In the Majjhima Nikàya, the Buddha and venerable Sāriputta discuss “Sammā-diṭṭhi”, which can be summarized as seeing clearly what is good and what is bad, understanding the roots of good and bad, and understanding the nature of reality. This term in Buddhist terminology is called “Right View,” which is one of the eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path.
In this article, LotusBuddhas will explain what Right View is, its role in the Noble Eightfold Path, and how to practice it in daily life to benefit from it.
What is Right View?
Right view (Sammā-diṭṭhi in Pali), also known as Right Understanding, is the first factor of the Noble Eightfold Path in Buddhism, which is considered to be the foundation of the Buddhist path. Right view refers to a deep and clear understanding of the nature of reality, including the Four Noble Truths, the Law of Karma, and the Three Universal Truths of impermanence, suffering and non-self.
Right View is fundamentally concerned with understanding the nature of existence and discerning the truth about life and the world. It is a critical facet of the Buddhist path, as the perception of reality affects one’s thoughts, actions, and the subsequent outcomes of those actions. Thus, Right View is an essential foundation for ethical conduct, mental discipline and the cultivation of wisdom.
Buddhism identifies two levels or aspects of Right View: mundane and supramundane.
- The mundane Right View includes understanding and accepting the principles of karma and rebirth, acknowledging the efficacy of virtuous actions and the potential consequences of unwholesome ones. It also encompasses the recognition of the existence of other realms of existence beyond the human realm.
- The supramundane Right View, on the other hand, is a more profound understanding that emerges from direct experiential insight. It refers to the full comprehension of the Four Noble Truths: the truth of suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path leading to the cessation of suffering.
Understanding the Four Noble Truths involves perceiving the pervasive unsatisfactoriness of existence (dukkha), recognizing the cause of this dissatisfaction in the form of craving (tanha), realizing the possibility of cessation (nirodha), and following the path (magga) that leads to the end of suffering. This understanding allows one to see through the illusions of permanence, satisfaction, and selfhood that pervade conventional perceptions of reality, thereby facilitating the development of wisdom (prajna), which is key to liberation (nirvana) in Buddhism.
Developing right view is a gradual process that requires study, reflection, and direct experience. It involves examining our beliefs and assumptions about reality, questioning our perceptions and biases, and developing a clear and accurate understanding of the way things are. Through developing right view, we can cultivate wisdom, insight, and clarity of mind, which can help us navigate life’s challenges and ultimately attain freedom from suffering.
The role of Right View in the Eightfold Path
The Eightfold Path, delineated by the Buddha as the path leading to the cessation of suffering, comprises eight interconnected elements: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. These elements, divided into three categories – Wisdom (prajna), Ethical Conduct (sila), and Mental Discipline (samadhi) – create a comprehensive framework for personal and spiritual development.
The Wisdom category, which houses Right View and Right Intention, is the underpinning for the entire Eightfold Path. Right View, as the first element, lays the groundwork for the progression through the path by providing a correct understanding of the nature of existence, particularly as articulated through the Four Noble Truths. It is from this understanding that the remaining aspects of the path emerge.
Once Right View is established, it shapes Right Intention, the second element of the path. Right Intention involves the cultivation of benevolence, compassion, and renunciation, which are informed by an understanding of the impermanent, unsatisfactory and selfless nature of existence.
In turn, Right View and Right Intention influence the development of Ethical Conduct, which includes Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood. The moral imperatives arising from Right View inspire individuals to speak truthfully, act non-harmfully and engage in ethical occupations.
The role of Right View continues into the final category of Mental Discipline, encompassing Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. These elements are intimately related to meditation practices aimed at fostering a clear and mindful state of consciousness. Right View provides the necessary framework for these practices, guiding the meditator’s effort and focus towards understanding the true nature of phenomena.
Right view also involves understanding the law of karma, which states that our thoughts, speech, and actions have consequences, and that these consequences can affect us in this life and in future lives. Understanding the nature of reality in this way provides a foundation for ethical behavior, as it helps us to see the interdependence of all things and to act with wisdom and compassion.
In addition to providing a correct understanding of reality, right view also serves as a motivator for the other factors on the path. By developing right view, individuals can cultivate faith in the path, which can help to sustain their practice through the inevitable difficulties and challenges that arise on the path. Overall, right view is a critical component of the Noble Eightfold Path and serves as a foundation for all other aspects of Buddhist practice.
Benefits of practicing Right View
Practicing Right View in Buddhism has profound benefits that permeate every aspect of one’s life. These benefits can be broadly categorized into ethical, psychological, and spiritual dimensions, though these categories are interconnected and mutually reinforcing.
Ethical benefits: Right View provides a framework for ethical decision-making and behavior. With the understanding of karma, practitioners recognize that their actions have consequences, which encourages them to uphold moral precepts and cultivate wholesome actions. This results in harmonious relationships, societal responsibility, and a general sense of integrity and moral well-being.
Psychological benefits: Right View fosters mental resilience and well-being. Understanding the nature of dukkha (suffering) and anicca (impermanence) helps individuals to navigate life’s challenges with greater equanimity. It promotes acceptance of change and loss, reduces anxiety about the future and decreases clinging to transient pleasures. Furthermore, by recognizing the non-self nature of phenomena (anatta), practitioners can alleviate the suffering tied to egoistic concerns, thereby enhancing their mental health.
Cognitive benefits: The practice of Right View sharpens cognitive faculties. The emphasis on mindfulness and contemplation fosters greater clarity, focus and discernment. Moreover, the understanding that all phenomena are conditioned and interdependent can enhance one’s capacity for complex, systemic thinking.
Emotional benefits: Right View can lead to the cultivation of positive emotional states. For instance, the understanding of interdependence fosters empathy and compassion, while the recognition of the futility of clinging can diminish greed and craving. The acceptance of life’s impermanence can also engender a deeper appreciation for transient moments of joy, thereby cultivating a sense of gratitude.
How to practice Right View in daily life
Practicing Right View in daily life involves the application of Buddhist principles to one’s thoughts, words, and deeds. It necessitates a willingness to continually learn, reflect upon, and integrate the teachings of the Buddha into everyday experiences. Here are some specific ways to cultivate and maintain Right View:
Study and contemplation: One should start by acquiring a solid understanding of fundamental Buddhist teachings, including the Four Noble Truths, the principle of karma (cause and effect), and the concept of impermanence (anicca). This involves reading scriptures, listening to discourses, or studying under a knowledgeable teacher. Contemplation on these teachings, trying to grasp their implications and relevance to daily life, is crucial to cultivating Right View.
Mindfulness: The practice of mindfulness involves bringing continuous, non-judgmental awareness to one’s immediate experience. By observing phenomena as they arise and pass away, one can gain direct insight into the impermanent, unsatisfactory, and non-self nature of existence, thereby fostering Right View.
Meditation: Meditation, particularly insight (vipassana) meditation, can help deepen one’s understanding of the true nature of reality. It provides a means of investigating the mind and phenomena closely, leading to experiential understanding or wisdom, which is an integral aspect of Right View.
Ethical conduct: Upholding ethical precepts in daily life is another way of practicing Right View. By refraining from harmful speech, actions, and livelihood, one acknowledges and respects the principle of karma, thereby reflecting an understanding of Right View.
Reflection on impermanence: Regularly reflecting on the impermanent nature of all conditioned phenomena, including one’s own life, can help cultivate Right View. This practice can lead to a deeper understanding of the unsatisfactory nature of existence and the importance of seeking liberation.
Engaging in Dharma discussions: Participating in discussions about the Dharma with knowledgeable individuals or groups can help clarify doubts, deepen understanding and provide new perspectives. This process of inquiry and dialogue can be beneficial in developing and refining Right View.
Compassionate action: By applying right view to our daily actions, we can act with wisdom and compassion in all aspects of our lives. This involves developing a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of all things and acting with kindness, empathy and respect towards all beings.
Cultivate gratitude: Cultivating gratitude is the practice of appreciating and being thankful for the good things in our lives. By cultivating gratitude, we can develop a more positive and optimistic outlook on life, which can help us to overcome challenges and setbacks.
Learn from experience: Right view involves recognizing the causes and effects of our thoughts, speech, and actions. By learning from our experiences, both positive and negative, we can develop a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us, and make more skillful choices in the future.
Summary, practicing right view in daily life involves developing a clear and accurate understanding of the nature of reality and applying that understanding to our thoughts, speech, and actions. By doing so, we can cultivate wisdom, compassion, and inner peace, and contribute to a more positive and harmonious world.