QUESTION: I think you described right view as knowing the destination or fruit to have a successful practice (outcome). How can this be if know one has been able to describe para-nibbana? And could you explain right view more? Thank you.
ANSWER: Dear Tom,
Thank you for the opportunity to answer your question.
I am not sure where I said that. But I'm sure if you could provide me the context, I could explain what I meant by that. Please allow me to explain Right View again:
"How can I know whether my perception is a right view or a wrong view?"
The Buddha provided up with a special tool – the truth. There are three types of truths:
1. Individual Truths –Truths that are held by individuals. These are truths such as – I am always right. I am the victim. I own this or that. Or any statement that begins with “I believe…”
2. Democratic Truths – Truths that are held by the majority. These truths include – certain drugs/substances are allowed, certain are banned. Laws. Courts can decide our fates. Taxes are fair. As long as the majority agrees, it is considered a truth. However, not all democratic truths are held by all. In fact, the term majority implies the existence of a minority. If the majority it right, then by definition, the minority must be wrong.
3. Universal Truth – Truths that are held by all living beings. These truths include – all beings love their own lives. No being wants to be deprived of what they have. All things change. All life must eventually die. These truths are known by all living beings.
If our perception is based on an individual or democratic truth, there is a chance that it might be wrong. For example, individuals have believed themselves to be right, even after they have committed a crime. In this case, the individual holds individual truths, but is being punished by democratic truths. In this case, who is right, who is wrong?
To know this, we must be able to discern what is or isn’t a universal truth. The Buddha gave us tools to use for this:
Dukkha is the Pali word for suffering or stress. Dukkha is the result of our wrong perception which has manifested itself in thoughts, speech, and/or actions. In this, Dukkha is like a sensor. Once it goes off, we are alerted that we are holding a wrong perception. Dukkha is like the pain we feel in our bodies. The pain receptors we have are there to alert us that something is wrong and steps should be taken to alleviate the pain.
Annicam is the tool to alleviate the pain. Annicam is defined as impermanence. Annicam can also be interpreted as change, nothing stays the same, and everything comes in pairs. The Buddha taught that everything in this world is subject to Dukkham, Annicam, and Anatta. Therefore, we are suffering since we do not see the Annicam nature of our perceptions. For example, if we are upset that loved one’s personality has changed, this is because we expected their personality not to change. Our expectation for something to always stay the same is contrary to Annicam. We are refusing to allow something to transpire the way it is meant to. Everyone changes, therefore our expectation that they would not will only be met with suffering, stress and disappointment.
Anatta is the result of understanding Annicam. Anatta is the cessation of being in a supposed form. Once a seed has been planted and it sprouts into a young tree, that seed is considered to be Anatta. Once the young tree becomes an old tree, the young tree is considered to be Anatta. All that is in the world can only exist for a finite period of time. Therefore, our “self” cannot be in these temporary things. Many Buddhists try to practice and contemplate Anatta (in the form of nothingness). Acāriya Thoon taught Anatta should not be contemplated. It will be understood only through the cultivation and understanding Annicam. This is the same as someone who has not eaten but is contemplating the concept of fullness. Through that contemplation they will never arrive at fullness. However, through eating (understanding Annicam) they will arrive at fullness on their own. Just as fullness is the end result of eating, Anatta is the end result of Annicam. In this case, Dukkham would be the hunger that alerts us that we should eat.
Perceptions that lead to Dukkha are not truth. Perceptions that are contrary to Annicam, are not truth. Perceptions are contrary to Anatta, are not truth.
So basically put, if your perception is skewed or permanent, there will suffering resulting from it. You will be attached to your perception and believe it to be YOUR perception. Thus resulting in suffering if someone challenges it.
Examples of WRONG VIEW:
I know something, therefore you MUST know it.
What I think is right or wrong, IS right or wrong.
Assuming why people do what they do.
All things can stay in their current shape/form/state.
I won't die.
I won't grow old.
I won't get sick.
Examples of RIGHT VIEW:
I know something, therefore you MIGHT or MIGHT NOT know it also. (I can't be sure)
What I think is right or wrong, IS what I THINK is right or wrong, others MIGHT OR MIGHT NOT agree with what I think is right or wrong. (I can't be sure)
I will not try to assume what others think (No way to know for sure, all we can do is guess which leads to guessing right - leads to ego and setting precedence for future outcomes, or guessing wrong - which leads to anger and suffering)
All things must change.
I will die. So will all things.
I will grow old. So will all things.
I will get sick. So will all things.
As you can see, things that are considered RIGHT VIEW are unable to be argued with. It is universally true. Things that are WRONG VIEW are things that only we or some people think sometimes. If we hold WRONG VIEWS, then we WILL suffering from them. If we hold RIGHT VIEWS, then our suffering will not come from that view.
I hope I have answered your question adequately.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Who experiences anatta if there is no self? Thanks
Thank you for the follow up question.
"Who experiences anatta if there is no self?"
The idea no self does not mean that nothing exists as many people interpret it to me. What it means is rather that there is no supposed form that last for long enough for it to adequately reflect a permanent self. That is, since each form is always moving, never staying the same, changing, growing, deteriorating and ultimately facing death/destruction, there is no form that stays, no ideal that stays. Therefore, we cannot create a permanent self from these phenomena that are subject to constant change.
Let me explain with an example:
Before you were born, you were in your mom's tummy. That was Embryo Tom. As the Embryo grew, it became Fetus Tom. Embryo Tom immediately ceased to exist as soon as Embryo Tom exists. The two could not exist simultaneously. Therefore, Embryo Tom ceased so that Fetus Tom could exist. Then Fetus Tom ceased to exist and gave way to Newborn Tom. Newborn Tom would eventually cease and give way to Baby Tom. Baby Tom ceased and became Toddler Tom. Toddler Tom ceased and became.... and so on.
Each version of Tom did exist, but only for a fleeting moment, before it ceased and then became something else. Therefore, we say that Embryo Tom, Fetus Tom, Newborn Tom, and all the other Toms are NOT TOM. If they were, they would still be here for us to see and call them by their name (self). But since they do not exist and will never exist in that form again, we say that all those Tom's are Anatta (not self). We are not saying that they never existed, just that they did not exist more than momentarily while in a process of change. Even the entirety that we call TOM, will eventually cease to exist. That which we want to call TOM will disappear and cease to exist. It only existed fleetingly.
Therefore, there is no form, no concept that can be described as ME or MINE. The concept of ME or MINE is reliant on something to exist. But since nothing exists in any one form, other than the form of change, then there is nothing that was can call ME or MINE.
We experience Anatta, just as we experience Atta.
Our perceptions lead us to experience a sense of self. While you are married, you call yourself married Tom. Then if you get a divorce, that Tom is now Single Tom. These Tom's are all due to perceptions, conventions and volitional formations. They only exist because we imagined them into existence and will them to stay as long as we can. This is what the Buddha meant by attachment.
Those same perceptions will lead you to experience a sense of not self. Once you see that Married Tom existed, but only for a moment, and that Single Tom exists, but only for a moment, you will realize that there is no need to hold on to the sadness from Married Tom's life, just as there is no need to hold on to the suffering of Single Tom's life. All of which will be extinguished as soon as that convention is extinguished.
I'm sorry if my explanation is not clear. Anatta is a very difficult concept to explain in text. Please ask if this explanation was not sufficient and I will try a different approach.