Around 1277, Nichiren Daishonin wrote a letter to one of his followers, Shijo Kingo, who was upset with his lord when his lord, threatened to move Shijo Kingo and his family to a distant province.
In a writing titled “The Eight Winds,” he encouraged his disciple Shijo Kingo not to succumb to eight influences that obstruct our Buddhist practice, called “the eight winds”. More often than not, we get swayed by external circumstances and get trapped in the web of these “eight influences”
The eight winds consist of four favourable and four adverse winds. This concept teaches that both favourable and adverse conditions can sway us from advancing in faith.
The first four, which people generally tend to favour and seek, are:
1) Prosperity: prospering through gain or advantage
2) Honour: receiving honour or accolades by the public
3) Praise: being praised or admired by those around us
4) Pleasure: enjoying physical and spiritual gratification
The remaining four, which people tend to avoid and detest, are:
5) Decline: suffering loss of various kinds and disadvantage
6) Disgrace: being dishonoured and humiliated by the public
7) Censure: being criticised or disparaged by those around us
8) Suffering: experiencing physical or mental suffering
While people naturally welcome the four favourable winds, they represent only temporary forms of happiness that could disappear with changing circumstances. Becoming overly attached to them will ultimately bring about as much suffering as the adverse winds. In addition, people tend to want to avoid the four adverse winds because they can easily make us feel defeated.
“Worthy [wise] persons deserve to be called so because they are not carried away by the eight winds: prosperity, decline, disgrace, honour, 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”
(“The Eight Winds,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 794).
In life, it is easy to be swept up into our immediate, short-term considerations of gain or loss. And we often get caught up in public opinion or what those around us may think of us or our decisions. But if we allow our thoughts and actions to be controlled by what others think or focus only on the superficial, we lose sight of what really matters. We have to remember that the most important point is to never be defeated by anything and to always advance in our inner transformation based on Nichiren’s teachings.
Shijo Kingo was a sincere disciple of strong faith, who at the time of this letter was facing great adversity that threatened his livelihood as a samurai. His efforts to introduce his lord, Ema Mitsutoki, to the teachings of Nichiren had created a rift between him and Lord Ema. And his fellow samurai retainers used this rift as an opportunity to falsely discredit and malign him. Kingo was so angered by this injustice and unfair treatment that he considered retaliating by taking legal action against his lord.
The Daishonin, however, recognized the true nature of his disciple’s persecution. His envious colleagues had roused Kingo’s indignant self-righteousness.
Reminding Kingo of the debt of gratitude he owed his lord for protecting him in previous years, Nichiren advised him against making rash decisions. He assures Kingo that as long as he is not “carried away by the eight winds” and remains “unbending before the eight winds,” the heavenly gods will protect him and he will emerge victorious.
As for Shijo Kingo, by following his mentor’s guidance and defeating his own tendency toward anger, he regained his lord’s trust and, as a demonstration of this trust, was given three times more land than he had previously owned.
SGI President Ikeda writes: “Just as Shijo Kingo was encouraged to do by the Daishonin, each of us needs to become a wise person who wins the trust of others in our community and society. That is the practical means for making worldwide kosen-rufu a reality. The key lies with one person—with the individual” (September 2014 Living Buddhism, p. 32).
Through a consistent practice of chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and uniting in spirit with our mentor and fellow members, let us each carry out our own human revolution, establishing lives of unshakable happiness that is impervious to the eight winds, while helping others do the same.
President Ikeda’s Guidance:
The wise are those who remain unswayed by the eight winds—those who pursue absolute happiness with an unwavering spirit. This is the epitome of a genuine practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism.
A wise person is one who has the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, a person with the ability to grasp the essence of the matter.
Indispensable to building a solid self that remains unshaken by the eight winds are the correct teaching and the correct teacher that guide us to distinguish between right and wrong, and explain the causes of happiness and misfortune.
The way of the wise is to practice in exact accord with the correct teaching and follow the guidance of the correct teacher. The Daishonin assures us that, by steadfastly walking that path and always leading a life based on the Mystic Law, we are certain to receive the protection of the heavenly deities. In contrast, those who turn their backs on reason or wisdom will not receive such protection. Buddhism is a realm of reason grounded in the ultimate Law of life (see “The Eight Winds,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 794). (September 2014 Living Buddhism, pp. 26–27) WT
Adapted from article in World Tribune https://www.worldtribune.org/2019/01/the-eight-winds/