Here in Wales, we’re simultaneously mourning the Football team’s exit from Euro 2016 and celebrating their achievements. How the Buddha’s teachings help us manage life’s ups and downs?
Weekend Word, 16.07.08
‘Gutted but proud’. That’s been the refrain since the end of Wales’ campaign in France. Gutted that we lost and by the thought of what might have been. Proud at Wales’ achievement in playing great football, putting the nation on the map, and showing the world that sense of togetherness and vitality.
It’s rare that two different emotions come along at the same time. Usually, defeat means disappointment and victory means elation; and by the time of today’s homecoming parade in Cardiff the sadness will have been dispelled for most people by the celebration. But the feeling on Wednesday night was bittersweet.
Perhaps we’re drawn to sport because it lets us experience the conflicting forces that affect our lives at one remove, where they are less dangerous. Buddhism identifies eight of these forces: success and failure, pleasure and pain, fame and notoriety, and praise and blame. It calls them ‘the worldly winds’.
When success, pleasure, fame or praise come along, we tend to get carried away by them and imagine that they’ll continue indefinitely – because ‘we deserve it’. When failure, pain, notoriety or blame happen we get despondent. They tap into the thought that maybe there’s something wrong with us.
The mature response, which the Buddha recommends, is to notice that it’s the nature of our lives that sometimes things go well, and sometimes they go badly – we can’t really control it. Both success and failure are impermanent: they last for a while and then something else happens. Things go up and then they go down, and then they go up again. When we’re feeling down, it helps to remember the good times; and when we’re enjoying success we need to keep our feet on the ground. The Buddha liked to say that a wise person is like a mountain. They aren’t blown this way and that every time the wind changes.
That’s good advice, but although I’m a Buddhist, I’m certainly not a Buddha. When we care about something we do go through ups and downs; so I’m happy to see how Wales fans turned to two things that help. A sense of pride, because we have so much to feel proud about. And a sense of humour, because you’ve got to laugh sometimes. There’s wisdom in that as well.