By John Lee Pendall
I lost my glasses once. After looking for them all over the house, I realized they were on my face.
This is Right View from a Mahayana perspective. Well, from one Mahayana perspective. It’s an allusion to Buddha-nature which you can take as, “All beings have the potential to be Buddhas,” or, “All beings are confused Buddhas,” or, “All things are the appearance of Buddha, which is none-other than emptiness.”
Everyone has their own take on Right/Skillful/Wholesome/Wise View, and that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be. Buddhism is vast. Like a, well, like something else that’s vast; I’ll let you pick your own metaphor. Sorry, I just got off work, so you get, “End of the Day John,” for this piece. I do most of my writing right when I crawl out of bed.
Anyway, Right View can be a whole bunch of different stuff—from the Four Noble Truths, to Buddha-nature, appearance-only, to Adi-Buddha, a.k.a, the fundamental essence of the cosmos (click for a giggle). So, if anyone ever says, “In Buddhism, Right View is just (insert something),” you give ’em a whack with the kyosaku and then call your attorney. I’m a huge fan of the tedious specifics. Generalizations can kill.
The best we can do with Right View, perhaps, is say, “This is what Right View is to me,” or, “In such and such dusty old book, Right View is this.” That’s how you avoid arguments. Well, not really; people will still argue with you. I guess that’s just how you avoid being an asshat—which is basically what the bulk of the Noble Eightfold Path comes down to. To me, Right View is all about clarity: the ability to see things as they really are. Clarity basically holds the same spot in my life that God does to Christians, except I won’t go on a jihad or crusade and slaughter thousands of people in its name.
To see things clearly. What more could I ever want in life?
I was born almost totally blind, after all (20/400 eyesight and getting worse by the year). Clarity, in both a Theravada and Mahayana sense, isn’t just having a clear head: it’s prajnaparamita—Perfect Wisdom, Understanding, or Intelligence. Keeping a clear head definitely helps out, though. That’s why the seven other Folds all support Right View, and their purpose is made clear with the fulfillment of Right View. Following the other seven Folds steadies the mind, and expels some of the old shirts and crumpled burrito wrappers that are tossed around in there.
Not causing harm (Right Action) is awesome, but Right View reveals the why behind it.
When your Right View meter is maxed out, you actually slip into the mindset that’s the source of the Noble Eightfold Path. The Path didn’t just pop out of thin air; it was crafted by a Nepalese guy who uncovered a certain state of mind. In that state of mind, he was able to assemble the Path with the skillful intention to save all beings from suffering. Isn’t that cool? What a nice fella.
Anywho, I’ll close this off with a quote from Christian Bernert: “[Right View] refers to a correct understanding of the world and of the path to liberation, and thus forms the basis for one’s meditative training and conduct in daily life. Without the right view one is said to be like a blind person, unable to see where one is headed and incapable of avoiding obstacles on the way.”
Editor: Dana Gornall