One way to measure how our study, contemplation and meditation are working for us is by checking in with the eight worldly concerns. When any of these rear up in our mindstream, we can feel the grip of samsara and–if we can bring awareness to our state of mind–maybe we can use it as an opportunity to remind ourselves to let go a little bit. Each time we do this, we wear away a little bit of our habitual pattern of attachment and aversion.
It’s said that we can also apply the eight worldly concerns when we are looking for a Dharma teacher: the best teachers are those whose conduct demonstrates the least investment in the eight worldly concerns.
The eight worldly concerns are four pairs of opposites, each set consisting of something our samsaric mind tends to crave, a fundamental hope, along with its opposite, a fundamental fear, which we try to avoid at all costs. Through our practice we gradually cultivate equanimity, a positive state of mind that accepts and works with things however they are, without getting drawn into the strong emotional extremes of attachment and aversion. But the first challenge is just to remember what they are.
To help with that, I created the following mnemonic device to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat.
audio to Row, Row, Row (click where “play” button would normally appear)
Praise or blame;
Disgrace or fame:
When your mind is tame, they’re all the same:
This is the Dharma practitioner’s aim.
Alternative recording: Preferred by some, with slightly different wording in the last line, using “Clementine” as the basic tune. I’m including it in honor of Clementine, the young daughter of Dan in the Richmond, Virginia sangha:
audio to Clementine
2016 note re the fourth set: I’ve left the verse as is since it’s captured in the audio and it’s a widely accepted interpretation. However, “disgrace or fame” can also be interpreted as fame versus being unknown, nobody noticing you, and I think this interpretation speaks strongly to our contemporary culture of “15 minutes of fame.” A few months ago I had the opportunity to ask Lama Norlha Rinpoche for his thoughts on this. He said that since “disgrace or fame” is very close to “praise or blame,” he leans toward the second interpretation.
So if you prefer, you can sing the last set as “Unknown or fame.”