We all want to become successful in our lives and it’s natural. We strive hard to make our wants happen. In the process, it is inevitable that we experience some form of gain and loss, fame and disgrace, praise and blame, and pleasure and pain. Just take a look at your own lives. You may have faced one or more of these situations in the past. Four of these conditions are favorable and we all like to have them while the other four are unfavorable and we don’t want to think about them at all coming our way. These conditions are known as the eight worldly conditions. They affect everyone without discrimination. The Buddha has given a few teachings on the eight worldly conditions.
In one of the discourses, the Buddha says, “Monks, the world revolves around eight worldly conditions and the eight worldly conditions revolve around the world”.
The Buddha has said that an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, a person who didn’t have the opportunity to listen to Buddha’s teachings and practice accordingly, comes by gains, incurs losses, becomes famous, faces disgrace, wins praise, is blamed for his actions, enjoys comforts in life and goes through painful situations. A well-taught noble disciple of the Buddha, a disciple who is well instructed and skilled in practicing the teachings, also faces the same eight conditions of gain and loss, fame and disgrace, blame and praise, and pleasure and pain in life.

The Buddha asks the monks, “Monks if everyone faces the same conditions, what do you think? Is there a difference between the two types of persons? What is its distinction? What are the distinguishing factors?”

The monks respectfully request the Buddha to enlighten them on the matter. The Buddha responds, “In that case, monks, listen carefully. I’ll speak. Memorize and reflect upon them” and gave the following teaching.

An uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person comes by some form of gain. Buddha says this person fails to reflect on his gain intelligently. Doesn’t see its impermanence. Doesn’t see it as a cause of suffering. Doesn’t see the changing nature within. He does not understand it as it really is. Fails to see the true nature of it. His emotions have shielded him from seeing the true nature of his gain. The Buddha doesn’t suggest that you shouldn’t be happy for the gain, but be mindful that it will not always stay the same. Emotional attachment to the gain will make you sad when change occurs. Buddha is teaching us to anticipate that changes will occur and to be prepared without giving into emotions.

The same person incurs a loss at some point. Doesn’t see its impermanent nature. Doesn’t see it as a cause of suffering. Doesn’t see the changing nature within. A loss will make one feel sad. Since he has not trained his mind to expect this eventuality, his emotions take control and he becomes saddened and starts grieving over the loss. The same mindset applies in facing the rest of the conditions of fame, disgrace, praise, blame, pleasure, and pain.

Now, the Buddha describes how the second category of people, the people who have listened to Buddha’s teachings and apply the teachings to their daily lives, conduct themselves in the face of the eight worldly conditions. A noble disciple recollects the teachings of the Buddha and thinks intelligently. “This gain has come by me. It makes me happy but I know this is impermanent, subject to change and a cause of suffering.” He has the same mindset facing the rest of the favorable and unfavorable conditions. He maintains calm, and he is not ruled by emotions and understands its true nature, whether it’s favorable or unfavorable.

The Buddha continues, “Monks, this is the distinguishing factor, the distinction between the run-of-the-mill person and the noble disciple.”

The Buddha concludes the teaching with the following verses.

  • The Eight Worldly Conditions of Gain, Loss, Fame, Disgrace, Praise, Blame, Pleasure, and Pain revolve around human life. These conditions are impermanent and cannot be controlled.
  • A mindful person thinks intelligently about these Eight Worldly Conditions. He is not overly happy in the face of the four favorable conditions or becomes heartbroken when faced with the four unfavorable conditions.
  • The person who has conquered both the desire to embrace the favorable conditions and the aversion to the unfavorable conditions has uprooted these emotions within himself. This is the person who has uprooted all of his defilements and the resulting sorrow from his life through insight. And I say, this person has destroyed the prerequisites for another birth resulting in aging, sickness, death, and lamentation. That’s the Arahath or the enlightened being.

(Ref: AN Duthiya Loka Dhamma Sutta)