Instructed vs. uninstructed

From the earliest canon of the Buddha, here are the instructions regarding gain and loss, disrepute and fame, blame and praise, and pleasure and pain, (most of) AN 8.6 translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi:
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. These eight worldly conditions revolve around the world, and the world revolves around these eight worldly conditions.
Bhikkhus, an uninstructed worldling meets gain and loss, disrepute and fame, blame and praise, and pleasure and pain. An instructed noble disciple also meets gain and loss, disrepute and fame, blame and praise, and pleasure and pain. What is the distinction, the disparity, the difference between an instructed noble disciple and an uninstructed worldling with regard to this?
…The Blessed One said this:
Bhikkhus, (1) when an uninstructed worldling meets with gain, he does not reflect thus: ‘This gain that I have met is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change.’ He does not understand it as it really is. (2) When he meets with loss … (3) … fame … (4) … disrepute … (5) … blame … (6) … praise … (7) … pleasure … (8) … pain, he does not reflect thus: ‘This pain that I have met is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change.’ He does not understand it as it really is.
Gain obsesses his mind, and loss obsesses his mind. Fame obsesses his mind, and disrepute obsesses his mind. Blame obsesses his mind, and praise obsesses his mind. Pleasure obsesses his mind, and pain obsesses his mind. He is attracted to gain and repelled by loss. He is attracted to fame and repelled by disrepute. He is attracted to praise and repelled by blame. He is attracted to pleasure and repelled by pain. Thus involved with attraction and repulsion, he is not freed from birth, from old age and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection, and anguish; he is not freed from suffering, I say.
But, bhikkhus, (1) when an instructed noble disciple meets with gain, he reflects thus: ‘This gain that I have met is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change.’ He thus understands it as it really is. (2) When he meets with loss … (3) … fame … (4) … disrepute … (5) … blame … (6) … praise … (7) … pleasure … (8) … pain, he reflects thus: ‘This pain that I have met is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change.’ He thus understands it as it really is.
Gain does not obsess his mind, and loss does not obsess his mind. Fame does not obsess his mind, and disrepute does not obsess his mind. Blame does not obsess his mind, and praise does not obsess his mind. Pleasure does not obsess his mind, and pain does not obsess his mind. He is not attracted to gain or repelled by loss. He is not attracted to fame or repelled by disrepute. He is not attracted to praise or repelled by blame. He is not attracted to pleasure or repelled by pain. Having thus discarded attraction and repulsion, he is freed from birth, from old age and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection, and anguish; he is freed from suffering, I say.
This, bhikkhus, is the distinction, the disparity, the difference between an instructed noble disciple and an uninstructed worldling.

Most of us are somewhere in between the “noble disciple” and the “uninstructed worldling”. The important thing is that we orient ourselves in the right direction and move, however slowly, forward.

Sayadaw U Tejaniya, said to me, “Stick with liking and not liking”. This instruction proved most fruitful. By just noticing all my many attractions and repulsions, judgments, criticisms, desires and hopes – I came to see how very temporary they were, how insubstantial. I saw that grabbing (with my mind) for the things I wanted and repelling (mentally) the things I didn’t was exhausting and, in the end, boring.

A later Buddhist saying is “The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences”. I believe it refers to the Buddha’s discourse above. It’s not an obvious principle, but one worth studying and pondering.

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