Eight Winds and Mindfulness in our Everyday Lives

Eight Winds and Mindfulness in our Everyday Lives

We enjoy doing things that are pleasurable, but we should not be attached to them. On the other hand, when we are in the state of suffering, we should not be too worried. Our lives are full of ups and downs but we should try to be in a neutral life condition...

Buddhism considers enlightenment as having a mind that is fulfilled. It is at peace without any confusion, without being wavered by both fortunes and misfortunes occurring in our daily lives.

As human beings, we respond to our environment through the display of emotions. We often react to our environment by being happy, sad or angry. From the standpoint of Buddhism, our lives are controlled by the three poisons – greed, anger and stupidity.

This allows the Eight Winds, comprising four favourable and four opposing winds, to easily sway our life condition.

Swayed by the Eight Winds , our mood can rise and fall throughout the day. We find ourselves more susceptible to distracting thoughts and negative feelings. Unable to seek mental peace and quiet, we may long for an inner compass to guide us in re-establishing balance in our lives.

We found this guidance by Reverend Shingaku Kato to be especially meaningful in explaining the meaning of the Eight Winds and its influence on our everyday lives. We hope it will serve as a guide, in helping you develop a deeper appreciation for Nichiren Daishonin's teachings in your Buddhist practice.

Eight Winds
Youth Kenshu in Malaysia, June 2006
Reverend Shingaku Kato, Kaimyo Magazine Issue 25

We, human beings, are very emotional. If you notice, most of the time we tend to react to our environment by being happy, sad or angry. Apart from human beings, animals too, have emotions. However, the big difference lies in that human beings can control their emotions whereas animals cannot. An animal, for instance, a dog shows that it is happy by wagging its tail. Similarly, when it is sad, it cries; and when it is angry, it will bite even its owner. Yet, human beings sometimes do react like animals. However, if we were to behave like animals, no one would respect or trust us. So, we should learn to train ourselves to control our emotions in order to lead a significant life.

I agree that it is very difficult to control our emotions. In fact, we cannot totally control our emotions. During Nichiren Daishonin's time, there was a believer by the name of Shijo Kingo. He was a devoted believer of Nichiren Daishonin. During the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, he was even willing to die for the sake of Nichiren Daishonin. Being a sincere and devout believer, he met with a lot of problems. His colleagues were envious of him and told lies about him to his lord. Due to this, his lord confiscated his land and horses. He even had to vacate his home and shift to another place. He wanted to file a lawsuit to prove his innocence and wrote a letter to Nichiren Daishonin for advice. Upon receiving the letter, Nichiren Daishonin replied to him.

In the Gosho "Reply to Shijo Kingo", Nichiren Daishonin states:

"A truly wise man will not be carried away by any of the eight winds: prosperity, decline, disgrace, honour, praise, censure, suffering and pleasure. He is neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline. The heavenly gods will surely protect one who does not bend 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 Daishonin wrote this Gosho realising that Shijo Kingo had been affected by the Eight Winds. So he cautioned and encouraged him.

Now, I am going to explain about the Eight Winds. First of all, there is prosperity - which means 'gaining wealth and social status and fulfilling all our desires’. For instance, if one is rich, he will lead a luxurious life, spending money unnecessarily and buying things which he does not need. He will look down on people lower in status than him.

Next is decline, which is the opposite of prosperity. In a working environment, when one is not promoted, he becomes unhappy and hold grudges against his superior and other colleagues. He becomes demoralised at work and even vents his anger on his family at home.

Third, there is censure, which means 'to talk ill of or to criticise someone behind his back’. For example, there is someone whom you like in school. He/She likes someone else and when they become a couple, you become jealous of the other person and start holding grudges against him/her.

The fourth wind is honour. ‘Honour’ means 'to receive great respect’ from others and such persons will always like to be honoured.

The fifth wind is praise, and this is the opposite of honour. It means ‘to receive good comments about oneself in one’s presence’.

The next wind is disgrace, which is 'to speak unpleasant words that hurt others’. If a person is affected by this wind, he will get angry very easily.

The seventh wind is suffering. This is when our body and mind are weak or in pain. Lastly is the wind of pleasure, which is the opposite of suffering. I need not explain about these two winds as most of you already know about them or have experienced them before.

The eight winds which I have explained earlier can be divided into two groups. The first group is the Four Favourable Winds, comprising prosperity, honour, praise and pleasure, which everyone enjoys and. becomes attached to. Everyone loves to have these four winds. The other four winds are the Four Opposing Winds. They are decline, disgrace, censure and suffering. These four winds are things which people dislike and would want to avoid at all times. These eight winds will stir up our desires of love and hatred which can easily confuse our minds to such an extent that we will not be able to make correct decisions or judgments.

Nichiren Daishonin states:

"He is neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline."

Here, Nichiren Daishonin is telling us not to be too happy when our dreams come true. Similarly, we are not to be disappointed when they are not fulfilled. We enjoy doing things that are pleasurable, but we should not be attached to them. On the other hand, when we are in the state of suffering, we should not be too worried. Our lives are full of ups and downs but we should try to be in a neutral life condition, just like Shijo Kingo, who did not begrudge his lord despite receiving cold treatment from him. Sages are not affected by the eight winds, so we too must try to maintain such a life condition.

But in reality, it is very difficult to achieve the life condition of a sage. This is because we are born in the Latter Day of the Law.

Nichiren Daishonin in "Letter to Niike" states:

"Deep in the Snow Mountains lives a bird called Kankucho which, tortured by the numbing cold, cries that it will build a nest in the morning. Yet, when the day breaks, it sleeps away the hours in the warm light of the morning sun without building its nest. So it continues to cry vainly throughout its life."

"The same is true of people. When they fall into hell and suffocate in its flames, they long to be reborn as humans and vow to put everything else aside and serve the three treasures in order to attain enlightenment in their next life. But even on the rare occasions when they happen to be reborn human, the winds of fame and fortune blow violently and the lamp of Buddhist practice is easily extinguished.”

We too are like the Kankucho birds and we become very complacent, enjoying life and having little or no time for practice. But gradually, our lives change from bad to worse.

Therefore Nichiren Daishonin states:

"The heavenly gods will surely protect one who does not bend before the eight winds."

So for a person, who is kind, compassionate and honoured, when he faces problems, he will definitely be able to overcome them through someone's help or advice. I am sure you too have encountered such an experience. This is what we term as Buddhist gods’ protection. But on the other hand, if a person is always affected by the eight winds, he will not be able to encompass the people and the environment. Such a person will be disliked by others and no one will want to help him. Even the Buddhist gods will not protect him.

A person who is practising and yet is easily affected by the eight winds is one who is practising the treasure of the storehouse and treasure of the body but not the treasure of the heart. This person's chanting is for achieving his own desires, not for kosen-rufu or attainment of Buddhahood. But the treasure of the heart is the most important.

Our lives are controlled by the three poisons; that is why we are attacked very easily by the eight winds and influenced by them. As I have mentioned earlier, we will not be able to make the correct decision and we will neither be trusted by others nor receive the protection of the Buddhist gods. That is why we need to practise correctly and chant Daimoku sincerely to the Gohonzon every day. When we are able to maintain our life condition by chanting, we will be able to eliminate or avoid these eight winds.

As this world is surrounded by the Eight Winds, we must be careful not to be affected by them. So please be sincere and diligent in your practice.

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