkhu, who has a specific place to dwell, lives in comfort as a bhikkhu and enjoys the four bhikkhu requisites (i.e., food, robes, lodging, medicines). A stingy or mean bhikkhu cannot agree to the idea of sharing his living place with some other bhikkhu who fulfils his bhikkhu obligations, big or small. If that other bhikkhu happens to get a chance of living there, the stingy one is wishing in his own mind that the newcomer leave soon. This attitude or state of mind is called stinginess or meanness about living quarters. Exception: If the co-resident of a living place is quarrelsome, the unwillingness to share with him is not stinginess.
(2) Stinginess about ones friends or followership: Kula-macchariya (kula: clan;supporter to a bhikkhu).
The relatives and lay supporters of a bhikkhu form the subject of stinginess or meanness here. A stingy bhikkhu wants to monopolise them. He does not wish any of them going to the monastery of another bhikkhu or let them have any relationship between them and the bhikkhu. Exception: If the other bhikkhu is of an immoral type (dussīla), the unwillingness to see that happen does not amount to stinginess. As immoral bhikkhu is likely to debase his lay supporters; so the unwillingness to have relations with one’s own relatives and lay supporters is proper. It is stinginess only when that other bhikkhu is a virtuous one.
(3) "Any form of gain" includes the four bhikkhu-requisites, which are robe, alms-food, dwelling, medicine. When, on seeing a virtuous bhikkhu receiving the four requisites, a bhikkhu harbours such thoughts as “May that one be deprived of these gains”, this is stinginess or meanness about gain. Exception: Where the unwillingness to see another bhikkhu receive the four requisites is justifiable, there is no evil of stinginess or meanness. It is justifiable where that other bhikkhu is in the habit of misusing the four requisites, thus destroying the faith of the donors, or if that bhikkhu does not make proper use of them but hoards them without giving them away in time so that they turn unusable (having gone stale or gone to rot.)
(4) “Vaṇṇa” means personal appearance or attributes. Meanness regarding Vaṇṇa means displeasure at other person’s good looks or attributes in the sense that no one must have the same good looks or the same good attributes as oneself. The mean person (bhikkhu) hates to discuss about other peoples personal attractiveness or good name concerning morality, practice of austerity, or practice of dhamma.
(5) “Dhamma” is of two kinds: pariyatta-dhamma, learning the piṭaka and paṭivedha- dhamma, attainment of the Noble Path culminating in magga-phala nibbāna. The latter is the property of ariyas who are never stingy or mean about their Insight-Knowledge. In fact they are desirous of sharing it with all beings, devas, humans and Brahmās. They wish all beings to acquire the paṭivedha-dhamma they have gained for themselves. Therefore the expression Dhamma-macchariya can mean only stinginess or meanness about learning, pariyatta dhamma. Here the meanness lies in not wanting other people know what one has acquired by learning the difficult and obscure passages in the Pāli Text and in the commentaries. One wishes to remain the sole authority in the matter of learning. Exceptions:
The unwillingness to share the book knowledge may be justified on two counts:—
(i) where the learner’s integrity is doubtful while the purity of the Dhamma (Doctrine) needs to be safeguarded;
(ii) where the value of the Dhamma is carefully considered and the type of person needs to be saved in his own interest.
These two exceptions need to be understood properly.
(i) In the first case, there are some persons in the world who are fickle minded and change from one faith to another, from samaṇa to brāhmana to a heretical ascetic. If such an unreliable bhikkhu were to be taught the Piṭaka, he might distort the subtle teachings of the Piṭaka to suit his own purpose. He might misinterpret the meanings of scriptural terms such as meritoriousness and demeritoriousness. He might put the Buddha’s Teachings into the mouth of some heretic and claim them that they were what the heretic teacher said. There would be confusion. Therefore keeping the Piṭaka from those unreliable bhikkhus so as to preserve the purity of the Dhamma is justified.
(ii) In the second case, where the learner bhikkhu is of the type of person who is likely to claim arahatship even though not yet an arahat, that would be his ruination. Keeping the Piṭaka from such an unreliable bhikkhu is also justifiable. It is in his own interest that the profound Dhamma is not imparted to him, so that the non-sharing of the learning in such cases is not stinginess or meanness.
Stinginess exists in the case of a teacher where he is afraid that his pupil might outshine him, or excel him in the interpretation of the Dhamma and so withholds the learning.
Evil Consequences of The Five Kinds of Stinginess
(1) One who acts with stinginess in dwelling (āvāsa-macchariya), is reborn as a demon or hungry spirit, and due to the meanness about his living quarters, he is destined to carry the filth of that dwelling place on his head wherever he goes.
(2) One who is stingy about relatives and followership (kula-macchariya), feels painful to see his relatives and lay supporters making offerings to other bhikkhus. The greater the degree of stinginess, the greater the pain. In extreme cases, thinking his relatives and lay supporters have turned away from him, the stingy bhikkhu suffers heart-burning to such an extent that he may vomit blood, or his entrails would go to pieces and come out.
(3) Stinginess about bhikkhu requisites (lobha-macchariya), whether in respect of those of the Sangha or of a sect of the Sangha, not sharing them with fellow-bhikkhus, leads to rebirth as a demon or a hungry spirit or a python.
(4) Stinginess about personal appearance or attributes (vaṇṇa-macchariya), that makes one self-admiring and deprecating of others, leads to ugliness in appearance in future existences.
(5) (Penetration of the Dhamma (paṭivedha-dhamma), i.e. attainment of magga-phala nibbāna, arises only in the mind of the ariya who has destroyed all the defilements so that stinginess no longer arises in him, he is never selfish about what he has understood from the practice of the Dhamma.) Stinginess about the Dhamma is possible only in respect of learning. Stinginess regarding one’s learning (pariyattidhamma macchariya), keeping one’s knowledge to oneself, leads to rebirth as a dullard, an ignoramus, a stupid person.
(Or explained in another way:)
(2) Kula-macchariya results in dearth of good fortune in future existences. (This is the result of denying others their right or receiving offerings at the homes of the lay supporters.)
(3) Lobha-macchariya leads to rebirth in niraya where the stingy one wallows in human excreta. (This niraya is particularly nauseating. This kind of result follows the stingy one because he had deprived others of the pleasure of the enjoyment concerning the bhikkhu requisites.)
(4) Vaṇṇa-macchariya results in a complete lack of presentable appearance and good attributes in future existences. A detestable appearance and an abominable reputation is what he inherits for his past meanness. Whatever good he might do, goes unnoticed by anyone like arrows shot away in the dark night
(5) Dhamma-macchariya sends the bhikkhu down to the niraya of hot ashes.
Envy arises from consideration of other people’s property. Stinginess arises from consideration of one’s own property. Since the object of thought differs, envy and stinginess cannot arise together.
In the world, enmity, punishment and antagonism between persons arise due to envy and stinginess which are two evil fetters. These fetters are eliminated only by sotāpatti-magga. Unless envy and stinginess have been eliminated by Stream-Entry Knowledge, people’s wishes for freedom from enmity, etc. will never be fulfilled; they will live miserably surrounded by enmity, etc. This is the explanation to the Buddha’s answer to the first question. Why is it that all beings live in enmity and danger amidst enemies, sorrow and anger although they have an earnest desire to be free from them.
On hearing the Buddha’s answer Sakka was delighted and said:
“Venerable Sir, that indeed is so. O well-spoken One, that indeed is so. Having learnt the Bhagava’s answer, all my doubts are cleared, all uncertainties have left me.”