Giving Up the Eight Worldly Concerns

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Kathmandu, Nepal (Archive #022)

Lama Zopa Rinpoche explains the importance of giving up the eight worldly concerns, also known as the eight worldly dharmas, in this teaching excerpted from the Fourth Kopan Meditation Course held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in March–April 1973. Edited by Nicholas Ribush.

You can read more about the eight worldly concerns and how to abandon these negative minds in Lama Zopa Rinpoche's book, How to Practice Dharma.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche doing puja during the Fourth Meditation Course, Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1973. Photo: Christine Lopez.

Freedom from the eight worldly concerns creates real peace; therefore, we have to renounce them. Renunciation is a mental action arising from a decision. It is difficult; it is harder to change mental actions than physical ones. To do so requires a positive mind and not allowing it to happen comes from the negative mind. Our problems are not the objects we encounter or the pleasures we experience but the desires themselves, the mind—suffering is created by the mind. We must know how this works beyond having just an intellectual understanding of it.

Craving desires and other negative minds have caused us to be reborn continuously in the six realms of samsara since beginningless time. From the smallest animal to the biggest, from the beggar to the king, those whose lives are not focused on the practice of Dharma are concerned only with present momentary problems, not with future suffering, and they lack understanding of the nature of suffering. Their greatest mistake is to always create the cause for greater sufferings while trying to stop or cure the temporary ones; they do not understand the nature of suffering or its cause. Therefore they do not recognize true happiness. They try to stop temporal problems by applying temporal solutions, unaware that that is the actual cause to experience more problems in the future.

How do we stop doing this? First we have to recognize our mistakes. It is important to know this essential Dharma point: temporal methods never help—if we check up we will see that such methods only create the cause for the continual arising of future suffering. The reason for this is that these methods come mostly from following the eight worldly concerns, from doing whatever the negative mind of greed wants. Greed is attached to the eight temporal needs; all eight can be seen in the light of greed. They all depend on greed and work for it, like servants working for a master. We are the same. Most of us have been working for greed: check up your own actions even now. Ask, “What am I doing this action for?” We can discover how to stop temporal problems by asking, “Is this what greed needs?” The more we look the more we will discover greed underlying our actions. The result of actions done with the three negative minds of greed, ignorance and hatred is always suffering and problems.

Greed is the creator of samsara. Love mixed with greed is love created by ignorance and causes us to remain in samsara. This love is not the same as real love and its results have to be experienced in the three lower and three upper realms. Why doesn’t it bring peace? Because the principal cause is the unsubdued, untamed mind; the root mind is confused, a wrong mind, because the three negative minds always see their object in the wrong way and not in the way it actually exists. They see their object in a way that the enlightened mind sees as false. Just as somebody with a dirty face can’t expect to see a clean face in the mirror, it is impossible for peace to arise from those three negative minds. So all the problems we experience are their fault. All methods done out of greed for temporal needs are negative actions. We engage in such negative actions to try to solve the problems that were created by a previous life’s karma, but that method of following the eight worldly concerns causes problems in this and future lives. It is just a cycle: to stop that which was created by previous negative karma we use a method similar to that used before, and so it continues.

That method doesn’t really take care of all temporal problems, the physical and mental sufferings—they are not completely ceased. Furthermore, this method creates negative karma—simply in order to take care of this life one is creating the cause of suffering, creating bad karma to stop bad karma—an impossible thing. This is no one’s fault, but one will have to suffer in a future life and so it always circles round.

Buddhadharma, the antidote to the eight worldly concerns, has no definite form. Any action can be either Dharma or non-Dharma—eating, writing, playing, dancing and so forth. No matter what it looks like, any action done without involvement in the eight worldly concerns and with bodhicitta motivation is a Mahayana action and any action done with attachment and greed for the eight worldly concerns is a non-Dharma action. The method that avoids the eight desires is a method to stop the continuity of bad karma and leads to freedom from suffering and to enlightenment. This is a perfect, true method.

What makes an action Buddhadharma? Positive actions avoid and oppose the eight worldly concerns; they counter greed and attachment. Such actions create good karma and bring happiness in this and future lives, human rebirths with better conditions and the opportunity to lead a Dharma life and achieve bodhicitta, perfect peace and enlightenment.