Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 02/28/2010

The Eight Worldly Winds

I found this post on another blog while trying to find some material to aid in my own contemplation of equanimity today:

“The eight worldly winds are pleasure and pain, praise and blame, fame and disrepute, gain and loss. These are pairs of opposites:  one we are attracted to, the other repulsed by.   The conditions of their blowing are beyond us and can’t be controlled.  We get carried away by these winds and can lose our course easily.  Pleasure, fame, praise and gain all make us feel good, like the stock market on an upward swing.  We may get a big head with fame, lose sight of our responsibilities with pleasure, rely on external validation with praise, or feel exceedingly comfortable with gain.  These things we all desire and delude our clear minds.  Conversely, we can be carried away by their opposites.  We can become absorbed by our pain, our esteem can suffer from disrepute, feel excessively guilty with too much blame, and loss can leave with us with endless grief.  Being swept away by any of these 8 winds causes  emotional instability.  Stirring things up they cloud are clarity.  Just set a course sailing down the middle–not directly against the wind nor with it–and respond with the tiller to keep things straight.   Accept each wind without following it, realizing its conditions are impermanent. Then when the wind changes direction you can respond flexibly.”

And here’s an old Chan/Zen story which I find more and more meanigful as the years pass:

‘There was a well-known scholar who practiced Buddhism and befriended a Chan Master. Thinking that he had made great stride in his cultivation, he wrote a poem and asked his attendant to deliver it to the Master who lived across the river. The Master opened the letter and read the short poem aloud:
“Unmoved by the eight worldly winds, *
Serenely I sit on the purplish gold terrace.”
A smile broke up on the lips of the Master. Picking up an ink brush, he scribbled the word “fart” across the letter and asked that it be delivered back to the scholar.
The scholar was upset and went across the river right away to reprimand the Master for being rude. The Master laughed as he said, “You said you are no longer moved by the eight worldly winds and yet with just one ‘fart‘, you ran across the river like a rat!” ‘



  1. Thank you, your blog today has helped me to put recent criticisms I have received into context. I have acted (or felt like acting) very much like that “well-known scholar” and his travails have brought a smile to my face.

  2. a better translation for the last line in your story is “You said you are no longer moved by the eight worldly winds and yet just one ‘fart’, is enough to blow you across the river!” — the Chinese term translated ‘fart’ here does mean that, but it also means ‘hot air’, ‘bluster’, in the sense of ‘empty rhetoric’, so the story works very nicely in Chinese. I translated it once as ‘guff’, but perhaps that only works well in British English?

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