by Wayne Ren-Cheng
How we view ourselves, the world we live in, and our place in it drives how we think and act. It is why appropriate view is one of the Eightfold Path, the Way out of suffering, discontentment and anguish. The question arises how does one actually practice appropriate view.
In the Anuggahita Sutta the Awakened One offered dharma to answer that very question. The first thing one should notice in the this short, but definitive teaching is that no mention is ever made of past views. It focuses on what view one holds in the moment they read and recognize the value of the teachings and what is done in each of the next moments. It is what will happen WHEN the teaching is applied co-dependent on the five factors offered in the sutta.
Anuggahita Sutta: What Supports Your View
When our view is supported by five encompassing factors then awareness arises in the bodymind; it has awareness as the award for appropriate actions. What are the five encompassing factors?
It is the instances when view is supported by virtue, by life-long learning, by social consensus, by serenity, by insight into self and community.
With the support of these five factors are present in the arising of view in the bodymind, encompassing awareness is the reward.
NOTE: Know that I’ve taken the liberty to put this sutra into contemporary language and have used the buzz-words of the Pragmatic Buddhist tradition. Venerable David and myself have often discussed if any of sutras re-worded (or creatively re-described) in such a way could offer the same intent as the those translated directly from the Pali, and holding to the symbology and textual references of that time 2600 years ago. Using the sutra as translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu – “Anuggahita Sutta: Supported”, translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an05/an05.025.than.html – I’ve attempted to do just that, present the sutra in a contemporary way and be true to the intent of the Buddha.
It is extremely difficult to hold to inappropriate views in the face of a virtuous character. Racism cannot be justified when compassion is present. Greed cannot be justified when generosity of spirit is present. Hatred cannot be justified when loving-kindness is present. Envy cannot be justified when acceptance is present. Anger cannot be justified when serenity is present. No negative view can be justified in the bodymind of a character that arises through positive transformation.
There is a state-of-being that clouds ones’ view of all phenomena . . . ignorance. Ignorance is the absence of knowledge. Stupid ignorance is the absence of knowledge coupled with the absence of any desire to erase that ignorance. There are individuals who chose (and this is important to realized that it is a choice) to stop learning at some point in their lives. They graduate high school or even university and choose to believe that the world and their place in it will always remain the same from that point. With that perception held fast then there is no need for further learning. This is not only a delusion; it is a dangerous delusion. We each change in each moment of life so learning about ourselves must be a life-long pursuit. The world around us changes in each moment so gathering knowledge about the world must be a life-long pursuit.
One person alone does not an appropriate view make. One person cannot know everything, cannot experience everything, and cannot decide everything. There is a saying that ‘it takes a village’ and this is dharma. This planet named Earth is huge but with the speed and availability of communication across it’s broad reaches it has become a ‘village’. Someone is Africa can find out what is happening in the Arctic Circle. Someone in America can find out what is happening in China. And it can happen quicker than Master Eihei Dogen’s 1/75th of a second, a moment. This amazing resource allows the opportunity to bring different minds and voices together, together to arrive at more appropriate views that encompass the entirety of our world, rather than just that small bit that we each stand on. Agreements and knowledge reached through social consensus are more likely to be honored, and to be experienced as truth.
Emotions and dispositions, positive and negative clouds ones’ view of all phenomena. Whether it is anger, joy, fear, hatred, laziness, love, anxiety, or any of the other multitude that can arise in a bodymind only serenity (calm) is the path to appropriate view. Anything else is a negative causal factor in how we see any phenomena. Serenity allows the bodymind to process phenomena as they really are without the interference of deluded perceptions.
The first four factors, virtue, life-long learning, social consensus and serenity lead one to having deep, encompassing insight about themselves and their world community. Insight is grounded in honesty both directed toward the self, and toward society. Insight strips away delusion and reveals the dharma, the truth of any experience or situation. Insight has its foundation in mindfulness, in honestly knowing how we are, and how the world around us really is.
The goal of engaging the five factors as supports for an appropriate view results in an encompassing and corrective awareness. And what is awareness after all but a Way of viewing the world around us. With this type of view we come to realize the dharma of the Four Ennobling Truths. That suffering is a fact of all human existence, that craving and attachment are causes of suffering, that there is a way out of suffering, and that that Way is Eightfold will become crystal clear. The reward is awareness, the realization of a view without delusion and personal perception.