The Buddha said that clinging is stress. Also, that there are four kinds of clinging: "Monks, there are these four clingings. Which four? Sensuality clinging, view clinging, habit-&-practice clinging, and doctrine-of-self clinging." But basically, they are all view clinging.

A useful view in one context can be a harmful one in another. How can one "know" the difference? How can one "know" that one is not just clinging to a preference? What's the difference between having a view and clinging to a view?

P.S. Some very interesting answers, but no references yet. I was hoping for some insight from the Buddha, or possibly a contemporary Dhamma master.

  • can you add your definition of clinging to the question? subtle variety can create confusion...
    – blue_ego
    Dec 26, 2022 at 20:11
  • @blue_ego Clinging is a metaphor for the mental activity which it refers to. It can't be more defined than that. "The five clinging aggregates." Isn't it pretty straightforward? I mean, words only go so far, but they go somewhere, they have attha. Maybe I misunderstand your comment. Dec 26, 2022 at 21:12
  • i'm just not sure why you consider the 4 types all as view (understanding) clinging...
    – blue_ego
    Dec 26, 2022 at 21:53
  • also clinging can sometimes mean sustenance
    – blue_ego
    Dec 26, 2022 at 22:13
  • @blue_ego I thought that I should say something about clinging and view clinging before I asked my question(s), that's what the opening paragraph was for. Maybe I should have left out the part that threw you off. Dec 26, 2022 at 22:25

4 Answers 4


"Just because a thought comes into your head doesn’t mean that you should continue to think it. Look at it: One, is it true? Two, is it beneficial? Does it really help to think about this? And three, is right now the right time and place to do that, whether it’s pleasing or unpleasing?

This helps explain the seeming contradiction you see in a lot of the Buddha’s teachings: on the one hand, talking about right views, and then on the other hand talking about not clinging to views. Not clinging means looking at your views in precisely this way: Are they true? Are they beneficial? Is right now the right time and place to think those things?

Clinging means you hold on to a particular view no matter what. It may seem true — and in fact, a lot of the forest ajaans always say that true views are the really dangerous ones. When you’re right, you can get yourself in a real mess. There’s pride that comes with having the right idea, and then you start using it in the wrong ways at the wrong time. That’s what they mean when they talk about clinging to views.

Not clinging to views doesn’t mean that you’re wishy-washy or that you don’t care about what’s true or false. You’re very clear about what’s true or false. You try to be very clear about what’s beneficial or not. But also have a sense of when’s the right time to think about certain things."

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu "Right Inner Speech" https://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/Transcripts/040101RightInnerSpeech.pdf


Every time you have a view thinking "this is the only truth and nothing else" - you are clinging to it.

If you have a view thinking "this is just a working theory, and here's where it simplifies, generalizes, and ignores inconvenient facts, and/or lacks complete information" - in other words if you clearly understand the view's limits - that's when you are not clinging to it.

When you have a discussion with someone and you are trying to prove your point - that's when you are clinging. The Buddha called this swordfighting, not dialog.

If you are sincerely trying to understand the other person's perspective and enrich your understanding with elements of their view, regardless of whether it proves your rightness or shows that you are wrong - that's when you are not clinging. When both do it, it becomes an actual dialog.

When someone's view oversimplifies, overgeneralizes, ignores inconvenient facts, or is just badly informed and you outright dismiss it as obviously wrong - that's when you are clinging.

If you clearly understand: "here are the objective factual reasons why from this person's perspective emerges such a view, and here are the reasons why they keep clinging to it" - that's when you are not clinging.

When you conflate model with reality - that's when you are clinging. If you remember that model is but a description of reality, one of the many possible narratives conceptualizing the infinitely complex - that's when you are not clinging.

  • 1
    Plenty to think about there, thanks Andriy. Dec 28, 2022 at 0:49

We know we're clinging to a view — or clinging to anything for that matter — when trying to separate ourselves from that view produces a rising anxiety, outrage, or other reactive emotion. Let's say I have a view about the shape of the earth: that it's spherical, or flat, or donut-like, or shaped like a mollusk... Now someone comes and tells me my view is wrong, and that the earth has a quite different shape. Do I experience fear or anger at being challenged? Do I get mouthy or argumentative? Do I stomp off and ruminate it about it obsessively? If so, I have an attachment: I'm clinging to the view.

This doesn't conflict with the idea that there is 'right view'. I do hold that the earth is spherical, for instance, since that seems to be scientifically sound. But if I run across someone who holds a different view I don't feel any urge to 'fix' their view beyond simple curiosity and discussion. They'll come around in their own time, or if they have a good argument they might ultimately convince me otherwise. Scientific consensuses can and do change.

My own personal view is that one should approach things in the world like a theater production, with an appropriate suspension of disbelief. Know that what you're experiencing isn't exactly 'real' but accept it exactly as it presents itself, otherwise you'll get nothing out of it. Most other people are lost in the performance, clinging to the views scripted for them by the world. But that's not something we need to fight against; it's an aesthetic, with its own intrinsic artistry and logic: tragic, dramatic, comic, etc. We can't pull the character out of the play, because the character only exists in the play. We have to reach past the character to find the actor.

  • Thanks Ted. Maybe I'm a bit of a performer also, reading from a script of old karma. Dec 28, 2022 at 0:48
  • Liked “suspension of disbelief”...
    – blue_ego
    Jan 4 at 0:54

Suppose there were a farmer who lived in a farmer's house with a beautiful and smart wife. One morning he woke and went to stand by the bedroom window, which overlooked his back garden. Beyond his back garden a vast vale stretched as far as the eye can see, complete with meadows, rabbits and rolling hills. The thought occured to him, 'I'd like to blend my garden into the vale. In that way, I might enjoy the vastness and peace emanating from the vale'. He stared at the vale longingly; he imagined how this might look; he took to living in the idea in his mind, and in doing so became lost in a make-believe sensual psudo-reality.

When his wife woke, she noticed him in a trance-like state by the window, and asked what he was doing. He explained, to which she simply replied 'knock the fence down then, my dear'. In that moment his psudo-reality burst. After much sawing and hammering, in no long time, he got to enjoy the fruits of having no border between himself and the vale.

This is what it is like holding onto to views; you cannot see the bigger picture, you cannot see the obstacles and thus any plausible solution to moving forwards. One is stuck in their own psudo-reality churning around in the same mundane milk. After much churning, the milk turns to butter. In the same way, the thoughts that orbit those views coagulate until it becomes a calcified belief. In its state of solidity, it is carried around as if they are truths and entertained with such regularity that one no longer questions it. Whilst wading through this glutinous mess, you spread those views like butter upon your fellow neighbours. They have their own butter, which doesn't mix well with your butter, and conflict ensues. Unfortunately, nobody has any jam to sweeten the dialogue, so the transaction is reduced to neanderthal-like blows: blocks of butter bounce of heads and cause black eyes, ear ache and messy hair styles.

What do you know... holding to views is indeed stressful. The farmer's sensuality view paralysed him such that he couldn't see clearly. He was clinging to his own internal ideas. His wife brought him back to the conventional 'factual' world, the world of the sense organs. She was the smart one of the two, but then she was a lover of jam...

...sweet is this liberation.

  • 1
    Thanks Max, great story! Dec 28, 2022 at 0:50

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