Hello to all of you in blog land. It’s been a while but it’s equally taken me ages to go over my notes from Geshelas teaching on the eight worldly dharmas a few weeks ago. Have a read – there are some masterful strokes by Geshela to tie it all together in one tasty talk. He even mentions zombies!
The level of practice we do is differentiated by three doors. The first door of refuge in the three jewels demarcates buddhist practice from non buddhist practice. Through the next door of bodhicitta, one enters the great vehicle and tantric practice is entered through the subsequent door of an empowerment. So please combine the foundational practice of refuge in the three jewels with the thought that the positive force generated from listening goes to full enlightenment.
The eight worldly concerns.
In letter to a friend, Arya Nagarjuna writes (from Alex Berzin’s site here)
“O Realizer of the Transitory World. Don’t have
as objects of your mind
The eight transitory things of the world:
Namely, material gain and no gain, happiness and unhappiness,
Things nice to hear and not nice to hear, or praise and scorn.
Be indifferent (toward them).”
All beings in the world strive for material gain, happiness, praise and a good reputation. They then have extreme reactions when encountering the opposites: loss, unhappiness, criticism and having a poor reputation. Being happy is not the problem, clinging to it is. So the practice is to equalise these extremes, to keep equanimity.
There are two methods to do this- by relying on conventional reality and by relying on ultimate reality.
Methods based on conventional reality
Death and impermanence: Because we do not think about death, do not think that we have at most 100 years of life and we don’t think of future lives, we don’t practice dharma. Then if we do practice, as long as we dwell in the eight worldly thoughts, our practice actually goes against the dharma.
Dharma practice starts with the mind wishing to emerge from suffering. From there we work on abandoning the self centred attitude with bodhicitta and abandon self grasping with the wisdom realising emptiness. With a strong clinging to this life, we don’t have the space to abandon thinking only of this life and so we can’t start to engage in dharma practice.
As Lama Tsong Khapa states in the three principles of the path:
“This precious human rebirth is difficult to find and there is not much time in this life. Getting used to these facts will stop infatuation with this life. If you reflect on the unfailing effects of action and the sufferings of samsara, infatuation for future lives will also stop.”
This precious human rebirth has great meaning, but if we don’t reflect on the fact that there is not much time in this life, we will never actualise it’s complete meaning.
The eight worldly dharmas are not really dharmas as dharmas are defined as that which antidotes. For example, ethics antidotes bad future rebirths. In the three objects of refuge, buddha is the teacher, the dharma is the actual refuge and the sangha are the helpers. Following ethics such as avoiding the ten non virtues is dharma practice.
Our capability is either small, medium or great, but if we don’t see that samsara has no essence, we won’t engage in the three higher trainings (ethics, concentration and wisdom) to cut the root of samsara. On the basis of seeing that ordinary existence has no essence, we can generate the thoughts of loving kindness and compassion, combining this with the wisdom seeing the emptiness of the self to realise our full capacity and be of lasting benefit to others. But if we are helping others and our minds are mixed with the thought of the eight worldly concerns, there is no fruit in future lives and the practice becomes non dharma.
The great kagyu meditator Lingrepa has said (translation taken from the book “How to Practice” by Lama Zopa Rinpoche):
“In the samsara superstition city, runs the zombie of the evil thought of the eight wordly dharmas. That is the most fearful cemetery. That is where the lama should equalise the points.”
Samsara is not a country or a house, it is the burden of the five aggregates. This body is the city of conceptions. In dependance on our bodies we experience these extremes, we meet the zombies in this city and it’s terrifying. We need help to eradicate the zombies, need help to equalise the extremes of the eight worldly concerns.
Methods based on ultimate reality
Nagarjuna has said: (from the 18th chapter on the Fundamental Text called Wisdom, taken from ‘The Buddhism of Tibet’):
“When actions and afflictive emotions cease, there is liberation.
Actions and afflictive emotions arise from false conceptions, which arise from elaborations [of false views on inherent existence]. Elaborations cease in emptiness.”
Liberation is a state free from karma and mental afflictions. It is only due to the mental afflictions that the karmas are created, so we are free from both through the wisdom realising emptiness.
If an object is 10% attractive, we add another 90% and see the object as 100% attractive from its own side. It’s the same with objects of aversion. We live in this place. If we are free of mental afflictions we are free from the eight worldly concerns. Praise or criticism do not exist from their own side.
So it is crucial that we be aware of these eight wordily concerns and equalise them.