The Eightfold Path: the Fourth Truth

Right View
“Right view provides the perspective for practice.” Bhikku Bodhi
Right view is the starting point for the Buddhist path, which could be defined as ‘the path of radical change and the process of awakening’. Right view is the starting point for how we practice, whether as beginner or as seasoned veteran, as it forms the fundamental basis for why we are motivated to do anything. It flavours and conditions every action that we carry out; literally in any circumstance. Bhikku Bodhi excellently captures the essence of why right view is of such great importance and how it leads us towards, or away, from practice in the following quote:
“(Our views) govern our attitudes, our actions, our whole orientation to existence. Our views might not be clearly formulated in our mind; we might have only a hazy conceptual grasp of our beliefs. But whether formulated or not, expressed or maintained in silence, these views have a far-reaching influence. They structure our perceptions, order our values, crystallize into the ideational framework through which we interpret to ourselves the meaning of our being in the world.”
In Buddhist terms Right View involves developing familiarity with the Four Truths and using them as a basis for reworking our outlook and experience of life. The Four Truths are simple, but don’t necessarily offer the sort of perspective that most modern people would wish to have. Two solutions come to mind in order to make this step more accessible. The first is to place the First Truth of suffering squarely within the context of practice. That way it becomes a task that we work with in the beginning, and not an artificial premise that we try to impose on our lives. The second is to examine what Right View means to us personally by taking the time to explore it and then apply it to the general framework of attitudes, beliefs and ideas that make up our current view of ourselves and the world. This implies evaluating and modifying where necessary as we increase our understanding of both. ‘The meaning of our view of the world is mirrored in our beliefs.’ 
Our current world-view is based on how we view ourselves, life and others at varying levels. It is the mishmash of core beliefs, general beliefs, ideas and attitudes we have towards pretty much everything. It is built upon not just the ideas and beliefs and concepts which we are aware of and with which we shape experience, but also on a whole series of layers of semi-conscious and unconscious beliefs which often hide beneath the more superficial ideas that we fool ourselves and others with. It can take quite a bit of effort to bring those hidden beliefs to light and gain any sort of degree of honesty about them and hidden beliefs means hidden energy and hidden agenda. It is not easy to face up to the constructs of our subjective interpretation of experience. This can result in many followers of Buddhism taking the seemingly easy road of adopting a Buddhist persona or identity as a sort of refuge from the rougher edges of uncertainty that examining our inner world deeply tends to bring up. 
Another cause of this adoption of the Buddhist persona is the initial enthusiasm that can grip newbies. In these cases people swap one set of beliefs for another; the Buddha’s word becomes the new centre of their conceptual reality. The problem is that in doing so they remain at a superficial understanding of the teachings and this ‘understanding’ becomes a sort of possession that is worn and displayed. In short, it’s an act. 
We need to apply intelligence and be critical in evaluating the Four Truths within the context of our own experience and be willing to explore our developing understanding over time and with care. Each of the Eightfold Path strands must be held up to the light of our own knowledge and experience and be related to us as individuals. It’s kind of obvious really, but not everyone seems to get it. 
Right, in the context of the Eightfold Path, means honest, helpful and accurate. Right View is actively developed through thoroughly examining and contemplating the first three truths and exploring our own experience of them. The more personal we make it, the more likely we will connect to their validity and what follows from valid recognition is motivation for working more consistently with the Fourth Truth of the path.
One of the fundamental gifts that emerges through perceiving the Third Truth is we realise that because of the interdependent nature of life and experience, we can actually change what we experience, and, how we experience it. This emerges out of the right view of cause and effect. It is seen in understanding clearly the structures of the habits, behaviour and thoughts that give rise to the patterns that have caused us to suffer and how they are actually artificial constructs that we can choose to change and even abandon.
Change and growth require maturity and responsibility. We are responsible for our actions and choices. Even if we are left with particularly debilitating beliefs and internal voices from our parents, as adults we must see ourselves as having choice and being able to effect change. To examine our world-view is to see more clearly the choices we make, and don’t make, and begin to get clear on the consequences such choices have.
To achieve an experiential taste and then knowing of the first three truths means using a contemplative technology. The best one I know of is meditation. Meditation is the key component in accessing the validity of the first three truths and in opening the assumption laden perspectives that result from a confused idea of reality.
Right Intention
From our view of life springs forth our intentions. They are always aligned and focused on confirming and acting on behalf of how we believe and view life to be. Intention is next on the list for this reason and because it gives direction to our attempts to hold the world still and maintain the reality we have concocted. Intention drives us to attempt to satisfy our habitual desires and keep at bay whatever we wish to avoid.
By now it should be clear that much of our view and intentions are unconscious, or semi-conscious. They are aspects of our world that we have been wholly, or partially unaware of. This is where a hands on approach needs to come into play; developing Right Intention means becoming more aware of the driving force for our decisions and choosing conscientiously to move forward from a different quality space. From greater awareness we can start to utilize intent to act more consciously and make better day-to-day choices. We can use wiser intents to give direction to our life and a developing meditation practice, and daily intents to choose Right Action that feeds our self-awareness and our honest, helpful and accurate living. 
Although we start exploring the world of the Eightfold Path with Right View and Right Intention, little progress can be made unless we have a means for developing the type of awareness that will reveal the confusion laid out above. Although not next on the list, I shall take a leaf out of Thich Nhat Hanh’s book and jump to Mindfulness in the next post.