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Eight worldly concerns

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The Tibetan yogi Milarepa was famous for renouncing the eight worldly concerns

The eight worldly concerns or eight worldly dharmas (Skt. aṣṭalokadharma; P. aṭṭhalokadhamma; T. འཇིག་རྟེན་ཆོས་བརྒྱད་, ‘jig rten chos brgyad) are a set of worldly or mundane concerns that generally motivate the actions of ordinary beings who are lacking in a spiritual perspective.[1] They are:

  • hope for happiness and fear of suffering,
  • hope for fame and fear of insignificance,
  • hope for praise and fear of blame,
  • hope for gain and fear of loss;

Preoccupation with these concerns is said to lead to greater suffering. Spiritual practitioners are encouraged to let go of their attachment to these concerns.

Ringu Tulku writes:

Real dharma practice is free from the eight worldly concerns. To review the eight worldly concerns, they are being rich or poor, which could also be described as gain or loss; being powerful or powerless; having a good reputation or a bad reputation; and having pleasure or pain. Usually, we think that happiness comes from wealth, power, popularity, and pleasure, and that these four things will give us everything that we need—we will have “made it.” But from a spiritual point of view, these things are not the answer. Being rich is not a source of happiness, and being poor is not a source of happiness. Being powerful does not bring happiness, and being powerless does not bring happiness. It is the same with being well-known or unknown, and having pleasure or pain. Lasting peace and happiness do not depend on outer conditions; they come from seeing in a clear way. When your mind is focused on any of the eight worldly concerns, whether on the positive side or the negative side, your activities are not following the dharma.[2]

Quotations

Nargarjuna

The World Knower said the eight worldly dharmas are:
Gain and loss, happiness and unhappiness,
Kind and harsh words, and praise and blame.
Exercise equanimity, as these are unworthy to enter the mind.

Milarepa

My system is to eradicate the belief in the self, to cast the eight ordinary concerns to the winds, and to make the four demons feel embarassed.

What the Lord of Men, the Conqueror, mainly taught
Was how to be rid of the eight ordinary concerns.
But those who consider themselves learned these days--
Haven't their ordinary concerns grown even greater than before?

The Conqueror taught rules of discipline to follow
So that one could withdraw from all worldly tasks.
But the monks of today who follow those rules--
Aren't their worldly tasks not more numerous than before?

He taught how to live like the rishis of old
So that one could cut off ties with friends and relations.
But those who live like rishis these days--
Don't they care how people see them even more than before?

In short, all dharma is useless
If practiced without remembering death.

Gampopa

The precious guru said: Whatever good dharma practice you do—whether study, reflection, listening, teaching, keeping the precepts, accumulation, purification, or meditation—should not become just another activity. Instead, dharma practice should be transformative. If you wonder what this means, a scripture says:

Attachment, anger, and delusion
And the actions created by them are unvirtuous.

As well, even virtuous deeds are ordinary actions if they are done to obtain the happiness of gods and humans in this life, or if your intention is degraded or based on the eight worldly concerns.

— Heart Advice by Gampopa[6]

Tsele Natsok Rangrol

Finally, although various authoritative scriptures and oral instructions have taught different types of conduct as means to enhance one’s practice, the essential key points are as follows: Cut your worldly attachments completely and live companionless in secluded mountain retreats; that is the conduct of a wounded deer. Be free from fear or anxiety in the face of difficulties; that is the conduct of a lion sporting in the mountains. Be free from attachment or clinging to sense pleasures; that is the conduct of the wind in the sky. Do not become involved in the fetters of accepting or rejecting the eight worldly concerns; that is the conduct of a madman. Sustain simply and unrestrictedly the natural flow of your mind while unbound by the ties of dualistic fixation; that is the conduct of a spear stabbing in space.

— Lamp of Mahamudra by Tsele Natsok Rangdrol[7]

Drikung Bhande Dharmaradza

The eight worldly concerns are like a snare.
Exhausted by meaningless effort, we end our lives in dissatisfaction.
Meditate well on renunciation.
This is my heart advice.

— The Jewel Treasury of Advice by Drikung Bhande Dharmaradza[8]

Chatral Rinpoche

No matter where you stay, be it a busy place or a solitary retreat,
The only things that you need to conquer are mind’s five poisons
And your own true enemies, the eight worldly concerns,
Nothing else.
Whether it is by avoiding them, transforming them, taking them as the path, or looking into their very essence,
Whichever method is best suited to your own capacity.

— Words of Advice from Chatral Rinpoche[9]

Thubten Chodron

These eight worldly concerns are a huge problem. They’re the first level of things that we really have to deal with in our practice. Like I told you last time, my teacher Zopa Rinpoche would do a whole month-long mediation course on the eight worldly concerns really to emphasize to us to pay attention to these. If we don’t work on these eight, what else are we going to work on? We say that we are Dharma practitioners, well, if we’re not working on overcoming these eight, then what are we doing in our Dharma practice? What are we working to overcome if it’s not these basic principal eight things that come at the beginning? How are we going to overcome dualistic appearances if we can’t even give up our chocolate? How are we going to overcome selfishness if we cannot endure a little bit of blame, or whatever? So if we’re not working on these eight, then we have to ask ourselves, “What am I doing in my practice? What does practicing Dharma mean?” Practicing Dharma means transforming our mind. It doesn’t mean just looking on the outside like we’re a Dharma practitioner. It means actually doing something with our mind. These eight are the foundation that we really have to work with—so plenty of work to do here.

— The eight worldly concerns by Thubten Chodron[10]

Alternative Translations

  • eight worldly preoccupations (Rigpa wiki)
  • eight mundane obsessions
  • eight worldly dharmas
  • eight mundane dharmas (Buswell and Lopez)
  • eight ordinary concerns (Padmakara)
  • eight transitory things of the world (Alexendar Berzin)
  • eight worldly conditions (Bhikkhu Sujato, Bhikkhu Bodhi)
  • eight vicissitudes of the world (Piyadassi Thera)
  • eight worldly winds

Suttas

The eight worldly concerns are referenced in the following suttas:

See also

References

  1. Eight worldly dharmas (Glossary of Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive)
  2. Ringu Tulku. Confusion Arises as Wisdom: Gampopa's Heart Advice on the Path of Mahamudra (p. 35). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.
  3. Letter to a Friend by Arya Nagarjuna (verse 29)
  4. Padmakara Translation Group (1998), Words of My Perfect Teacher, Altimira Press, p. 305
  5. Padmakara Translation Group (1998), Words of My Perfect Teacher, Altimira Press, pp. 90-91
  6. Tulku, Ringu. Confusion Arises as Wisdom: Gampopa's Heart Advice on the Path of Mahamudra (p. 34). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.
  7. Erik Pema Kunsang (2009), Heart Lamp: Lamp of Mahamudra and The Heart of the Matter , North Atlantic Books. Kindle Edition. (p. 68)
  8. Kenchen Konchog Gyalsten Rinpoche (2009), The Complete Guide to the Buddhist Path , Snow Lion. (p. 89)
  9. LotsawaHouse-tag.png Words of Advice from Chatral Rinpoche
  10. The eight worldly concerns (thubtenchodron.org)


Further reading

  • Princeton Dict icon 166px.png Robert E. Buswell Jr., Donald S. Lopez Jr., The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Princeton: 2014), entry for aṣṭalokadharma

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