Though you become famous and many bow to you,
And you gain riches to equal Vaishravana’s [a wealth deity],
See that worldly fortune is without essence,
And be unconceited –
This is the practice of bodhisattvas.
– 37 Practices Of Bodhisattvas: Verse 19
Having worldly fortune is unrelated to being a good practitioner. Someone may be famous, well-respected, and have a big name. He may receive many offerings and gifts but that does not necessarily mean he is a good practitioner. At the time of death, our worldly fortune of this life evaporates. None of it accompanies the mind into the next life. Whether we are rich or poor, famous or unknown, our karma continues to future lives, not our renown and our wealth. For this reason it’s important not to be preoccupied with worldly fortune, but to focus on actual Dharma practice, which is countering our afflictions.
Sometimes worldly fortune can be detrimental to our Dharma practice. We get rich and then become complacent. We forget that money, possessions, respect and popularity are impermanent. Some people become famous and wealthy and think, “Now, I’m powerful. I can make people follow my wishes, I don’t need to practice the Dharma because I’ve got it made.” This is similar to people who were lonely and then fall in love. They think, “I feel fantastic. Finally, somebody loves me,” and they stop their meditation practice.
In reality, all things and situations are temporary. They come and they go quickly. Even if they last most of this life, at the time of death, we have to separate from them and go on to our future lives. Even while wealth, respect, and power last, if we investigate them deeply in our mind, we see that we still aren’t completely satisfied and peaceful. We may have worldly success, but we’re still subject to sickness, aging, and death. No amount of money, love, or fame can protect us from them. In addition, we have a new set of difficulties. We have to protect our wealth, status, and power. Thus, rich and famous people have a house that resembles a prison because they have to protect themselves from thieves and from people who resent their wealth or dislike how they use their power. They are restless and fearful of losing what they have. In other words, worldly fortune may be present, but peace of mind is absent.
Don’t Believe Everything You Think: Living With Wisdom And Compassion