Praise Is Not A Bad Thing

A Truly Wise Man - click for the full size imageI was surprised at work today, when one of our philatelic experts pulled me up short for heaping praise upon her. In my mind, she had done a terrific job identifying a particularly rare and valuable Liberian stamp, and had emailed a client with details, and more importantly, an elusive image.

Having emailed her, I was surprised to receive a reply saying

“Hang on…..I thought we were supposed to treat praise and blame the same….i.e. ignore :-)”

She is a really lovely lady and we have spoken about Buddhism on a number of occasions, but I felt I had to explain that praise, like money, is not a problem. It is the love of praise or money that causes the trouble, the root of all evil, some might say.

I illustrated the principle by sending her the quotation from one of Nichiren’s many letters to his disciple Shojo Kingo in which he says

“Worthy persons deserve to be called so because they are not carried away by the eight winds: prosperity, decline, disgrace, honour, praise, censure, suffering, and pleasure. They are neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline.”

The eight winds are those conditions that, although impossible to avoid in life, may prevent a person from travelling along the path to enlightenment. People are often swayed either by their attachment to prosperity, honour, praise, and pleasure (collectively known as “four favourites” or “four favourable winds”), or by their aversion to decline, disgrace, censure, and suffering (“four dislikes” or “four adverse winds”).

So we can see that the winds themselves are not the only challenge. In fact, it is our response to the challenges, whether we are carried away by the winds, or not, that shows us how far along out own path to enlightenment we have actually come. We see that praise itself is not a bad thing, it can benefit the receiver as well as the giver, but it is the attachment to that praise that leads to problems.

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