>Wisdom Quarterly: American Buddhist Journal translations and essays on the subject of “Right View”
Did I exist in a past lives? Who was I? Who will I become? (expirationchug.com)
The Buddha explains: An uninstructed ordinary person… does not know-and-see what ideas are fit and unfit for attention. This being so, one does not attend to ideas fit for attention and instead attends to ideas unfit for attention…
One reflects in an unbeneficial way by asking such questions as: “Was I in the past (in a former life)? Was I not in the past (arising out of chance and meaningless circumstance)? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?”
Or one is inwardly perplexed about the present: “Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where have I come from? Where am I going?”
Pondering in this way, one of six kinds of [WRONG] VIEW arises:
- “The view I have a self arises as true and established,
- or the view I have no self…
- or the view, ‘It is precisely by means of self that I perceive self…’
- or the view, ‘It is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self…’
- or the view, ‘It is precisely by means of not-self that I perceive self arises as true and established,’
- or else one has a view like this: ‘This very self of mine — the knower [witness, experiencer, who like Descartes concludes, “I think therefore I am”] that is sensitive here and there to the ripening of skillful and unskillful actions (karma) — is the self of mine that is constant, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and will endure past death as long as eternity.”
This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views.
Bound by a fetter of views, the uninstructed ordinary person is not freed from birth, aging, or death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, or despair. One is not freed, I declare, from suffering (dukkha).
The well-instructed disciple of the noble ones… knows-and-sees what ideas are fit and unfit for attention. This being so, one does not attend to unprofitable ideas but instead attends to profitable ideas:
This is suffering (dukkha)…
This is the cause of suffering…
This is the cessation of suffering…
This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.
Giving attention in this way, three fetters [binding one to samsara
] are abandoned: identity-view, doubt, and attachment to precepts and practices* (MN 2
). [Alternative translation of this sutra
*To abandon these three fetters is synonymous with gaining the first stage of Buddhist enlightenment (stream entry
Buddhas in a Pagoda in Sagaing, Burma (allmyanmar.com)
So when is such knowledge truly one’s own?
Kaccayana said to the Buddha: ” ‘Right view, right view,’ it is said. To what extent is one in possession of right view (samma–ditthi)?”
The Buddha replied: “By and large, Kaccayana, this world focuses on two equally mistaken extremes [in view] of existence and non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right view, ‘non-existence’ with reference to the world does not occur to one.
“When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right view, ‘existence’ with reference to the world does not occur to one.
“By and large, Kaccayana
, this world is in bondage to attachments, biases
, and things clung to [supporting conditions that sustain the illusion of there being a self independent of or embedded in the Five Aggregates of Clinging
]. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, fixations of mind, biases, or obsessions. Nor is such a person resolved on ‘my self.’
“One has no doubt that when there is arising, only suffering [Dependent Origination
] itself is arising. When there is passing away, only suffering is passing away. In this, one’s knowledge is independent of others. It is to this extent, Kaccayana
, that there is right view” (SN 12.15
The way to overcome biases in both directions and see things just as they are is the practice of serene-concentration (jhana, samma–samadhi), which purifies the mind, and insight-contemplation (vipassana), which pierces the illusion and reveals the liberating truth by applying the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
How to Arrive at Enlightenment
, a noble [enlightened
] disciple who has seen and has known (understood) — independent of faith in others — that ‘When there is this, then there is that, that with the arising of this, that arises, with the cessation of this, that ceases…’ [this is a direct reference to Dependent Origination
with a purified mind during insight-meditation, not as learned in theory]. When a noble disciple thus fully knows-and-sees the arising and cessation of the world as it is, that disciple is said to be:
endowed with perfect view
endowed with perfect vision
an attainer of the true Dharma
in possession of the initiate’s knowledge and skill
one who has entered the stream
of the Dharma
a noble disciple replete with purifying knowledge
one who is at the very door of the Deathless” (S.II.79
CARTOON: Enlightenment is a lot rarer and easier than people imagine.
Wisdom Quarterly (SUMMARY)
It takes an accomplished teacher to guide one quickly to the goal. But in America we are taught the opposite: “Be your own guru. Buy a new book. Follow an easy plan.” That’s a great way to live but no way to get enlightened. Maybe a trip to Asia is necessary, but plenty of teachers from Asia now come here.
Here are the three steps if easy steps are what’s needed: First, let go, which means feeling safe in a world aimed in every way at keeping us scared. Second, practice what the Buddha taught (virtue, gentle and compassionate self-restraint, the path to meditative-concentration). Third, take the mind now made tractable, with a memory suddenly enhanced by concentration, and practice the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
There are no rites and rituals, nothing to accept on faith, no fees to pay to a teacher, no ordination (or a temporary one is enough), no lifelong commitments or conversions. It’s as easy as that.
Wisdom Quarterly has seen, met, and spoken with enlightened Westerners (even modern Americans) who did it this way! All of our Dharma study (reading and debating) — clearing our own thicket of wrong views — and attempts at meditation did not bring us to this conclusion. We have seen it. Our advice to readers for what to do today? Make good karma.