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The first in the eightfold path talks about having a right view of things. Or as wikipedia puts it,

The purpose of right view is to clear one's path of the majority of confusion, misunderstanding, and deluded thinking. It is a means to gain right understanding of reality. Right view should be held with a flexible, open mind, without clinging to that view as a dogmatic position. In this way, right view becomes a route to liberation rather than an obstacle.

Isn't the purest way to interpret reality the way of science ? Can I interpret the first of the eightfold path as scientific fervor ?

I don't think things like rebirth would gel well with a scientific view point. Also since there is no scientific evidence to rebirth, would believing in it make my belief dogmatic or narrow minded maybe ?

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Sounds like Wikipedia is suffering from some Buddhist fervour of its own... ;)

Can I interpret the first of the eightfold path as scientific fervor ?

Right view has nothing to do with fervour; it refers to one's outlook or point of "view". The word "diṭṭhi" literally means "way of seeing". As the commentary explains it:

sammādassanalakkhaṇā sammādiṭṭhi

The characteristic of seeing properly is right view.

(DN-a 6.5)

In Theravada Buddhism, right view is of five kinds:


1. Right View Regarding Karma (kammassakatāsammādiṭṭhi)

“And what is accomplishment in view? Here, someone holds right view and has a correct perspective thus: ‘There is what is given, sacrificed, and offered; there is fruit and result of good and bad actions; there is this world and the other world; there is mother and father; there are beings spontaneously reborn; there are in the world ascetics and brahmins of right conduct and right practice who, having realized this world and the other world for themselves by direct knowledge, make them known to others.’ This is called accomplishment in view."

AN 3.117 (Bodhi, trans)

The Buddha calls this type of right view "affected by the taints, partaking of merit, ripening in the acquisitions" (MN 117)


2. Right View Regarding Insight (vipassanāsammādiṭṭhi)

And how does right view come first? One understands wrong view as wrong view and right view as right view: this is one’s right view.

MN 117 (Bodhi, trans)

The commentary explains that this is the understanding one gains along the path of the three characteristics (impermanence, suffering, non-self).


3. Right View of the Path (maggasammādiṭṭhi)

“And what, bhikkhus, is right view that is noble, taintless, supramundane, a factor of the path? The wisdom, the faculty of wisdom, the power of wisdom, the investigation-of-states enlightenment factor, the path factor of right view in one whose mind is noble, whose mind is taintless, who possesses the noble path and is developing the noble path: this is right view that is noble, taintless, supramundane, a factor of the path.

MN 117 (Bodhi, trans)


4. Right View of Fruition (phalasammādiṭṭhi)

The right view of fruition is the same as the right view of the path.


5. Right View of Reflection (paccavekkhaṇāsammādiṭṭhi)

“When I knew and saw thus, my mind was liberated from the taint of sensual desire, from the taint of being, and from the taint of ignorance. When it was liberated, there came the knowledge: ‘It is liberated.’ I directly knew: ‘Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming to any state of being.’

MN 4 (Bodhi, trans)

This refers to the knowledge that comes after attainment of enlightenment upon reflection of the path and fruition.


Further, Ven. Sariputta equates right view with knowledge of the four noble truths:

“And what, friends, is right view? Knowledge of suffering, knowledge of the origin of suffering, knowledge of the cessation of suffering, and knowledge of the way leading to the cessation of suffering—this is called right view."

MN 141 (Bodhi, trans)


Since there is no scientific evidence to rebirth, would believing in it make my belief dogmatic or narrow minded maybe?

However you come to the understanding that rebirth is a fact of life, that understanding is considered right view, insofar as it is in line with the truth. If you believe that at death the mind ceases, or that at death the same mind that existed before death continues on, both of these are wrong view.

As according to the quotes above, right view can be "affected by taints" if it is simply belief that happens to accord with reality, or it can be "noble, taintless, supramundane, a factor of the path" if it is acquired through observation and understanding.

Rebirth really isn't a big mystery; it is simply the fact of existence that is perfectly open to reasonable scientific investigation that everything in the universe arises and ceases, and that certain arisen phenomena spawn further arisen phenomena in an unbroken causal chain. That this ceases at death is wrong view (ucchedaditthi); that this constitutes a lasting, continuous entity is also wrong view (sassataditthi).

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The way that I have been taught is that right view forms an entire limb of it's path by itself and the other seven steps form another. Right view provides a glimpse of enlightenment or maybe it's even a glimpse of a glimpse. This then provides the motivation and inspiration to go through the other seven steps. They reinforce each other so that the glimpses of enlightenment become stronger or more frequent as you engage with the other steps of the eight fold path.

So it has very little to do with scientific fervor. It is a glimpse of things just as they are. While science deals in truths I wouldn't say it proceeds like this. Also scientific truths are provisional even though they might not seem it. They hold so long as they are not falsified - think Newton vs Einstein (then vs string theory maybe???). The truth from right view isn't provisional (I don't know what it is in fairness).

A note - I don't think this eightfold path interpretation is standard. It is as taught by Triratna Buddhists but I don't think it's wildly heretical. It's just a slightly different viewpoint.

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    Good point about scientific "truth" being provisional – Andrei Volkov Aug 26 '14 at 23:13
  • Yup that convinced me too @AndreiVolkov. But the answer I accepted quoted a lot !! No hard feelings mate :) – Aditya Aug 28 '14 at 19:14
  • @Aditya, I don't think the accepted answer understood your question's point of view. – Andrei Volkov Aug 28 '14 at 20:44
  • @AndreiVolkov Bro .. Do you mind waiting till the end of this week. Its festival season and stuff.. I am kinda busy these days. I will re-read all the answers and get the view points straight. Also English is not my first language, so I might have misread something.. – Aditya Aug 29 '14 at 16:04
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What's known as "Right View with tincture" (aka expedient Right View) is not similar to Scientific Fervor at all. What's known as "Right View without tincture" (or the resulting Right View) could be similar to Scientific Fervor in some ways and at odds with it in other ways.

Summarizing/extrapolating e.g. MN 117, we can get the following components of the Right View with tincture:

  • There is good (health, peace) and bad (sickness, trouble, suffering) (=no nihilism)
  • We have a choice how to act. By acting one way or another we can change our life. (=no fatalism).
  • The responsibility for our life is ours. (=no victim consciousness)
  • The goal of Buddhism is real and achievable. (= Enlightenment is not a fiction)

As for "Right View without tincture", it is defined as "Faculty of discernment and analysis of qualities". This is similar to Scientific Fervor in the sense of being objective, non-dogmatic, and rational. This is dissimilar to Scientific Fervor, because of Buddhism's radical orientation at practical results, with no affinity to any single conceptual model of the world.

This last point is a reference to (Mahayana) Buddhism's use of "expedient means" (upaya) -- which is something that has no analogies in the scientific method. To take your example, if thinking in terms of rebirth can help someone make steps towards Enlightenment, rebirth becomes a perfectly legitimate set of training wheels, utilized until the practitioner outgrows it, to adopt a more nuanced understanding of karma, eventually outgrowing karma to adopt the vision of Emptiness etc.

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My understanding of Right View is to see all phenomena according to the 3 laws of existence. All conditioned things are 1) impermanent 2) unsatisfactory and 3) without any permanent essence (not-self). And all the 3 laws are scientifically backed.

The only reality is the present.

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