Eight Winds

Speaker: Ven. Juedi

Fo Guang Shan Nanhua Temple, South Africa

I. Introduction

Auspicious greeting to all. 

I am Venerable Juedi from Nan Hua Temple, South Africa. Today, I am sharing the topic on Eight Winds in Buddha Dharma Pure and Simple.

II. Eight Winds

When I was young, I enjoyed playing see-saw. I will compete with my playmate to get the other person above the ground. There was so much fun. However, as adults, ups and downs in real life are not something that we find funny.

What are the ups and downs that bother people? In Buddhism they are called the Eight Winds or eight worldly conditions.

They are made up of four opposite pairs. they are praise and ridicule, honor and defamation, gain and loss, joy and sorrow.

These are the attachments and aversions that yoke us to the cycle of suffering. The stronger our attachment towards those conditions on the left-hand side, the stronger is our aversion towards those on the opposite. It is easy to understand but in practice, we’ll find it difficult not to get caught in attachments and aversion. Well, who doesn’t like honor? Who doesn’t like joy, gain and praise? We would like to have all these, and we would reject ridicule, defamation, loss and sorrow. 

We are not hard selling that you should not go after joy, gain, honor, rather while having all these, we must also be aware that in this world it is not all perfection. It’s an imperfect world. When you have joy there are times when you have sorrow. How would you manage the emotional roller coaster? Our aim is to make our path less dramatic. Many times, a glance, a facial expression, or a gesture can thrust us into immediate depths of despair and suffering. Issues like disputes over physical space or personal interest can often tear through one’s heart like a typhoon or shake one’s spirit like an earthquake. Similarly, investors can be caught in a frenzy with every rise and fall of the stock market. People suffer from every promotion or demotion at work. All these blow afflictions into one’s mind. These eight worldly conditions come into our daily life sometimes without us knowing it. The ups and downs as well as praise and slander in life are inevitable parts of life. As such Venerable Master Hsing Yun proposed half-and-half as a philosophy of life. as the day is filled with light, night is filled with darkness. Spring is warm and winter is cold. 

There are good times and bad times, but usually we are only ready to accept the good and we tend to reject the bad. 

The reason for such responses is that we can’t see the logic behind, that is, the working of this thing called impermanence. Impermanence is not against us. It’s just a universal fact. Impermanence lets us know that things will never stay the same. 

III. Dealing with Eight Winds

Let’s see how the eminent monks respond to the eight worldly conditions. Once master Hanshan asked master Shide, “How should I deal with someone who slander me, bully me, insult me, ridicule me, disparage me, belittles me, offend me or deceive me?”

Like Master Hanshan, I think most of us face such incidents in our life. Let’s move on to listen to the reply. “Just tolerate him, be patient with him, let him be, avoid him, respect him, ignore him and wait for a few years to see what becomes of him.”

These methods require constant practice because our mind is used to the old way of responding to such matters such as slander, bullies, or insults. If we are not mindful, we will respond with anger, sadness or disappointment. But if we see these in terms of the half and half concept by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, we learn to be patient and embrace the less satisfactory half. 

Hatred cannot be resolved by hatred. If we don’t learn to forgive, we won’t get liberation. Recently a devotee came to me and talked about some interpersonal conflicts. She has been harboring resentment toward another lady who slandered her. The resentment lingered in her mind for almost half a year. 

Sometimes, we can’t stop people from doing harm to us, but we can stop the harm in our mind. If we calm down and reflect, “Yes that person slandered me half a year ago. But the incident happened a long time ago.”

What makes this hatred continue is solely controlled by us. We cannot accept incidents like ridicule, defamation, loss and sorrow. We have this strong aversion within us and as such we keep on thinking about the incident. We are like a malfunction recorder replaying this incident day after day, hour after hour, minutes after minutes, second after second. The intensity grows every second. We don’t want to self-liberate, in fact, we take a rope to tie ourselves. You might think that is nonsense because she is the one who slandered me. Well, being slandered was the first arrow being shot into you but refreshing the incident every now and then in your mind was the second arrow shot by yourself. 

From these eight worldly conditions we can see our attachment to praise, honor, gain and joy and that you find it so difficult to accept the other opposites. Once we get these concepts right, then the rest is about application. We have to keep on reminding ourselves that all these eight worldly conditions that are not only happening to us, but to everyone. And through reflection, we don’t grasp at praise, honor, gain and joy. Then we could face ridicule, defamation, loss, and sorrow with greater ease.

We would not put all the blame on the other person for the mental afflictions that we are suffering which in this case is for half a year.

IV. The Winds of Change will Blow Over

Tolerance and patience cultivate one’s magnanimity, so we get to be broad-minded. We learn to accept others’ wrongdoings and faults. Avoidance and letting others be are ways of preventing conflicts. Respect and space show regard for an opponent allowing one to become greater and stronger. It is like playing basketball: without an opponent a match cannot happen.

Some people choose to live in seclusion to avoid the eight worldly conditions. But even if you choose to stay alone on an island, you will still be unhappy or dissatisfied. You may be unhappy with the weather, the insects, the food, and the list goes on. The external environment or people may make us unhappy, but avoidance is not the way. 

There is a parable in a Buddhist Commentary. During those ancient days, people usually walked with bare feet. When walking through a forest, you stepped on stones, twigs, etc. You can choose to clear all these away. But the forest is huge, this is impossible. However, if you put on a pair of thick socks (there are no shoes during those days), you can move around freely in the forest, enjoying the scenery, the fragrance, and others. The Dharma is like a pair of socks, it keeps your mind protected from afflictions.

Life is filled with trials of honors, disgrace, gains and losses. In complacency, one feels a sense of pride. But in disappointment, one should not brood over gains and loss or live in self-denial. Impermanence means that honors, disgrace, gains and losses are all fleeting; if one is attached towards them, one will be shackled by them like a prisoner. Hence, one should have a mindset as illustrated by the verse:

When the wind blows through scattered bamboos,
As soon as it passes, the sound also leaves;
When a goose flies over a winter pond,
As soon as it passes, its reflection too flies away.

VII. Conclusion

When immune to the harms of poisonous arrows shot by malicious speech, defamation, honour, pride, or disgrace, one can truly be considered carefree unmoved by the Eight Winds.

Thank you and I hope that you enjoy the breeze when the wind blows.