Eight Worldly Conditions Vicissitudes of Life.
The Lokavipatti Sutta refers to the eight worldly conditions (atthalokadhamma) that all human beings will experience in this world. They are also called the vicissitudes of life. Vicissitudes mean conditions that come and go and are subjected to change. In Buddhist terminology it means anicca (impermanence).
Buddha have said :
1. "Bhikkhus, these eight worldly conditions revolve around the world, and the world revolves around these eight worldly conditions. What eight?"
The sutta begins with the Buddha asking his disciples what are the eight worldly conditions that revolve around the world. The Buddha will usually ask the bhikkhus a question and then he will give them the answer. He will also tell them to pay attention and listen attentively for the answer. The eight worldly conditions are:
1. Gain (labha) and Loss (alabha)
2. Fame (yasa) and Ill-fame (ayasa)
3. Praise (pasamsa) and Blame (ninda)
4. Pleasure (sukha) and Pain (dukkha)
In this world we are all subjected to both gain and loss. It is quite natural for us to be happy when we experience a gain or a profit. We may have inherited some money or some properties from our parents or made some money from the local stock exchange. This gain gives us a certain amount of happiness. When we experience a loss in the local stock exchange or someone has cheated our money, we find it difficult to accept. We may become emotionally upset.
We are subjected to fame and ill-fame. We welcome fame but we dislike ill-fame. Fame makes us happy but ill-fame makes us unhappy. With fame we become famous and influential in society. When our reputation is damaged by what has been said by our friends or some damaging reports about us in the press, we become angry. We feel what has been said can damage our name.
We become elated when we are praised by the community for our contribution to society. We only like to hear good things said about us. When we hear of unfavourable remarks made about us we become depressed. When we are blamed our ego is dented. The Buddha says "They who speak much are blamed. They who speak little are blamed. They who are silent are also blamed." In this world there is none that is not blamed.
We become happy when we enjoy pleasures. The enjoyment of sensual pleasures makes us happy. We spend so much effort and time going after pleasures. We find it difficult to bear with sorrow because we try to avoid pain or unhappiness all the time.
As Buddhists it is important that we learn to cope with these eight mental states but, unfortunately most of us do not know how to manage them. We find it difficult to handle these situations properly and most times we are carried away by our emotions. When we are troubled by our emotions, our mind will also become disturbed and we will not be able to think properly.
2. "Bhikkhus, an uninstructed worldling meets gain and loss, disrepute and fame, blame and praise and pleasure and pain. An instructed noble disciple also meets gain and loss, disrepute and fame, blame and praise and pleasure and pain. What is the distinction, the disparity, the difference between an instructed noble disciple and an uninstructed worldling with regard to this?"
In this sutta the Buddha explains that an uninstructed person as well as a well-instructed disciple will meet with these eight worldly conditions. When this happens they will react differently. We call an uninstructed person a puthujjana. He is a lay person. A well-instructed disciple of the Buddha is called an ariya. He is a person who has understood the Dhamma.
3. "Bhikkhus, when an uninstructed worldling meets gain, he does not reflect thus: 'This gain that I have met is impermanent, suffering and subjected to change.' He does not understand it as it really is. Similarly when he meets with loss, fame, ill-fame, praise, blame, pleasure and pain he will also do the same.
Gain obsesses his mind and loss obsesses his mind. Fame obsesses his mind and disrepute obsesses his mind. Blame obsesses his mind and praise obsesses his mind. Pleasure obsesses his mind and pain obsesses his mind. He is attracted to gain/fame/praise/pleasure and repelled by loss/disrepute/blame/pain. Thus involved with attraction and repulsion, he is not freed from birth, from aging and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection and despair. Thus he will not be free from suffering (dukkha)."
We will discuss this sutta in two parts. First we will discuss how an ordinary person reacts to circumstances. In the second part we will explain how an instructed disciple copes with the similar circumstances. In order to understand the above paragraphs we must understand how the mind works. When we understand how the mind works, we will really understand why an ordinary person acts in a different manner from a well-instructed one. These eight worldly conditions are associated with our reactions to the five senses. These eight worldly conditions are all conditioned things and all conditioned things are anicca (impermanent), dukkha (unsatisfactory) and anatta (non-self).
Unfortunately the ordinary person does not understand how things come to be. As a result he dwells on the pleasant experiences (gain, fame, praise, pleasure) and tries to avoid the unpleasant sensations (loss, ill-fame, disrepute, pain). By dwelling on these likes and dislikes, he is bound to end up in pain and suffering. This is what the Buddha called dukkha. Actually it is not the circumstance that is the cause of dukkha, but it is our inability to cope with the circumstance that is the cause of dukkha. That is what we call stress today. We will talk about how to cope with dukkha in the second part of the sutta.
We are organism in an environment. The organism has five senses: the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue and the body. When the environment stimulates the organism, the senses react to the stimulus: the eye, the ear, the nose, the tongue and the body. That is called the stimulation of the senses. When the senses are stimulated, the body reacts to the stimulus. That reaction is called seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. We call that perception: eye perception, ear perception, nose perception, tongue perception and touch perception. Perception refers to the activities of the senses.
This reaction is happening to us unconsciously. We are not doing it. The reaction is just happening to us. Normally our attention is focused on external things: what we see, what we hear, what we smell, what we taste and what we touch. When the senses are stimulated by the environment our senses are attracted to the pleasant sensation and repelled by the unpleasant sensation. The moment we experience the pleasant sensations a desire arises. When we experience the unpleasant sensations, hatred arises. It is this desire and hatred that is what we want to avoid. Therefore we have to take our attention away from these pleasant and unpleasant sensations. We should not be too preoccupied with the object of the experience and we shift our attention away from them. This is called guarding the senses.
When our senses are stimulated the body is disturbed by the emotion and all emotions are disturbances of the mind. Most of the time we are reacting to what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch and we are not fully conscious about them. This kind of reaction is a kind of disturbance we call stress. When we are continually disturbed by the mind by our likes and dislikes for the external objects, we will never be free from birth, aging, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection and despair. That is what the Buddha called dukkha.
In reality we cannot be enjoying pleasure or suffering from pain permanently. Every time we experience pleasure we desire for more. The desire for pleasure becomes insatiable. Our emotion is unrealistic because it wants a permanent situation in a changing world. Similarly when we experience the unpleasant sensations, we do not accept them and we want them to go away quickly. If we want permanent happiness instead of pleasures, we have to cultivate this happiness. It is a superior kind of happiness that does not come automatically but only when we purify the mind through meditation. This is what we will discuss next.
4. "But bhikkhu, when an instructed noble disciple meets with gain, he reflects thus ‘This gain that I have met is impermanent, suffering and subject to change.' He thus understands it as it really is. Similarly when he meets with loss, fame, ill-fame, praise, blame, pleasure and pain he will also do the same.
Gain does not obsess his mind and loss does not obsess his mind. Fame does not obsess his mind and disrepute does not obsess his mind. Blame does not obsess his mind and praise does not obsess his mind. Pleasure does not obsess his mind and pain does not obsess his mind. He is not attracted to gain/fame/praise/pleasure or not repelled by loss/disrepute/blame/pain.
Having thus discarded attraction and repulsion, he is freed from birth, from aging and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection and despair. Thus he will be free from suffering (dukkha)."
When he is free from likes and dislikes, he will be freed from birth, aging, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection and despair. Thus he will be freed from suffering. This is the distinction, the disparity, the difference between an instructed noble and an uninstructed person.
In this second part we will discuss why an instructed disciple behaves in a different way from a lay person. The Buddha explained that we can gain control over our emotion with the practice of sila (morality), samadhi (tranquility) and panna (insight). Sila means to practice good behavior. That means we think, speak and act in a harmonious way all the time. Once we have developed our sila, we will next begin to cultivate samadhi. In order to do that we must first understand how the emotional reaction started.
As mentioned earlier, we are organism in an environment. When the environment stimulates our senses we react to the stimulation. We are reacting to the stimulation unconsciously. We are not doing it, but the reaction is just happening to us. If the reaction is just happening to us how can we control it? The Buddha explained that the only way we can control our emotion is to become conscious of our actions. It is only by becoming conscious that we can gain control over the emotion, but most of the time, we are behaving unconsciously.
We normally focus our attention on external things. That means when we see something, we focus our attention on what we see; when we hear something, we focus our attention on what we hear; when we smell something, we focus our attention on what we smell; when we taste something, we focus our attention on what we taste and when we touch something, we focus our attention on what we touch. When we do that we begin to experience the pleasantness or the unpleasantness of what we see, hear, smell, taste or touch. The moment we focus our attention on what is pleasant, a desire arises. The moment we focus our attention on something unpleasant, hatred arises.
To avoid this, an instructed disciple guards the senses all the time. This means when he sees (hears, tastes, smells, touches, thinks) something pleasant or unpleasant, he takes his attention away from it. He thinks of a calm thought. Next he withdraws his attention from the external object of what he sees (hears, smells, tastes, touches, thinks). When he focuses his attention outside, he is either attracted or repelled by the object. Instead of focusing his attention on what is going on outside, he begins to focus his attention on what is going on inside. By doing that he becomes aware of his the reaction within all the time. This reaction that is going on inside is usually happening unconsciously. When we become conscious of the reaction, the reaction will stop.
Placing the attention on what we experience within is called satipatthana (sati means attention and upatthana means introspection) or the introspection of attention. Sati is normally translated as mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply to become aware of what is happening outside. Sati is not mindfulness but introspection. Introspection means to look within and see at what is going on inside us, which is the emotional reaction to what is going on outside.
When we can practice introspection we are not disturbed by the pleasant and unpleasant activities that are happening around us. The mind is now in a calm and tranquil state. When we are in that tranquil state we are able to remove the emotional arouser and gain control over our emotions. We do not release the tension, but we relax the tension. Samadhi is normally translated as concentration. We translate samadhi as mental repose. It is the relaxation and tranquility of mind. The mind is resting and not concentrating. Concentration is not a rest. Concentration is an effort. There is no effort in the resting of the mind.
When the tension is removed from the mind we are able to think and interpret in the harmonious way. When we can do that panna arises. Panna means insight. With panna we can change the whole interpretation. We can now see that our previous way of interpreting a situation is wrong. The ability to change our way of thinking can only come with samadhi and panna.
With panna we will now perceive the world differently. The thinking will be completely changed from an emotional thought to a calm thought. What is happening outside will not affect the well-instructed disciple. He does not have likes and dislikes or affected by the changing conditions in the world. His attention is focused on what is going on inside. In this way he can always be happy all the time because whatever happens in the external world, he will not be affected by it. This is what the Buddha taught to his disciples, but most Buddhists do not know about it. If we can understand the teaching of the Buddha in the proper way, we will know how to be happy all the time. A man who cultivates calmness of mind does not get upset, confused or excited when confronted with the eight worldly conditions or whatever that is happening in the world. The Buddha said “When touch by worldly conditions, the mind of an arahant never wavers” because it is not affected by whatever that is happening outside.
Story: One day the Buddha was sitting under a tree on a heap of leaves when a prince came along. The prince paid his respects to the Buddha and asked, "Did you have a good rest last night?"
The Buddha replied, "Yes, I slept well."
The prince said, "This is the cold season and there is snow falling, how can you sleep well?"
The Buddha said I shall ask you a question. "There is a rich man living in a comfortable house with all the conveniences, a person with all the things he needs. Is that person really happy? Will that person have a good night sleep?" The prince said "Yes".
The Buddha continued, "If that person is concerned about losing his wealth, losing his social position, being blamed by some people, and losing his worldly pleasures, do you think that person can sleep properly?" "No, he will not be able to sleep properly"
The Buddha said, "I am a person free from all these things in the world. I am not attached to anything in the world; not seeking wealth, not seeking any social recognition, not interested in people praising me or enjoying sensual pleasure. If all these things disappear I will not be worried. I am aware of it. I will be happy all the time."
Eight Worldly Conditions Vicissitudes Of Life
This ill-balanced world is not absolutely rosy. Nor is it totally thorny. The rose is soft, beautiful and fragrant. But the stem on which it grows is full of thorns. What is rosy is rosy; what is thorny is thorny. Because of the rose one will not meddle with the thorns, nor will one disparage the rose on account of the thorns.
To an optimist this world is absolutely rosy; to a pessimist this world is absolutely thorny. But to a realist this world is neither absolutely rosy nor absolutely thorny. It abounds with beautiful roses and prickly thorns as well, from a realistic standpoint.
An understanding person will not be infatuated by the beauty of the rose but will view it as it is. Knowing well the nature of the thorns, he will view them as they are and will take the precaution not to be wounded.
Like the pendulum that perpetually turns to the right and left, four desirable and undesirable conditions prevail in this world, which everyone, without exception, must perforce face in the course of one’s lifetime.
Businessmen, as a rule, are subject to both gain and loss. It is quite natural to be complacent in obtaining a gain or a profit. In itself there is nothing wrong. Such righteous or unrighteous profits produce some pleasure which average men seek. Without pleasurable moments, though temporary, life would not be worth living. In this competitive and chaotic world rarely do people enjoy some kind of happiness, which gladdens their hearts. Such happiness, though materialistic, does conduce to health and longevity.
The problem arises in case of loss. Profits one can bear smilingly but not so the losses. More often than not they lead to mental derangement and sometimes to suicide when the losses are unbearable. It is under such adverse circumstances that one should exhibit moral courage and maintain a balanced mind. All have ups and downs while battling with life. One should always be prepared for the losses in particular. Then there will be less disappointment.
When something is stolen naturally one feels sad. But by becoming sad one would not be able to retrieve the loss. One should think that someone had benefited thereby, though unrighteously. May he be well and happy!
Or one can console oneself thinking, "It’s only a minor loss." One may even adopt a highly philosophical attitude. "There is nothing to be called Me or Mine."
In the time of the Buddha , ones a noble lady was offering food to the Venerable Sariputtha and some monks. While serving them she received a note stating that her husband and all her sons who had gone to settle a dispute were waylaid and killed. Without getting upset, calmly she kept the note in her waist-pouch and served the monks as if nothing had happened. A maid , who was carrying a pot of gee to offer to the monks, inadvertently slipped and broke the pot of gee. Thinking that the lady would naturally feel sorry over the loss, Venerable Sariputta consoled her, saying that all breakable things are bound to break. The wise lady unperturbedly remarked, "Bante, what is this trivial loss? I have just received a note stating that my husband and sons were killed by some assassins. I placed it in my pouch without losing my balance. I am serving you all despite the loss." Such valour on the part of courageous women is highly commendable.
Once the Buddha went seeking alms in a village. Owing to the intervention of Mara the Evil One, the Buddha did not obtain any food. When Mara questioned the Buddha rather sarcastically whether he was hungry or not, the Buddha solemnly explained the mental attitude of those who are free from impediments, and replied: "Ah, happily do we live, we who have no impediments. Feeders of joy shall we be, even as the gods of the radiant realm."
On another occasion the Buddha and his disciples observed Vassa (rainy period) in a village, at the invitation of a Brahmin, who, however, completely forgot his duty to attend to the needs of the Buddha and the Sangha. Throughout a period of three months, although Venerable Moggallana volunteered to obtain food by his psychic powers ‘ the Buddha, making no complaint, was contented with the foods of horses offered by a horse-dealer.
Visaka, the Buddha’s chief female lay disciple, used to frequent the monastery to attend to the needs of the Buddha and the Sangha, decked with a very valuable outer garment. On entering the monastery, she used to remove it and give it to the maid for safe custody. Once the maid inadvertently left it in the temple and returned home. Venerable Ananda, noticing it, kept it in a safe place to be given to Visaka when she visited the monastery. Visaka, discovering the loss, advised the maid to look for it but not to take it back in case any Bhikkhu had touched it. On inquiry the maid understood that Venerable Ananda had kept it in safe custody. Returning home, she reported the matter. Visaka visited the monastery and inquired of the Buddha what meritorious act she should perform with the money obtained by selling the costly garment. The Buddha advised her to build a monastery for the benefit of the Sangha. As there was nobody to buy the garment because of its high cost, she herself bought it and built a monastery
and offered it to the Sangha. After the offering she expressed her gratitude to the maid, saying. "If you had not inadvertently left my garment, I would not have got an opportunity to perform this meritorious act. Please share the merit."
Instead of grieving over the temporary loss and reprimanding the maid for her carelessness, she thanked her for granting an opportunity for service.
The exemplary attitude of cultured Visaka, is a memorable lesson to all those who are quickly irritated over the misdoings of helpless servants.
Losses one must try to bear cheerfully with manly vigour. Unexpectedly one confronts them, very often in groups and not singly. One must face them with equanimity and think it is an opportunity to practise that sublime virtue.
Fame and defame are another pair of inevitable worldly conditions that confront us in the course of our daily lives.
Fame we welcome, defame we dislike. Fame gladdens our mind, defame disheartens us. We desire to become famous. We long to see our names and pictures appear in the papers. We are greatly pleased when our activities, however insignificant, are given publicity. Sometimes we seek undue publicity too.
To see their picture in a magazine some are ready to pay any amount. To obtain an honour some are prepared to offer any bribe or give a fat donation to the party in power. For the sake of publicity some exhibit their generosity by giving alms to one hundred monks and even more, but they may be totally indifferent to the sufferings of the poor and the needy in the neighborhood. One may charge and punish a starving person who, to appease his hunger, were to steal a coconut in his garden, but would not hesitate to present a thousand coconuts to get a good name.
These are human frailties. Most people do even a good action with an ulterior motive. Selfless persons who act disinterestedly are rare in this world. Even if the motive is not very praiseworthy, those who do any good are to be congratulated on having done a beneficial act. Most worldlings have something up their sleeves. Well, who is 100% good? How many are perfectly pure in their motives? How many are absolutely altruistic?
We need not hunt after fame. If we are worthy of fame, it will come to us unsought. The bee will be attracted to the flower, laden with honey. The flower, however, does not invite the bee.
True indeed, we feel naturally happy, nay, extremely happy, when our fame is spread far and wide. But we must realize that fame, honour and glory only lead to the grave. They vanish in thin air. Empty words are they, though pleasing to the ear.
What about defame? It is not palatable either to the ear or mind. We are undoubtedly perturbed when unkind defamatory words pierce our ears. The pain of mind is still greater when the so-called report is unjust and absolutely false.
Normally it takes years to erect a magnificent building. In a minute or two, with modern devastating weapons, it could easily be demolished. Sometimes it takes years or a lifetime to build up a good reputation. In no long time the hard-earned good name can be ruined. Nobody is exempt from the devasting remark beginning with the infamous "but. Yes, he is very good, he does this and that, but … His whole good record is blackened by the so-called “but”. You may live the life of a Buddha, but you will not be exempt from criticism, attacks and insults.
The Buddha was the most famous and the most maligned religious teacher in his time.
Great men are often not known; even if they are known, they are misknown.
Some antagonists of the Buddha spread a rumour that a woman used to spend the night in the monastery. Foiled in this base attempt, they spread a false rumour amongst the populace that the Buddha and his disciples murdered that very woman and hid her corpse in the rubbish-heap of withered flowers within the monastery. When his historic mission met with success and when many sought ordination under him, his adversaries maligned him, saying that he was robbing the mothers of their sons, depriving wives of their husbands, and that he was obstructing the progress of the nation.
Failing in all these attempts to ruin his noble character, his own cousin and a jealous disciple of his attempted to kill him by hurling a rock from above. Being a Buddha, he could not be killed. If such be the sad fate of faultless, pure Buddhas, what can be the state of ordinary mortals?
The higher you climb a hill, the more conspicuous you become and much smaller in the eyes of others. Your back is revealed but your front is hidden. The fault-finding world exhibits your shortcomings and misdoings but hides your salient virtues. The winnowing fan ejects the husks but retains the grains: the strainer, on the egntrary, retains the gross remnants but drains out the sweet juice. The cultured take the subtle and remove the gross; the uncultured retain the gross and reject the subtle.
When you are misrepresented, deliberately or undeliberately unjustly reported, as Epictetus advises, it is wise to think or say, "0 by his slight acquiantanceship and little knowledge of myself I am slightly criticised. But if I am known better, more serious and much greater would be the accusations against me."
It is needless to waste time in correcting the false reports unless circumstances compel you to offer a clarification. The enemy is gratified when he sees that you are hurt. That is what he actually expects. If you are indifferent, such misrepresentations will fall on deaf ears.
In seeing the faults of others, we should behave like a blind person.
In hearing unjust criticism of others, we should behave like a deaf person.
In speaking ill of others, we should behave like a dumb person.
It is not possible to put a stop to false accusations, reports and rumors.
The world is full of thorns and pebbles. It is impossible to remove them. But if we have to walk in spite of such obstacles, instead of trying to remove them, which is impossible, it is advisable to wear a pair of slippers and walk harmlessly.
Be like a lion that trembles not at sounds.
Be like the wind that does not cling to the meshes of a net.
Be like a lotus that is not contaminated by the mud from which it springs up.
Wander alone like a rhinoceros.
Being the king of the forest, lions are fearless. By nature they are not frightened by the roaring of other animals. In this world we may hear adverse reports, false accusations, degrading remarks of uncurbed tongues. Like a lion, we should not even listen to them. Like the boomerang they will end where they began.
Dogs bark, caravans peacefully move on.
We are living in a muddy world. Numerous are the lotuses that spring therefrom. Without being contaminated by the mud, they adorn the world. Like lotuses we should try to lead blameless noble lives unmindful of the mud that may be thrown at us.
We should expect mud to be thrown at us instead of roses. Then there will be no disappointment.
Though difficult we should try to cultivate non-attachment.
Alone we come, alone we go.
Non-attachment is happiness in this world.
Unmindful of the poisonous darts of uncurbed tongues, alone we would wander serving others to the best of our ability.
It is rather strange that great men have been slandered, vilified, poisoned, crucified, or shot.
Well, is it dangerous to be too good?
Yes, during their lifetime they are criticised, attacked and killed. After death they are deified and honoured.
Great men are indifferent to fame or defame. They are not upset when they are criticised or maligned, for they work not for fame or name. They are indifferent whether others recognise their services or not. "To work they have the right but not to the fruit thereof. "
Praise and blame are two more worldly conditions that affect mankind. It is natural to be elated when praised and to be depressed when blamed. Amidst praise and blame, the Buddha says, the wise do not exhibit either elation or depression. Like a solid rock that is not shaken by the wind they remain unmoved.
Praise, if worthy, is pleasing to the ears; if unworthy, as in the case of flattery, though pleasing, it is deceptive. But they are all sounds which have no effect if they do not reach our ears.
From a worldly standpoint a word of praise goes a long way. By praising, a little a favour can easily be obtained. One word, of merited praise is sufficient to attract an audience before one speaks. If, at the outset, a speaker praises the audience, he will have attentive ears. If he criticises the audience at the outset, the response will not be satisfactory.
The cultured do not resort to flattery nor do they wish to be flattered by others. The praiseworthy they praise without any jealousy. The blameworthy they blame, not contemptuously but out of compassion, with the object of reforming them.
Great men are highly praised by the great and small who know them well, though they are utterly indifferent to such praise.
Many who knew the Buddha intimately extolled the virtues of the Buddha in their own way. One Upali, a millionaire, a new convert, praised the Buddha, enumerating a hundred virtues ex- tempore. Nine sterling virtues of the Buddha that were current in his time are still being recited by his followers, looking at his image. They are a subject of meditation to the devout. Those well-merited virtues are still a great inspiration to his followers.
What about blame?
The Buddha says: "They who speak much are blamed. They who speak a little are blamed. They who are silent are also blamed. In this world there is none who is not blamed."
Blame seems to be a universal legacy to mankind.
The majority of the people in the world, remarks the Buddha, are ill-disciplined. Like an elephant in the battlefield that endures all arrows shot at him, even so, the Buddha says, do I suffer all insults.
The deluded and the wicked are prone to seek only the ugliness in others, but not the good and beautiful.
None, except the Buddha, is one hundred percent good. Nobody is one hundred percent bad either. There is evil in the best of us. There is good in the worst of us. "He who silences himself like a cracked gong when attacked, insulted and abused he, I say," the Buddha exhorts, "is in the presence of Nibbana although he has not yet attained Nibbana."
One may work with the best Of motives. But the outside world very often misconstrues him and will impute motives never even dreamt of.
One may serve and help others to the best of one's ability, sometimes by incurring debt or selling one's articles or property to save a friend in trouble. But later, the deluded world is so constituted that those very persons whom one has helped will find fault with him, blackmail him, blemish his good character and will rejoice in his downfall.
In the Jataka stories it is stated that Guttila the musician
taught everything he knew to his pupil, without a closed fist, but the
ungrateful man he was, he unsuccessfully tried to compete with his
teacher and ruin him.
Devadatta, a pupil and cousin of the Buddha, who had developed psychic powers, not only tried to discredit the Buddha but also made an unsuccessful attempt to crush him to death by hurling a rock from above while he was pacing up and down below.
There was no religious teacher so highly praised and so severely criticised, reviled and blamed as the Buddha. Such is the fate of great men.
In a public assembly a vile woman named Chintha feigning pregnancy maligned the Buddha. With a smiling face the Buddha patiently endured the insult and the Buddha's innocence was proved.
The Buddha was accused of murdering a woman assisted by his disciples. Non-Buddhists severely criticised the Buddha and his disciples to such an extent that the Venerable Ananda appealed to the Buddha to leave for another village.
"How, Ananda, if those villagers also abuse us?"
"Well then, Lord we will proceed to another village."
"Then, Ananda, the whole of India will have no place for us. Be patient. These abuses will automatically cease."
Magandiya, a lady of the harem, had a grudge against the Buddha for speaking ill of her attractive figure when her father through ignorance, wished to give her in marriage to the Buddha. She hired drunkards to insult the Buddha in public. With perfect equanimity the Buddha endured the insults. But Magandiya had to suffer for her misdemeanour.
Insults are the common lot of humanity. The more you work and the greater you become, the more are you subject to insult and humiliation.
What can be endured with ease is sukha (happiness), what is difficult to bear is dukkha (pain). Ordinary happiness is the gratification of a desire. No sooner is the desired thing gained than we desire some other kind of happiness. So insatiate are our selfish desires. The enjoyment of sensual pleasures is the highest and only happiness to an average person. There is no doubt a momentary happiness in the anticipation, gratification and recollection of such material pleasures highly priced by the sensualist, but they are illusory and temporary.
Socrates was insulted by his own wife. Whenever he went out to help others his intolerant wife used to scold him. One day as she was unwell she failed to perform her unruly task. Socrates left home on that day with a sad face. His friends inquired why he was sad. He replied that his wife did not scold him on that day as she was unwell.
"Well, you ought to be happy for not getting that unwelcome scolding," remarked his friends."
"Oh no!". When she scolds me I get an opportunity to practise patience. Today I missed it. That is the reason why I am sad. answered the philosopher.These are memorable lessons for all.
When insulted we should think that we are given an opportunity to practise patience. Instead of being offended, we should be grateful to our adversaries.
Happiness and pain are the last pair of opposites. They are the most powerful factors that affect mankind. What can be endured with ease is Sukha (happiness) What is difficult to bear is dukkha (pain) Ordinary happiness is the gratification of a desire. No sooner is the desire thing gained than we desire some other kind of happiness. So insatiate are our selfish desires. The enjoyment of sensual pleasures is the highest and only happiness to an average person. there is no dought a momentary happiness in the anticipation, gratification and recollection of such material pleasures highly priced by the sensualist, but they are illusory and temporary.
Can material possessions give one genuine happiness? If so, millionaires would not think of committing suicide. In a certain country which has reached the zenith of material progress about ten percent suffer from mental diseases. Why should it be so if material possessions alone can give genuine happiness?
Can dominion over the whole world produce true happiness? Alexander, who triumphantly marched to India, conquering the lands on the way, sighed for not having more pieces of earth to conquer.
Are Emperors and Kings who wear crowns always happy? Very often the lives of statesmen who wield power are at stake. The pathetic cases of Mahatma Gandhi and Kennedy are illustrative examples.
Real happiness is found within, and is not to be defined in terms of wealth, power, honours or conquests.
If such wordly possessions are forcibly or unjustly obtained, or are misdirected, or even viewed with attachment, they will be a source of pain and sorrow for the possessors. What is happiness to one may not be happiness to another. What is meat and drink to one may be poison to another.
The Buddha enumerates four kinds of happiness for a layman. They are the happiness of possession; namely, health, wealth, longevity, beauty, joy, property, strength, children, etc.
The second source of happiness is derived by the enjoyment of such possessions. Ordinary men and women wish to enjoy themselves. The Buddha does not advise all to renounce their worldly pleasures and retire to solitude.
The enjoyment of wealth lies not only in using it for ourselves but also in giving it for the welfare of others. What we eat is only temporary. What we preserve we leave and go. What we give we take with us. We are remembered forever by the good deeds we have done with our worldly possessions.
Not falling into debt is another source of happiness. If we are contended with what we have and if we are economical, we need not be in debt to any one. Debtors live in mental agony and are under obligation to their creditors. Though poor, when debt free, you feel relieved and are mentally happy.
Leading a blameless life is one of the best sources of happiness for a layman. A blameless person is a blessing to himself and to others. He is admired by all and feels happier, being affected by the peaceful vibrations of others. It should be stated however that it is very, very difficult to get a good name from all. The noble-minded persons are concerned only with a blameless life and are indifferent to external approbation. The majority in this world delight themselves in enjoying pleasures while some others seek delight in renouncing them. Non-attachment or the transcending of material pleasures is happiness to the spiritual. Nibbanic bliss, which is a bliss of relief from suffering, is the highest form of happiness.
Ordinary happiness we welcome, but not its opposite, pain, which is rather difficult to endure.Pain or suffering comes in different guises.We suffer when we are subject to old age which is natural. With equanimity we have to bear the sufferings of old age.
More painful than sufferings due to old age are sufferings caused by disease, to which, if chronic, we feel that death is preferable. Even the slightest toothache or headache is sometimes unbearable.
When we are subject to disease, without being worried, we should be able to bear it at any cost. Well, we must console ourselves thinking that we have escaped from a still more serious disease.
Very often we are separated from our near and dear ones. Such separation causes great pain of mind. We should understand that all association must end with separation. Here is a good opportunity to practise equanimity.
More often than not we are compelled to be united with the unpleasant, which we detest. We should be able to bear them. Perhaps we are reaping the effects of our own Kamma, past or present. We should try to accommodate ourselves to the new situation or try to overcome the obstacle by some means or other.Even the Buddha, a perfect being, who has destroyed all defilements, had to endure physical suffering caused by disease and accidents.
The Buddha was constantly subject to headaches. His last illness caused him much physical suffering. As a result of Devadatta hurling a rock to kill him 'his foot was wounded by a splinter which necessitated an operation. Sometimes he was compelled to starve. At times he had to be contented with horse-fodder. Due to the disobedience of his own pupils, he was compelled to retire to a forest for three months. In the forest on a couch of leaves spread on rough ground, facing piercing cold winds, he slept with perfect equanimity. Amidst pain and happiness he lived with a balanced mind.
Death is the greatest sorrow we are compelled to face in the course of our wandering s in Samsara. Sometimes death comes not singly but in numbers which may even cause insanity.
Patachara lost her near and dear ones-parents, husband, brother and two children-and she went mad. The Buddha consoled her.
Kisa Gothami lost her only infant, and she went in search of a remedy for her dead son, carrying the corpse. She approached the Buddha and asked for a remedy."Well, sister, can you bring some mustard seed?" "Certainly, Lord!" "But, sister, it should be from a house where no one has died."Mustard seeds she found, but not a place where death had not visited.
She understood the nature of life. When a mother was questioned as to why she did not weep over the tragic death of her only son, she replied: "Uninvited he came, uninformed he went. As he came, so he went. Why should we weep? What avails weeping?" As fruits fall from a tree-tender, ripe or old-even so we die in our infancy, prime of manhood, or even in old age.The sun rises in the East only to set in the West.
Flowers bloom in the morning to fade in the evening.Inevitable death, which comes to all without exception, we have to face with perfect equanimity."Just as the earth whate'er is thrown. Upon her, whether sweet or foul,Indifferent is to all-alike, Nor hatred shows,nor amity, So likewise he in good or ill, Must even balanced ever be." The Buddha says-
When touched by worldly conditions the mind of an Arahant never wavers.
Amidst gain and loss, fame and defame, praise and blame, happiness and pain, let us try to maintain a balanced mind.