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Micchaditthis - Wrong Views

by Sangharakshita

Study with the Sukhavati community

9 July 1982
MICCHA DITTHIS
S: I thought that this evening we might talk about miccha ditthis. One of the reasons being
that miccha ditthis are very subtle and very elusive. So much so that I experience considerable
difficulty in thinking up even a short list of miccha ditthis. It's as though if you don't keep the
miccha ditthi firmly in view it sort of disappears or sort of sneaks up behind you and sort of
infiltrates your thinking. So I have managed to sort of catch a few miccha ditthis by the tail,
so to speak. I'm going to talk about some of them. It may be that more miccha ditthis emerge
or people can think of more as the discussion proceeds. I think Sagaramati probably has got
quite a few. (laughter) When I said that, not that you personally entertained them (laughter)
but that they were miccha ditthis which you had detected from time to time in the course of
your study groups and which you had detected, exposed from time to time in the course of
your study groups and then included in your collection of defunct miccha ditthis for future
reference. Subhuti did collect quite a few in Tuscany. You know as a result of our various
discussions; but when I called upon to produce them, he had to admit that they were lost
somewhere among his files and he wasn't able actually to find them. But he did mention one
or two he'd remembered, but they were also on my list, my short list, which didn't help us
very much. But any way, I have noticed that when one starts talking about miccha ditthis one
thing leads to another, one miccha ditthi leads to another and miccha ditthis just start
emerging. You realize that you've seen these miccha ditthis in yourself or in other people or
both. And you realize that there are more and more miccha ditthis actually in existence some
of them very subtle but quite dangerous nonetheless.
But really, before we start perhaps I'd better say a few words in explanation of the term itself:
miccha ditthi. Miccha means false or wrong or untrue. And ditthi means a view, in the sense
of opinion as formulated, even systematically formulated, logically formulated. Miccha ditthi
can mean not just a false view, not just a wrong view, but even a wrong attitude which is
subsequently rationalized into a sort of pseudo-logical point of view. Miccha ditthi can mean
even a sort of false philosophy, a whole sort of systematic way of looking at the universe,
which you've elaborated as the result of your basically quite wrong attitude towards life itself.
For instance, in Buddhism traditionally eternalism is regarded as a miccha ditthi. Nihilism is
regarded as a miccha ditthi. That there is a permanent unchanging soul is regarded as a
miccha ditthi. That existence is either entirely painful or else entirely pleasurable, these are
miccha ditthis. That there is no transcendental realm, no transcendental experience, this is a
miccha ditthi. That there are no individual beings who have realized these higher super
normal state that is a miccha ditthi. These are the classic miccha ditthis. But these sort of
miccha ditthis are not the ones that more likely to afflict people nowadays.
Modern miccha ditthis tend to be quite subtle and people are often caught up in them without
being very well aware of what they are caught up in or that what they are caught up in is in
fact a miccha ditthi. Some miccha ditthis are not very clear cut. Others are more clear cut. So
you see the sort of thing I'm getting at or the sort of thing I mean when we talk about miccha
ditthis. And you [2] may remember that the tenth of the ten precepts of the Upasaka, the tenth
of the ten kusala dharmas is miccha dasana veramani. Miccha dasana and miccha ditthi are
the same thing. Dasana or darshana is view, especially as systematically formulated. Often
translated as opinion. So the fact that abstention from miccha ditthis is included in these
precepts suggests, well first of all, abstention from miccha ditthi is very important, and also
that the precepts themselves are not just ethical in a straight forward sense. They also relate to
quite deep-seated, even deep-rooted underlying attitudes. So these last three precepts are
abstention from craving, addiction , abstention from antagonism, hatred, malevolence and
from miccha ditthis, false views or wrong views, wrong outlooks, or mistaken out-looks, false
philosophies of every kind. So it's just some of these that I want to look at this evening. At
least some of these on this short list.
Maybe I'll start with one or two easy ones ? which aren't very difficult to recognize as miccha
ditthis. So even though they are quite prominent, quite prevalent, one may encounter them in
connection with [going] along to classes or to the centre generally. So one that I've got down
on my list is that what people who come along to centres and to classes will very often be
thinking that tolerance is a very good thing. And that Buddhism is a very tolerant religion, a
very tolerant faith. And they may even be very much attracted by this idea, that Buddhism is
tolerant. Especially if they've had a not very pleasant experience of Christianity. We are aware
that Christianity, historically speaking, is not a very tolerant faith. So tolerance may acquire a
considerable importance in their eyes. I remember some years ago when I was at the
Hampstead Buddhist Vihara, I asked one particular person who came along what had brought
her, what had attracted her, what she found so attractive in Buddhism. So she at once said
"Oh Buddhism is so tolerant" As though it meant that it was something quite out of this world
for her that Buddhism should be so tolerant I don't remember what her experience of
Christianity had been, but the tolerance of Buddhism really struck her very, very forcibly. I
think that is the impression and quite rightly the impression of quite a number of people. But
then what happens is this: they might be quite deeply imbued with this idea, that Buddhism is
a tolerant religion, but then they might hear, say an Order Member in the course of a talk
criticize a particular point of view. Or they might even hear a tape of mine and hear me
criticize a particular point of view. And they might feel quite, in a way, disappointed of
disillusioned. And they might say "Well, Buddhism is a very tolerant religion. How come that
you criticize other people or other points of view, or other philosophies? Buddhists shouldn't
do that, Buddhism is tolerant. So where's the miccha ditthi? Or is there a miccha ditthi ? What
has happened here?
VAIROCANA: It's as though it is a confusion between tolerance and compromise in a way.
Comprising a view some people see that the actual compromise, that is being tolerant.
KULANANDA: It is a suggestion that criticism is intolerant.
S: Yes. It's the suggestion that criticism itself is a form of intolerance, which also suggests
that they've got perhaps a strange idea about tolerance itself. So what do you think might be
their idea about tolerance?
RATNAKETU: You just let everybody be or do what they like without making judgement on
them.
[3]
S: Yes that's true. Sometimes it even goes further than that. It is put, as it were, more
affirmatively than that. Especially with regard to all the other different religions and
philosophies.
VOICES: They're all the same.
S: Yes, they're all the same paths to the same thing.
KULANANDA: Unconsciously based on some idea of a cosmic plan. Sort of everything is
progressing and everything will eventually turn out all right.
S: Yes, but there is more to it than that. It is based upon the idea also that criticism is
essentially negative and maybe people, in some cases, have encountered only criticism which
is negative. So they assume and here also I think maybe a special miccha ditthi comes in, that
if you criticize, it cannot but be in a negative state of mind. So they've no conception of
criticism as something positive and constructive.
RATNAKETU: And there's the confusion between negative and positive as to what they are.
Positive means being nice and friendly and negative means anything that isn't positive.
S: Yes, right. I was talking a bit about this in a study group the other day. And I gave an
instance, I said that I hear sometimes from people about their conversation with other people
And they might say something like this; "I had a talk with so and so, I said what I thought, but
I got a very negative response from him". By which they mean that he disagreed with them.
So you see what I mean? So negative can be used in a quite an ambiguous way. Negative
means, in the first place just negation, denial, which can be quite positive But you can also be
negative, in the sense of the emotionally-negative, meaning being imbued with unskilful
emotions, especially those connected with anger and hatred. See what I mean? So the fact that
someone disagrees with you, negates what you are saying, logically, does not mean that he or
she is in an emotionally-negative state of mind. But only too often one slips from the one
usage to the other, and you say, if someone just disagrees with you, he may disagree quite
happily and in a friendly way, well then you say: "I got a very negative response from him."
Do you see what I mean? I mean one may see disagreement even, not just criticism as
inherently, emotionally negative, and therefore obviously ...

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