Monday, July 9, 2012

Buddhism by Numbers: 8 Worldly Conditions


  1. Labha: gain
  2. Alabha: loss
  3. Yasa: fame; ‘face’
  4. Ayasa: obscurity
  5. Ninda: blame
  6. Pasamsa: praise
  7. Sukha: happiness
  8. Dukkha: pain
Living in this world, we constantly encounter the eight worldly conditions (loka-dhamma). We are subject to gain and loss, not only of material things, such as money, but also of the company of those we love such as friends and loved ones. Fame or renown comes in various forms, too. It’s not only celebrities and politicians that attach to their public image and the prestige that accompanies it, for we all like to present ourselves in the best light to those we meet. And who is indifferent to feeling a loss of face, clinging to the idea of looking good or even powerful in the eyes of others? As to praise and blame, only some kind of sadomasochist would take pleasure in being told that they’re to blame for everything that’s going wrong, never being told, “Well done!” Likewise with happiness and pain – do you like to laugh or to hurt, to feel joy or sorrow? Everyone that I know prefers to be happy rather than sad.

So, these eight worldly conditions are part of this human life. Someone’s always going to profit and someone else will therefore lose out; for one person to famous, there must be at least one other who’s unknown; if one person is chastised, another will be applauded; and what makes me happy, may well make you sad. How we react to these ways of the world is what’s important. If we respond to blame with indifference, remaining calm despite harsh words, then we are practicing the Buddha Dharma. If we couldn’t care less whether we are held in high esteem or thought of as a nobody, then we can be said to be rising above worldly attachments. 

Keeping one’s equanimity (uppekkha) when one loses out, or is lauded as the best Buddhist since, well, the Buddha, is the wise thing to do, if not always that easy. This is where meditation and mindfulness come in. Seeing how the mind reacts to praise and blame, for instance, gives one a starting point from which these states can be reflected on in a clam manner. The other day, I was praised by my boss as we said our farewells before I moved to another school to teach there, and I found myself being seduced by her kind words. In contrast, last month, another foreign teacher at the school shouted at me, unjustly accusing me of speaking ill of other people. I was offended, and at first very angry, especially after I tried to placate him and he just continued shouting obscenities at me. It took a few minutes for awareness to become fully awake to my mind’s reactions and for my emotions to calm down. 

Observing happiness and pain arising in the mind, and remaining open to them without attaching to or rejecting them, enables wisdom to grow in one’s heart, even in the most emotionally charged circumstances. Seeing these eight worldly states for what they are, and watching the mind’s reactions to them, gives rise to the liberating insight of the Buddha. And the benefits of this knowledge are not to felt only when in meditative states, but also in the world at large, in the face of all the gain, loss, fame, obscurity, blame, praise, happiness, and pain that life has to offer.

11 comments:

Jennifer said...

Thank you for your excellent review of Buddhism by the numbers! Understandable and well written. Could you recommend books for further study?

G said...

Sure, Jennifer. Click on the tab 'Teachers' below the blog title above, and you'll fond reference to some wonderful works there. Also, click on the label 'Reviews' on the right side of this page, and there's lots of reviews there. Happy reading!

Nimalatissa said...

Yes, of course. If you can understand and think always or practice yourself you will be happy to relax.

G said...

Sounds advice, Nimalatissa. Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

thank you.

i wonder if you could comment on something i experienced and tell me if youve heard anything like this.

i moved to a rural farm house a couple of years ago where i had no internet nor phone service. without my usual means of occupying myself i decided to start exercising by dancing with small weights to music {just to see if i was capable of dancing}. the weights were intended to make me feel like i was achieving something extra so i wouldnt put pressure on myself to dance well. i also meditated between sessions and ran twice a day

not long after i started my new daily routine that which i had been reading about for 6-7 years went from intellectual understanding to something i could feel and grasp. through a series of simple epiphanies i suddenly realised i knew myself but not before i remembered what that was. the effect of this was complete non abrasiveness with the world. i no longer needed or cared for external stimulus to feel a stable sense of who i was because i was now more of a what that could be felt then a person that could be defined.

next i noticed exercise had became effortless (only about 6 weeks in) and i increased the weight from 2kg to 8 in a week. as more weeks went by exercise took on greater and greater proportions of my time and intensity and and i felt very graceful as i moved. as these 3 things increased so to did realisations get closer and closer as if building momentum. i no longer had to sit to meditate, but no matter what i did i was meditating and realisations would come to me while my body did its thing eyes open.

it felt at the time and also makes sense to me now that the movement of the body in the beginning at least freed my mind of old ingrained physical habits and black and white thinking which allowed me to truely experienc parts of my infinite potential progressively. as my body become flexible, stronger and was put through its full range of motion focus and concentration improved to a point where i was able to take on new perspectives without fallling back into old ones that i was used to and able to drop them at will. it makes sense to me that if the body takes on new shapes the mind may also be effected in the same way.

the thing is in all my years i have not read about exercise being an integral part of the way to enlightenment, i mostly read about sitting meditation.

id like to know if youve heard/read anything of the role exercise plays in the unifacation of one with consciousness and if there is anything to be said for its role and efficiency in the traditional bhuddist texts. id also like to know if it works for anyone else or makes a difference to practicing for other people if you do decide to give it a go.


i appreciate you taking the time to read this and am looking forward to hearing back from you :) thankyou

G said...

Hello Anonymous.

Thanks for the comment & questions. I'll answer them as best I can, according to my experience & understanding of Buddhadharma. Firstly, interesting experiences you describe. But, as experiences, they are just that: experiences. Noting them, learning from them, but not attaching to them or identifying with them is what Buddha advises us. If we want to be sure that such experiences are part of the Buddhist awakening process, we can compare them with Buddhist texts or confer with a Buddhist teacher or teachers that we trust. This isn't to say that we should reject experiences such as these as false or irrelevant to the Buddhist path, but neither should we overestimate their importance. This is my own approach to a variety of experiences that have arisen over the past thirty years.

Secondly, in answer to your query as to whether I've come across similar, physical exercise-originated insights in Buddhism, the answer is no. This doesn't mean that they aren't compatible with Buddhadharma, however; just that I've not heard of them before. If utilized alongside more traditional Buddhist teachings & techniques, they may well be seen as skillful means (upaya) towards awakening. Perhaps.

There is extensive referencing to walking meditation (more like mindful walking, really - there are differences between mindfulness & meditation in Buddhism). This can be found in both Theravada Buddhism & Zen Buddhism, for example. Whether or not your experiences are comparable to those or not is for you to decide, of course.

Lastly, I'd encourage you to investigate these experiences with as much dispassion as possible, seeing into their essential nature. It's certainly possible that they may well be a valid part of your Buddhist practice in terms of awakening, but identifying with them as 'my' experiences is always a risk with any powerful experience, and we should be aware of the tendency of our minds to latch onto such things and rebuild a sense of self around them.

Thanks again for your interesting comments, Anonymous. May you & all beings be happy.

Anonymous said...

thankyou G :)

Unknown said...

thank you

Unknown said...

thank you

G said...

Thank.you, too.

Sougen said...

Very helpful. A lot easier to understand than some websites.