Diṭṭhi (Wrong Views), Sammā Diṭṭhi (Good/Correct Views)

Revised April 2, 2016; February 6, 2020; August 4, 2023

Wrong Views About the World

1. Diṭṭhi means dogmatic belief in something(s) in the sense that “this alone is true, and everything else is false regardless of the facts.” Even though micchā diṭṭhi (pronounced michchā diṭṭhi) is the correct term (“diṭṭhi” means “views” and “micchā” is “wrong”), in Pāli literature, “diṭṭhi” is used frequently instead of “micchā diṭṭhi“; the immoral cetasika is diṭṭhi.

  • In the Buddha’s time, 62 such dogmatic views were the topics of frequent discussions. They are in the Brahmajala Sutta.
  • The diṭṭhāsava (āsava for the 62 wrong views) is eliminated by diṭṭhi vissuddhi, i.e., cleansing of the wrong views at the Sōtapanna stage.

2. Some of these dogmatic views that the Buddha had to deal with frequently were the following. There is a self, there is no self, reincarnation, no reincarnation, things exist, things do not exist, there are no laws of kamma, there are laws of kamma, AND they are deterministic.

  • The Buddha refuted those all. Unfortunately, some of those wrong views are back in most versions of “Buddhism” today, most notably the “no-self” (anātma) concept.
  • We have discussed some (the first four items were presented in several posts, for example, “What Reincarnates? – Concept of a Lifestream” and “Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta“), and we will discuss others in detail in the future.
Having Wrong Views Is an Akusala Kamma

3. Diṭṭhi (or micchā diṭṭhi) is also one of the ten immoral actions or dasa akusala. Micchā diṭṭhi arises in the mind, i.e., it is an akusala done by the mind. It also leads to corrupt speech and deeds. See, “Ten Immoral Actions (Dasa Akusala).”

  • You can see that such thoughts arise due to dogmatic beliefs, i.e., when one is not willing even to consider the possibility that one could be wrong and to examine the evidence critically. For example, some people refuse even to examine the existing evidence for rebirth with an open mind, which is diṭṭhi.
  • And one needs to know the “big picture of the 31 realms”, concepts of kamma, anicca, dukkha, anatta, etc., to make a decision on rebirth; it is not enough to look at the accounts or evidence for rebirth as presented in, “Evidence for Rebirth.”
Three Levels of Micchā Diṭṭhi

4. There are three layers in which micchā diṭṭhi is established and accumulates bad kamma:

  • Suppose one kills one’s parents with the diṭṭhi that a parent is not a unique person and that such kamma does not have consequences. That is the coarse level. It can be compared to a fire that burns down a house.
  • The second level is when one vehemently defends such a wrong view in a debate and does not even consider the facts presented by the other side. One may genuinely believe in that position, BUT that is because one is not aware of the “bigger picture” on existence. The problem is that “not knowing the facts” is not an excuse. One could jump off of a building, not knowing how gravity operates but will suffer injury/death. This middle level is analogous to a fire that ignites when a match stick strikes a hard surface.
  • The third level is the anusaya level, where these views lay dormant as āsavā (diṭṭhi āsava). This subtler level is analogous to a box of matches that has the potential to start a fire.
Two Levels of Sammā Diṭṭhi

5. Someone is said to have micchā diṭṭhi when one has wrong views at any of the three levels in #4 above. On the other hand, Sammā Diṭṭhi can be two kinds:

  • One knows that bad kamma (actions) have adverse consequences and can lead to bad rebirths. One wants to live a moral life and strive for a “good rebirth.” That is “mundane or conventional Sammā Diṭṭhi.” Thus these are still defiled views (have “kilesa” in them) since they lead to extending samsāra, and one has not yet eliminated the possibility of future rebirth in the apāyā (four lower realms).
  • But when one comprehends to “true nature of this world,” one realizes that there can be no lasting happiness anywhere in the 31 realms of existence. This Sammā Diṭṭhi is realized when one truly comprehends anicca; see, “Why is Correct Interpretation of Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta” is so Important?“.
  • That is the “transcendental or lokuttara Sammā Diṭṭhi” that leads to Nibbāna; it is free of defilements or “kilesa” or (“keles” in Sinhala). This view becomes complete at the Arahant stage. Kilesa are discussed in “What Are Kilesa (Mental Impurities)? – Connection to Cetasika“.
Mundane or Conventional Sammā Diṭṭhi

6. Thus, conventional Sammā Diṭṭhi means the view to “do good things.” One understands kamma and knows the consequences of evil deeds; see “Buddha Dhamma – In a Chart.”

  • As we discussed in  “Foundation of Dhamma,” “doing good things” is better. Still, most of those things are done with the wrong intention of achieving something in return (good rebirth, winning a lottery, passing an examination, etc. ). This kind of Sammā Diṭṭhi will perpetuate the samsāric journey but is a required first stage to comprehend anicca.
  • The danger in stopping at the conventional samma diṭṭhi is that we do not know what one will do in a future life (say, another human birth.) One could be born under circumstances where one is not exposed to Buddha Dhamma, may associate with wrong people, and may commit kamma that will lead to rebirth in the apāyā (lowest four realms. The other danger is that we do not know what kind of kamma we have done in previous lives, and we may already have some bad kamma seeds that could lead to a birth in the apāyā.
Transcendental or Lokuttara Sammā Diṭṭhi

7. By lokuttara Sammā Diṭṭhi is meant the understanding of the true nature of “this world” of 31 realms and the round of rebirths.

  • For example, “there is a self” and “there is no self” are both incorrect, and things (both animate and inanimate) exist if the conditions for their existence are present (Paṭicca Samuppāda).
  • Even though one partially comprehends Sammā Diṭṭhi at the Sōtapanna stage, the understanding becomes complete only at the Arahant stage.

8. If one cultivates the “lokuttara” Sammā Diṭṭhi and becomes a Sōtapanna, then one will be free from rebirths in the apāyā.

Next, “How do we Decide which View is Diṭṭhi (Wrong View)?


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