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Break Free of the 8 Worldly Concerns

The eight worldly concerns are:

  • Hope for gain and
    fear of loss
  • Hope for pleasure and
    fear of suffering
  • Hope for fame and
    fear of insignificance
  • Hope for praise and
    fear of blame

There are many different translations that explain the four pairs of opposites in slightly different ways

Greed forHatred of
Receiving material things
Not receiving material things
Things going well
Sense pleasures
Things not going well
The unpleasant
Good reputation
Bad reputation
Hearing nice words
Feeling encouraged
Not being supported 
Not being encouraged

What’s wrong with following our impulses?

Our normal way of living is to swing wildly from happy moods to unhappy moods. One minute we are up in the clouds and joyful but the next minute we are down in a deep hole and depressed.

We are super happy when good things (what we want) happen, and are super unhappy when bad things happen (what we don’t want). So we rush to get more of those things that we think are good and we run away from those things that we think are bad.

We are addicted to grabbing pleasure, material things, recognition and praise.

We react in horror when we are criticised, not recognised, suffer pain or discomfort, and when we lose or fail to get some material thing that we wanted or expected to get.

This is how we react from birth until death. Unless we change our way of looking at the value of our life, we end up wasting our entire life.

Our mind is pleased when we experience pleasure and displeased when we experience displeasure. And because we do nothing to check these attitudes, we build more attachment to our self-centred world. We bounce from one extreme —grasping at comfort and positive feedback— to the other —rejection of discomfort and negative feedback. Our life is one painful burning stick with greed at one end and anger at the other.

By blindly following these built-in impulses, we bind ourselves to Samsara and so we continue to go from one kind of suffering to another.

—Lokavipatti Sutta: The Failings of the World—

The Blessed One said, “Gain arises for an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person. He does not reflect, ‘Gain has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, and subject to change.’ He does not discern it as it has come to be.”

“Gain/loss, status/disgrace, censure/praise, pleasure/pain: these conditions among human beings are inconstant, impermanent, subject to change.

“Knowing this, the wise person, mindful, ponders these changing conditions. Desirable things don’t charm the mind, undesirable ones bring no resistance.”

(Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu) https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/AN/AN8_6.html
The Buddha is not just outlining how The Eight Wordly Concerns keep us bound to Samsara, he is also explaining how to break free.
He urges us to think how “these conditions … are inconstant, impermanent, subject to change”. When we come to see the impermance and value-lessness of following these 8 concerns, we will come to the view that “desirable things don’t charm the mind, undesirable things bring no resistance” and then we become free of the greed and hatred that is bound up in The Eight Worldly Concerns.
Transforming these 8 concerns is how we break free of the greed, hatred and ignorance that keeps us in samsara.

Change Your World by Changing Your Mind

These 8 wordly concerns are, themselves, our world of suffering. We are consumed with chasing pleasure, things, praise and reputation. We have to have them and them only.

We fail to see that we are unhappy while we are chasing them. That’s because we see all our preparation, longing and desire to get them as part of the build up to actually getting them. The expected joy we project onto finally achieving those goals — we see that as exciting. But when you honestly look at how you feel as you strive for those goals, you will see that it is not good. You are actually aggitated and driving yourself to get them.

And that is just talking about the pain of the things we want. Getting the things we do not want —pain, criticism, loss and disgrace— is unbearable and plainly the cause of suffering.

We fail to see that suffering comes from our mind and how it is the thing that causes both our happiness and our misery. We fail to see that changing our view will change our relationship to both desirable and undesirable things happening to us.

As the Buddha said, by seeing both extremes as transient, changing and unreliable we learn to welcome 100% of our experiences without fear and without unrealistic expectations.

Desirable things don’t charm the mind
Undesirable things bring no resistance