- Labha: gain
- Alabha: loss
- Yasa: fame; ‘face’
- Ayasa: obscurity
- Ninda: blame
- Pasamsa: praise
- Sukha: happiness
- 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.