The first two factors of the path focus on wisdom.

Right view

Although I did say the eight factors are not meant to be followed in sequence, right view is placed first because right view is the eye that guides and directs all the other factors.

In the practice of the path, we need the vision and understanding supplied by right views, in order to see the way to travel along the path. Then we need the other factors, conduct or practice, in order to bring us to our destination.

Before we can set foot on the actual practice, we need the understanding provided by right view as our guide, our inner director, to show us where we are starting from, where we are heading, and what are the successive stages to be passed through in practice.

Right view – the truths of suffering

Usually the Buddha defines right view as the understanding of the Four Noble Truths: suffering, the origin, its cessation and the way to its cessation. To follow the path right from the start we need a correct perspective on the human condition. We have to see that our lives are not fully satisfactory, that life is impermanent, that it is subject to suffering, and we have to understand that suffering is something that we have to penetrate by means of knowledge, something that we have to conquer, and not something we should escape from by pain removers, entertainment, distractions or dull forgetfulness.

The Buddha defines right view as the understanding of the Four Noble Truths for a very important reason — he does not want his disciples to practice his teaching merely out of feelings of devotion or out of respect. Rather, he wants them to follow the path on the basis of their own understanding. Their own insight into the nature of human life.

Returning to and deepening right view

As we'll see, the path begins with an elementary level of right understanding. As the mind develops in the course of practice, the understanding gradually deepens, expands and widens, and as it does so we come back again and again to right view.


Right Intention

Sankappa means purpose, intention, resolve, aspiration, or motivation. This factor of right intention follows as the natural consequence of right view. Through right view, we gain an understanding of the real nature of existence, and this understanding changes our motivation, our purposes in life, our intentions and inclinations. As a result, our minds become shaped by right intentions — intentions that accord with right view and follow from right view — rather than wrong intentions.

The Buddha explicates three kinds of right intentions:

These are opposed to the three wrong intentions: the intentions of sensuality, aversion, and harmfulness.

Right intention follows naturally from right view. Whenever we gain right view, insight into the fact of dukkha, then we become motivated to renounce our attachments, our clinging to pleasure, wealth, power and fame.

When we look at other beings through the lens of the Four Noble Truths, we see that others are also caught up in the net of suffering. This perception brings about a deep identification with others, a feeling of oneness with them, which leads to loving kindness and compassion. As these attitudes arise they motivate us to renounce aversion and hatred and all violence and cruelty. In this way right intention follows from right view.

Right intention counteracts greed and aversion, the two unwholesome roots of actions. Thus already at the very beginning of the path the process is set in motion that will eventually cut off all unwholesome roots.

With the three factors of moral discipline—right speech, right action, and right livelihood—we learn to translate right intention into action. 

 
5

The Noble Eightfold Path

2 of 4

Qualities of the Dharma
The Four Noble Truths
The Noble Eightfold Path
The True Nature of Existence
  The Five Aggregates of Clinging
  Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta
  Dependent Arising
  Kamma, Nibbana and Rebirth
  Kamma
  Rebirth
 

Nibbana

Meditation
The Sangha
The Buddhist Sangha