By: Ronya Banks
One of the Buddha’s most poignant teachings applicable to daily life are the Eight Worldly Winds: Profit & Loss, Pleasure & Pain, Praise & Blame, and Fame & Disrepute (Shame). As you can see, each pair consists of two opposites, one tends to be desirable and the other undesirable.
Buddha’s original teaching on the Worldly Winds specified that all humans are subject to the change of these winds. Thus each of us is susceptible to experiencing both the desirable and undesirable tides. The Buddha himself had many episodes in his life where he was famous, sought after, destitute, unknown, blamed, and in great physical pain.
Of these eight, today’s exploration is on the pair: Fame and Disrepute.
Many people look at this pair “fame and disrepute” and think it does not apply to them, because they are not famous, nor are they in disrepute. But, it does apply to everyone from a nuanced perspective.
Fame implies many things including that you are well-known, and maybe even famous. But it also means that you are liked, recognized, and approved of. It could be as subtle as your being accepted into some group or as a Facebook friend.
Disrepute, often also called Shame is the opposite of Fame. It denotes that we have somehow fallen out of favor. A good example of a famous person falling into disrepute would be the once American politician Anthony Weiner who was exposed for his addiction to inappropriate “sexting”. On a more human level, perhaps your teacher has a new pet student and you are now being ignored. Or maybe one of our friends stopped liking your Instagram posts. The stinging hurt may come from a close friend deciding that he or she no longer wants to be friends with you.
How to Work with Fame & Disrepute
- The first step in our practice is to recognize that we are experiencing either Fame or Disrepute and name it, “Yes, this is Fame or Disrepute”.
- Open with curiosity to the felt sense of this fame or disrepute. If it is fame, you are bound to enjoy being on the receiving end and you may even secretly hope it doesn’t end. If on the other hand, you are experiencing disrepute, you might be dealing with some difficult emotions such as hurt and confusion. Allow yourself to feel whatever related physical, emotional, or mental phenomenon that arise.
- Avoid getting attached to this wind. You know you are attached to “fame” if you enjoy it to the point that you do not want it to go away. You are also attached if you take this approval to build up your sense of identity. “Oh, I am a special writer because these people say so.” Signs that you are attached to the “disrepute” may be evidenced by your inability to get beyond your hurt or angry reactions to a neutral place. Or perhaps you believe you are unworthy because others disapprove. Another sign is if you are trying hard to disprove, discredit or get revenge on the source(s) of the disrepute. If you see signs that you are attached, this is an invitation to open to your felt sense of this wind more deeply.
- See the transient nature of this wind. Last year you were in great favor and everybody loved you. This year, people are no longer titillated by your presentation and they are abandoning you for another more inspiring version. This is human nature. Now you’re in, now you are out. If you can view this as a normal part of the process, you will not get so rocked by the changing tides.
I recently went to visit another Buddhist group nearby which is quite different from AIM. I was shocked and hurt when I saw how many of our past sangha members who were once very happy and committed to our group who were now attending this sangha. I recognized this as the stinging bite of “disrepute” and attended to this inner pain, which eventually subsided.
People may try to mentally push away their experience by conceptually justifying their experience by convincing themselves “Well, people do change”, or “Maybe you were not the right fit for them?”. Although there is truth to these statements, saying this without attending to the internal pain first is spiritual bypassing and will only cause more hurt in the long-run.
It is almost more important to explore the “fame”, because if you take this seriously, you are bound to adopt an inflated, superior view of yourself. Not pretty! Stay humble, as you will most likely be thrown over the edge of the bridge soon enough.
Being a human being in our modern culture can be quite grueling at times. As a result, it is crucial to maintaining a direct link to what is most important to you while being blown about by these buffeting winds. Stay grounded with wholesome intentions for yourself and others, know that you are loved, and have compassion for yourself when times get tough.