The Eight Worldly Dharmas

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The Buddha

The Eight Worldly Dharmas have various names. “Dharma” is a word with a wide range of meanings. It can mean “thing,” but it also sometimes refers to the entire truth that the Buddha taught, as in “Buddha dharma.” Here, some people use the word, “preoccupations.”

In “Eight Worldly Dharmas,” it refers to experiences that humans tend to worry about, to no good effect, according to the Buddha. The Buddha taught that we should regard all of them with complete equanimity, allowing none of them to bother us at all.

They are four pairs of opposites: gain and loss; esteem and disgrace; condemnation and praise; and pleasure and pain. Different versions use different specific terms for the concepts, of course. This obviously fits well with greed and aversion as defilements. We tend to be greedy for the first element of each pair and aversive to the second element.

It also fits well with the admonition to seek and abide in equanimity as the ultimate goal of Buddhist meditation. Equanimity is the state of mental equipoise that allows no external events, including examples of the eight worldly dharmas, to disturb it.

In some sense, when you meditate, you are literally practicing your equanimity, since you should allow no thought to carry you too far away before you return to the breath, but neither should you berate or condemn yourself when it happens anyway.

Your mind will wander. You will notice it when you notice it. Just return to the breath and carry on.

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