March 14, 2020; revised August 20, 2022
There are two types of sammā diṭṭhī or “right views.” Only one belongs to the Noble Path and leads to Nibbāna.
1. We are continuing the series of posts on “Wider Worldview of the Buddha.” In the previous post, we started a discussion on the “Mahācattārīsaka Sutta (MN 117)” to clarify the four worldviews and four possible paths.
- There are “two good paths,” and the Noble Eightfold Path is the only path to Nibbāna.
- The previous post, “Dangers of Ten Types of Wrong Views and Four Possible Paths,” discussed the “two bad paths.” In this post, we will discuss the “two good paths.”
Two Types of Sammā Diṭṭhi
2. After discussing the two “bad paths” for those with the ten types of micchā diṭṭhī in the Mahācattārīsaka Sutta, the Buddha asks: “What, bhikkhus, is the right view? The right view, I say, is twofold:
- There is the right view that is tainted with cravings (sāsavā or with āsavā), meritorious and bringing good vipāka.
- That “good path” is available even without a Buddha. Ancient yogis were there before the Buddha (like Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta), who lived morally and even cultivated the highest jhāna. They were able to get “good rebirths.” However, that is a temporary solution to the samsaric suffering since one can “fall back” from that “good path” and be born in the apāyā in the future.
- Then there is the right view that is Noble (Ariya) and without cravings (anāsavā or without āsavā), supramundane (lokuttarā), a factor of the Noble Path.”
Sammā Diṭṭhi for the Noble Path Includes Comprehension of Tilakkhana
3. The difference between those two paths is CRITICAL. We need to discuss that in detail.
- The first, mundane right view, is mostly followed by those who “live a moral life.” That could be just following the five precepts, for example, as many people do. However, to attain Nibbāna, one needs to comprehend the “unfruitful and dangerous nature” of this world (Tilakkhana) or the “real Nature,” i.e., gain “yathābhūta ñāṇa.”
- Upon Enlightenment, the Buddha discovered that living a moral life, by itself, CANNOT solve the problem of suffering in the rebirth process. Following a moral life COULD lead to a future “good rebirth.” However, since we have also done both good and bad deeds in our past lives, such bad deeds can bring birth in a bad realm. Of course, we do not know what kind of good/bad deeds we have done in our past lives.
- To start on the Noble Path leading to Nibbāna, we need to understand that our cravings for sensory pleasures are ultimately the root cause of suffering. Those cravings (āsava) lead to taṇhā. See “Tanhā – The Origin of Suffering.”
- Then the ‘”taṇhā paccayā upādāna” step in Paṭicca Samuppāda leads to “upādāna paccayā bhavō, bhava paccayā jāti, jāti paccayā jarā, marana, soka-paridēva-dukkha-dōmanassupāyasā sambhavan’ti“, i.e., the “whole mass of suffering.”
- That is a summary. We will discuss that in detail in upcoming posts. Let us first discuss sammā diṭṭhī for the mundane path.
Mundane Sammā Diṭṭhi
4. After saying that there are two right views (#2 above,) the Buddha asks: “And what, bhikkhus, is the right view that is tainted with cravings (sāsavā or with āsavā), meritorious and bringing good vipāka? ” and explains that is the view where one believes that,
(i) There is profit in giving (dāna.)
(ii) More profit in giving generously.
(iii) Respecting and making offerings to those with higher virtues is beneficial (bhikkhus, Noble Persons, yogis, etc.)
(iv) Good and bad actions (kamma) lead to corresponding results (vipāka.)
(v)This world (ayaṃ loko) does exist.
(vi) Para loka (of gandhabba) does exist.
(vii) Mother is a special person.
(viii) Father is a special person.
(ix) Living-beings can be reborn spontaneously (sattā opapātikā.)
(x) There are virtuous recluses (like Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta) in the world who have seen for themselves by direct knowledge and declare this world and the para loka exist.
Those are the (mundane) right views that are tainted with cravings. They are meritorious and bring good vipāka.
- As you remember from the previous post, the above are the opposites of the ten types of wrong views (micchā diṭṭhī.) Those who have those ten “good factors” can get “good rebirths,” as discussed in #2.
Why Is Mundane Sammā Diṭṭhi a Prerequisite for Ariya Sammā Diṭṭhi?
5. The main goal of a Buddhist is to STOP all future suffering in the rebirth process.
- How can one start on the Noble Path to stop rebirth if one does not even believe in the rebirth process?
- But how do we know that there is a rebirth process with much suffering? How can we believe that there are 31 realms in this world instead of just two realms that we can see?
6. As discussed in #2 above, those were known to the world even before the Buddha. There were yogis like Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta. They had cultivated abhiññā powers and could see their past lives and confirm the existence of higher Deva and Brahma realms.
- Therefore, it is possible to verify the above ten factors even without a Buddha in the world.
- Even without abhiññā powers, one can logically conclude that those ten factors are indeed true. Accounts of past lives from children worldwide and Near-Death Experiences (NDE) of many heart patients provide evidence. See “Evidence for Rebirth” and “Out-of-Body Experience (OBE) and Manōmaya Kāya.”
Inviolable Axioms – Could Be Self-Evident for an Undefiled Mind
7. The core teaching of the Buddha is that our efforts in seeking happiness within the rebirth process are futile. The only way to reach a state where there is absolutely NO suffering is to disengage from the rebirth process.
- Seeking that goal REQUIRES the following “axioms” in scientific terminology.
1. Existence of the 31 realms.
2. The rebirth process.
3. The laws of kamma determine how rebirths take place.
4. Existence of gandhabba and para loka makes it possible for many human (and animal) rebirths within a single existence.
- An axiom in science is a “fundamental truth” that is “self-evident.” However, the above axioms may not be “self-evident” until explained logically. After all, there were yogis like Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta these days who could see past lives. Waharaka Thero had some such capabilities, but unfortunately, we have lost that resource.
- By the way, evidence for the gandhabba from the Tipiṭaka is discussed in “Gandhabba State – Evidence from Tipiṭaka.” Other evidence is discussed in “Evidence for Rebirth” and “Out-of-Body Experience (OBE) and Manōmaya Kāya.“
Buddha Dhamma: Non-Perceivability and Self-Consistency
8. However, those axioms CAN become self-evident if one spends enough time contemplating the laws of kamma. They are logical and self-consistence. For example, see “Complexity of Life and the Way to Seek ‘Good Rebirths’” and “What is Kamma? – Is Everything Determined by Kamma?“
- One cannot learn higher mathematics like calculus without learning basic arithmetic first, then algebra, and so on. Buddha Dhamma describes the laws of nature. Nature’s laws are much more complex than advanced mathematics or quantum mechanics.
9. There is an additional factor involved too. The ability to understand becomes easier when one starts “cleansing one’s mind.” That does not just mean following some precepts (even though they are an important part). See “The Importance of Purifying the Mind.”
- One has to start on the mundane path, and live a simple life (away from both too much sensory pleasures and also hardships). One’s mind will become less stressful and less agitated.
- As one lives a moral life and keeps learning (and seeing the self-consistencies), one’s faith in the teachings will grow. See “Buddha Dhamma: Non-Perceivability and Self-Consistency.”
The “Previously Unheard” Teaching
10. Even though the “good path” followed by yogis like Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta led to the cultivation of abhiññā powers and even “good rebirths,” it did not lead to the end of suffering. That is because one would still be engaged in the rebirth process.
- All births, even in the highest Brahma realms, have finite lifetimes. At the end of those long lifetimes, previous bad kamma can bring rebirths in lower realms.
- Rebirths in the lowest four realms (apāyā) are unavoidable until one starts comprehending the true nature of this world described by the Three Characteristics of Nature or Tilakkhana (anicca, dukkha, anatta.) That means any “good” existence in the 31 realms cannot be maintained. Future rebirths in the apāyā cannot be avoided until one comprehends Tilakkhana.
All Births (Jāti) End Up in Suffering
11. From Paṭicca samuppāda: “avijjā paccayā saṅkhāra; saṅkhāra paccayā viññāna; viññāna paccayā nāmarūpa, nāmarūpa paccayā salāyatana, salāyatana paccayā phassō, phassa paccayā vēdanā, vēdanā paccayā taṇhā, taṇhā paccayā upādāna, upādāna paccayā bhavō, bhava paccayā jāti, jāti paccayā jarā, marana, soka-paridēva-dukkha-dōmanassupāyasā sambhavan’ti”
- “The whole mass of suffering” is inevitable for each jāti (birth) because each birth ends in death. Any birth (even in good realms) MUST come to an end. That is the harshest suffering to face (in the sense of leaving behind everything.)
- A birth does not happen without bhava (existence.) Therefore it is critical to understand what bhava and jāti are. That is why one needs to understand the mundane right views of (v) through (viii) in #4 above, BEFORE trying to understand what is meant by Nibbāna (the stopping of ALL future suffering by stopping ALL future jāti.)
- One grasps a new bhava (existence) at the end of the current bhava, ONLY because one has cravings for “worldly pleasures” (whether sensual pleasures or jhānic pleasures). Those inevitably lead to taṇhā, upādāna, bhava, jāti, and then “the whole mass of suffering” is inevitable.
- One CAN NOT stop those cravings as long as one values those sensory/jhānic pleasures; in other words, until one gets rid of avijjā or the ignorance of the Four Noble Truths.
- Now we get to the verse that requires a good discussion to understand the Ariya Sammā Diṭṭhi that comes at the forefront of the Ariya Aṭṭhaṅgika Magga or the Noble Eight-fold Path.
The Ariya Sammā Diṭṭhi
12. Next verse from the Mahācattārīsaka Sutta (after the verse in #4): “Katamā ca, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi ariyā anāsavā lokuttarā maggaṅgā? Yā kho, bhikkhave, ariyacittassa anāsavacittassa ariyamaggasamaṅgino ariyamaggaṃ bhāvayato paññā paññindriyaṃ paññābalaṃ dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgo sammādiṭṭhi maggaṅgaṃ—ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi ariyā anāsavā lokuttarā maggaṅgā.”
- There are many factors summarized in that verse. But we can get started with the following.
“And what is the right view that is Noble, without cravings (anāsavā or without āsavā), and is a factor of the Noble Path leading to Nibbāna? Note that in the sutta, the word lokuttarā means “loka” + “uttara” where loka is “this world” and uttara implies “better than.” Thus, lokuttarā maggaṅgā means “a factor of the Noble Path that overcomes this world, leading to Nibbāna.”
- As we mentioned in the first two posts in this series on “Wider Worldview of the Buddha,” Buddha’s teachings were “previously unknown to the world.”
- That “previously unknown part” is seeing the suffering hidden in what we perceive as “pleasures.” Such pleasures- sensory or jhānic pleasures- belong to this world. They are temporary. Furthermore, people tend to do immoral things in seeking such pleasures.
The Suffering Hidden in Sensory Pleasures
13. Anusaya are our hidden cravings. They come to the surface triggered by mind-pleasing (or unpleasant) thought objects (ārammana.) See “Paṭicca Samuppāda – A “Self” Exists Due to Avijjā.”
- Then one attaches to that ārammana via greed or anger, depending on whether the ārammana is mind-pleasing or distasteful. That is taṇhā. Whether one gets attached or not depends on one’s gati. We have discussed this in detail in earlier posts in the “Worldview of the Buddha.”
- The key to attaining Nibbāna (āsavakkhaya or the removal of āsava) is to understand how to get rid of our gati to attach (taṇhā) to various ārammana. As we will see, that originates from our ignorance of this world’s true (anicca, dukkha, anatta) nature. What we perceive to provide happiness leads to suffering.
- The best analogy is a fish who bites into a tasty bait, not realizing the dangers hidden in that bait (a tasty worm.) Imagine the suffering associated with a hook piercing one’s mouth. Of course, that suffering ends up in an agonizing death due to lack of oxygen since the fish cannot breathe outside water.
- In the same way, we do not “see” the long-term consequences of our cravings for sensory/jhānic pleasures. That is the core idea embedded in Tilakkhana. We will discuss that in detail in the upcoming posts.