Seeing the Eight Worldly Concerns Like an Illusion

Other languages

Now let's look at the last verse, verse eight:

(8) Through a mind untarnished by stains of conceptions concerning the eight passing things, throughout all of this, and that knows all phenomena as an illusion, may I break free from my bondage, without any clinging.

Throughout all of this” is referring to throughout all these practices that are seven verses before.“The eight passing things” refers to the eight transitory things in life, or the eight worldly dharmas, which are praise or criticism, hearing good news or hearing bad news, receiving gains or having losses, or things going well or things going poorly. With a mind that’s “untarnished by the stains of conceptions” about these. In other words, not feeling overly excited, and “How wonderful” and “ How wonderful I am” and so on, when we’re praised or hear good news or we’re given something, we have a gain or things go well; and not with conceptions of “ Poor me” and getting all depressed and upset when we hear criticism or bad news or we suffer losses or things go poorly. And the way that we get free of this is by knowing all phenomena to be like an illusion, so our understanding of voidness. And in that way we can get free of our “bondage,” it’s the bondage to samsara, “without any clinging.” The clinging is to the “me,” and the eight worldly feelings.

There are many quotations here from Shantideva that express the same type of thought:

(VIII.3) Worldly concerns are not discarded because of sticky attachments and thirst for material gain and the like; therefore, to set these things aside, someone with knowledge would discern like this:

(VIII.4) "An exceptionally perceptive state of mind, joined onto a stilled and settled state, completely destroys the disturbing emotions." Having understood this, first I shall seek a stilled and settled mind; and that's achieved through delight in detachment from worldly concerns.

The disturbing emotions are attachment to gain and so on and repulsion, and anger with when we have losses. An exceptionally perceptive state of mind refers to a state of vipashyana and a stilled and settled state of mind refers to a state of shamatha.

Shantideva further mentions:

(VIII.20) There've been many people with material wealth and there've been many with fame and reputation. But it's never been known that they've passed on to some place where their amassed wealth and fame have come with.

(VIII.21) If there are others who belittle me, what pleasure is there when I'm being praised? And if there are others who praise me, what displeasure is there when I'm being belittled?

So we need a combination of shamatha, so the mind that’s stilled and can focus on this, and exceptionally perceptive state of mind that can understand these things, in order to break through this up and down of the eight worldly feelings; and as it says here, to see everything like an illusion. That also Shantideva says in terms of seeing things like a dream:

(VI.57) Someone who wakes up after having experienced a hundred years of happiness in a dream and another who wakes up after having experienced just a moment of happiness:

(VI.58) Once they've awakened, that happiness doesn't return, after all, to either of the two. (Similarly,) it comes down to exactly the same for someone who's lived for long and someone who's lived for a short while.

(VI.59) Though I may have obtained great material gain and even have enjoyed many pleasures for long, I shall still go forth empty-handed and naked, like having been robbed by a thief.

Again we see it like an illusion, like a dream. If we are praised and things go well for a short time, for a long time, in the end what deep significance does it bring? And we also think in terms of is there any benefit, is there any essence to praise and fame?

Shantideva further says:

(VI.90) Praise and fame, (these) shows of respect, won't bring positive force, won't bring a long life, won't bring bodily strength, nor freedom from sickness; they won't bring physical pleasure either.

(VI.91) If I were aware of what's in my self-interest, what in my self-interest would there be in them? If just mental happiness were what I wanted, I should devote myself to gambling and so on, and to alcohol too.

(VI.92) For the sake of fame, (people) would give away wealth or would get themselves killed; but what use is there with words (of fame)? Once they've died, to whom will they bring pleasure?

(VI.93) At the collapse of his sand castle, a child wails in despair; similarly, at the loss of praise and fame, my mind shows the face of a child.

A relationship breaks up and something goes bad in our life and we lose a job and so on – it’s like our sand castle has collapsed. We were making it into a big thing and being all excited about it, and then, when it collapses, we get all upset. The point is not to make a big deal out of either things going well or things not going well, to see it like a dream or like an illusion. For that we can do the voidness meditation, that’s the deepest thing. At the end of chapter nine of Shantideva’s text, he analyzes these eight worldly dharmas, the eight transitory things:

(IX.151) With all phenomena devoid in that way, what is there that would've been received; what is there that would've been taken away? Who is there who'll become shown respect or contempt, and by whom?

(IX.152) What is there, from which there's pleasure or pain? What is there, to be disliked or liked? What craving is there, that's searching for an actual (findable) nature, and what is it for, that there's craving?

So, seeing things like an illusion follows from the voidness analysis of what is it that you get so excited about, that you’re liking, and what is it that you dislike; and who is it that’s liking it, and who is it that’s disliking it, and so on. So in this way “I break free from my bondage, without any clinging.” Geshe Chekawa summarizes it as well in the Seven Point Mind Training: “Think of all phenomena as in a dream.”

Also, this discussion about the eight transitory things in life, the so called eight worldly dharmas, ties in very well with what has been discussed in the earlier part of the text. That’s why he says seeing this “ throughout all,” throughout all of what’s come before, because “accepting the loss on ourselves and giving the victory to others” is taking loss and then giving gain to others. The giving and taking practice is also taking on the bad news or the criticism or these sort of things of others, and giving them what they might like, praise and so on.

So, in order to practice the tonglen, in order to practice taking on the loss ourselves and giving the victory to others, it’s very important to understand that these negative things that we’re taking on and the positive things that we’re giving, all are like an illusion. That’s why I kept on referring to the fact that the understanding of voidness is very important for all of these practices.

That concludes the discussion of the Eight Verses of Mind Training. It’s a very helpful thing to add to our daily practice, to read or recite these eight verses each day, to think a little bit about them, and to try to incorporate them into our lives. Because, as we’ve seen from all these references to these other texts from which these teachings come and which develop out of these teachings, these eight verses summarize very well all of this type of bodhisattva practice. And it’s not very long to read or recite eight verses.

Then we end with a dedication. We think, whatever positive force has come from this, whatever understanding has come from this, may this truly act as a cause for reaching enlightenment, for the benefit of all.

Read and listen to the original text "Eight Verses of Mind Training" by Langri Tangpa.