How do we Decide which View is Wrong View (Diṭṭhi)?
Revised July 3, 2022
More than 99% of one’s immoral acts have their causes in micchā diṭṭhi (wrong views); see, “What is the only Akusala Removed by a Sotāpanna?“. Thus, it is critical to understand what wrong views are.
- A simpler, yet fundamental, analysis of wrong views can be found in, “Wrong Views (Micchā Diṭṭhi) – A Simpler Analysis“.
1. We all have our views about different things: politics, religions, sports, lifestyles, etc. And most times it is fun to talk about and debate whose views are the correct ones. But each one of us has views based on limited knowledge about only a fraction of “this world”.
- A good way to figure out whether one view is better than another is to see whether that view provides more insight AND has more explanatory power about the world.
- In fact, that is the only way. Because anybody can just say, “my view is better than yours”.
2. When I refer to “diṭṭhi” or wrong views, these are the wrong views per Buddha. It must be noted that “diṭṭhi” means views, but in Pāli literature it has been common to call “micchā diṭṭhi” (pronounced “michchā“) or wrong views as just “diṭṭhi“. It is critical to have the “right views” because otherwise we may be taking wrong decisions, and that could have very bad outcomes for billions of years to come. In order to make the right decisions, we need to “see the whole picture” or the world view of the Buddha.
- Of course, one is entitled to have his own views. It is just that according to Buddha Dhamma certain views are not only wrong, but could lead to disastrous outcomes, and those are micchā diṭṭhi. One either accepts this fact or rejects it. It is a good idea to look at the “big picture” of the Buddha and THEN decide whether it makes sense or not. First, let us see why one should even go through this exercise of looking at the big picture.
3. When one does not have a clear overall picture, one makes bad decisions. For example, a fish does not see the string or the hook, only sees the worm, and gets into trouble. If it saw the whole picture, with the string and the hook, it may realize that there is something wrong and would not try to grab the worm. If it saw the man standing on land holding the pole, that would have been another clue; but the fish can only see its “domain”. Just like that, we can only see “our domain” within the wider 31 realms, and we do not see the level of suffering in other lower realms.
- We are inherently incapable of seeing the “whole picture” because our sense faculties are formed by our kamma to be aware of only a part of the whole existence; you may get an idea of what I am referring to in the post, “What Happens in Other Dimensions?“. Therefore, no matter how smart each of us is, we cannot even imagine this whole picture by ourselves. It takes a very special, very pure mind to see the whole picture, the mind of a Buddha; see, “Power of the Human Mind – introduction“, and follow-up posts.
4. The Buddha described this in the parable of the “elephant and the six blind men”. Each blind man is feeling or exploring a different part of the elephant and comes up with his view of what an elephant is: The one examining the tail says the elephant is like a rope, one examining a leg says the elephant is like a pillar, etc.
- The person holding the tail is certain that the elephant is like a rope “because I know what I experience; you cannot tell me it is not like a rope”. He just does not realize that he is experiencing only part of the whole elephant.
5. Until a Buddha comes to this world, any human can only see a very small part of the whole picture. Like the little girl in the video being able to see the whole elephant, only a Buddha can see the whole picture of our true existence.
- Mathematician Kurt Gödel proved this mathematically in his Incompleteness Theorem, which says that it is not possible to discover the complete truth of a closed system within that system; see, “Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem“. Thus science will NEVER be able to discover a COMPLETE set of laws about nature. It can only uncover parts and the parts that have been discovered are totally consistent with Buddha Dhamma.
6. According to the Buddha, diṭṭhis are like that: some people say there is a rebirth process, and some say not. Some say when we die we will either go to hell or heaven. Some say, things really exist in a permanent way, and others say it is all a mirage. All these are diṭṭhis because none of these fit the WHOLE PICTURE. None of these can explain the vagaries of life; see, “Vagaries of Life and the Way to Seek “Good Rebirths”.
- For example, we can only see two of the 31 realms of existence: animal and human realms. We are not aware that most beings are trapped in the lowest four realms where there is much more suffering than we can see in the human and animal realms. We do not realize that our immoral actions from this life, AND from our past lives (that we are not aware of) could give us rebirth in those lower four realms; this is the “laws of kamma” another part of the “big picture”. There is evidence for rebirth; see, “Evidence for Rebirth“.
7. Buddha Dhamma cannot be fully understood without having learned of that “big picture” from a Buddha or from a person who has learned the correct version of it. Now, since the Buddha is not here and there are many versions of Buddha Dhamma, the question is how do we figure out which version to believe. The Buddha gave a solution to this problem: Find the version that satisfies the following conditions:
- All aspects should be consistent with the Suttas and Vinaya (and thus Abhidhamma); these were transmitted orally for about 500 years and then written down in the Pāli Tipiṭaka about 2000 years ago (Pāli Tipiṭaka).
- And all three descriptions in the Tipiṭaka (Sutta, Vinaya, Abhidhamma) must be consistent with each other.
8. This second requirement is there to catch any mistakes made in the (especially oral) transmission from the time of the Buddha. It must be kept in mind that all three sets were formulated for easy oral transmission. I know several suttā by heart which I learned when I was little; they have been formulated to be easily remembered. And there were different groups of Bhikkus assigned the responsibility for different sections during the time of oral transmission. Also see, “Preservation of the Dhamma“.
9. In a series of posts I have provided evidence that many versions of “Buddhism” being practiced today do not pass the above tests. All Mahāyāna versions are in blatant contradiction to the teachings in the Tipiṭaka, and some key concepts taught in Theravada are also inconsistent with Tipiṭaka; see, “Why is it Critical to Find the Pure Buddha Dhamma?“, and the follow-up posts.
- Once one finds the key Dhamma concepts that are self-consistent, then one can easily figure out what is diṭṭhi and what is not. If anyone can point out anything on this website that is not internally consistent, I would appreciate it. Because my goal is genuine: to find and document the original teachings of the Buddha.
10. Thus it is important to realize that diṭṭhi is an established view (a view one is not even willing to rethink) about the world, that is inconsistent with Buddha Dhamma. Let us take a few examples:
- Two good examples are the two views of “there is a self” and “there is no self”; see, “Diṭṭhi (Wrong Views), Sammā Diṭṭhi (Good/Correct Views)“. Both are wrong views according to the Buddha: there is only an ever-changing lifestream that progresses according to cause and effect (Paṭicca Samuppāda); see, “What Reincarnates? – Concept of a Lifestream“.
- Another diṭṭhi many people have is that there is no rebirth process, or that there is a rebirth process but we will never be born as an animal because we have not done anything bad in this life. It is just a belief, there is no supporting evidence to back that up. On the other hand, the rebirth process involving all 31 realms and the natural law of kamma, together with Paṭicca Samuppāda, and other key concepts like Tilakkhana can explain EVERYTHING that we experience. What needs to be understood is that ALL THOSE PIECES MUST BE THERE to complete the whole picture.
11. Just like a blind man holding onto a leg of the elephant and saying “This is what I experience and the elephant is like a pillar. I know what I experience, and I am right”, we hold onto diṭṭhis that are inconsistent with the nature’s laws. Once one hears the message of a Buddha, one should at least examine the credibility of that message by looking at the evidence he presented. Ultimately, one has to make the decision to accept Buddha’s message or not. This is why no one can lead anyone else to salvation. It is all in one’s own mind.
- Let me give an example of how limited our worldview had been even two hundred years ago. People believed that Earth was the only planet with the Sun going around the Earth. So, when the Buddha said there are innumerable world systems with other Suns and Moons, people thought that was a loony idea. There are many such diṭṭhis that have been proven to be wrong by science over the past hundred years or so; see, “Dhamma and Science – Introduction“.
12. Some of the views we have are deeply ingrained, and not easy to get rid of. The main thing is NOT to take a firm stand on things that the Buddha called diṭṭhi and say, “I know this to be true, and only this to be true” and to cling to them. Even a Sotāpanna may not be fully convinced that, for example, there is an arupa loka, but he/she has not ruled that out, i.e., does not have a diṭṭhi. Only an Arahant has “complete” Sammā Diṭṭhi.
- As one learns pure Dhamma, one will have more and more confidence in the world view of the Buddha and will get rid of the wrong views. Since the mind cannot be forced to accept anything, this “change of vision” comes only through learning the pure Dhamma and through the enhanced life experience, which means purifying the mind; see, “The Importance of Purifying the MInd“.
- We cannot pick and choose parts of Buddha Dhamma that we like if we want to reap the full benefits. Of course, one could decide to “live with” parts of Dhamma that one is comfortable with. The Buddha said to accept his teachings only if they make sense. To make sense though, one needs to look at the whole picture too. Otherwise, it will be like a blind man examining only the leg of an elephant and saying it really feels like a pillar.
13. Diṭṭhi is one of 14 akusala cetasika and one of the ten kilesa; see, “Ten Immoral Actions (Dasa Akusala)“, and “Diṭṭhi (Wrong Views), Sammā Diṭṭhi (Good/Correct Views)“. Diṭṭhi have been described in many ways by the Buddha. At the Sotāpanna stage, those diṭṭhis that could lead to rebirth in the apāyā (sakkāya diṭṭhi, vicikicchā, silabbata parāmāsa) are permanently removed; see, “Akusala Citta – How a Sotāpanna Avoids Apayagami Cittas“.
- Thus it is important to realize that the Sotāpanna stage CAN NOT be reached until niyata micchā diṭṭhi or ESTABLISHED wrong views are removed. For example, one should not hold on to a firm belief that there is no rebirth process; one should at least keep an open mind.
- Stated most succinctly, micchā diṭṭhi is the wrong perception of nicca, sukha, and atta, i.e., things can be maintained to one’s satisfaction, thus lasting happiness is possible, and thus it is fruitful to stay in this world of 31 realms. One attains the first stage of Sammā diṭṭhi when one comprehends anicca, dukkha, and anatta to a certain extent at the Sotāpanna stage.
14. The Buddha said his Dhamma is hard to understand, and it is not like anything that anyone taught before, except for another Buddha: It is “Pubbe anunussutu Dhammesu“, “A Dhamma that has not been heard before”. This is why the Buddha worried just after the Enlightenment whether he will be able to teach this difficult Dhamma to normal human beings. It takes a real effort to glean the message of the Buddha.
- Most of us have different types of diṭṭhis; see, “Why Do People Enjoy Immoral Deeds? – Diṭṭhi Is Key“
- For a description of the ten micchā diṭṭhi, see, “Three Kinds of Diṭṭhi, Eightfold Paths, and Samādhi“.