Eight Worldly Dhammas

Venue: TIMS

Today’s talk is on the Eight Worldly Dhammas, also known as the vicissitudes of life.

The world revolves around 8 worldly conditions which are the root causes of the ups and downs of life. These are gain and loss, fame and disrepute, praise and blame, happiness and sadness. This is expounded in Dutiya Lokadhamma Sutta (AN 8.6)

The following is an illustration of this:

An upasaka, Atula, went with his friends and approached a forest monk, Āyasmā Revata, for a sermon but he kept silent. Unhappy with him, they then approached Āyasmā Sariputta, who gave them a lengthy sermon on the Abhidhamma. They were dissatisfied because they could not understand the sermon. They next approached Āyasmā Ananda who gave them a short sermon. This too failed to satisfy then as they found it too short. They went to tell the Buddha of their dissatisfaction with the monks.

The Buddha told them that that was the way of the world; that whatever one did, there would always be people who would not be satisfied. He then uttered the verses recorded in the Dhammapada (227—230). The meaning can be summarised as follows:

One who is silent, one who speaks too much or one who speaks too little, all receive blame. No one is free from blame.

There never was, there never will be, nor is there now, one who is wholly praised or blamed.

One, who is praised by the wise after careful observation, is truly flawless. Who can blame one who is wise and possesses knowledge and virtue? Even the gods praise him. By Brahma too is he praised.

Thus the three monks received blame. Even the Buddha was blamed by other ascetics because he converted their disciples.

Āyasmā Aggacitta related his own experience of a lay Buddhist practitioner who once told him that some people were not happy with him because he could not work due to his ill health. He felt bitter that they did not practise compassion and loving-kindness on him by being sympathetic. Āyasmā Aggacitta told him that a good layperson may not be certain of getting support, but bad monks can still get food and ‘ang-pows’ because people want to gain merits. No one is spared the vicissitudes of life.

Āyasmā Aggacitta said that everyone experienced these 8 worldly conditions. Buddhists who meditate are better able to use their wisdom and practised mind to see all these conditions and their true nature: non-self, impermanence and suffering. In so doing, they can better cope with such fluctuations—not getting exhilarated by the ups nor depressed by the downs—and so maintain their composure and peace of mind.

He advised the devotees to make use of the opportunity to come to meditate in TIMS and strengthen the mind in order to effectively cope with adversities in life.


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