Depending on whose work you read, Right View, is the first step in the Eightfold Path that Buddhism teaches as the path to end suffering. Volumes have been written over the years describing the Eightfold Path and what it means. As with any religious practice, ten people can have ten different ideas as to what any part of their religion means to them. Buddhism is different in many ways from other religions but one major point should be understood. Buddhism does not have a dogma, a set of beliefs that have to be adhered to in order to “belong.” The Dali Lama has said that if you find something that you do not agree with in Buddhism, then leave it behind. Take only what makes sense to you and leave the rest. For me, Buddhism is more a way of life than a religion. There is no deity to worship, no messiah to cling to or wait for. It is a path to follow that will improve and enrich your life and in turn make life better for all.
What does Right View mean? It means seeing the world and life, as it actually is. No rose colored glasses, no pretending or wishing things were different. Accepting things as they are without judgement can be a daunting task. If we see a loved one doing harm we can sometimes block it from our minds or make excuses for their behavior. Seeing things as they really are means admitting that our loved one does harmful things. Seeing the world as it is means accepting that there is good and bad and a lot of it makes us suffer. And we make ourselves suffer. Most of us cause our own problems. Admitting that, can be hard to do. Right View and Right Intention are the first two practices of the Eightfold path. These two make up the Wisdom aspect of the path. Being able to see things as they really are without judgement shows that we are gaining wisdom, and wisdom is needed to travel the Eightfold Path.
Buddhism teaches impermanence. 2500 years ago the Buddha knew that nothing is permanent. Everything changes all the time. people are born, grow and someday, die. Science has proven that all life consists of nothing but constantly moving molecules that continually break down and die to be replaced by other molecules. Studying the world around him, the Buddha knew this to be true (although he probably didn’t know about molecules.) And this is one of humanity’s biggest problems. We know we’re going to die. Whole industries exist to fight the effects of old age. Cosmetics, surgery, clothes and so on are at the ready to make us look and feel younger. Seeing life as it really is means accepting that we’re going to die and dealing with that, as it is, without judgement. Trying to stave off old age and death makes us suffer because deep down we know we just can’t do it. It’s a losing battle.
Buddhism teaches that suffering exists because we desire or cling. In other words, because life is impermanent and all things are impermanent, there is nothing that can give us true happiness. But we seek happiness all the time. Everyone wants to be happy. We want to experience joy. And we look for happiness in things and people, none of which can deliver what we want. Realizing this, seeing things as they really are, is Right View. Understanding that nothing outside yourself can give you true happiness is Right View. It is wisdom. And it is the start of the Eightfold Path.
And it just may be the hardest thing to do. Realizing that we cling to things and working to stop doing that is an ongoing task. We cling to everything. We desire. We love our new car. We want the latest electronic gizmo. Not clinging doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have and use things. There is nothing wrong with a new car or cell phone. For me, not clinging means I can buy a new cell phone when I need one but not because I desire the latest and greatest or because I think that having a new phone will make me happy, but because I need a new phone to do the things I need to get done in my life. And if it breaks or I drop it in the toilet I don’t get very upset and suffer needlessly because it’s gone. It’s just a thing. I will replace it if I can and if not, well, then I’ll think of something else. My happiness does not come from my new phone. Not putting high importance on things, ideas, or opinions is not clinging. Right View. Next time I’ll talk about Right Intention. We’re on the path, but don’t just take my word for all of this. There are many, many Buddhist practitioners who know way more than I do. I am an amateur! Find a good Buddhism book or teacher who can help you. I’m here to offer my view and hopefully send you in the right direction. Until next time.