Eightfold Path: Take One — Right view or understanding

November 14, 2010 § 6 Comments

OK, so I’m several days late and a dollar short on this one but, well, that’s the way I roll. The Skeptical Readers of SL reading group just wrapped up a few weeks’ worth of discussion on the Eightfold Path, which was really great!

I think I’m pretty good on, at this point, basically understanding the premise of what the Path is for (I’m lazy, I’ll just call it “the Path” from now on), and what each part basically is for or asks us to do. My big problem always is remembering ALL THE PARTS OF THE PATH! Ugh.

My nightmare in school has always been anything that requires rote memorization, while really, for some things in life, it’s really the only way. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is what is required for me here, ultimately. Much to my dismay.

To help myself along though, I’m going to try to get myself to write a few thoughts per week on one part of the Path. So, the first part of the Path is Right View or Understanding.

So, in a simple world, this would just mean “seeing things as they are,” which on the surface would be a “duh” moment, right? Basically, instead of telling yourself that the chocolate chip cookie you just scarfed down on the sly ‘didn’t count’ because nobody saw you eat it, you have to own up to the fact that it DOES count, and that you’ve added 360 more calories to your intake for the day (or however many calories a cookie is, who keeps track?) It could also be that really “simple” idea of seeing others for what they are, who they are, accepting them as they are, etc. So, removing labels from them, taking away the stories WE ourselves invent around them (the lady dragging her kids behind her grumpily and yelling at them may NOT be a bad mom, just someone having a bad day, or something else).

Simple right? Sure, if we’re going to be simplistic about it. Realistically though, Right View is really difficult. Here’s a snippet from the Path from http://www.thebigview.com:

Right view is the beginning and the end of the path, it simply means to see and to understand things as they really are and to realise the Four Noble Truth. As such, right view is the cognitive aspect of wisdom. It means to see things through, to grasp the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas, and to understand the law of karma and karmic conditioning. Right view is not necessarily an intellectual capacity, just as wisdom is not just a matter of intelligence. Instead, right view is attained, sustained, and enhanced through all capacities of mind. It begins with the intuitive insight that all beings are subject to suffering and it ends with complete understanding of the true nature of all things. Since our view of the world forms our thoughts and our actions, right view yields right thoughts and right actions.

This is not simply a question of what we tell ourselves, how we label others, or events. Right view is about “understanding things as they really are.” Not just people, THINGS, as in all of them. Death, birth, life, rocks, mountain, trees, people, politics, religion, dolphins, the ocean, countries, nationalities, languages, all of it.

“It means to see things through, to grasp the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas …” So letting go of expectations — expecting events to turn out a certain way, building up anticipation for plans — whether it be for our plans for the day, or those darned “10-year plans” some of our professions ask us to have. Part of the Four Noble Truths referenced in the quote deals with the idea of suffering, and that suffering has a cause. Part of that cause is — especially as Westerners — having such a difficult time with the idea of not being in full control of our own destiny.

We grow up with this sense that if we work hard enough, long enough, if we do things ‘just so,’ that our lives will turn out the way we want it to. We have 100% responsibility over the OUTCOME, the MATERIAL outcome of our lives. Here’s the big question: Do we really?

No. I think we can all think of several occasions when our best laid plans were dashed thanks to unforseen events. How did we react to that? Be honest. I often pitch a complete, total, tantrum. Cursing may be involved. As well as stomping. Pouting. Definitely pouting, too.

Why? Why all this anguish? Because instead of seeing, or having understanding that in the end, this turnaround is NOT the end of the world (most of the time), we grow frustrated because our house of cards got knocked over by a breeze we weren’t expecting to pass by. What if we had no real expectations for this stack of cards? What if, WHAT IF, you just started stacking those cards up. Didn’t have a plan. Didn’t get all excited about building it up 6 feet high with some fancy geometric configuration in mind. What if, you just built it. And that’s it. Would you mind then, if it got knocked down? What would your VIEW be, of that event? Of the knocking down of the cards? Of the breeze that passed by?

Then, it would just be a breeze (rather than that $%#(* breeze that messed up my )#$%@! cards), and because you hadn’t formed any attachment, any idea or expectation for those cards, you’d walk away from them with less frustration, or, simply, just start again, curious to see what kind of house of cards you’ll build next.

There’s more to this idea than just what I’ve written here, but my point simply is — there’s more to the Path that one might initially see upon reading about it. Nothing is as simple as it seems — if you think it’s simple, you’re probably looking at it from the wrong angle, so change your perspective!

And that, is MY interpretation of Right View.

Wonder if it’s all wrong? LOL!

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§ 6 Responses to Eightfold Path: Take One — Right view or understanding

  • star says:

    You nailed it, bd.

    What I find really cool about this insight is that once you’ve seen in on a couple of levels, if you keep looking, you’ll see it more and more in all kinds of things, and begin to see just how we trip ourselves up by always thinking we know what’s going on, always assuming how things should turn out. Then, learning to let go of the expectations really frees us up to be flexible with whatever happens next.

    I liked your house of cards analogy. When building something sturdier (like your own house) it is okay to plan, though; the only trick is not to cling too hard to the expectation of how it will turn out.

    • LOL Thanks star! It’s very true what you say about discovering more instances in which you discover the many different ways in which we ‘set ourselves up’ with expectations. I’ve only started to let go of the really obvious/easier ones, and even just that has made a difference in how I go through my day. Also interesting, in my experience, has been that in letting go of some of my expectations, I find myself more and more in that quiet space in my mind, which seems to allow for more mindfulness. It’s true that one seems to beget the other, and that once you start, it’s like turning a wheel into motion! It just starts rolling and other bits of the Path just seem to begin to fall into place.

  • Sharon R. Breese says:

    Great post! Thanks….esp the reminder that it needs to be memorized…comes to some easier than others.

  • Sharon R. Breese says:

    Thanks for the great post! Like the reminder that it needs to be memorized which comes to some easier than others.

  • Ted says:

    Yep, you got it. The first one is the big one, because it contains the totality of the four truths — themselves, pretty honkin’ big!

    Don’t sweat over the memorization part. Just break it down into the three parts — wisdom, morals, concentration. Each part of that gets easier then.

    As for the suffering part, with the cards, and having a cow when things don’t go our way… *chuckle* You see now how it’s the attachment that’s the problem. Things are going to go to heck all the time, no matter what we do. It happens! We can’t always take care of all the details, but we can take care of our mind, and that tendency to attach. And react out of that attachment.

    Oh, if only I’d known THAT so long ago…!

    • @Ted: LOL thanks Ted! I guess part of the reason I’d like to memorize the bits of the path is so I can access the information more easily during a conversation or discussion. I mean, I know I can say “Oh you know, the thingy in the 8-fold thingy, the part where it’s important to say the right things and not be mean?” Not that I usually find the need to sound authoritative, but I do find it more efficient to be able to simply say “Right Speech” — more of an ‘instant access’ that way.

      It is amazing what letting go of those expectations alone can do!

      @Sharon: đŸ™‚ Glad you stopped by! Yes, I’ve always envied those with the ability to just quickly memorize things — there are so many things that would be easier if I could!

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