Jeanne over at the Dalai Grandma recently received a short teaching from the Dalai Lama about the Eight Worldly Winds. In her post today she writes the following:
Oddly, the Dalai Lama's subject is called, as in my title above, "The Eight Worldly Concerns," though to my mind there are four concerns, each of which encapsulates wishing not to get its opposite. But when it comes to understanding the human mind, I bow to him. Here they are, more interesting stones that mark the Buddha way:
* wanting to be praised and not wanting to be criticized,
* wanting happiness and not wanting suffering,
* wanting gain and not wanting loss, and
* wanting fame and approval and not wanting rejection and disgrace.
"We all experience these, don't we?" he writes. "Even animals probably have them in some slight measure." Sheba reminds me that dogs' desire for approval is itself a disgrace. Her own ambition is small and appropriate: she wants to be up on the kitchen table while we are eating.
Who among us can claim to be totally immune from these pairs of opposites? If any of you raised your hand, I sentence you to twenty hours of zazen, followed by a long look in the mirror at yourself!
A lot can, and has been said about the Eight. What I'd like to add this morning is this: the very thing you fear might actually be exactly what's needed.
For example, being a political animal whose views are rarely mainstream, I have had to learn how to handle ample amounts of rejection, criticism, and yes, even some lost connections with people. However, what's interesting about it is that seeing the world as I have had provided me with an almost endless opportunity to live with the impermanence of views and reputation. One minute, I'm a good friend. The next I'm some crazy guy who isn't supporting "the cause." Then, sometime later, what I stood for is considered right and all is forgiven. Or I was completely wrong, but all is forgotten.
Fifteen years ago, when I was a young adult who refused to own a car and who bicycled most of the year, the vast majority of people thought I was either ridiculous, rebellious, quaint, or kind of foolish. Now, a lot of people think these practices are cool and hip. What I'm doing is still the same, but the winds have changed.
In her post, Jeanne brings up the NY Times list of 20 fiction writers under 40 "worth watching," then speaks about all those thousands of others out there who want to be on that list. When I was younger, a part of me wanted to be on such lists for poetry. Or for essay writing. Maybe even a novel or two. But the idea of being a famous anything does nothing for me now. I want to be published, sure, but it's really more about providing something that benefits others in some way or another that motivates me now.
When you look at the struggles most of have with these Eight "winds," so much of it is tied to believing that whatever we are experiencing is both permanent and representative of who we are. Am I that crazy biker or a cool and hip cat? Neither, really. So wanting one, and not wanting the other, is kind of foolish, don't you think?