Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 15: “Faith for Overcoming Obstacles” [15.3]
15.3 Do Not Succumb to the “Eight Winds”
Buddhism teaches of the “eight winds,” or eight influences, that can obstruct our Buddhist practice. A bodhisattva is able to view these phenomena as obstacles and, undisturbed by them, persevere with steadfast faith.
The higher a mountain, the stronger the winds that buffet it. The peaks of the Himalayas, the king of all mountain ranges, are constantly pounded by violent winds. According to weather data, winter temperatures in the Himalayas may drop to as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius [minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit] and relentless icy gales sometimes reach speeds of more than 100 meters per second [224 miles per hour]. But in even the strongest wind, the “king of mountain ranges” towers with majestic dignity and imperturbable calm.
Buddhism teaches that we should live our lives with the perfect serenity and composure of the Himalayas, not bending in the least before the eight winds, which might otherwise extinguish the flame of our Buddhist practice. In his writing “The Eight Winds,” Nichiren Daishonin states:
“Worthy [wise] 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.” (WND-1, 796)
The eight winds consist of four favorable winds and four unfavorable winds. The first four, which people generally favor and tend to seek, are (1) prosperity (profit of various kinds), (2) honor (accolades from society), (3) praise (admiration from people), and (4) pleasure (physical and spiritual gratification). The remaining four, which people on the whole find disagreeable and tend to shun, are (5) decline (loss of various kinds), (6) disgrace (being dishonored and humiliated by others), (7) censure (being criticized or disparaged), and (8) suffering. Buddhism teaches that we must not allow ourselves to be swayed by the eight winds and let them cause us to abandon our Buddhist practice.
One Buddhist scripture1 states that the mind of a bodhisattva who does not succumb to the eight winds is “as firm and unmoving as Mount Sumeru.”2
Bodhisattvas are courageous individuals who plunge headlong into the very thick of society to lead others to happiness. What kind of character should bodhisattvas possess? Shakyamuni asserts that they should have hearts that are invulnerable to assaults from the eight winds.
This perfectly describes the members of the Soka Gakkai. We do not hold discussion meetings or carry out Soka Gakkai activities for the sake of self-interest or material gain, nor is there someone constantly at our side praising our efforts. On the contrary, we are often subjected to unjust criticism and abuse from people in society and have a hard time because of it. Despite this, all of you continue to take action for the happiness of others, for Buddhism, and for society. Your conduct is truly that of noble bodhisattvas of the present age.
The Daishonin warns against succumbing to the eight winds, stating that those who can remain unaffected by them are not only wise, but will receive the protection of the heavenly deities, the positive forces of the universe.
Why is it that, in the face of an endless onslaught of attacks, the Soka Gakkai has managed to achieve such remarkable development in Japan and around the globe? It is because all of you have persevered with sincere, steadfast faith, unswayed by the eight winds, just as the Daishonin teaches. That is why we have been thoroughly protected by the heavenly deities.
President Toda said: “We should be neither elated by praise nor alarmed by insults. It is important that our faith be unwavering.”3
Refusing to be swayed by any of the eight winds, let us continue to build an even more majestic and dignified mountain of the Soka Gakkai that will last for all eternity. Let us make it as lofty and grand as that king of mountain ranges, the peerless Himalayas!
From a speech at a Soka Gakkai Headquarters leaders meeting, Tokyo, January 27, 1996.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.