Pali translation: Ditti (view) Sama Ditti (complete view), Mittcha Ditti (wrong view)
Zen teacher Ven. Anzan Hoshin Roshi pointed out how while Whole View is often said to be at the end of the 8 Fold Path, it actually comes first! He spoke in a discourse on the nature of Whole View, and why it is so fundamental to practicing the 8 Fold Path:
“In order to even consider practice, there must be some clarity present, some looking into one’s situation, some questioning of one’s assumptions. Questioning one’s assumptions means to loosen the density with which we have tried to cover over our world. It means to begin to bring our life into question. Bringing our life into question, questioning into our lives , what do we see when we allow for a Complete View?
“The first thing that we see is that it is very difficult for us to take a Complete View because we are always, again and again, taking on a point of view and as I often say, if we confuse the point of view with what is seen, then we haven’t really seen it. Beyond that, each and every point of view is like one degree of a circle, so each point of view is 359 degrees blind so it is very difficult for us to take a Complete View.”
Cecile Kewait also spoke in a discourse on the challenges of developing whole view. Like Ven. Roshi she pointed out that there are many possible views on any given situation. The point of view that someone has is dependent on circumstances. We all come from different circumstances and so our associations will be different. Our eyes might see something, but our brain will piece together the information from our eyes depending on what our mood is. We see something out there, but are we actually seeing it out there? The “I” is a mind state dependent on circumstances. We might even know this, but we ignore it. Cecile is also quoted saying:
“Have you ever looked at something and hated and then looked at the same thing and loved it? Two totally different mind states.
Namgyal Rinpoche in “Body Speech and Mind” described the volatile nature of the mind:
“For most of you, life is divided into preferences which swing you back and forth continuously. […] Before you have discovered the basis of your understandings and your conditioning, the way you view things is influenced by neurosis. You see through a screen, through a patterning of how you think you should see.”
The unconscious mind that perceives the world simply based on previous patterns, conditioning, and preferences, is incomplete view. Cecile says with whole view, however:
“You can realize that that’s “a” perception. So right view, or right understanding depends on the ability to be that open. [It] depends on a degree of openness about what we like to be right about, or wrong about, or indifferent about. […] When you can perceive the perceiver it means you’re open.”
This is tricky to conceive if you have never done it before. The trick is to not fall into just creating another fractured point of view in the name of dharma. Ven. Roshi said beautifully:
“The Dharma does not have a point of view. The Dharma is simply this viewing, simply the direct presentation of Things as They Are.”
He describes that through our practice and coming back to the moment we can realize glimpses of…
“[…] the possibility of being here and that when we are here we don’t know where we are because our sense of reference cannot encompass the vastness of this moment. We begin to recognize our panic and our tendency to try to reinstate these references and we do so; yet at the same time we also have glimpsed a basic dignity in just taking a step, just hearing a bird’s song, just breathing in and breathing out, just attending to our lives as they are. And so, as we begin to see very clearly the ways in which we limit the completeness or wholeness of our view we also do indeed gain a glimpse of a whole view, a Complete View, of Samaditti.”
It is important to get established in Whole View, and Cecile Kewait describes the four important steps to doing that. She says the first step is cease to do evil. Second is learn to do good. Third is to purify the mind and the fourth and final step is Thusness. She explains them with more detail:
The first two steps (cease to do evil and learn to do good) are like right effort – they’re mental – if you see the possibility for a good thought, go there! For a bad thought, don’t go there! The thing is that when you do something you don’t feel right about you start to try and justify the wrong-doing you did so you don’t have to feel bad about it, and you’re defensive. When you have nothing to justify you can be open and ultimately learn more. When you get off the negative horse, however, it isn’t pushing down the negative, it’s seeing it and riding it rather than letting ourselves be pulled by it. And then in learning to do good, you are choosing how you want to ride the horse. It is taking any emotion and using its energy to do good.
And then the third step, not to be confusing, is to see that there is no bad or good. Let’s let Cecile explain! She says that this third step is known as the Middle Way in Buddhism, or non-duality. It is to see that a person could just as easily and rightfully ask “what about all the bad things in the world?” as “what about all the good things in the world?” The Middle Way is to appreciate both, because you can’t have one without the other, and meet somewhere in between. We are liberating our minds from subject-object so that we can experience relativity. Can you see joyfulness in tears of grief? The truth is that there is no duality because everything is constantly shifting, dependent on conditions, so there is no fixed identity. You yourself would not exist except for the world around you that you are responding to. Cecile said:
“The same person can’t step into the same river twice.”
The fourth step to Whole View by Cecile Kewait’s instructions is when you can perceive the perceiver (Thusness).
“There is suffering, but no one suffering”
Ven. Kensho gave a description of Whole View that is really a description of Thusness:
“‘Complete View’ in Japanese is ‘shoken’. ‘Kensho’ is the realization of this Complete View. Kensho means ‘seeing into one’s own nature’. What is it that sees? What is it that knows? What is this Knowing? When we ask ‘What is it that knows’, we are not looking for any agent or entity, any ‘knower’ when we ask this question. Because when we ask this question thoroughly we see that the moment of ‘knower’ is simply one more object of knowledge, one more feeling, one more stance, one more game, one more texture, one more thought, one more object of mind.”
For me, looking at Thusness, it becomes more clear why the 8 Fold Path is both a progressive path and one that is concurrently developed. It seems likely that continuing on the path while still developing your Whole View will help support insights on Whole View, as would having a Guru who has realized Whole View themselves.