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Buddhist Study

The Eight Winds

Today, more than ever, people are seeking a way to become genuinely happy, to live with boundless courage, hope and confidence, and to be unswayed by external circumstances.

Nichiren Daishonin established a Buddhist practice rooted in daily life that enables us to build a solid self and attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. But based on his study of the Lotus Sutra, he also understood the difficulty of steadfastly maintaining our Buddhist practice amid the challenges of life.

In a writing titled “The Eight Winds,” he encouraged his embattled disciple Shijo Kingo to not succumb to eight influences that obstruct our Buddhist practice, called “the eight winds.” They consist of four favorable and four adverse winds. This concept teaches that both favorable and adverse conditions can sway us from advancing in faith.

The first four, which people generally tend to favor and seek, are:

1) Prosperity: prospering through gain or advantage
2) Honor: receiving honors 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 shun, are:

1) Decline: suffering loss of various kinds and disadvantage
2) Disgrace: being dishonored and humiliated by the public
3) Censure: being criticized or disparaged by those around us
4) Suffering: experiencing physical or mental suffering

While people naturally welcome the four favorable 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.

Nichiren writes: “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” (“The Eight Winds,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 794).

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 them. 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.

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.

Here, Nichiren instructs that we must develop into people who are never swayed by the eight winds. Regarding this, founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi once said: “As Buddhists, we must weigh the essence and value of things in terms of the strict causality taught in Buddhism. If we are swayed by worldly praise or censure, we cannot become people of great good” (September 2014 Living Buddhism, pp. 25–26).

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. WT

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.

Shijo Kingo was a dedicated disciple who earnestly sought Nichiren Daishonin’s guidance and courageously took part in the struggle for kosen-rufu. So why did Nichiren communicate at length and in great detail the way of the wise to Kingo? I believe it was to teach him that the fundamental way to solve his problems lay in his own human revolution, in his growth as a human being.

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)

Background to the “Song of Human Revolution”

The Joy of Buddhist Learning