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Counterproductive addictions — eight confining concerns

The reason we are so vulnerable to afflictive emotions like hatred is that our minds usually fall into the habitual patterns of what Buddhists call the eight confining concerns:

  • Like: Being overly attached to a person or situation.
  • Dislike: Being unable to stand certain persons or situations.
  • Gaining: Being fixated about getting a certain advantage.
  • Losing: Worrying endlessly about advantages slipping away.
  • Praise: Scurrying after others' approbation.
  • Blame. Uselessly trying to escape from blame.
  • Fame: Thirsting after widespread renown.
  • Disgrace: Fearing that disrepute, even if true, might spread around.

Once we're sunk in these selfish activities, the sense of commonality among beings is lost.

Once we're in the grip of any of the eight confining concerns, it is difficult to remember that everyone wants happiness and doesn't want suffering. Once we're sunk in these selfish activities, the sense of commonality among beings is lost.

However, when you loosen the eight confining concerns a little, more room is left to recognize that not just you but all people want pleasure and don't want pain. Then, the more equanimity you have, the less will be your fixation on these counterproductive pursuits.

Do you think you'd lose out if you recognized that everyone, like yourself, equally wants happiness and doesn't want suffering? For example: "If I don't disregard others, how can I make a big push for myself at my job? I'd lose the chance to jump forward right at the time when something good was about to happen, and thus I'd lose out."

Would you? Maybe, if you let go of your attachment to gaining, praise, and fame, you would gain what you're seeking—other people's friendship, esteem, kindness. You get angry when other people aren't kind to you! Yet if you had this more compassionate attitude, you'd have the esteem of others, and people would be expressing kindness.

Do you sometimes think of compassionate people as nice but a little stupid? And the smart as ruthless and scheming?

But it takes great strength of mind to maintain the attitude of equanimity, so there is no chance you could be weak. If you can maintain equanimity with enemies, you have to have a strong mind.

It is critical in some jobs to thrust yourself forward, to get your ideas across and advance. But that does not mean you need to disregard others' feelings?

If you keep in mind that people want happiness and don't want suffering, you understand their basic orientation. Your judgment is not clouded by a fundamental ignorance, so it would be very difficult to step forward and cheat other people.

Do you think you this means that you would have to trust everyone?

Of course not. In fact, you'd probably be all the more clever about recognizing others' motives. Once you know they want happiness and don't want suffering, you know they'll do most anything they can to get it!

Suppose you've looked hard for a parking place and finally see it, but somebody comes and takes it. Why get involved in confining thoughts of getting and losing? It's rather useless to feel, "Hey, you son-of-a-bitch, you took my space!" That person's quite happy: "I got a space!" Why not take delight in that other person's finding a place? You're frustrated because your pleasure at finding a parking place was blocked, but you make yourself even more unhappy by carrying on, and in the long run it is indeed insignificant. Try it; see how it feels.

In time, the practice of equanimity, which initially might seem as if it would put us in a position of weakness and loss, accomplishes quite the opposite. It puts us in a position of strength and of gain. You come to understand that the failure to recognize that others want happiness and don't want suffering is what brings about real loss.

If you come upon blocks preventing recognition that a particular person is like yourself in their basic aspiration to happiness, try reflecting on the eight confining concerns and imagine what life would be like if you didn't care so much about like, dislike, praise, blame, fame, disgrace, gaining, and losing.