In the article I’ve been thinking and writing about (http://www.tricycle.com/special-section/what-true-happiness),
B. Alan Wallace talks about relying on internal resources rather than external circumstances for our happiness. How can we distinguish them?
One useful guide he mentions is the “eight worldly dharmas” or “eight mundane concerns”, which others translate as the eight worldly conditions. I like to go to the source as much as possible, so here are a couple of translations of the relevant texts from the Pali canon.
(1) AN 8.5
Bhikkhus, these eight worldly conditions revolve around the world, and the world revolves around these eight worldly conditions. What eight? Gain and non-gain, disrepute and fame, blame and praise, and pleasure and pain. These eight worldly conditions revolve around the world, and the world revolves around these eight worldly conditions.
Gain and non-gain, disrepute and fame,
blame and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions found among people
are impermanent, transient, subject to change.
Having known them, one mindful and wise
sees that they are subject to change.
The desirable conditions don’t stir his mind;
those undesirable don’t cause him aversion.
and (2) AN 8.6
these conditions among human beings
subject to change.
Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.
(translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu)
The point is that the circumstances that buffet us the most are usually conditions that change all the time. If we are only going to be happy when gain, fame, praise and pleasure are around, then we are counting on things no more reliable than shifting sand. If we are going to be miserable every time we meet with loss, disrepute, blame or pain, we’ll spend most of our time unhappy.
These four pairs of conditions are what Wallace meant when he talked about external circumstances. A settled heart is not tossed around like a tiny ship on the ocean by these conditions that come and go. If our intentions are directed at doing the things that make us flourish, then these worldly conditions can come to have less effect on us. We become, by degrees, freer of their pushing and pulling. If we see their changing nature, they have less of a hold on us. This is one way that a happiness independent of conditions is developed.