The first two factors of the path focus on wisdom.
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
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.
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 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.