Lotus Buddhism / FAQ / How does the Positive and Negative
Influence of Others affect us? The Eight Winds

How does the Positive and Negative
Influence of Others affect us?
The Eight Winds

“Worthy persons deserve to be called so

because they are not carried away by the eight winds:

prosperity, decline, disgrace, honor, praise, censure, suffering, and pleasure.

They are neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline.

The heavenly gods will surely protect one who is unbending before the eight winds”.


The teaching of Eight Winds warns before being swayed by the influence of positive and negative forces we experience - and thus being severely affected by the environment.  It is a teaching of rejecting attachment to favorite conditions (prosperity, honour, praise and pleasure) -

or aversion to negative situations (decline, disgrace, censure and sufferings) -

both influences which we are bound to meet through the various changing conditions in the course of our life.

Regarding one’s attitude towards the environment, it is wiser to act with reason rather than with exaggerated emotions. A wise attitude will lead one to experience a higher ‘degree of freedom’ from the strong influence of the environment.

Inner strength and mastering the “eight influences’ of the environment

It is natural to enjoy positive circumstances and praise, and feel dislike to negative encounters (such as when facing criticism).  However, having the attitude to be unbending before such influences manifests inner strength.  Nichiren writing encourages us to develop the ability to perceive the impact of the situation in a balanced manner, without being overwhelmed or consumed by its influence on our spirit. 

It is our strength and flexibility, which decides on the depth of the impact of the environment on us, and on the extent of its influence.  The doctrine of the Eight Winds clarifies the conditions for building a solid core - and for maintaining one’s freedom from the chains of external influences.

The Eight Winds as “testing powers”

Feedback from the environment about the course of our development - is valuable and important. Our surroundings react to us, whether rightly or wrongly.  Praise, for example, is regarded as a positive reaction, while criticism as a negative one.  It is important to be impartial towards such perceptions we receive and to determine not to be driven by emotional impact.  Our path to enlightenment will be obstructed when we let the reactions of the surrounding get authority on our attitude and on our lives.

One’s self-worth is derived from the belief in one’s inherent Buddhanature, which is the highest state of life.  Many worthy individuals were subjected to criticism and even to abuse. It is how we react to such influences that reveals our belief in our inner value. Nichiren reminds us that worthy people “are tested by abuse” . WND1p303 

The Eight Winds can be regarded as factors by which we can test our own strength and mental independence.  Our reaction towards the eight winds of influence manifests how well established is our self development on the path of spiritual and mental freedom.

The importance of consistency to maintain quality of behaviour

When facing the impact of the Eight Winds in our life, our behaviour would show the depth of our commitment and consistency.  The quality of our behaviour manifests the degree of one’s freedom from the influence of the Eight Winds.  Such behaviour can be found in the lives of the three founding presidents of SGI. 

For example: p. Ikeda endured a phase of extreme poverty at the start of his practice, having even no proper clothing or sufficient food.  Due to his consistent efforts and continual struggle, however, writing and publishing many books which sold in millions of copies - he enjoyed further prosperity.  Neither the situation of previous decline and poverty, nor the developed situation of prosperity - had any influence on Ikeda’s spirit and commitment for delivering Nichiren Buddhism’s message world wide.  As a person, Ikeda was harshly criticised by various sides, but was also greatly praised by many people.  These social powers, however, did not affect his dedication to worldwide propagation of Buddhism, and his consistency and inner commitment provided an actual proof of Nichiren’s teaching on unbending before the Eight Winds.

What influences our motivation?

When enjoying prosperous circumstances, or encountering praise from others, a feeling of encouragement is perceived.  It is not wise, however, to consider such positive influences as “necessary condition” for our motivation to carry on with the efforts for what we want to achieve.

When our motivation is based on “creating value” through any situation “no matter what” - then neither the positive nor the negative influences of the Eight Winds would be able to control or affect our actions.  A remarkable example of how Nichiren survived extreme poverty, decline and attacks - in particular at the exile to Sado - shows that such extremely harsh circumstances were not perceived by Nichiren as obstacles.  His motivation was not weakened, and despite the miserable situation he lived in, he could produce in that very environment the most profound treaties about his teachings of Buddhism.  It was at the midst of such extremely harsh conditions at exile when Nichiren inscribed the first Gohonzon. 

Nichiren’s motivation to open for ordinary people the direct path to enlightenment - depended only on his will and not on the environment.  The same spirit was inherited and manifested by the three founders of the SGI.

Determination for self-development and creating value without bending before the Eight Winds - would trigger support from life’s protective forces and ensure one’s success in realising desired goals.