EIGHT Worldly Conditions (Astha Loka Dharma)

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.

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.

Gain (Labh0) and loss (Alabo)

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.
Visākhā, 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 Ānanda, noticing it, kept it in a safe place to be given to Visākhā when she visited the monastery. Visākhā 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 Ānanda had kept it in safe custody. Returning home, she reported the matter.
Visākhā visited the monastery and inquired of the Buddha what meritorious act should she 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 Visākhā 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 (yaso) and defame (Ayaso)

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 neighbourhood. 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.
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 devastating 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 miss known.
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.
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.
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.

Praise (Pasansa) and Blame (Ninda)

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.
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.
Great Socrates was poisoned. Noble Jesus Christ was ruthlessly crucified. Harmless Mahatma Gandhi was 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. ”
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.”

happiness(sukha), pain(dukkha).

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.
Real happiness is found within, and is not to be defined in terms of wealth, power, honours or conquests.
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 anyone. 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 whatever 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.