The eight worldly dharmas can prevent us from experiencing inner peace and moksha despite how much we try to reach Nirvana, according to Buddhism.
The eight worldly dharmas refer to eight particular transitory things in life which limits our sentient understanding to experience happiness. Buddhist beliefs reveal that being materialistic or clinging to pride and ego or having a desire of material possessions amounts to suffering, which hinders our ability to experience true happiness. So before we start learning about chakras, yoga or meditation, we first need to learn and understand the core principles of the worldly dharmas.
“The first step to your spiritual awakening is to work on your concerns,” explains Exploring Your Mind. Once we have learned to eliminate negative thoughts, senseless desires, toxic attachments and insecurities related to loss, we can finally begin the process of letting go and detach from material attachments.
What are the eight worldly dharmas
The Aṣṭalokadharma or Aṭṭhalokadhamma was first mentioned by the great Buddhist master and scholar Nagarjuna. It is also known as the Eight Worldly Concerns or Samsaric Dharmas or Eight Worldly Preoccupations or Eight Worldly Winds or the Eight Vicissitudes. Aṣṭalokadharma refers to a set of mundane worldly obsessions which often motivates individuals who tend to lack spiritual strength and perspective. Being preoccupied with these worldly concerns can cause us a lot of suffering. This is why Buddhism encourages spiritual seekers to detach from the attachment of these dharmas.
Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher of the Kagyu tradition and the Founder of Karmapa Foundation Europe, explains “Real dharma practice is free from the eight worldly concerns… When your mind is focused on any of the eight worldly concerns, whether on the positive side or the negative side, your activities are not following the dharma.”
The eight worldly concerns are attachments and aversions that fasten us to the cycle of suffering or samsara. The eight worldly dharmas comprise of four hopes and four corresponding fears which we endlessly surround ourselves with. It is only by liberating us from these worldly concerns, we can discover enlightenment.
The eight worldly concerns are usually described in four pairs, which are:
- Hope for happiness & Fear of suffering (Pleasure and Pain)
- Hope for fame & Fear of insignificance (Fame and Disrepute)
- Hope for praise & Fear of blame (Praise and Blame)
- Hope for gain & Fear of loss (Success and Failure)
Detachment & impermanence
The Buddhist concept of the eight worldly dharmas are primarily based on detachment & impermanence. Certain learned behaviors and programmed mentality make us believe that our identity revolves around desires, recognition, social attention, and material possessions. We believe these are crucial for our success and existence. However, we tend to forget that nothing is permanent. Impermanence is the very essence of nature and life.
Despite how much we feel attached to our expectations and desires, life will always be uncertain and dynamic. When we don’t realize that control is nothing but an illusion, even the slightest bit of change in life can severely affect our emotional and mental well being. “Unfulfilled expectations can stress you out or make you suffer. While your mind is under the influence of these dharmas, you’ll never be free,” adds Exploring Your Mind.
Ringu Tulku Rinpoche writes “Usually, we think that happiness comes from wealth, power, popularity, and pleasure, and that these four things will give us everything that we need. But from a spiritual point of view, these things are not the answer. Being rich is not a source of happiness, and being poor is not a source of unhappiness… Lasting peace and happiness do not depend on outer conditions; they come from seeing in a clear way.”
Understanding the eight worldly dharmas
Let us take a closer look at the eight worldly dharmas so that we can gain a better understanding about how these affect us and how we can get rid of such attachments.
1 & 2. Hope for happiness & Fear of suffering (Pleasure and Pain)
All of us want to feel happy and avoid suffering. It is our natural tendency to seek pleasant experiences and detest negative experiences in life. In fact, the more we experience happiness, the more afraid we become of suffering and pain. Hence, when suffering arises, we are unable to accept, acknowledge or overcome it. According to Buddhism, there should always be a balance in everything in life. “When there’s humility, frugality, and fairness, there’s no place for excess. Buddhist philosophy dismisses desires and wants,” explains an article in Exploring Your Mind.