The 8 Worldly Concerns And How To Let Them Go

Category: Buddhist Meditation | Buddhist Path | Recent Meditation Posts

an image of a Buddhist monk with a mala or rosary, in meditation he is not absorbed in the 8 worldly concerns

What Are The 8 Worldly Concerns In Buddhism? (Eight Vicissitudes)

In pursuit of happiness, we are preoccupied with what Buddhists refer to as the eight worldly concerns. Our effort is misguided, however. These eight worldly conditions can never be the cause of lasting happiness. For true contentment, our effort is better placed on developing equanimity, something we do through meditation.

The following eight preoccupations are also known as the eight dharmas or the eight worldly winds. A dharma is a truth, it’s just the way things are. Wind, of course, pushes us in the direction it is blowing. These are the conditions that occupy the mind throughout our daily lives.

  • Praise and blame
  • Gain and loss
  • Pleasure and pain
  • Fame and a poor reputation

The eight worldly concerns are presented in pairs. In our confused state, we think by achieving one or avoiding the other we achieve happiness and avoid suffering. But these eight dharmas cannot possibly be the cause of true joy. Not only is each an unavoidable human experience, but none are lasting.

Why Do The 8 Worldly Preoccupations Not Lead To Happiness?

Each of us inevitably will experience criticism, loss, physical or mental pain, or disgrace. To put our energy into avoiding these experiences is fruitless and not a good use of our time. On the other hand, any praise, gain, physical or mental pleasure or fame we achieve is impermanent. To attach our happiness to such experiences is equally wasted effort.

As long as our happiness and suffering is dependent on the eight worldly concerns, we remain on the rollercoaster of life, experiencing short-lived highs and deep lows. We exhaust ourselves with the impossible task of chasing preferred circumstances while trying to avoid what we don’t like. The end result of this can never be anything other than disappointment or dissatisfaction. With genuine mindfulness and awareness, however, we can find freedom.

Turning our minds from the 8 worldly concerns is a primary focus of the Buddhist path and is the subject of renunciation practice. In fact meditation and spiritual practice in general can be viewed from the perspective of whether or not one is motivated by these 8 worldly dharmas. To the extent we are ruled by and absorbed in them, to that extent we are shackled to samsara, the cycle of suffering caused by our own ignorance of the way things are.

The most practiced, equanimous meditators still experience the eight worldly dharmas. Simply becoming a Buddhist or spiritual practitioner is not enough; we must become aware and work with them in our practice. Meditators can stay balanced despite the insidious self-propagating nature of the worldly concerns. Strong practitioners understand that life has its ups and downs, and they become progressively more free from chasing the highs and avoiding the lows. Meditation has shown them that real joy has another cause.

How to Let Go Of The Eight Worldly Preoccupations

Our own mind and our misunderstanding of reality keeps us preoccupied with the eight conditions. So, to find freedom from our rumination on these eight pairs, we train the mind.

Mindfulness Meditation: With mindfulness meditation we practice being present with this moment, just as it is. This helps develop a calm and stable mind that is less reactive. Less attached to impermanent conditions being just so, we soften our grasping to what’s pleasant and our attempts at suppressing the unpleasant. We learn to allow things to be as they are.

Awareness Meditation: In awareness meditation we further contemplate the true cause of our discontentment, the way our mind works, and the impermanence of conditioned things. As we get to know our minds better, our perspective and worldview changes. We understand that we are the cause of our own suffering, but we also have the power to end it.

Wisdom: The wisdom that arises from meditation as part of a spiritual practice helps us understand the first of the four noble truths, the truth of samsara. There is no way to escape our moments of pain, blame, loss or disgrace. By accepting our reality, we can more easily let go of trying to control it.

With wisdom also comes an understanding of karma and the actions that do lead to genuine joy and freedom. We decide to shift the effort we’ve been wasting on the worldly concerns into more skillful, meritorious behavior. This intentional change in direction is called renunciation. It is the process of turning from worldly conditions as the source of joy and turning inward instead, focusing on our own self-sufficiency.

As we continue to cultivate presence and understanding in meditation, we can gradually find the profound security we’ve been looking for. We become able to meet the world with equanimity, our feet firmly on the ground, no longer blown off balance by ever-shifting 8 worldly winds.

About the Author: Sara-Mai Conway

Sara-Mai Conway writes articles about Buddhist meditation based on her practice and experience
Sara-Mai Conway is a writer, yoga and meditation instructor living and working in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Her writing and teachings are informed by her personal practice and Buddhist studies. When not at her desk, she can be found teaching donation-based community classes in her tiny, off-grid hometown on the Pacific Coast. Learn more about Sara-Mai Conway here.

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