The Eight Winds



“Worthy persons deserve to be called so

because they are not carried away by the eight winds:

prosperity, decline, disgrace, honor, praise, censure, suffering, and pleasure.

They are neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline.

The heavenly gods will surely protect one who is unbending before the eight winds”.

                                                                                                                        Nichiren


The teaching of Eight Winds warns before being swayed by influence of positive and negative forces we experience from the environment.  It is a teaching of rejecting attachment to favorite conditions (prosperity, honour, praise and pleasure) -

or aversion to negative situations (decline, disgrace, censure and sufferings) -

both influences which we are bound to meet through changing conditions in the course of our life.


inner strength against the eight influences


It is natural to enjoy positive circumstances, and feel dislike to negative encounters (such as when facing criticism).  However, unbending before such influences manifests inner strength.  Nichiren encourages us to develop the ability to perceive the impact of the situation in a balanced manner, without being overwhelmed or consumed by its influence on our spirit. 


It is our strength, which decides on the influence or the impact on our circumstances, and on how to transform our conditions into creating value.

The doctrine of the Eight Winds clarifies the conditions for building a solid core - and for maintaining one’s freedom from the chains of external influences.


The Eight Winds as “testing powers”


The mentioned influences of the Eight Winds convey to us a “feedback reaction” from our surroundings about our relations or circumstances.  Praise, for example is usually regarded as a positive reaction while criticism as a negative one.  It is important to be impartial towards such perceptions we receive and to determine not to be driven by emotional expressions.  Our path to enlightenment will be obstructed when we let the reactions of the surrounding get authority on our feelings and on our lives.


One’s self-worth is derived from the belief in one’s Buddhanature, an inherent value, which is beyond any weakness.  Many worthy individuals were subjected to criticism and even to abuse. It is how we react to such influences that reveals our belief in our inner value. Nichiren reminds us that worthy people “are tested by abuse” . WND1p303 


The Eight Winds can be regarded as factors by which we can test our own strength and mental independence - and how well established is our self development on the path of spiritual and mental freedom.


The importance of consistency in the quality of behaviour


When facing the impact of the Eight Winds in our life, our behaviour would show the depth of our commitment and consistency.  The quality of our behaviour manifests the degree of one’s freedom from the influence of the Eight Winds.  Such behaviour can be found in the lives of the three founding presidents of SGI.  For example: Ikeda endured a phase of extreme poverty at the start of his practice, having even no proper clothing or food.  Due to his consistent efforts and continual struggle, however, writing and publishing many books which sold in millions of copies - he enjoyed further prosperity.  Neither the situation of previous decline and poverty, nor the developed situation of prosperity - had any influence on Ikeda’s spirit and commitment for delivering Nichiren’s message world wide.  As a person, Ikeda was harshly criticised by various sides, but was also greatly praised by many people.  These social powers, however, did not affect his dedication to world wide propagation of Buddhism, and his consistency and inner commitment provided an actual proof of Nichiren’s teaching on unbending before the Eight Winds.


What influences our motivation?


Encountering prosperous circumstances, or praise from others, creates a feeling of encouragement and support.  It is not wise, however, to consider such positive influences as necessary for our motivation to carry on with efforts for what we want to achieve.


When our motivation is based on “creating value” through any situation “no matter what” - then neither the positive nor the negative influences of the Eight Winds would be able to control or affect our actions.  A remarkable example of how Nichiren survived extreme poverty, decline and attacks - in particular at the exile to Sado - shows that such circumstances were not perceived by Nichiren as obstacles.   His motivation was not weakened, and despite the miserable situation he lived in, he could produce in that very environment the most profound treaties about his teachings of Buddhism.  It was at the midst of such extremely harsh conditions at exile when Nichiren inscribed the first Gohonzon.  Nichiren’s motivation to open for ordinary people the direct path to enlightenment - depended only on his will and not on the environment.  The same spirit was inherited and manifested by the three founders of the SGI.


Determination to create value without bending before the Eight Winds - would trigger support from life’s protective forces and ensure one’s success in realising desired goals.

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                 Author: Safwan Zabalawi                                                     Homepage