Right View in Buddhism – The First Spoke of the Wheel

right view in buddhism

Right View/ Right Understanding

This is the first of a series of 8 posts where I will go into more detail about the Buddha’s Eight-fold Path.  Each post will examine each of the Eight Branches or Eight Spokes on the Wheel of Dharma and I’ll include my own thoughts and reflections.

The Eight-fold Path is divided into three categories:

  • Wisdom (Right View, Right Intention)
  • Ethical Conduct (Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood)
  • Concentration (Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration)

Right View in Buddhism

Right View in Buddhism, which is also known as Right Understanding is the first branch of the Eightfold Path and is the very foundation of Buddhist belief and practice.

It’s important to keep in mind that Right View doesn’t refer to a mindset that is inherently right and that another mindset is wrong.  There is only what is conducive and what is not conducive to the realization of Nirvana in this moment.

Although I will use the word “right” in these posts for the sake of simplicity, this is not an exact translation from the Sanskrit word “samma” which is more accurately translated by Buddhist teacher Robert Thurman as “realistic, authentic” and “skillful”.

So what is meant by Right View or Right Understanding?

Essentially this refers to understanding of the Four Noble Truths and when Buddha was asked “What is Right View?”, he replied “To understand suffering, to understand the causes of suffering, to understand the cessation of suffering, and to understand the path that leads to the cessation of suffering.

Right View is the foundation for all the other branches which enables us to understand our starting point as well as our “destination” and all of the milestones in between that will ultimately lead to liberation from suffering and the causes of suffering.

Types of Right View

right view in Buddhism

Stupa symbolizing the mind of the Buddha

Right View can also be further broken down into “mundane right view” and “superior right view”.

Mundane Right View

The first requires an intellectual understanding gained from learning and studying the Four Noble Truths and reflecting on their significance in our lives. This is the right view that inspires us to walk the Buddhist path.

Superior Right View

The second called “superior right view”which is the deeper and experiential understanding of the Four Noble Truths that is cultivated in the other steps of the Eight-fold path. By walking the path we experience the realization of the Four Noble Truths as a realistic way to view the world. So Right View can be viewed as the beginning and the ending of the Eight-fold Path.

Summary

A good question I ask myself every day would be “Am I seeing the world as it really is, or just as I want and expect it to be?”
I think that we spend most of our time focusing on how we want the world to be and what we think is wrong with the world, instead of being mindful of the present moment.  We waste the majority of our lives musing about the past or future when the only existence is in the present moment.

Thanks for reading this article on Right View in Buddhism, and I encourage you to post your thoughts and/or experiences below and please consider looking into the books that are recommended below for further reading.  Click here to access my online store for even more books and other products.



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20 Responses to Right View in Buddhism – The First Spoke of the Wheel

  1. Jovo says:

    Interesting text about an interesting religion, quite distant from my environment. So this wheel of Dharma with 8 handles is a symbol of these 8 branches. I like the statement about the only existence in the present moment. Being far from any religion I find it interesting to see it here in the text about Buddhism. Many thanks.

    • Ian H says:

      Thanks for the comment! There are many references to wheels in Buddhism, but I love all of the visual symbolism of the teachings.

  2. debbie says:

    Very nice and clear explanation. My book pick here would be Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen, I believe. Excellent and simple.

  3. NemiraB says:

    Hello, thanks for article. I think that philosophy of Buddhism can be understandable for everybody. His teachings are about human nature’s flaws and how to avoid disappointment and to reach an enlightenment.
    I think that the right view in Buddhism explains issues associated with bad karma and offers solutions how to fix it or how to turn our activities to good karma.
    When we have right beliefs and actions, which do not harm others, we create better future for ourselves, at he same time good karma.
    If we behave in a good way, we reduce suffering for ourselves, at the same time for others too.
    It seems that we need concentrate on things, which reduce suffering and do not give questions about issues which can not be understandable.
    Anyway, as curious person I can not be right proponent of Buddhism, because I like to look for answers and question everything what is interesting for me.
    Thanks for good read, all the best, Nemira.

    • Ian H says:

      Thanks for the comment! You are absolutely right about karma and I think you’ve summed it up nicely. Buddha himself encouraged his disciples to not believe him, but rather to investigate for themselves and to always question. Buddhism is more of a science of the mind than a religion that thrives on blind faith.

  4. Tyler Redlev says:

    Religious views are varrying at whole world and they can be really unrelated to each other. But they also have many similarities.

    You stated that there are different path reviews in buddhism. It may sound odd, but there are also right and left paths in satanism. And it is so similar to buddhism that you may tink they have originated from same source.

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Tyler,

      The similarities are love and compassion. I think that is the common teaching in all of them.

      The paths in Buddhism are not dualistic like the concept of left-hand and right-hand paths. In Buddhism we transcend both views. The differences among Buddhists are in the interpretation of Buddha’s teachings.

      Could you explain more about what you mean by satanism?

      My impression of satanism is that it assumes the existence of an absolute self and is individualistic. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

      While in Buddhism we come to the realization that the self really isn’t absolute and is changing all the time, just like everything else in reality.

  5. Connie says:

    First thoughts, viewing the page on a reasonable sized laptop, I had to reduce the size to see the whole page, this meant that before reduction I could only see two social media buttons at the top.. FB and Twitter the others did not show at all. The top header is impressive but I find the white writing on that background difficult to read and the message is so good it needs to come across.

    Now onto the content, let me start by saying I am reviewing this as someone who knows nothing about buddhism other than what I have seen on TV. So this is a review just as a first time visitor would see your site.

    Having had to reduce the size to 90% instead of 100%, the text is a little difficult to read especially the related links at the top. However the text flows well and there is more than enough information to keep a reader involved in the page.

    I like that your links and products are contextual and helpful to the reader. A small point not sure how people looking for enlightenment would take to the unicorn at the bottom. Maybe too pagan for most buddhists!

    The products page is also on the relevant topic of the site. A personal perference is that less is more. You might consider picking a different amazon widget that has less on the page but more pages. At the moment it looks like a lot of products, would look less if they were on more pages.

    Summing up, as a complete newbie as regards Buddhism, I found this very informative and easy to read article, and I believe would keep your visitors wanting to learn more. I think it is a very well thought out piece of content that you should be congratulated on.

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Connie,

      Thanks for the feedback on my site. What size screen are you using? I want to try to replicate it the issue with size. I’ll definitely look into the other feedback since my aim is to make sure that readers have a positive user experience.

      Thanks for the feedback on my content as well. I really appreciate it.

  6. Jester says:

    As a born, raised and practicing Catholic, most believe that I should not be looking into things such as Buddhism. BUT, on that note I have always done things my own way for my own reasons: I have an insatiable open mind and always want to understand more. In my mind, all religions lead to the same thing, just practiced different by different people… my logic in the simplest of simple answers. A couple of months ago hit a rough patch in the family and needed something extra, so began a new path in spirituality. I see no reason why I cannot incorporate both in my life and I look forward to learning more and more. I will be checking back here for the next section of this post!

    • Ian H says:

      Yes, I also think all religions ultimately take you to the same place of Oneness of Love and Compassion. I think that in most cases, it is the Dharma in a form specific to the understanding of a particular people.

      I’m up to the Fourth Branch of the Eightfold Path in my posts. Also check out my Christmas post, I think you’ll love that one. Also have you ever studied Gnosticism? The Gospel of St. Thomas for example, is much closer to Buddhism and was banned by the Church as heresy, because they feared its implications.

  7. Stephen says:

    Glad to be back here! Your site resembles mine in a lot of ways, and we’re both discussing the helpful nature of religion. I can conclude that the Buddhist Right View is simply about trying to establish a solution, (and find liberation), by looking into the actual cause of suffering – and that’s actually all it usually takes to uproot any problem! I’ll keenly be looking out to read the remaining 7 posts on the other ‘spokes’ on the wheel of Dharma, in this interesting Buddha’s Eight-fold Path.

    • Ian H says:

      Thanks for returning Stephen! I think you’re right to draw that conclusion. It is very much like a scientific or medicinal approach to suffering

      I am up to spoke (or branch as I call them) Four of the Eightfold Path, so be sure to check those out as well.

  8. Tar says:

    Hi there. That’s a great way to breakdown your posts. I mean, there’s a lot of insights and info of one series I presume.

    I notice that there are lots of alternative terms and the consideration of small details of different aspects.

    What I mean is it’s a belief which is quite comprehensive, expanding from identifying the causes and what factors which end something, like Right View for instance.

    • Ian H says:

      Yes, there are many aspects of the path that should be taken into consideration, but overall it is a beautiful path to walk. Causation and dependent origination are discussed a lot in the sutras.

  9. Roopesh says:

    Hi There
    I did not know about the Buddha’s Eight Fold path and it is wonderful to learn about it here.Will be following your series.

    I agree with you 100% percentage of our focus.Focusing on the present moment and been within that moment is what truly matters.As it is the only time, which we can do something and act.

    Yet, few of us actually do this.

    What would you suggest to someone like myself who has this struggle and want to practice to live and be in the moment?

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Regards
    Roopesh

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Roopesh,

      Thanks for your comment and for following this blog series! One thing you can do throughout the day is to be mindful of every part of your body and simply observe how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking. Question your thoughts and investigate them calmly. You won’t be able to maintain this but every time you do it, you have positive neural connections being formed, so it gets a little easier over time.

      But most importantly don’t berate yourself for not being able to do it. I think there are also many long-time Buddhists who practice meditation daily and still have issues with mindfulness (including myself), so don’t feel bad.

      There are some Buddhist monks who are able to sustain themselves in a state of constant meditation which is attainable.

  10. Dyl says:

    Thanks for the article it is very enlightening, I always wanted to know about Buddhism and what it entails. I quite enjoyed the article a lot and like the fact that you stated that “life is about living in the present moment”, because that it how I try to live my life. Looking forward to read more articles on the topic!

    • Ian H says:

      Thanks for the comment! I have a lot more articles on the site that I know you’ll enjoy so come back and check them out.

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