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Right View, or Samma Ditthi

 
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 11:49 pm
The following is a summary of the teaching of 'Right View' (Sammadhitti) in the Theravada Buddhist tradition of Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and SE Asia generally.

Central top the Buddhist teaching is the 'Eightfold Path', which is the summary presentation of factors which lead the Buddhist practitioner from suffering ('dukkha') to freedom from all suffering ('nibbana').

The Eightfold Path comprises

  • right view, right resolve, (Wisdom factors or panna);
  • right speech, right action, right livelihood (Ethical factors or sila)
  • right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration (Mental Development or samadhi).
Right view is given at the beginning of the path. Obviously one cannot embark on a journey without an idea of where one is going. Right View means 'to see and understand things as they really are' and to correctly grasp the aim and basis of the Buddhist teaching. Right view is the cognitive aspect of wisdom. It includes insight into the unsatisfactory nature of worldly objects and ideas, and the understanding of the law of kamma (that intentional actions always have results) and conditioned existence.

It is is not necessarily an intellectual matter, just as wisdom is not just a matter of intelligence. Since our view of the world forms the basis for all our thoughts and our actions, right view yields right thoughts and right actions. As said in the Dhammapada: 'Our life is the creation of our mind. He that acts with a pure mind will experience happiness, as sure as the wheel of the cart follows the ox which draws it.'

The scriptural definition is as follows:

"What is right view? Knowledge with regard to suffering, knowledge with regard to the origination of suffering, knowledge with regard to the cessation of suffering, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the cessation of suffering: This is called right view." (DN 22)

Of course, many modern people will find the idea that there might be a "right view" rather moralistic. We do, after all, welcome a diversity of views in the modern world; it may be felt that the idea of a "view'" might be somewhat dogmatic. But the Buddhist teaching is pragmatic rather than moralistic: it is based on understanding principles, not mechanical obedience to a set of laws.

Essentially the cause of suffering in the Buddhist understanding are the 'three poisons', namely, greed, hatred and delusion. These build up from a very simple base of like, dislike, or indifference. These reactions are going on in our mind all the time, without our being aware; through mindfulness, we become aware of these factors and are able to free ourselves from them. Becoming free from these factors, we no longer engage in unwholesome actions. Unwholesome actions are killing living beings; taking what is not given; misconduct in sensual pleasures; false malicious, or harsh speech; gossip; covetousness, ill-will, and wrong views.

There is a great deal more that can be said about this topic, as in many ways, Buddhism is a way of understanding, rather than of belief; and understanding requires a right view from the outset. However the last point to make here is that attaining a correct view in itself requires a disciplined mind; because without the insight that arises from concentrated meditation (dhyana) our mind is still likely to be lead around by instincts, passions, desires and prejudices. So it is not just a matter of having a right opinion; it is also a matter of understanding one's own 'mental dynamics' perceptively enough to see through the tricks that the mind plays on itself. Hence the requirement for mental development through Bhavana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.

Links: The Sammadhitti Suttain Wikipedia

Right View: Samma Ditthi at the Vipassana Meditation Fellowship Website

Next post will be about 'Right View' in the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism.
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Deckard
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Dec, 2009 06:14 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;112307 wrote:


There is a great deal more that can be said about this topic, as in many ways, Buddhism is a way of understanding, rather than of belief; and understanding requires a right view from the outset. However the last point to make here is that attaining a correct view in itself requires a disciplined mind; because without the insight that arises from concentrated meditation (dhyana) our mind is still likely to be lead around by instincts, passions, desires and prejudices. So it is not just a matter of having a right opinion; it is also a matter of understanding one's own 'mental dynamics' perceptively enough to see through the tricks that the mind plays on itself. Hence the requirement for mental development through Bhavana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.


I'm going to nitpick a little here. I am not convinced that Buddhism is purely a way of understanding rather than belief. At the outset one has to believe that the 8-fold path offers something. There is still that first step that must be taken on faith.

On the other hand the "view" of "right view" suggests that seeing is believing that it is right there in front of our faces. Is it? Is it just a matter of opening our eyes. It can't be all that obvious. It took Sidhartha Gautama a while to see it.

How important is it that we are talking about sight, or more generally the senses?

Here's a better question: Is this first step of right view really more experiential/sensual than cognitive or am I making to much of the word "view"? Meditation is certainly experiential. (The third eye? Is the third eye more experiential/sensual than cognitive or am I making too much of the word "eye").

I am looking forward to future post. Please take your time talking about right view. I want to linger at the threshold and try to see the path.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Dec, 2009 01:55 pm
@jeeprs,
It is indeed experiential. It is where Buddhism is so very different to Christianity (even though ins some respects the principles are similar and can even be combined).

The Buddha means 'the Awakened One'. Awakened from what? Awakened from ignorance to Nibbana, the extinction of suffering, the end of all craving and becoming.

Quote:
Nibbana means extinction or annihilation. What is extinguished or annihilated? The round of suffering in the realm of defilement (kilesa vatta), of action (kamma vatta) and of result of action (vipaka vatta) is extinguished or annihilated. The realm of defilement encompasses avijja, ignorance, tanha, craving, and upadana, clinging or attachment. The realm of action includes both meritorious and demeritorious deeds that contribute to emergence of the endless round of rebirths. The realm of the result of action, usually called kamma result, relates to the consequences of actions, good or bad. Every action produces a resultant of mind, matter, six sense-bases, feeling etc. Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking are all manifestations of the result of action or vipaka.


Mahasi Sayadaw

Thus it is often said that 'the Buddha teaches only the cause of suffering, and the end of suffering'. 'Only' not in 'is that all?', but to distinguish the teaching from metaphysical speculation or religious indoctrination.

The Buddha says somewhere (I can't find the quote) that nibbana is profound, deep, exceeding mere logic, difficult to fathom, and discernable only by the wise. This last phrase is particularly significant. It indicates that the mind itself must become skilled - wisdom is a skill - in order for the insight to arise. So, in answer to your question, this is only obtained through meditation. The main discipline is 'vipassana meditation' by which the mind is able to understand and see the processes leading to suffering and the end of suffering in action. (Vipassana meditation training is provided free in many parts of the world nowadays. I have completed one of the 10-day Vipassana retreats.)

As for faith - it is quite true that it is a component of the teaching. In Buddhism it is called Saddha, which means 'placing the heart upon' the teaching. A Buddhist does indeed need faith in the fact that the teaching is true and is fruitful. The difference between Buddhism and religion per se though is that because of the experiential aspect, you really can see the results. This doesn't mean that through practise you become straight away enlightened, no more suffering (although there are those who say this). But you will experience change in the nature of your experiences; if you practise it brings results. The saying in Theravada Buddhism is 'ehipassiko' - 'come and see'. It is something you can 'taste'. In the Sutta to the Kalamas the Buddha said:

Quote:
don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering' - then you should abandon them.


Kalama Sutta

(Conversely, without the experiential dimension, it is just another dogma, something somebody believes, a legend.)

But another part of right view is also gained from reading. There is a lot of information about Buddhism published - books, websites, schools, methods, teachers, and so on. Keeping the aim in mind, reading up on the principles and forming an accurate understanding of what they mean is also a part of forming a right view. Some people will say that Buddhism is nihilistic asceticism, or something that must just be taken on faith, or an ancient superstition that has been superseded by science. It is none of these, which all constitute 'wrong views' of the matter in my understanding.
0 Replies
 
vinasp
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Dec, 2009 05:53 pm
@jeeprs,
My understanding of right view is very different, but so is my understanding of the noble eightfold path. Here are some ideas based on the teachings found in the five nikayas :

* There are many descriptions of the path, the noble eightfold path is a late, and very complicated description, which is misleading. The most accurate description is the formula known as Dependent Origination.

* There is a wrong eightfold path which most monks are on, the noble eightfold path description is intended to resemble this wrong path. So most monks can think that they are on the noble eightfold path although they are not.

* Most monks are "ordinary men" (puthujjanas) who have wrong view but are allowed to think that they have right view. An ordinary man has to become a "noble disciple" (ariya savaka). This transition is described in many ways. One is "the opening of the dhamma eye", another is the "attainment of right view", yet another is "the arising of the noble eightfold path".

* Once it has arisen the noble eightfold path can be completed in a few weeks, enlightenment is guaranteed. In a way, its arising is already enlightenment. The truth has been seen but old habits of thought need to be corrected. There are no stages on the noble eightfold path.

* So the real question is how to cause the arising of the noble eightfold path. All eight path factors arise together. When right view arises then the other seven path factors arise. The path is one thing. Made by oneself. It is seeing what needs to be done and how to do it.

* One sees that "whatever is of a nature to arise, is of a nature to cease". This means that the entire self-and-world construction, which is what has arisen, can disappear. This is seeing impermanence, suffering and not-self.

* One sees that every craving has as its origin a mind-made-object. This object can be made only when certain truths have not been understood (ignorance). This means that with the full understanding of these truths, such objects can no longer be made, and those already made will disappear. Therefore, craving becomes impossible.

This explanation will seem to be completely wrong to most people.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Dec, 2009 07:11 pm
@jeeprs,
Got any references?
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Dec, 2009 08:16 pm
@jeeprs,
Thoughts on delusion:

Many of us have invisible buttons. You push one of my buttons and I speak and act like a mechanical toy.

If I discover the hidden mechanism... maybe I could put my energy to better use... interact with you in a more fruitful way...

What's really special is when I have some drama I need to play out, and I meet someone who has a need for a drama complementary to mine. Our personas dance about each other. All the while, we never see each other. We're both deluded.

A drama might require that someone stand in for one of my parents, so that some unresolved issue can finally be expressed and played out to its logical conclusion. I may become a broken record trying to accomplish that.

Adopting right view might entail coming to know myself more deeply. To sink down into the pond so I can see better what's floating on the surface.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Dec, 2009 08:23 pm
@jeeprs,
Quite right. Another way I think of it is how things come up for you. A lot of what needs to be seen and understood is not obvious, or it might actually be repressed or avoided. This is similar to what psychoanalysis recognised (although of course the philosophy behind it is completely different.) Things come up for me in the oddest ways, often it is hard to realise what I am seeing (or being told). The mind can also find the cleverest rationales for what it doesn't want to know, or doesn't want to let go.

As for the 'Instant' Noble Eightfold Path, vinasp, as you say, it will seem completely wrong for most people, and may indeed might be, for them. I recognise that in way the whole of Buddhism might be just a conceptual construction. But it is there for a reason. If you can traverse it and realise immediate enlightenment, may it benefit all beings.
Deckard
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Dec, 2009 04:36 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;112541 wrote:

As for the 'Instant' Noble Eightfold Path, vinasp, as you say, it will seem completely wrong for most people, and may indeed might be, for them. I recognise that in way the whole of Buddhism might be just a conceptual construction. But it is there for a reason. If you can traverse it and realise immediate enlightenment, may it benefit all beings.


Time is part of the illusion right? Instant 8 fold path. We cannot become too attached to the journey. The raft is abandoned once the other side is reached.

It is an 8 fold path not an 8 step path. It is not a sequential process. I get that now. Didn't really get that before. Even though it is obvious.

I think there may be "ah ha!" moments (instants) that happen but are fleeting and we try to have more of these and sustain them for longer.

Meditation is about sustaining the "ah ha!" moment.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 03:12 am
@jeeprs,
The second article I referenced begins by saying:
Quote:
The eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path are not steps to be followed in sequence, one after another. They can be more aptly described as components rather than as steps, comparable to the intertwining strands of a single cable that requires the contributions of all the strands for maximum strength. With a certain degree of progress all eight factors can be present simultaneously, each supporting the others. However, until that point is reached, some sequence in the unfolding of the path is inevitable.


It is true that the dhamma is 'not a matter of time', that in some sense, the fruition and end of the path is already here in this present moment. But I think the 'orthodox' understanding is still the correct one in most cases.

There is a particular teacher who says

You are not awakened unless you awaken.''
"There is no path, but only for those who completed it."
"There is nobody here, but only when the somebody has dissolved."

I see the sense of that view. Of course, to others it will seem completely incorrect.

---------- Post added 12-20-2009 at 09:33 PM ----------

I have thought about vinasp's post quite a bit, so will attempt to respond here. This is a personal response, not what I understand as a formal statement about 'right view' but how I relate in my own practise.

First, I do think I know where this is coming from. There have been times in my life when I was very much in tune with the 'immediate realisation'. I could see the very fact that 'truth is in the first step, not the last' that the realisation itself was not a matter of time. I have had 'enlightenment experiences' in the past and they have definitely not gone away.

But then as time passed, things would come up. Still some ways to go it seems. Being honest, I am by no means a 'realised being' or one who has 'laid down the burden, done what has to be done'. (Maybe if I spent less time typing and more meditating....)

But I can't see any way that the 'eightfold path' is something of a few weeks with guaranteed success. Who guarantees it, and to whom to you talk if it hasn't come through? I am very wary about these ideas, we live very much in an Instant Results type of age. There is an ad for a Bio-feedback device in the papers around here, been running for years - 'meditate deeper than a Zen Monk in 15 minutes'. Always makes me chuckle, that.

In many ways, I have flunked out on Vipassana. In the two years since I did the 10 day course, I could count on my hands the number of consecutive days I have sat in meditation. I keep telling myself ' from tomorrow'...Some Buddhist.

on the plus side, I have abandoned all thought of gaining something from this practise. It is something I do for the sake of it. I have learned a huge amount from giving up in this way; I don't really bother with thoughts about enlightenment. I'm not 'accomplished' at it; there are things I have learned, qualities that have become real, but still a long way to do.

Anyway enough about me. 'I' am just a figment anyway, sitting here typing away. but that is just my personal reaction to vinasp's post.
Deckard
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 06:08 pm
@jeeprs,
I am not much of a formal meditator though I do feel I'm meditating almost always and I've had some pretty intense experiences that I relate to Buddhism. Still I am very much the amateur compared to others on this post.

I have a question about humility. Is there an attachment to humility that is just as clouding as an attachment to pride? An attachment to failure that is just as fogging as an attachment to success? Yet we can barely speak about ourselves without one of these two sides showing up. For example the first paragraph of this entry I express both humility and pride.

Perhaps this is a question about right speech. Is such speech about humility and pride trite and superfluous?

Perhaps this is a question of right mindfulness. Is my wariness of pride and humility superfluous?

Perhaps this is a question of right view.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 06:15 pm
@jeeprs,
very good question indeed. I think humility is a very important quality, but it can also easily turn into a 'false humility' particularly in those who are 'conciously engaged in the cultivation of virtue'. I think a real humility - actually the etymology of the word is 'close to the earth' - is an impossible quality to criticize. If one acts to the best of one's ability, and retains humility, then one is indeed on the right track. Like all the best qualities, though, it arises directly from perception of 'what is' rather than an attempt to conform to 'what should be'. (I learned a lot about this from Krishnamurti.) Also as regards being an amateur, in this issue, it is an indispensable quality and one that should always be retained.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 06:52 pm
@jeeprs,
I was thinking that some how part of right view is the notion: you don't become wise by acting like a wise person... but by being the fool you are.

Jeeprs, I think we've arrived at a kindred place.
0 Replies
 
Deckard
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 07:14 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;113086 wrote:
Also as regards being an amateur, in this issue, it is an indispensable quality and one that should always be retained.


Here's a quote from Huxley's Doors of Perception that voices a similar sentiment.

Quote:
"Art, I suppose, is only for beginners, or else for those resolute dead-enders, who have made up their minds to be content with the ersatz of Suchness, with symbols rather than with what they signify, with the elegantly composed recipe in lieu of actual dinner."


Nevertheless, there is something called mastery and it exists. There is something called arriving and it happens. It is not always the case that wisdom can only be approached asymptotically. There is a moment when one stops creating and constructing and and begins maintaining and caring for.

True there are a whole bunch of pitfalls associated with (falsely) believing that one has arrived but there are also a whole bunch of pitfalls associated with (falsely) believing that one can never truly arrive.

I have a difficult time reconciling confidence with humility. The Buddhist path seems to error on the side of humility but I think this I have the wrong view on this point. Buddha was quite confident once he became enlightened.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 07:15 pm
@jeeprs,
"For the fool who thinks himself wise, there is no hope. But for the fool who knows himself foolish, at least in this he has wisdom" | The Dhammapada

---------- Post added 12-21-2009 at 01:40 PM ----------

Deckard;113091 wrote:
Here's a quote from Huxley's Doors of Perception that voices a similar sentiment.



Nevertheless, there is something called mastery and it exists. There is something called arriving and it happens. It is not always the case that wisdom can only be approached asymptotically. There is a moment when one stops creating and constructing and and begins maintaining and caring for.

True there are a whole bunch of pitfalls associated with (falsely) believing that one has arrived but there are also a whole bunch of pitfalls associated with (falsely) believing that one can never truly arrive.

I have a difficult time reconciling confidence with humility. The Buddhist path seems to error on the side of humility but I think this I have the wrong view on this point. Buddha was quite confident once he became enlightened.


Mastery is indeed possible, and it is true the Buddha was quite forthcoming about his own enlightenment. But you could say, he was also quite impersonal about it. He would refer to himself in this regard as 'the Tathagata', in the third-person, as it were. Even though the wisdom-being has made wisdom his (her) own, in another sense, it is not a personal attribute or characteristic of the ego that is being referred to. (I am not trying to be sophist about it.)

I am also reminded of one of the great books on the topic, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki (founder of the San Fransicso Zen Centre). Something along the lines of 'in the experts mind, there are few possibilities, he has already discovered what there is to know. However the beginner's mind is open to many possibilities. It is important to approach meditation with a beginner's mind' (That is not an exact quote, I don't have my copy with me, but it is close.)
0 Replies
 
Deckard
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 11:48 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;113086 wrote:
Like all the best qualities, though, it arises directly from perception of 'what is' rather than an attempt to conform to 'what should be'.


This is very helpful. Confidence and humility share this quality. I'm still having trouble reconciling the two terms. I think my cultural background may be too American. I have to deprogram.
0 Replies
 
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 01:14 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;112941 wrote:

You are not awakened unless you awaken.''
"There is no path, but only for those who completed it."
"There is nobody here, but only when the somebody has dissolved."

To me that's poetry, which is not in any way to reduce it but only to note its grace as poetry/composition/wordstring.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 02:27 am
@jeeprs,
Thanks, but not my words, quoted from Aziz, now known as Anadi.
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