The Buddha taught the truth about all realities which appear in daily life: seeing, hearing, attachment, hardness, softness, heat, cold and all the other phenomena which can be experienced. However, we are ignorant of the realities in and around ourselves and we have wrong view about them.
What is wrong view? It is a distorted view of realities, a misinterpretation of them. Do we, for example, know hearing as only an element which hears or do we still cling to an idea of self who hears? Do we know sound as it is, as only a reality which can be heard, or do we take what is heard for a "person" or a "thing" such as a voice or a car? Person, voice and car are concepts we can think of but which cannot be heard. Hearing and thinking occur at different moments and these realities experience different objects. Only one object can be experienced at a time through the appropriate doorway, but we still have many misunderstandings about reality.
Through the study of the Dhamma we may have acquired theoretical understanding of realities as being impermanent and non-self, but wrong view cannot be eradicated through theoretical understanding. It can only be eradicated through the practice, through the development of the eightfold Path.
The Atthasalini (II, Part IX, Chapter I, 248) gives the following definition of wrong view, ditthi:
... It has unwise conviction as characteristic; perversion as function; wrong conviction as manifestation; the desire not to see the ariyans as proximate cause. It should be regarded as the highest fault.
The Visuddhimagga (XIV, 164) gives a similar definition of ditthi. The Dhammasangani (38) calls ditthi a "wrong road" and the Atthasalini (II, Part IX, Chapter II, 253) explains :
... From being not the right path, it is a "wrong path". For just as one who is gone astray, although he holds that this is the path to such a village, does not arrive at a village, so a man of false opinions, although he holds that this is the path to a happy destiny, cannot get there; hence from being not the right path it is a wrong path...
Ditthi has unwise conviction as characteristic. When there is ditthi one clings to a false view of reality, Its function is "perversion": because of ditthi one takes for permanent what is impermanent, one takes for self what is not self. Ignorance covers up the true nature of realities and wrong view sees them wrongly, in a distorted way.
Ditthi is a factor of the wrong Path. If one follows the wrong Path defilements cannot be eradicated and thus there will be no end to the cycle of birth and death. Because of ditthi someone may believe that his wrong practice can lead to purification of defilements. In the scriptures we read about people in the Buddha's time who followed different ways of wrong practice; they behaved like a dog or like a cow, because they thought that such practices would lead to purification.
So long as ditthi has not been eradicated there are conditions for deviating from the right Path, even though one may have theoretical understanding of the right Path. The Buddha taught that all realities which appear through the six doors can be object of mindfulness. One may be inclined to think that it is not possible to know nama and rupa which appear now, in daily life. Some people believe that they have to follow certain rules with regard to the development of satipatthana, such as, for example, refraining from reading or talking.
They think that they have to go to a quiet place where there is no noise, in order to have less akusala cittas.
In the beginning we all may be inclined to believe that we should not be aware of akusala dhammas, but also akusala dhammas have characteristics which can be known and understood.
If they are not known as they are, as namas which arise because of their own conditions, they cannot be eradicated. Even dullness or forgetfulness of nama and rupa is a reality of daily life and it has a characteristic which can be known. It is important to know the difference between the moments of awareness and the moments of forgetfulness. There is forgetfulness of realities very often but sometimes mindfulness may arise and then we can learn the difference.
The proximate cause of ditthi is "the desire not to see the ariyans"( 4 See "The Mulapariyaya Sutta and its Commentarial Exegesis", translated by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, BPS. Kandy, 1980. In the commentary to this sutta ("The Root of Existence", Middle Length Sayings I, no. 1), in the "Papancasudani", it is explained that "the desire not to see the ariyans", or being without regard for the ariyans, means that one does not realize the three characteristics of impermanence, dukkha and anatta; that one does not attain the dhamma attained by the ariyans.), being without regard for them, If one does not listen to the Dhamma as it is explained by the "good friend in Dhamma" and does not put it into practice, there are no conditions for the development of right understanding. Instead of listening to the right friend one may associate with the wrong person. We read in the Book of Analysis (Chapter 17, 901) about evil friendship:
Therein, what is "having evil fiends"? There are those persons who are without confidence, of wrong morality, without learning, mean, of no wisdom. That which is dependence on, strong dependence on, complete dependence on, approaching, approaching intimately, devotion to, complete devotion to, entanglement with them. This is called having evil friends.
Those who have accumulations for the development of right understanding have conditions to meet the right friend in the Dhamma and those who have tendencies to wrong view are bound to associate with people who have wrong view and thus they accumulate more and more wrong view.
Wrong view should be regarded as the "highest fault". Wrong view is dangerous because it can lead to many kinds of evil. We read in the Gradual Sayings (Book of the Ones, Chapter XVII):
Monks, I know not of any other single thing so apt to cause the rising of evil states not yet arisen, or if arisen, to cause their more-becoming and increase, as perverted view. . .
Monks, in one of perverted view evil states not yet arisen do arise, and if arisen, are apt to grow and grow...
Monks, I know not of any other single thing so apt to cause the non-arising of good states not yet arisen, or, if arisen, to cause their waning, as perverted view. ..
Monks, in one of perverted view good states not yet arisen arise not, or, if arisen, waste away. . .
Monks, I know not of any other single thing so apt to cause the arising of perverted view, if not yet arisen, or the increase of perverted view, if already arisen, as unsystematic attention.
In him who gives not systematic attention perverted view, if not arisen, does arise, or, if already arisen, does increase.
Monks, I know not of any other single thing so apt, when body breaks up after death, to cause the rebirth of beings in the Waste, the Way of Woe, the Downfall, in Hell, as perverted view...
We read of each case that the opposite is true for right view. Further on, in the same chapter, we read that wrong view is compared to a nimbseed, the seed of a creeper or of a cucumber:
... Whatsoever essence it derives from earth or water, all that conduces to its bitterness, its acridity, its unpleasantness. What is the cause of that? the ill nature of the seed. Just so, monks, in a man of perverted view, all deeds whatsoever... conduce to ill. What is the cause of that? Monks, it is perverted view.
Right view is compared to a seed of sugar-cane, paddy or grape:
"Whatsoever essence it derives from earth or water, all that conduces to its sweetness, pleasantness and delicious flavour."
Even so in a man who has right view, all deeds conduce to happiness.
In order to have more understanding of the implications of this sutta we should consider the difference between the life of the non-ariyan and the life of the sotapanna. The non-ariyan who has not eradicated wrong view has conditions to commit akusala kamma patha which can lead to an unhappy rebirth and thus he is in a dangerous situation.
The sotapanna, who has eradicated wrong view, has no conditions anymore to transgress the five precepts, he has no conditions anymore to commit akusala kamma patha which can cause an unhappy rebirth.
He has eradicated stinginess and jealousy, he is full of generosity. When one does not cling anymore to the concept of self and sees realities as they are, this will bear on one's actions, speech and thoughts.
Ditthi does not arise with every type of citta, Ditthi is connected with clinging, it arises only with lobha-mula-citta.
There are four types of lobha-mula-citta which are accompanied by ditthi (ditthigata-sampayutta), and of these types two are accompanied by pleasant feeling (somanassa) and two by indifferent feeling (upekkha). They can be "unprompted" (asankharika, not induced by someone else or oneself) or they can be "prompted" (sasankharika, induced by someone else or by oneself).
Ditthi which arises with lobha-mula-citta always stands for wrong view miccha-ditthi.
There are many kinds of wrong views and they are of different degrees. Three kinds of wrong view are unwholesome courses of action, akusala kamma patha, through the mind, and these are capable of causing an unhappy rebirth.
They are the following three views:
- There is no result of kamma (natthika-ditthi)
- There are no causes (in happening, ahetuka-ditthi)
- There is no such thing as kamma ( akiriya-ditthi)
As regards the first view, this was taught by Ajita Kesakambali. He also taught that there is annihilation at death.
The second view was taught by Makkhali. He taught that there is no cause for the depravity or purity of beings, that there is no human effort and that all living creatures are "bent by fate, chance and nature".
The third view was taught by Purana Kassapa. He denied that there is akusala kamma and kusala kamma, The tormenting of others is not an evil deed according to him.
Although these three views are distinct from each other, they are nevertheless related. When one does not see kamma as cause one does not see its result either, and when one does not see the result of kamma, one does not see kamma as cause either.
The above-mentioned three wrong views are akusala kamma patha through the mind if one is firmly convinced about them. These three views in particular are very dangerous, they can give rise to many evil deeds.
There are many other kinds of wrong views and, although they are not akusala kamma patha, they are still dangerous. The scriptures often refer to the eternalistic view and to the annihilationisticview. Eternalism is the belief that there is a "self" who is permanent. Annihilationism is the belief that there is a "self" who will be annihilated after death. There is also a "semi-eternalistic view": one holds that some phenomena are eternal while others are not. One may sometimes cling to the eternalistic view and sometimes to the annihilistic view.
In the Brahma-jala-sutta sixty-two kinds of Wrong view are mentioned. Of these there are eighteen speculative theories concerning the past, and forty-four concerning the future. There are speculative theories about the world being finite or infinite, about the origin of the " soul" or the world. There are speculations about good and evil and about nibbana.
People of all times have been inclined to speculative theories and also today we can see that such views still persist. When we speculate about past lives and future lives we may cling to a "self" who "travels" from one life to another. we are so used to thinking in terms of self. As regards annihilationism, those who believe that there is a soul or self who will be annihilated after death do not realize that the dying-consciousness which falls away is succeeded by the rebirth-consciousness of the next life so long as there are conditions for rebirth.
Annihilationism is different from the wisdom which sees the impermanence, the arising and falling away, of nama and rupa. For the arahat there are no conditions for rebirth, his dying-consciousness is not succeeded by rebirth-consciousness. This is not annihilation, it is freedom from the cycle of birth and death. The arahat has cultivated the right conditions for the attainment of this freedom.
When the wrong view of self has been eradicated one will not cling to speculative theories anymore. But so long as one still believes in a self, one is bound to cling to speculative theories. We all have accumulated "personality-belief" or "sakkaya-ditthi". We read in the KindredSayings (lV, Salayatana-vagga, Kindred sayings about Citta, 3, Isidatta) that the monk Isidatta said to Citta, the housefather:
Herein, housefather, the untaught manyfolk, who discern not those who are ariyans, who are unskilled in the ariyan doctrine, who are untrained in the ariyan doctrine... they regard body as the self, they regard the self as having body, body as being in the self, the self as being in the body.
Thus, there are four kinds of the wrong view of personality-belief with regard to "body", rupa-kkhandha. The same is said about the wrong views with regard to the four nama-kkhandhas of feeling, perception, the "formations" or "activities" and consciousness. Since there are four kinds of the wrong view of personality-belief, sakkaya-ditthi, concerning each of the five khandhas, there are twenty kinds of this wrong view in all. One may cling with wrong view to the idea of "I see", "my body", "my will".
But they are only khandhas, conditioned elements which arise and fall away.
There is wrong view with regard to namas such as seeing, hearing or thinking, and also with regard to rupas, such as hardness or visible object. One may take a nama such as seeing for self, and one may also take visible object for a person or a thing which exists. When we take things for self we do not see them as elements which can, one at a time, be experienced through the appropriate doorway.
Visible object is only a kind of rupa which can be experienced through the eyesense, it is not a person or a thing, it falls away again. Sound is only a kind of rupa which can be experienced through the earsense, it is not a person or a thing. Each citta which arises experiences one object at a time through the appropriate doorway and then falls away, it is quite different from the preceding citta. Seeing only sees, it does not hear, it does not think. We read in the Book of Analysis (Chapter 16, Analysis of Knowledge, 763):
"Do not experience each other’s object" means: Ear-consciousness does not experience the object of eye-consciousness; eye-consciousness does not experience the object of ear-consciousness either. Nose-consciousness does not experience the object of eye-consciousness: eye-consciousness does not experience the object of nose-consciousness either. tongue-consciousness does not experience the object of eye-consciousness: eye-consciousness does not experience the object of tongue-consciousness either. Body-consciousness does not experience the object of eye-consciousness; eye-consciousness does not experience the object of body-consciousness either...
One tends to cling to an idea of self who coordinates all the different experiences. Someone may think that he can look at someone else and listen to his words at the same time. The lists and classifications which we find in the Abhidhamma are not meant to be used only for theoretical understanding, they are meant to be used for the practice. They are reminders to be aware of the reality which appears now so that wrong view can be eradicated. When hearing appears there can be awareness of its characteristic so that right understanding can know it as it is: as only a type of nama, not a self, who hears. We may have doubts about the difference between the characteristic of hearing and of the paying of attention to the meaning of the sound. We are inclined to confuse all the six doorways.
But hearing does not experience the object of thinking. Intellectual understanding of realities can condition the arising of mindfulness but we are usually infatuated with pleasant objects and we reject unpleasant objects, we forget to be mindful. For example, when we feel hot, we have aversion and then we ate forgetful of realities such as heat, feeling or aversion.
So long as wrong view has not been eradicated it can still arise when there ate conditions for its arising. Only through mindfulness will we be able to know when it arises. When we think of concepts such as people and things there is not necessarily wrong view. We can think of a person with kusala citta, for example, when we have compassion for him. Or we can think of a person with lobha-mula-citta without wrong view or with dosa-mula-citta.
Wrong view has to be eradicated first before other defilements can be eradicated. As we have seen, the non-ariyan, who has not eradicated wrong view, still has conditions to neglect the five precepts; he still has conditions for killing, stealing, sexual misbehaviour, lying and the taking of intoxicants, including alcoholic drinks. When we understand that the clinging to the concept of self causes us many problems in life, that it leads to what is unprofitable, we may see the benefit of the development of right understanding.
If we really see the danger of wrong view, it can condition the arising of mindfulness and thus right understanding can develop. Right understanding can only develop if there is mindfulness now, not if we merely think of ways how to have more mindfulness later on.
- What is an example of wrong practice which people may follow today?
- Why is the proximate cause of wrong view "not to see ariyans"?
- What is the difference between annihilationism, the view that a self will be annihilated after death, and the seeing of the impermanence of conditioned phenomena?
- In which way can one think of past lives with wrong view?
- Personality view can be eradicated through mindfulness of nama and rupa. Why is that so?
- Why does one not cling to speculative theories anymore when personality belief has been eradicated?
- When there is no awareness is there wrong view all the time?
- What is the difference between ignorance and wrong view?
- Why are the three kinds of wrong view which are akusala kamma patha particularly dangerous?
- Why is it wrong to believe that we can see and hear at the same time?
- Does the fact that wrong view has not been eradicated have any influence on our morality (sila)?
Footnotes and references:
In Pali: ayoniso abhinivesa, unwise inclination, unwise adhering.
In Pali: paramasa, derived from paramasati, to touch, to hold on to, to be attached or fall a victim to.
This is "clinging to rules and ritual", silabbatupadana. See Dialogues of the Buddha III, no. 24, Mystic Wonders, I, 7.
Ayoniso manasikara, unwise attention.
See Abhidhamma in Daily Life, Chapter 4.
Middle Length Sayings II, no. 60, On the Sure, 401.
Ibidem, 407, and see also Dialogues of the Buddha I, no. 2, "The Fruits of the Life of a Recluse", 54.
Middle Length Sayings II, no. 60, 404.
See also Kindred Sayings II, Khandha-vagga, Kindred Sayings on Views, I, 5-7, and Dialogues of the Buddha I, no. 2, 52.56, and Atthasalini I, Part III, Chapter V, 101.
"The All-Embracing Net of Views" 1, The Dialogues of the Buddha I, no, 1