When the Buddha left his palace to pursue enlightenment, a few unsatisfactory sights were engraved in his memory.
Ever since he saw death, old age, and sickness, he realized that the world in which we live is full of suffering. As a result, the Buddha left his royal responsibilities to find ways to banish the world’s misery.
Through the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha explained the essence of his teachings—he clarified the nature of suffering, its causes, and the means to be liberated. The Noble Eightfold Path serves as a guide to the end of all misery:
1. Right View
2. Right Intention
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration
Practicing the entire Eightfold Path is imperative for progressing on the Buddhist path. However, for me, developing “right view” is especially essential. I’ve realized that if I don’t perceive the world correctly, I will never be able to live in it mindfully. To add to that, I’m convinced that understanding and practicing “right view” enables us to understand the Four Noble Truths and the rest of the Eightfold path better.
We can see that the Buddha’s main compelling reason to leave home was the miserable “view.” It began with his eyes, then delved deeper into the core of his mind, until he departed on his journey.
Before exploring the significance of “right view,” I’d like to clarify that the Eightfold Path is not meant to be believed in simply on faith. Buddhist philosophy is not a worship or belief system. The teachings of the Buddha are only a guide to free us from samsara. Moreover, as the Buddha has emphasized, self-reliance is crucial while practicing. We must examine the teachings and test them through our own personal experiences.
One doesn’t necessarily have to be a Buddhist or living in the East to practice Buddhism. The teachings are for everyone, especially those who seek spiritual development.
So, what does “right view” really mean—and why do I consider it of major importance? It means to see things as they are, with the wisdom we’ve been granted. It’s an understanding, an insight that we gain. The benefits are both personal and universal, because through developing “right view,” we cultivate sympathy and compassion for others.
While we think that we see things truthfully, the reality is that we don’t. We see things the way we want to, thus creating false preconceptions in our minds.
What is the core of life? It’s a set of events constantly changing from moment to moment. Impermanence is the essence of living. Everything that we experience—pleasant and gross—is meant to fade away, to pass. Refusing to look at life as it is only causes us to suffer more.
Seeing the world with all its rawness and suffering is precisely what “right view” means—it is exactly what the eyes of the Buddha had seen. Through accepting suffering, he broke the barriers of the fears with which we shield ourselves.
While this may sound negative or pessimistic, it’s the total opposite. When we accept that there is suffering in the world, we become compelled to remove it, and we understand that nothing is really separate from us. When we accept the nature of change, we can then differentiate between the things we can control and the things we can’t.
But, our minds are our greatest enemy. The reality is that if everything stayed the same, we wouldn’t be happy—things would be so boring. Deep down, we know that change is good, and that it’s crucial for our growth. But, it’s our nature to seek what’s absent. This is because there is so much instability—so much change in the world—that we seek consistency. But, I bet if the world was constant, certain, unchangeable, permanent, and stable, we would strive for change. Then, we’d say, “Ah, this is so boring, so expected…why can’t things change?”
Instead of rebelling against death, sickness, old age, loss, and endings—see them for what they are. A battle with impermanence is a battle we’ll most certainly lose. It is not to be fought with or analyzed. Only elderly people and those with terminal illnesses are prone to naturally develop “right view.” It is because they don’t know exactly when their life will be terminated, but they surrender to it.
To surrender to life makes us content. Dwelling on our own illusions will only keep us trapped in them. The first step of walking down the path is to remove the blindfold from our eyes. Perceiving the outer world correctly ultimately changes our inner world.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Mike Medaglia
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Travis May