Wrong Views (Micchā Diṭṭhi) – A Simpler Analysis

Revised November 27, 2017; revised May 12, 2020 (#6)

Micchā means wrong or incorrect, and diṭṭhi means views. Pronunciation:

Here it is about the wrong views about our world or our existence. It is the most basic reason why people cannot grasp the message of the Buddha, and that is unfortunate. We all are looking at the world through “colored glasses”; each one has his/her own set of beliefs or “diṭṭhi“, so we cannot see the real nature.

  • Some facts about nature are hard to believe, and it took the efforts of many scientists to change two common wrong views (diṭṭhis) that had been with the humans up to recently: that the Earth is flat and it is at the center of the universe.

1. These days, most of us believe that the Earth moves around the Sun. But it is quite clear that it goes against our experience, and the accepted views were the opposites even a few hundred years ago. We do not have any direct experience of the motion of the Earth, either its rotation around its own axis or in its orbit around the Sun. And we see ample evidence to the contrary, i.e.,  for the Sun rotating around the Earth because we experience a sunrise and a sunset every day!

  • If one looks at the speeds involved it becomes even harder to believe that the Earth is moving: The Earth moves around its axis at a speed of about 1000 miles/hour at the equator (and zero at the North and South Poles) and it moves along its orbit around the Sun at an average speed of about 67,000 miles/hour. Thus it is surprising that we have no direct perception of such movements.
  • Of course, we do not feel it because everything around us is also doing exactly the same thing. When we travel in a car, we “feel the ride” because we can see the scenery passing by (and because the ride may not be smooth; luckily, the Earth is very smooth in its motions). It is the “relative motion” that we perceive. If two cars are moving in parallel with the same speed, passengers in each car see the other car to be stationary.
  • However, after Galileo invented the telescope, people made more precise measurements of the planets and the heliocentric model was needed to explain all those new findings.

2. But there are many people who still believe that the Sun goes around the Earth! To quote a passage from the Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocentric_model

  • “..Morris Berman quotes survey results that show currently some 20% of the U.S. population believes that the sun goes around the Earth (geocentrism) rather than the Earth goes around the sun (heliocentrism), while a further 9% claimed not to know. Polls conducted by Gallup in the 1990s found that 16% of Germans, 18% of Americans and 19% of Britons hold that the Sun revolves around the Earth. A study conducted in 2005 by Jon D. Miller of Northwestern University, an expert in the public understanding of science and technology, found that about 20%, or one in five, of American adults, believe that the Sun orbits the Earth. According to the 2011 VTSIOM poll, 32% of Russians believe that the Sun orbits the Earth”.
  • And, there are even some who believe that the Earth is flat: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_flat_Earth_societies

3. Thus sometimes it is very hard to get rid of certain “wrong views” because of our “experiences” and “gut feelings”. Yet, if one hangs onto such wrong views (in the face of contrary evidence) one cannot get a correct world view. This is why we always need to “look at the big picture”; the “bigger the picture”, the better it is. It is hard to see many details while walking on the ground, but one sees a whole lot better looking down from a helicopter.

  • Luckily, nowadays, we have the advantage of technology to confirm that the Earth is not flat and that it moves around the Sun.

4. Similarly, it is very hard for many people to believe that humans could be reborn as animals. One argument that was given in a book that refuted rebirth was that “..in that case, the human population should not be changing, but we see an increase of the human population over the past centuries”. Apparently, the author did not even consider that a human could be born an animal. Again, it is a matter of a very narrow world view. There are innumerable beings in this world and they can be born not only in the animal and human realms but 29 other realms that we cannot see!

  • When Darwin presented his theory of evolution, it made a huge psychological impact on society, which was not ready to accept that humans evolved from animals. It is said that Darwin did not publish his now-famous volume, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, until 1859, more than 20 years after he had first formulated his theory because he knew that it would create an uproar.

5. The theory of evolution is only partially correct according to Buddha Dhamma; we will discuss this in detail in the future. When conditions for birth in a certain realm are satisfied, nature has come up with many ways to make that birth take place.

  • Accepting the fact that humans can be BORN in the animal realm is an even more shocking thing to contemplate for many people. But we should not just go by our instincts, because the world is much more complex than we perceive with our limited senses.
  • Even though we consider the life of an animal as “useless”, life is the most important thing in the world even for the lowest worm. All living beings have the craving to continue the life they have, regardless of how pathetic it appears to us. Our “smelly bodies” are said to be repulsive to the devas who have fine bodies that are free of diseases as well.

6. The Buddha said,  “..bhikkhus, sentient beings reborn as humans are few as this bit of sand on my fingernail. But those not reborn as humans are many as the sand on this great Earth. Therefore, you should strive diligently and without delay to end this suffering in the rebirth process”. That statement appears to most people as an exaggeration. That quote is from the post, “How the Buddha Described the Chance of Rebirth in the Human Realm“.

  • But as described in that post, modern science is slowly proving that indeed the number of living beings, just in the animal realm, is unimaginably large. Comparatively, the human population of about 7 billion is negligibly small.
  • There are more living beings in your backyard soil than the entire human population on Earth!

7. Of course, we cannot see the beings in the other three lower realms. But, just because they are not amenable to our senses, we cannot say they do not exist.

  • Human vision is restricted to an almost infinitesimal sliver of 400 to 700 nanometers in the wavelength spectrum. Our ears can detect only 20 to 20,000 Hertz audio frequencies. Other animals use their own “bands” above and below that. Human beings have one of the poorest senses of smell of all the organisms on Earth., etc; see the book, “The Meaning of Human Existence” by Edward O. Wilson, who is a leading biologist.
  • Another way to think about this is to contemplate the fact that there are hundreds of TV or radio broadcasts that can be “tapped into” by having a TV or a radio set to the right channel. Just because we cannot “see” those electromagnetic waves with our eyes, we cannot say they are not all around us. There are other living beings all around us with such fine bodies, we just cannot see them.
  • We have only begun “see” other hidden parts of “our world” with the aid of science; see, “Expanding “Consciousness” by Using Technology“.

8. Even though scientific progress has been impressive, it takes generations to move the “knowledge base” forward; see, “Dhamma and Science – Introduction“.

  • On the other hand, by PURIFYING the mind, one can discern EVERYTHING that is of importance within a lifetime; see, “Expanding “Consciousness” by Purifying the Mind“, and the power of the mind in the posts starting with, “Power of the Human Mind – Introduction“.
  • That is how the Buddha knew about not only the existence of innumerable planetary systems in the universe (many other examples are discussed in other posts) but also about the fact that this life of about 100 years in insignificant in the rebirth process.
  • And there is compelling evidence for rebirth; see, “Evidence for Rebirth“.

9. Without the “correct view” of this world, we will be simply “groping in the dark”. When one has only a narrow and blurred vision, one cannot move forward. If one believes that this is the only life we have, then one could be making bad decisions, that could affect one’s future for billions of years to come.

  • That is why it is worthwhile at least to examine the evidence of the “wider world view” of the Buddha, where both space and time are infinite. While modern science has confirmed the infinite extent of space, it has not yet “discovered” the fact that life does not end at physical death; it is just the end of one insignificantly small sliver of the time span of a sentient being.

10. Most people think the First Noble Truth is about suffering in the sense of just physical or mental suffering IN THIS LIFE; that is wrong. Those are RESULTS of past actions (kamma). But that suffering is NOT what the First Noble Truth is about; it is about the FUTURE suffering that CAN BE stopped.

  • The First Noble Truth is about the suffering that is hidden and can manifest in the future. It is the unavoidable suffering for anyone in this cycle of rebirth until one grasps the “correct world view”.
  • This is why the Buddha said, “my Dhamma has never been heard before”. It is hard to grasp until one is willing to spend some time and examine the “bigger picture”. One should not just go by one’s instincts, but rather by the facts.

11. This is also why “Sammā Diṭṭhi” or “correct view” comes first in both versions of the Eightfold Path. Yes. There are two versions of the path: One is mundane (lōkiya) and is easier to grasp. The other is transcendental (lōkuttara) and requires the comprehension of Tilakkhana or the Three Characteristics of this world, i.e., anicca, dukkha, anatta.

  • Before trying to comprehend the Tilakkhana, it is imperative that one follows the mundane eightfold path and removes all ten types of micchā diṭṭhi; they are discussed in Mahā Chattarisaka Sutta (Discourse on the Great Forty)“.
  • When one starts understanding the validity of the laws of kamma (i.e., deeds have consequences), rebirth must be true, and there are other realms that we cannot see, one begins to embrace the mundane version of Sammā Diṭṭhi.

12. With that Sammā Diṭṭhi, one realizes that it is not fruitful to think immoral thoughts (micchā saṅkappa), utter inappropriate speech (micchā vācā), do inappropriate things (micchā kammaṃta), live an immoral life (micchā ājiva), to strive to achieve unfruitful things (micchā vāyāma), have immoral mindfulness (micchā sati), and thus get into an immoral state (micchā samādhi).

  • Even if we can “get away” from paying for misdeeds in this life, we will have to pay with interest in future lives. Similarly, any good deeds will be rewarded in future lives, if not within this life itself.
  • Thus, with correct views or Sammā Diṭṭhi, one will be automatically following the mundane eightfold path: Sammā Saṅkappa, Sammā Vācā, Sammā Kammanta, Sammā Ājiva, Sammā Vāyāma, Sammā Sati, and thus get to Sammā Samādhi.  It all starts with Sammā Diṭṭhi or the “correct views”.

13. It is not a world view that is amenable to our “experience”, because our sense faculties are limited as we discussed above. But as we make progress, our minds will become clear and we WILL be able to see for ourselves the true nature of this world.

  • There is a lot of evidence that what the Buddha said about “the wider world” 2500 years ago are indeed true. We are lucky to be born at the time when efforts of many generations of scientists have confirmed many of his world views, and that should give us confidence (saddhā) to take those views seriously enough to spend some time examining the evidence.
  • My goal is to present evidence from many aspects because different people comprehend different aspects.

14. Such a critical evaluation itself could be enough to dispel any wrong views. It is like lifting of fog and being able to see clearly. When the mind becomes pure, one does not need “evidence from science” to confirm the worldview of the Buddha.

Next, “Four Noble Truths: Recipe for Problem Solving“, …

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