One of the general differences that I notice between western (excluding Native Americans) and eastern traditions is the belief in the ability for one to become enlightened. Be it the Far East, India or Africa the belief in becoming an enlightened being remains alive. Moreover, they have no problem with acknowledging that enlightenment is a noble and praiseworthy goal to set for one’s self. People who choose a spiritual journey as life itself sometimes get help from the greater community in the form of food, housing, clothing and other daily necessities. In exchange for this, those teachers, gurus, saints and healers know they must reciprocate by attempting to relieve the suffering of others. The complete cessation of suffering and freedom from the cycle of birth and death is what the Eightfold Path of The Buddha is meant to achieve. It is a practice.
The first of the Noble Eightfold Path is “right view.” When I first heard this my internal filters made it far more complex to understand than it needed to be. I thought to myself “right view is so subjective.” How does this person know he or she is right and the other is wrong? I was completely objectifying the matter without listening to what was actually being communicated. But, then I started to remember the Four Noble Truths as being the foundation for the Noble Eightfold Path. It reminded me to think more fundamentally and simply. There is no need to make that which is basic so complicated. That helped me considerably. A sure way to block any advancement toward enlightenment is to make it unnecessarily problematic.
So what is right view? It means being free of delusions. It is having correct concepts and ideas. Well that sounds great, but which correct concepts and ideas? The answer….go back to the Four Noble Truths. Ah yes! The truth of suffering. The truth of the causes of suffering. The truth of the cessation of suffering. The truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering. (the Four Noble Truths) Understanding these opens the door to right views. Remember Buddhism is about relieving suffering for all sentient beings. One cannot achieve this goal if he or she does not even understand what suffering entails.
In many Sutras, right view is described in a similar fashion. It is described as wisdom. Right view is different from mere knowledge or information. It is a wisdom that leads to an accurate understanding of cause and effect. Right view leads us away from any delusions. We see what actually is with absolute clarity and precision. Perhaps you’ve had moments where everything just “made sense.” You did not have to convince yourself. You needed no persuasion. Just by being and observing it was all that you needed.
Some may think that one person’s delusion is another person’s truth. I don’t agree. Enlightenment as it relates to right view is not like evaluating differing political systems or restaurants. If you’ve ever met someone who has an aura of deep spiritual light in them, then you’ll understand what I mean. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting such people. They come from all walks of life. Teachers, parents, artists and laypersons. What I have learned is that the more you commit to having right view (being free from delusions) the greater the number of encounters you have with other beings seeking the same. There’s often a great deal of communication happening before a single word is spoken if at all. I’ve felt compelled to walk up to a complete stranger just to say hello or to smile at them. I’ve had that happen to me as well. Each time that has happened I’ve felt like “yes we’re both seeking to have right view.”
Meeting these people is always a pleasure. They come from multiple faiths and none at all. Both genders and from many cultures. Many times we parted after a great conversation having never exchanged names…calling each other brother or sister the entire time. They are magical and real moments. On my own journey, attempting to hold right view has proven quite elusive at times. But, it only feels that way when I look to find differences rather than unity. Differences in what? Our suffering. We tend to feel that our suffering is worse or more taxing than others. We also devalue and underestimate the depth of the suffering of others. This is not right view. It’s a delusion. When our goal is the relief of all suffering, not just our own, this will lead us to right view…
-Peace & Blessings,
-Sensei Derek Fletcher