The Eight Winds of Buddhism

“Monks, these eight worldly conditions spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions. Which eight? Gain, loss, status, disgrace, censure, praise, pleasure, & pain. These are the eight worldly conditions that spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions.

The Lokavipatti Sutta (AN 8:6), translated by Thānissaro Bhikkhu

Worthy persons deserve to be called so because they are not carried away by the eight winds: prosperity, decline, disgrace, honor, praise, censure, suffering, and pleasure. They are neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline. The heavenly gods will surely protect one who is unbending before the eight winds. But if you nurse an unreasonable grudge against your lord, they will not protect you, not for all your prayers.

–Nichiren, letter 95 composed in 1277
Photo by Melanie Wupperman on Pexels.com

Life has its ups and downs. Sometimes you’re the “(wo)man of the hour” and other times, you’re getting chewed out for something. At times like this, it helps to remember a Buddhist notion called the Eight Winds1 or happū (八風) in Japanese Buddhism. As the quotations above show, the ups and downs of life tend to come in pairs. Praise is followed by criticism, which is then followed by praise sooner or later. If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you’ll know that you fight, make up, fight, make up, etc. It’s human nature.

Similarly in one’s career, sometimes you’re on top of the world, and other times you fall on your face in front of everybody.

What’s the Buddha’s saying in the Lokavipatti Sutta (click on the link above to read the rest) is that everyone has ups and downs, but what separates the run-of-the-mill person from a “well-instructed disciple” of the Buddha is how one reacts to these ups and downs. Normally, when we’re praised, we want more, and it becomes a weird feedback loop. Just look at any Youtube influencer, or social-media star. They have to constantly keep it up because there’s always someone else ready to take their place. In the same way, when we’re criticized, it hurts, and we want to get away from it, even if we have to use food, drugs, or lord-knows-what to escape.

On the other hand, a “well-instructed disciple” of the Buddha knows that none of these things have any lasting substance. They arise, then fade. Ever shifting from one thing to another. So today’s schmuck becomes tomorrow’s star and vice-versa.

So, there’s no relying on praise for happiness, fame for happiness, pleasure, etc. It’s nice when they happen, but don’t expect them to stay around long enough. They’ll soon give way to the more negative states. Similarly, when you feel down in the dumps, just remind yourself that this too will also pass, and don’t expect them to stay forever. Things will turn up again before long.

Namu Myoho Renge Kyo

1 Buddhism loves its numbered lists. There’s lists for everything. In all seriousness, this was a mnemonic device to help disciples organize and remember the teachings (back then writing down religious teachings was considered profane anyway), so memorization became a highly refined method for digesting the teachings. But, it also means that if you are trying to look up something Buddhist related you’ll find the Two of this, the Three of that, the Four of These, and so on.

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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