The Eight Fold Path: Right View

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Since the Eight Fold Path is basically the foundation for Buddhism, and the roadmap Siddhartha gave us to reach enlightenment, and to end out suffering, I thought it’s something we should take a look at.  Most people know very little about the Eight Fold Path so once a month, I’m going to post about one of the eight steps and hopefully provide a little understanding.

Siddhartha’s goal when he sat under the Bodhi tree was to find a way to end the suffering for all mankind, and to lift us to a higher plane of awareness.  He came up with the Eight Fold Path as the way to make this happen.  The Eight Fold Path consists of having the Right view, Right intentions, Right speech, Right action, Right livelihood, Right effort, Right mindfulness, and Right concentration.  It is often represented by the Dharma Wheel.

Right view is arguably the most important of these steps because if we don’t have Right view, then all the other steps are going to suffer. However, what did the Buddha mean by Right view?  Timber Hawkeye in his book Buddhist Boot Camp has a terrific saying to help us to see things with Right view; “The opposite of what we know to be true, is also true.”

Marcel Proust once wrote, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”  Having the Right View mean seeing things as they truly are, and not through the filters of our desires, conditioning, projections, or expectations, but rather experience things simply as they are.  Just being in the moment, attentive to what is.  This way we can see with the wonder of a child, and the wisdom of a sage.

There’s a story of a Zen monk speaking to some other monks that is a good example of Right view.  The monk picks up a bamboo stick, and shakes it at the other monks saying, “If you call this a stick you are caught in the trap of words, but if you don’t call it a stick you are denying the facts.  So what do we call it?”  In answer, another monk stood up, broke the stick over his knee, threw the pieces out the window, and then sat back down again (In my mind’s version of the story he also smacked the first monk with the stick before breaking it).

While earning my philosophy degree, I decided I was going to write down in a notepad all of the things that I found to be absolutely true. After about a decade of looking for things to put inside the book, I’ve only found one thing that I’ve found to be universally true:  There is always more than you can see. 

Someone once showed me a pie chart that has stayed with me, and I often visualize when I think of Right view.  If we were to take all the possible information available in the universe, we as humans would only know around 1% (I personally think this number is much lower, but let’s go with it).    Then there are the things that we know we don’t know, for example, I know I don’t know how to fly a helicopter.  These things that we know we do not know make up about another 1%.  That leaves the other 98%.  These are the things that we don’t even know we don’t know.  The things we can’t ask about because we don’t even know the questions.  Right view lives in this other 98%.

So when trying to know if we are seeing things with the right view there are some things to consider…

My way might not be the only way to see this.

My way might not even be the BEST way to see this.

I could very possibly be wrong.

If someone sees this differently than I do, they are also right.

Am I coming from a place of loving kindness when looking at this?

If you’re doing these things and you’re feeling good about it then you are probably looking at things with the Right view.

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