“Bhikkhus, these eight worldly conditions revolve around the world, and the world revolves around these eight worldly conditions. What eight? Gain and loss, disrepute and fame, blame and praise, and pleasure and pain.
– from AN 8:6, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Another translation of “disrepute and fame” is “status and disgrace”. These nouns all have to do with how others perceive us.
The Buddha said, more than once, that we cannot know each other from a brief encounter; we have to live together for a long time to really come to know each other. Therefore, it behooves us to refrain from judging others unless we have seen and interacted with them in many different situations over a long period of time.
I confess, I’m no expert on the question of fame and its opposite. While I think a good reputation is important, I know it’s not really under my control what others think of me. I’ve never wanted to be famous, because I see it as an intrusion and an impediment. People with lots of money or who are very much in the public eye lose their privacy and can never be sure whether people are interested in them or their glamour/riches. This may be more aversion than equanimity on my part – not sure.
Here is a nice, short article about fame and disrepute if one is in the public eye:
Narayan Liebenson Grady captures nicely what I wish I had thought of to say:
The last set of worldly dhammas is fame and disrepute. Do we need to be seen by others when we do something we think worthy? What is our reaction to being misjudged? What is our relationship to status? Being aware of our relationship to fame and disrepute allows us to be free from dependency on the opinions of others.
To learn how to be more equanimous with these conditions, we have to be able to see their insubstantiality. Through being mindful we become more aware of the impermanence of both. We see the conditional nature of fame, and that lasting peace and happiness doesn’t come through being famous. We see that disrepute is temporary, and need not bring lasting unhappiness. The more balanced we can be in relationship to these, the more we free ourselves from having to be seen by others in any particular way. When no longer swayed by changing tides of fame or disrepute, we discover a peace that doesn’t depend on how others see us.
If we can remember more and more to bring mindfulness to these worldly dhammas as they arise in our daily life, we can begin to see the suffering of attachment. We can begin to see the essential emptiness and impermanence of conditions. In meditation practice we may not like what arises, and yet it is the willingness to stay with what is happening that brings liberation. The less attached we are to comfort, the more at ease we are within ourselves and within this world.
Cultivating equanimity doesn’t mean that we have to be passive participants in life. If it’s hot we can open the windows. But in the many times when we cannot change or control our experiences, can we find an inner refuge? This inner refuge is the capacity to be equanimous.