Friday, November 18, 2011

8 Worldly Winds 八風吹不動

Recently, the behavior of someone who I work with reminds me of Su Dongpo (蘇東坡). This person has a strong clinging to gain, fame, and praise, three of the eight worldly winds or conditions (gain/loss, fame/defame, praise/blame, pleasure/pain). "'Spectacular!' 'Miraculous!' - these are the words you should use to describe my ability," emphasized this person in the numerous emails and phone messages on my answering machine. This "Spectacular Wind" stormed my inbox with dozens of attachments testifying "miraculous" personal achievements.

Back in Su Dongpo time of the Song Dynasty (宋朝 960–1127), message travels slowly. Nowadays with the advancement of technology and the Information Super Highway, one can easily and rapidly send a thought through email or the phone. Despite the advancement of the delivery mode, the basic nature of the human mind remains predictable. Below is a story by Ven. Master Hsing Yun (星雲大師) recounting one of many humorous incidents in Su Dongpo's life.

Su Dongpo (a famous Buddhist poet) of the Song Dynasty was assigned to an official post at Guazhuo, which was situated at the northern shore of the Yangtze River. Across the river, on its southern shore, was Jinshan (Golden Mountain) Temple where Chan Master Foyin 佛印禪帥 presided. One day, Su Dongpo, feeling quite advanced in his practice, wrote a poem and asked his attendant to send it to Chan Master Foyin for verification and endorsement. The poem went as following:


"Bowing with my highest respect to the deva of devas,
Whose surpassing brilliant ray illuminates the entire universe,
The eight winds cannot move me,
For I am sitting upright on the golden purple lotus blossom."

("The deva of devas" here figuratively refers to "the Buddha", who is actually not a god, but surpasses all the gods and is "Teacher of men and gods." The "eight winds" are the eight worldly conditions - gain and loss, fame and defame, praise and blame, pleasure and pain--八風 : 稱、譏、 毁、誉、 苦、樂、利、衰. "The golden purple lotus blossom" is a symbol of purity and a "throne" of spiritual attainment.)

After receiving the poem from the attendant and reading it, Chan Master Foyin picked up the brush and wrote down one word as his comment. When the attendant came back with the poem, Su Dongpo, expecting words of praise from the Chan Master, quickly opened it to read the comment. However, on that page, nothing was written except the word "放屁! Fart!" ("Pi" in Chinese, which means "utter nonsense") Upon seeing such an insult, Su Dongpo was ablaze with the fire of anger. Immediately, he boarded a boat and crossed the Yangtze River to argue with Chan Master Foyin.

Before the boat even pulled onto the shore, Chan Master Foyin was already standing there waiting for Su Dongpo. Upon seeing Foyin, Su Dongpo said, "Chan Master, we are such intimate Dharma friends! It is fine that you do not compliment my practice or my poem. But how can you insult me like this?"

Innocently, as if nothing had happened, the Chan Master asked, "How have I insulted you?" Without saying another word, Su Dongpo simply showed the word "Fart" to Chan Master Foyin.

Laughing wholeheartedly, the Chan Master said:


 "Oh! Didn't you say that the eight winds cannot move you? How come you are sent across the river with just a fart?" 

Hearing what Foyin said, Su Dongpo was extremely embarrassed." 

(Buddha's teaching of the 8 Worldly Wind can be found in the Lokavipatti Sutta: The Failings of the World ~AN 8.6)

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