Vows, commitments and modern life:  Transforming the eight worldly concerns into the path

Endure both, which ever arises. 

Here both refers to both good and bad conditions which we encounter in our life.  We should accept both and prevent either from interfering with our spiritual practice.

All good and bad circumstances in this context can be included within the eight worldly concerns.  If we are overly concerned with any of these they become obstacles to our Dharma practice.  If we are concerned about experiencing pleasant things, we can become elated and further attached to samsara.  If we are overly concerned about avoiding unpleasant things, we can easily lose our faith in the Dharma when things go wrong.  If we are preoccupied with wealth, it can become a distraction and cause greater involvement in worldly pursuits to the detriment of our Dharma practice.  If we are overly fearful of a lack of resources, we can become depressed and worry about material things to the detriment of our practice.  If we seek praise we can develop pride and a feeling of being superior to others.  If criticism scares us, we will suffer badly when we inevitably experience it.  If we are overly concerned with having a good reputation, we can wind up ignoring our fellow Dharma practitioners and may even feel superior to our spiritual guide.  Like with criticism, if we wish to avoid a bad reputation we will become unhappy in those unavoidable moments when we have one.

To “endure both” essentially means to transform both.  A Dharma practitioner seeks to accept all things as they arise.  What prevents us from accepting things is we don’t know how to use them to accomplish our purposes.  The primary reason for this is our purposes are worldly, so some things are good and other things are bad.  If our purposes are spiritual, namely we seek to advance ourself along the spiritual path, then all situations are equally useful, just in different ways.  With the wisdom that knows how to transform any situation into the path, we know how to “use” everything, and so therefore we can accept everything, indeed we can embrace everything.  With such a powerful mind, we become a fearless being.  Nothing is a problem for us, everything is fuel for our path.  Instead of being buffeted by life’s waves, we learn how to surf them to the Island of Enlightenment.  All anxiety, stress and worry simply fade away, and we become a pillar of support and stability for those around us.  Since we see nothing as a problem, when others explain to us their difficulties we quite naturally see how such challenges can be used for good.  A mind that can accept everything is actually a pre-requisite for the mind of renunciation because the paradox is it is only by fully accepting the truth of suffering that we can move beyond it.

How can we transform each of these eight conditions into the path?  Wealth can be used to benefit others and support them (or ourselves) in their (our) practice of training the mind.  Poverty can help us let go of attachment to all things and become truly rich with the mind of contentment.  Pleasant experiences can be offered to the guru at our heart, transformed in our tantric practice or serve as a reminder of the need to accumulate merit.  Unpleasant experiences can help us generate the wish to avoid negativity, engage in purification, escape from samsara and generate compassion for those who suffer.  Praise can be redirected internally into praise for the guru at our heart and all the Buddhas who inspired good things.  Criticism is our greatest teacher because we are so often blind to our own shortcomings, and without others pointing them out we wouldn’t be able to overcome them.  A good reputation can enable us to spread the Dharma easily and inspire others to follow the spiritual path.  A bad reputation can give us an opportunity to break free from concern about what others think, purify our negative karma and even go on retreat since those with a bad reputation often lose their positions.  If we practice like this then we can transform any circumstance into the path, and always remain happy and undisturbed regardless of the circumstances.

A pure practitioner seeks to simplify the entire path into two things:  appearances and response.  No matter what appears, they simply focus on responding with wisdom and virtue.  If we understand karma and emptiness, life is little different than a video game.  None of it is real, things arise and we respond.  To win the game, we merely need to respond correctly to whatever arises.  We will make many mistakes, but if our intention to complete the game never wavers, we will be reborn again and again as a practitioner, gradually improving the ability with which we play the game until eventually we master it and can respond to everything perfectly all of the time.  When we reach this state, we will attain a “deathless state,” we will become a true Conqueror, undefeatable by Samsara.  And then we can teach others how to play as well.

4 thoughts on “Vows, commitments and modern life:  Transforming the eight worldly concerns into the path

  1. Wow, this teaching has touched me more than any others. You write on a way that is understandable and logical. Your words flow beautifully and I really feel they are speaking to me. Thank you for taking the time to write and reach out to others so that we may learn and flourish as well. Blessings!

  2. “With such a powerful mind, we become a fearless being. Nothing is a problem for us, everything is fuel for our path. ” Thank you, that is encouraging! 🙂

  3. What prevents us from accepting conditions is expectation. Expecting things to be different. This is the main reason we become angry when we don’t get what we want and elated when we do. Things don’t go along with our agenda or fit with our reality. No one else, for example, lives up to our moral code.

    Another point: anxiety is a useful mind, as is worry. Both of them, in extremes, are unproductive and destructive for the most part but serve a valuable purpose and can be helpful. It is useful to know what we actually want to get rid of and what serves us. Unpleasant feelings arise because we are human, there’s no inherent good or bad emotions, just our interpretation of their meaning or story we attribute to them. But we so badly want rid of the suffering without really investigating what is happening. Geshe la says this in many of his books.

    Overcoming the worldly concerns is about control.

    I want real freedom, I don’t want to be a victim of this life’s appearing worldly things. But I must realise, that human sufferings are completely normal. I should not expect for this to be different. I take responsibility for it and choose freedom. Release.

    If I choose to move my mind beyond what others are ordinarily doing and what seems to be really happening, then my vision is that of the enlightened city. This links in nicely what Kadam Ryan is inferring. How can I use what this life affords me to make it to the city of enlightenment?

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