I’ve been thinking a bit about gain and loss, or more specifically the fear of loosing what one has gained.
I’m certain the Buddha spoke of this fear more than once, but my memory recalls most clearly a the instance when it was mentioned in the Lokavipatti Sutta, the sutta on the eight worldly conditions. These are gain and loss, status and disgrace, praise and censure, and pleasure and pain. Some traditions refer to these as the “eight worldly dhammas,” and this is the usual way I have referred to them in the past.
The lesson begins with the subject of gain and moves on in similar fashion to each subject:
The Blessed One said, “Gain arises for an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person. He does not reflect, ‘Gain has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, & subject to change.’ He does not discern it as it actually is.
I think it is fair to say that I do realize the inconstancy of these conditions, and to that effect, it seems that there is a small part of me that fears that the things I’ve worked hard to gain in life, especially in the last year or so, could quite easily and suddenly be taken from me. It is a very realistic fear to which I think most people can relate — job loss, financial hardship, etc. These are the things modern society is made of (whether we really want to admit it or not) but I suspect the feelings and perceptions that go along with them aren’t really any different than in ancient times.
Lately I am concerned that I have been motivated, at least to a slight degree, by this sort of fear regarding the possibility of loss. I’ve done a lot to benefit the company I work for and it rewards me quite nicely for doing so, but what happens if I fall into complacency? What if I can’t perform some task when I am called upon? Or, worst of all, how would I respond if someone more skilled and knowledgeable entered the picture and my talents were suddenly rendered unnecessary (or duplicative).
Or perhaps it is just that I’m aware that I must continue to put forth the proper effort and the feeling I haven’t isn’t just fear, but includes the more healthy derivative that involves persistence and desire to continue to work and better myself and those around me.
Regardless, I know that things at work have consumed my mind more than I want them to over the last couple of months, and I think I’m going to need to try to settle that down as we work into the holiday season so that I do not let it somehow bog me down.
The sutta continues…
“Now, gain arises for a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones. He reflects, ‘Gain has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, & subject to change.’ He discerns it as it actually is.
Have I really discerned anything as it really is, or have I simply learned to verbally regurgitate the textual answers I’ve read so many times over the last couple of years?
Thank you for reading, friends. I will try to not let the month of November pass without a couple of new posts…
In the meantime, please be well!