Protest Against Thai Buddha Emoticons


Although not usually thought to be part of Buddhist culture the notion of blasphemy in Buddhism is one that needs more attention. In recent years there has been various examples of this phenomenon, from swimsuits with images of the Buddha, to tattoos considered blasphemous in Burma and Sri Lanka and protests against perceived disrespect to the so-called ‘Buddhist flag‘.

The above image is from an online campaign against the Thai instant messaging app Line Thailand. The company which operates the app has been forced to remove a range of ‘stickers’ promoting the service. Emoticons depicting the Buddha in what were claimed to be ‘inappropriate’ poses, as seen in the image above, were used to promote the app. The emoticons were available to download for a small fee.

Led by the World Fellowship of Buddhist Youth, a petition was started on and was supported by 40 Buddhist groups around the world.



Mindful Sex


Jeff Wilson has recently published Mindful America: The Mutual Transformation of Buddhist Meditation and American Culture.

On the Oxford University Press website it is described as:

‘The first comprehensive exploration of the practice of mindfulness in America.Outlines how Buddhism influences and is appropriated and adapted by non-Buddhist cultures in the United States and elsewhere.’

Wilson also has an article published today on the oupblog called ‘Mindful Sex’. It describes the practice of and therapy leading to mindful sex – ‘the ability to let go of mental strain and intrusive thoughts so one can fully tap into sexual intercourse’.

He describes three categories of this movement:

‘The first category is the scientific discussion of using mindfulness to treat sexually-related problems in a patient or client population [….] The second category of works on mindful sex—those belonging to the self-help genre—take these impulses further. These books and articles are often written by medical doctors, therapists, and other specialists, but their target audience is mainstream North Americans without any particular credentials or connection to the health industries. As such, they reach a vastly larger audience than the medicalized mindfulness studies. Books in this category are no strangers to the bestseller lists, and these mindful sex promoters tout their expertise on impressive websites and through popular TED talks [….] The third category is spiritual applications of Buddhist mindfulness to sex. These are typically promoted by people without formal medical or psychological credentials who operate outside of overtly Buddhist institutions. They offer mindful sex as part of a package of techniques and perspectives for personal enhancement.’
This last category includes the wonderful ‘Orgasmic Yoga‘ and Wilson quotes Bruce Gether and his ‘Nine Golden Keys to Mindful Masturbation’ which I have to quote:

‘Mindful masturbation is a simple, yet powerful practice. It requires dedication, and becomes its own reward. Just pay full attention while you masturbate. Don’t let yourself get distracted by imagination. Keep your primary focus on yourself, your own body, your penis and your own sensations. This path of self-pleasure can take you into realms of ecstasy you have never before experienced.’
The irony of all of this is not lost on Wilson but he does make some very serious points:
‘What are the points that I want to make with all of this? First, North Americans use Buddhist practices to enhance their desires, rather than retreat from or conquer them. Mindfulness of the body used to be an ascetic monastic practice designed to eliminate sexual feelings and break down the erroneous sense of an enduring personal self. Mindful sex is a pleasure-enhancing practice designed for laypeople to rekindle their sexual fires, promote self-esteem, and variously lead the practitioner to mind-blowing orgasm, greater bonding, or perhaps metaphysical oneness with all.’
Wilson suggests that ‘Buddhism has been used for achieving these-worldly benefits more or less since its creation, be they faith-healing, safe childbirth, protection from harm, and so on.’ On this point one has to agree and perhaps reevaluate some of these practices and consider them in a new light.





The Dalai Lama urges Buddhists to stop Islamophobia


On his 79th birthday, the Dalai Lama has urged Buddhists to end violence against Muslims in Burma and Sri Lanka.

In words evoking lay meditation in the form of advising those involved in conflict to visualise an image of the Buddha, he suggested that:

‘I urge the Buddhists in these countries to imagine an image of Buddha before they commit such a crime […] Buddha preaches love and compassion. If the Buddha is there, he will protect the Muslims whom the Buddhists are attacking.’



Riots between Buddhists and Muslims in Mandalay


As  reported in the Democratic Voice of Burma and other news outlets riots have broken out in Mandalay between Buddhists and Muslims. They originated in a blog post by a blogger called Ko Di, a US resident who blogs with the name Thit Htoo Lwin:

‘The violence kicked off after a blogger, who writes under the name Thit Htoo Lwin (the Thit Htoo Lwin Blog), posted an article on 30 June accusing two Muslim owners of the Sun Teashop of raping a Buddhist woman, who he said was their maid…The story was picked up by several websites, and nationalist monk Wirathu posted it to his Facebook page.’ It has been reported that the wife of one of the accused Muslim men has said that they do not in fact have a maid. Whatever the facts behind the story, tensions are clearly high, rumours spread quickly on social media, and U Wirathu appears to have help spread the story on his very popular Facebook page.

The story itself originally appeared under the title ‘Sun Teashop owners, two Muslim brothers, raped a Buddhist maid’. The website is popular with Burmese and it seems that the story was completely fabricated. However, it quickly spread through social media. It is reported that Buddhist monks attempted to calm the rioting Buddhist crowd. Galoneni Sayadaw is reported to have said:

‘We tried our best, but they would not listen. Some of them were drunk and hard to control. Whatever happens to them depends only on their own behavior. We just don’t want to see Mandalay burn because of racial and religious hatred.’

It was reported on 2nd July that the the original blog post on the Thit Htoo Lwin Blog was taken down without explanation.

From M-Media:

‘It was not the first time of posting such fabricated news at Thit Htoo Lwin and it used to blog religious and racial hatred made-up stories and news, which might lead a sectarian conflict. For instance, on 18th Jun 2013, it posted fabricated false news, “Declaration of 2nd Jihad”, with a very clear intention of causing a sectarian conflict.

The founding blogger of the Thit Htoo Lwin Blog is believed to be living in the United States currently. He worked for several foreign-based Burmese Language broadcasts such as BBC, VOA, DVB from 1998 to 2006 according to Irrawady News Magazine’s interview with him.’

A great post has appeared on this entire episode by Kenneth Wong ‘Mandalay: From Mouse Clicks to Mob Rule in 24 Hours’

The mind ensnared by attachment and ignorance


In the Buddhist understanding of the nature of the mind, there is a clear distinction made between holding to a destructive belief, and being ignorant. This can be explained in a number of ways. For example, one can adhere to a wrong belief, known as a ‘wrong-view’ but in theory still be in possession of a proposition which is factually correct. But, one can adhere to a correct belief, a right-view – one cannot be attached to a correct view, a right-view. The very act of attachment makes it a wrong-view. One could however, know what is true – but one should not adhere to that proposition with the thought ‘this alone is true, anything else is falsehood’. By adhering to the correct view in this way, its ‘correctness’ is negated – it becomes a wrong-view.


The ‘corruptions’ (āsavas)

In describing this process I will examine the ‘corruptions’ (āsavas). In the list of corruptions four are occasionally listed instead of the more usual three, both views and ignorance being given as separate corruptions.[1] Why are ‘views’ and ‘ignorance’ separate corruptions? Aren’t they both a lack of knowledge? If we examine how the corruptions are explained we may find an answer to this question. Buddhaghosa describes the corruptions in the following terms: the corruption of sensual desire (kāmāsavo) is the lust for the five pleasures of the senses; the corruption of becoming (bhavāsavo) is the passionate desire for life in a heaven of form, and formless existence, longing for ‘absorption’ jhāna, and lust co-existent with an eternalistic view;[2] the corruption of views (diṭṭhāsavo) is explained as the sixty-two views;[3] and the corruption of ignorance (avijjāsavo) is the lack of knowledge regarding eight points,[4] understood as the four truths, knowledge of the past, future or both, and of dependent-origination.[5] This explanation implies that views and ignorance refer to different things. In the following I would like to explore why there are two separate corruptions: views and ignorance, and to delineate the differences between them. My argument is that the corruption of views is the attachment to knowledge, and that the corruption of ignorance is false knowledge itself. This leads me to understand the corruption of views as the attachment to doctrine, not doctrine itself


The thicket, wilderness, contortion, vacillation and fetter of views

In the Atthasālinī (As 248) Buddhaghosa explains ‘wrong-views’ (micchā-diṭṭhi) as ‘not seeing things as they are’ (ayāthāva-dassanaṃ). The phrase points to the way in which certain views are held. It is not so much the content of the doctrines that posits a wrong conception of the way things are, but the fact that, by becoming an object of attachment, wrong-view distorts the true nature of things.[6] A view can be doctrinally correct but if, through giving rise to attachment, it distorts the holder’s response to the world, it is a wrong-view. The early Abhidhamma emphasises that a view is incorrect if it becomes an object of attachment, not because it is untrue. From the Abhidhamma perspective, ‘views’ (diṭṭhi)is exclusively connected with a mind (citta) rooted in greed (lobha-mūla). Views occur in four types of consciousness rooted in greed.[7] Views are primarily (if not exclusively) associated with greed, not delusion, in the Abhidhamma. In the Visuddhimagga, Buddhaghosa explains right-view as a type of knowledge,[8] and wrong-view as a type of greed (Vism XIV 90-91). As Rupert Gethin has observed ‘diṭṭhi can only be present in the mind when greed and attachment occur’.[9] This tells us that the early Theravāda understood the nature of views in relation to greed and attachment: wrong-views occur with greed and attachment, and right-views occur without greed and attachment. This connection between view and craving will now be considered.


The Dhammasaṅgaṇi

I would like to look at an Abhidhamma passage explaining wrong-views, and Buddhaghosa’s comments upon this passage. In the Dhammasaṅgaṇi, micchā-diṭṭhi is explained in the following terms :

‘Gone over to view (diṭṭhi-gata), the thicket of view (diṭṭhi-gahana), a wilderness of view (diṭṭhi-kantāra), the contrariness of view (diṭṭhi-visūkāyika), the turmoil of view (diṭṭhi-vipphandita), the fetter of views (diṭṭhi-saṃyojana), holding (gāha), fixity (patiṭṭhāha), adherence (abhinivesa), clinging (parāmāsa), a bad path (kumagga), a false way (micchā-patha), falsity (micchatta), the realm of (other) systems of crossing over (titthāyatana), the hold of the perverted views (vipariyesa-gāha).’[10]

This formula is also added in many contexts in which wrong-views are being discussed. One example of this is found in the Vibhaṅga. A discussion of dependent-origination explains the phrase ‘with craving as condition there is attachment’ (taṇhā-paccayā upādānaṃ) as ‘gone over to view, the thicket of view, a wilderness of view’, etc.[11] Craving, and the attachment that it gives rise to, are being explained as micchā-diṭṭhi. Wrong-view is the embodiment of craving and attachment.[12]

In the Atthasālinī Buddhaghosa comments on each of the Dhammasaṅgaṇi terms. I will summarise these comments:

‘Wrong-views are ‘gone over to view’ (diṭṭhi-gata) because they are a way of seeing that, due to its being included in the sixty-two wrong-views (dvāsaṭṭhi diṭṭhi-antogatattā), has gone over to views in the sense of ‘not seeing things as they are’ (ayāthāva-dassana). Views are a thicket (diṭṭhi-gahana) because they are difficult to get beyond, like a grass thicket, a forest thicket or a mountainous region. The term ‘wilderness of view’ (diṭṭhi-kantāra) implies that view is dangerous and fearsome, like a wilderness infested by thieves and snakes, without food and water. In the sense of overthrowing and conflicting with right-view, it is the ‘contrariness of view’ (diṭṭhi-visūkāyika). This is because when the ‘wrong way of seeing’ (micchā-dassana) occurs, it overthrows and conflicts with the ‘right way of seeing’ (sammā-dassana). The ‘turmoil of view’ (diṭṭhi-vipphandita) is the turning to the other form for one who at one time holds the eternalist-view and at one time the annihilationist-view, for one lost in views is unable to stick with one position. The ‘fetter of view’ (diṭṭhi-saṃyojana) is itself considered as a fetter in the sense of ‘binding’ (bandhana), because it takes hold of its object firmly as crocodiles, and so on, take hold of a man, it is ‘holding’ (gāha). As a result of becoming fixed, it is ‘fixity’ (patiṭṭhāha). Indeed, by reason of its forceful occurrence, having become fixed it takes hold; and, because it is convinced about permanence and so on, this is an ‘adherence’ (abhinivesa). Because it misses the nature of dhammas and insists on holding on by way of the idea of their permanence and so on, it is ‘clinging’ (parāmāsa). A ‘bad path’ (kumagga) is a path that is vile due to its taking one to what is unbeneficial or it is a path to the vile descents. As a way that is not in accordance with the truth it is a ‘false way’ (micchā-patha). For even though one who is confused about the way takes a road thinking ‘this is certainly the way to such and such a village’ it does not bring him to that village, just so, even though one who is lost in view holds a view, thinking, ‘this is the way to a happy destiny’ it does not bring him to a happy destiny; so a ‘false way’ is a way not in accordance with the truth. As something that is by nature false it is ‘falsity’ (micchatta). A ‘system of crossing over’ (tittha)is where, just because of their roaming about there, it appears the foolish cross over; and because this is the realm of things unbeneficial, it is the ‘realm of other systems of crossing over’ (titthāyatana). Alternatively, the ‘realm of other systems of crossing over’ is a ‘realm’ (āyatana) in the sense of the dwelling place and country of birth of those belonging to other systems of crossing over. The ‘hold of the perverted views’ (vipariyesa-gāha) is a holding on which constitutes a perverted view; alternatively it is holding on because of perverted view; ‘perverted view’ (vipallatthagāho) is the meaning.’[13]


The content of the view, what it proposes, is not ignored in this passage. A wrong-view does propose a false proposition. However, it is the tendency of views to become an object of greed and attachment that is of primary importance.[14] This suggests that the Abhidhamma is interested in how views are held, not, essentially, what they propose. Rupert Gethin has suggested that it is the fact that a view is an object of greed and attachment that the Theravāda Abhidhamma wishes to stress. He compares the definitions given of ‘delusion’ (moha) to that given for diṭṭhi in the Dhammasaṅgaṇi.[15] The list of terms describing diṭṭhi in the Dhammasaṅgaṇi were given above with the formula beginning ‘gone over to view, the thicket of view, a wilderness of view’. In contrast, the list of terms in the Dhammasaṅgaṇi explaining moha is dominated by the notions of not knowing and not seeing. [16] Ignorance and delusion obscure the true nature of things. The content of the proposition is emphasised. This is clearly different to the list of terms that characterise micchā-diṭṭhi, which I have just discussed. These terms emphasise grasping, fixity and holding.


Gethin secondly considers Buddhaghosa’s definitions of micchā-diṭṭhi and moha. Hence diṭṭhi has the characteristic of inappropriate adherence (ayoniso abhinivesa); its function is clinging (parāmāsa); its manifestation is wrong-adherence (micchābhinivesa); its basis is the absence of desire to meet Noble Ones and the like (ariyānaṃ adassana-kāmatādi), and it should be seen as the ultimate fault (paramaṃ vajjaṃ). In contrast, delusion has the characteristic of mental blindness (cittassa andhabhāva), or not knowing (aññāṇa); its function is not penetrating (asampaṭivedha), or concealing the true nature of the object (ārammaṇa-sabhāva-cchādana); its manifestation is the absence of right practice (asammā-paṭipatti), or blindness (andhakāra); its basis is inappropriate bringing to mind (ayoniso manasikāra); it should be seen as the root of all that is unskilful (sabbākusalānaṃ).[17]


The Peṭakopadesa

To these examples may be added others. In the Peṭakopadesa (Peṭ 94) diṭṭhi and avijjā are described in the following way: ‘views are characterised by adherence and clinging’[18] while ‘ignorance is characterised by non-penetration (of the four truths), and unawareness of ideas’.[19] The passage further explains that the āsava of views is ‘abandoned by contemplating mind as mind’ (so citte cittānupassissa pahīyati), while the āsava of ignorance is ‘abandoned by contemplating dhammas as dhammas’ (so dhammesu dhammānupassissa pahīyati). The ‘āsava of views is thus abandoned in the mind’ (diṭṭhāsavo citte pahātabbo), while the ‘āsava of ignorance is abandoned in dhammas’ (avijjāsavo dhammesu pahātabbo).[20] This is possibly a reference to the third and fourth foundations of mindfulness (satipaṭṭhāna). The four, which I have already cited, are to contemplate body as body, feelings as feelings, mind as mind, and dhammas as dhammas.[21] This passage could be understood using the model I considered earlier of the cleansing of body, speech and mind. In my discussion of the ‘ten wholesome courses of action’ (dasa kusala-kammapathā), I suggested that the sequence of these actions suggested a gradual transformation of conduct. In this understanding, contemplating the mind as mind implies an understanding of the working of the mind, of the cravings of the mind, in order to understand things as they are.


Earlier in the Peṭakopadesa it is explained that ‘[the view that there is] self in the mind [is the āsava] of views, and that there is permanence in the concomitants of consciousness (cetasikas)[22] [is the āsava of ignorance]’.[23] The Peṭakopadesa is analysing these ideas on different grounds and is clearly separating the corruptions of diṭṭhi and avijjā. Another example of the difference between the corruptions of diṭṭhi and avijjā is the following classification. The ‘perversion that there is self in what is not-self, attachment to view, the bond of views, the bodily tie of clinging, the corruption of views, the flood of views, the barb of views’ are terms found together to explain the tendency towards views.[24] In contrast, the ‘perversion that there is permanence in the impermanent, attachment to the theory of self, the bond of ignorance, the bodily tie of insistence that this is truth, the corruption of ignorance, the flood of ignorance, the barb of delusion’ are a set of terms found together to explain the tendency towards ignorance.[25]


The Mahāniddesa

One final example of the notion of diṭṭhi characterised in terms of grasping and attachment is found in the Mahāniddesa. This canonical text is the only commentary found in the Nikāyas, being (in part) a commentary upon the Aṭṭhakavagga. The Mahāniddesa asks a number of questions about different views. The answer to each question is identical. Hence the question is asked: ‘What is the selfishness of view?’[26] The answer is that it is sakkāya-diṭṭhi with twenty bases, the wrong-view with ten bases (i.e. natthika-diṭṭhi), the extreme view with ten bases (dasavatthukā antaggāhikā diṭṭhi, i.e. the ten avyākata). These are then characterised as gone over to view (diṭṭhi-gata), the thicket of view(diṭṭhi-gahana), a wilderness of view (diṭṭhi-kantāra) etc., using the same formula as the one from the Dhammasaṅgaṇi considered above.[27] The Mahāniddesa then uses the same format to explain other terms. These terms become increasingly difficult to translate with different English words as they are all terms relating to attachment, clinging and grasping. Hence, the question is asked, ‘what is attachment to view?’ (katamo diṭṭhi-nivesanā). The same answer is given, that is sakkāya-diṭṭhi with twenty bases, the wrong-view with ten bases, the extreme view with ten bases, and that this is gone over to view, the thicket of view, etc.[28] The same answer is given as an explanation of ‘fashioning by view’,[29] ‘devotion to view’,[30] ‘holding onto view’,[31] ‘dependence on view’,[32] ‘the stain of view’,[33] ‘the taking-up of view’,[34] ‘fixing attention on view’[35] and the ‘dart of view’.[36]

All these examples illustrate that wrong-views emphasise one aspect of not knowing, and ignorance another. Though their definitions overlap, there is a definite emphasis on either attachment or not knowing. Why exactly is this distinction being made? I would like to suggest that different doctrines are being used in different ways. Or, to put this another way, different doctrines perform different roles. One doctrine may make a claim about how we perceive the world, another about the nature of the world. For one doctrine, it may be the value which that doctrine has for the treading of the Buddhist path, and for another the emphasis may be on what the doctrine explains about the nature of existence. In fact, as I have said, views are not doctrines, but knowledge of doctrines. Wrong-views insist, take hold of, and are attached to their objects (doctrines). This type of ‘wrongness’ may not essentially be ignorance of the true state of things, it may be a correct description of things, but the view is wrong because it is a ‘perversion’ (vipallāsa) and because the ‘perverted view adheres’ (viparīta-diṭṭhi abhinivisati, Peṭ 106). It is ‘unwholesome’ (akusala). It is wrong knowledge of doctrines and not, essentially, a wrong doctrine (though it is likely to be this as well). Wisdom knows how things are, right-view knows how to know how things are. To paraphrase the Sammohavinodanī: one who is attached needs to abandon views, while one who is ignorant needs to abandon delusion.[37

Views are then a type of craving, but how are they distinguished from craving itself? Why not simply subsume the notion of views under the notion of craving? The Peṭakopadesa (Peṭ 26-28) discusses a passage from the Udāna (Ud 32-3), and how this passage relates to ‘defilement by craving’ (taṇhā-saṃkileso) and ‘defilement by view’ (diṭṭhi-saṃkileso). This passage further explains the nature of the type of attachment expressed by the corruption of views. The following is said to be an example of defilement by craving:

‘This world is born to anguish and subject to painful contact,

It is sickness that it calls self;

For however it conceives [it],

It is ever otherwise than that.

Maintaining its being other than that,

The world clings to being, expectantly relishing only being,

[But] what it relishes brings fear,

And what it fears is pain.’[38]

The following is an example of defilement by view:

‘Whoever have declared escape from being [to come about] through [love of] non-being, none of them, I say, escape from being. Whoever have declared liberation from being [to come about] through [love of some kind of] being, none of them, I say, are liberated from being.’[39]

While the discussion of the Peṭakopadesa passage also deals with other issues, I would like to concentrate on what I consider it is implying by these two distinctions, between defilement by craving and defilement by view. The first distinction is relatively straightforward: what we crave changes and is different from what we want it to be. The second distinction, however, deserves more consideration. We could assume that, as defilement by craving points to sensual attachments, so defilement by views points to cognitive attachment. The early Theravāda tradition is, to an extent, preoccupied with craving and how this affects the conduct of the person so obsessed. It seems reasonable to assume that, in the example of defilement by view, the text has in mind sassata and uccheda-diṭṭhi. Though the text has made the distinction between defilement by craving and defilement by views, it seems likely that, by using the term diṭṭhi instead of terms such as delusion (moha) or ignorance (avijjā), the text is implying, as in other places where the term diṭṭhi is used, a certain type of cognitive clinging (parāmāsa). [40] Being and non-being, self and not-self, are all potential objects of attachment. I would go as far as to suggest that, at a certain level, Buddhist thought is not concerned with whether there is a self or not. The issue of a ‘self’ is abandoned and, to an extent, not-self is sammā-diṭṭhi precisely because it rejects the strongest object of attachment. My overall point is that ignorance and views apply to two different forms of corruption, and that views apply to a form of craving, but a specific type of craving. So, when the right-view of anattā abandons the view of self, it is not knowledge abandoning ignorance, it is knowledge of craving abandoning attachment. This is what is meant when it is said that micchā-diṭṭhi is abandoned and sammā-diṭṭhi taken up. Attachment is abandoned and one sees without attachment.



[1] In the Mahāparinibbāna-sutta (D II 72-168) at D II 81, 91, 94 and 98 the four āsavas are given: ‘The mind, when imbued with wisdom becomes completely free from the corruptions, that is, from the corruption of sensuality, of becoming, of wrong-views and of ignorance’ (paññāparibhāvitaṃ cittaṃ sammadeva āsavehi vimuccati, seyyathīdaṃ: kāmāsavā bhavāsavā diṭṭhāsavā avijjāsavā ti). There is another list of terms, identical to the list of four āsavas, that occur in the Nikāyas. These describe sensuality, becoming, views and ignorance as the four yokes (yoga), sometimes found in opposition to the four unyokings (visaṃyoga, see D III 230, 276, S V 59). There are also the four floods (oghas, D III 230, S V 59), consisting of the same categories.

[2] rūpārūpabhavesu chandarāgo jhānanikanti sassatadiṭṭhisahajāto rāgo bhavavasena patthanā bhavāsavo nāma, As 369.

[3] Of the Brahmajāla-sutta: dvāsaṭṭhi diṭṭhiyo diṭṭhāsavo nāma, As 369.

[4] aṭṭhasu ṭhānesu aññāṇaṃ avijjāsavo nāma, As 369.

[5] The Expositor, p. 475, note 3.

[6] This certainly appears to be the understanding of wrong-views by the period of the early Abhidhamma, and, as I will suggest, seems implicit in such discussions as those found in the Brahmajāla-sutta.

[7] Dhs 75, 80-82 (this is a reference to the PTS page numbers). The formalised definition from later Abhidhamma is given in Appendix (5).

[8] Buddhaghosa uses the view of affirmation to explain this view, i.e. it is a type of paññā (Vism XIV 84).

[9] Gethin, ‘Wrong View (micchā-diṭṭhi) and Right View (sammā-diṭṭhi) in the Theravāda Abhidhamma’, p. 218.

[10] yā tasmiṃ samaye diṭṭhi diṭṭhi-gataṃ diṭṭhi-gahanaṃ diṭṭhi-kantāro diṭṭhi-visūkāyikaṃ diṭṭhi-vipphanditaṃ diṭṭhi-saṃyojanaṃ gāho patiṭṭhāho abhiniveso parāmāso kummaggo micchā-patho micchattaṃ titthāyatanaṃ vipariyesagāho, ayaṃ tasmiṃ samaye micchā-diṭṭhi hoti, Dhs 78, 183, 198, 202, 208, 212, passim (all references to page numbers of the PTS edition). Translation adapted from Gethin, ‘Wrong View (micchā-diṭṭhi) and Right View (sammā-diṭṭhi) in the Theravāda Abhidhamma’, p. 218. Most of these terms are found in the Nikāyas. In the Sabbāsava-sutta (M I 6-12), diṭṭhi-gata is described as the thicket, wilderness, contortion and vacillation of views: ‘This speculative view […] is called a thicket of views, the wilderness of views, the contortion of views, the vacillation of views, the fetter of views. Fettered by the fetter of views, the untaught ordinary person is not freed from birth, ageing, and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair; he is not freed from suffering, I say’ (idaṃ vuccati […] diṭṭhi-gataṃ diṭṭhi-gahanaṃ diṭṭhi-kantāro diṭṭhi-visūkaṃ diṭṭhi-vipphanditaṃ diṭṭhi-saṃyojanaṃ. diṭṭhi-saṃyojanasaṃyutto bhikkhave assutavā puthujjano na parimuccati jātiyā jarāmaraṇena sokehi paridevehi dukkhehi domanassehi upāyāsehi, na parimuccati dukkhasmā ti vadāmi, M I 8). In the Aggivacchagotta-sutta (M I 483-89), the Buddha is asked what danger he sees in the ten avyākata, so that he does not take up any of these views (kim pana bhavaṃ gotamo ādīnavaṃ sampassamāno evaṃ imāni sabbaso diṭṭhi-gatāni anupagato ti, M I 485). The Buddha replies that each of these views is a thicket, a wilderness, a contortion, a vacillation and a fetter of views (diṭṭhi-gahanaṃ diṭṭhi-kantāraṃ diṭṭhi-visūkaṃ diṭṭhi-vipphanditaṃ diṭṭhi-saṃyojanaṃ, M I 485). They are beset by suffering, vexation, despair and fever (sadukkhaṃ savighātaṃ saupāyāsaṃ sapariḷāhaṃ), and do not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, peace, direct knowledge, enlightenment or nibbāna (na nibbidāya na virāgāya na nirodhāya na upasamāya na abhiññāya na sambodhāya na nibbānāya saṃvattati, M I 485). In a sense, in this reply, as in the Dhammasaṅgani, the Buddha is not alluding to the content of the views but the effect upon the person that holds to them. Vacchagotta asks the Buddha if he takes up any speculative view (atthi pana bhoto gotamassa kiñci diṭṭhi-gatan ti). The Buddha replies that speculative view is something that he has put away (diṭṭhi-gatan ti kho vaccha apanītam etaṃ tathāgatassa, M I 486). What the Buddha has seen is each of the five khandhas, their origin and their disappearance. In the Yoga-sutta (A II 10-13) at A II 11, views are described as a bond (diṭṭhi-yoga). The bond of views is described as the lust for views, the delight in views, the affection for views, the greed for views, the thirst for views, the fever, clinging, and the craving for views (yo diṭṭhisu diṭṭhi-rāgo diṭṭhi-nandī diṭṭhi-sineho diṭṭhi-mucchā diṭṭhi-pipāsā diṭṭhi-pariḷāho diṭṭhi-ajjhosānaṃ diṭṭhi-taṇhā, A II 11). The term diṭṭhi-visūkāni, contrariness of view, occurs in the Sutta-nipāta where the sage is described as having gone beyond the contrariness of view (diṭṭhivisūkāni upātivatto), on a fixed course, wandering solitary as a rhinoceros horn, Sn 55.

[11] tattha katamaṃ taṇhāpaccayā upādānaṃ: yā diṭṭhi diṭṭhi-gataṃ diṭṭhi-gahanaṃ diṭṭhi-kantāro diṭṭhi-visukāyikaṃ diṭṭhi-vipphanditaṃ diṭṭhi-saṃyojanā gaho patiṭṭhāho abhiniveso parāmāso kummaggo micchā-patho micchattaṃ titthāyatanaṃ vipariyesagāho, idaṃ vuccati taṇhāpaccayā upādānaṃ, Vibh, § 249, p. 145.

[12] This is the analysis according to the Abhidhamma. In the analysis according to the discourses, the same connection between craving and attachment is described as the attachment of desire, wrong-view, precepts and vows, and the attachment to the theory of self (taṇhāpaccayā upādānaṃ: kāmupādānaṃ diṭṭhupādānaṃ silabbatupādānaṃ attavādupādānaṃ, idaṃ vuccati taṇhā-paccayā upādānaṃ, Vibh 136).

[13]As 252-53. Translation adapted from Gethin ‘Wrong View (micchā-diṭṭhi) and Right View (sammā-diṭṭhi) in the Theravāda Abhidhamma’, pp. 218-9.

[14] A different analysis is given by Jackson. He argues that avidyā is ‘ontological ignorance’ while mithyā-dṛṣṭi is ‘cosmological ignorance’ (Is Enlightenment Possible, p. 48, note 19). Jackson holds that the four truths, as sammā-diṭṭhi, are a proposition which carry with it many philosophical and cosmological presuppositions (ibid. p. 43). It is in this context that he arrives at this understanding of ignorance and wrong-views.

[15] Gethin ‘Wrong View (micchā-diṭṭhi) and Right View (sammā-diṭṭhi) in the Theravāda Abhidhamma’, p. 220.

[16] yaṃ tasmiṃ samaye aññāṇaṃ adassanaṃ anabhisamayo ananubodho asambodho appaṭivedho asaṃgāhanā apariyogāhanā asamapekkhanā apaccavekkhanā apaccakkhakammaṃ dummejjhaṃ bālyaṃ asampajaññaṃ moho pamoho sammoho avijjā avijjogho avijjāyogo avijjānusayo avijjāpariyuṭṭhānaṃ avijjālaṅgī moho akusalamūlaṃ, ayaṃ tasmiṃ samaye moho hoti, Dhs 78 § 390.

[17] Vism XIV 163-64, As 249; see Gethin ‘Wrong View (micchā-diṭṭhi) and Right View (sammā-diṭṭhi) in the Theravāda Abhidhamma’, p. 220. As Gethin explains: ‘For the Theravādins what is significant about diṭṭhi is not simply that it is a wrong or false way of seeing, but that it is a grasping at or holding onto a particular way of seeing; it is a fixed or rigid view of things. The emphasis in the register of terms for moha, on the other hand, is on its not knowing, not seeing, not understanding, on its failure to penetrate (appaṭivedha), and get below the surface (apariyogāhanā) to the true nature of things.’ Ibid. pp. 220-21.

[18] abhiniveso ca parāmāso ca diṭṭhāsavassa lakkhaṇaṃ, Peṭ 94.

[19] appaṭivedho ca dhammesu asampajaññā ca avijjāsavassa lakkhaṇaṃ, Peṭ 94.

[20] Note an error in the PTS edition, or a probable earlier error, which has avijjāsavo citte pahātabbo. so citte cittānupassissa pahīyati, diṭṭhāsavo dhammesu pahātabbo, so dhammesu dhammānupassissa pahīyati, which I have read as diṭṭhāsavo citte pahātabbo. so citte cittānupassissa pahīyati, avijjāsavo dhammesu pahātabbo, so dhammesu dhammānupassissa pahīyati, Peṭ 94; see Ñāṇamoli, Piṭaka-Disclosure (PTS, London, 1964), p. 127, note 344/1.

[21]idha bhikkhave bhikkhu kāye kāyānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ. vedanāsu vedanānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ. citte cittānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ. dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ, M I 56; see Gethin, The Buddhist Path to Awakening, pp 29-68. There is also some connection between ‘the emptiness gateway to liberation’ (suññatā vimokkhamukhaṃ), and ‘the signless gateway to liberation’ (animittaṃ vimokkhamukhaṃ, Nett 123), which I shall consider in chapter five.

[22] Ñāṇamoli interprets the cetasikas as dhammas (Piṭaka-Disclosure, p. 126, note 339/1).

[23] tattha citte attā ti diṭṭhāsavo, cetasikesu niccan ti avijjāsavo, this is Ñāṇamoli’s suggested correction or restoration of tattha citte atthiti diṭṭhi cetasikesu niccanti, Piṭaka-Disclosure, p. 126, note 339/1, Peṭ 94.

[24] anattani attā ti vipallāso, diṭṭhupādānaṃ, diṭṭhi-yogo, parāmāsa-kāya-gantho, diṭṭhāsavo, diṭṭhi-ogho, diṭṭhi-sallaṃ, Peṭ 246.

[25] anicce niccan ti vipallāso, attavādūpādānaṃ, avijjāyogo, idaṃsaccābhiniveso kāyagantho, avijjāsavo, avijjogho, mohasallaṃ, Peṭ 246.

[26] katamaṃ diṭṭhi-mamattaṃ, Nidd I 51, 122, 125, 129, 276, 369, 440.

[27] The Mahāniddesa adds ‘grasping at things wrongly’ (micchā-gāho ayāthāvakasmiṃ). katamaṃ diṭṭhi-mamattaṃ? vīsativatthukā sakkāya-diṭṭhi, dasavatthukā micchā-diṭṭhi, dasavatthukā antaggāhikā diṭṭhi, yā evarūpā diṭṭhi diṭṭhi-gataṃ diṭṭhi-gahanaṃ diṭṭhi-kantāro diṭṭhi-visūkāyikaṃ diṭṭhi-vipphandikaṃ diṭṭhi-saṃyojanaṃ gāho paṭiggāho abhiniveso parāmāso kummaggo micchā-patho micchattaṃ titthāyatanaṃ vipariyesaggāho viparītaggāho vipallāsaggāho micchā-gāho ayāthāvakasmiṃ yāthāvakan ti gāho. yāvatā dvāsaṭṭhi diṭṭhi-gatāni, idaṃ diṭṭhi-mamattaṃ, Nidd I 50-51.

Dhs: yā tasmiṃ samaye diṭṭhi diṭṭhi-gataṃ diṭṭhi-gahanaṃ diṭṭhi-kantāro diṭṭhi-visūkāyikaṃ diṭṭhi-vipphanditaṃ diṭṭhi-saṃyojanaṃ gāho patiṭṭhāho abhiniveso parāmāso kummaggo micchā-patho micchattaṃ titthāyatanaṃ vipariyesagāho, ayaṃ tasmiṃ samaye micchā-diṭṭhi hoti, Dhs 78.

[28] vīsativatthukā sakkāya-diṭṭhi, dasavatthukā micchā-diṭṭhi, dasavatthukā antaggāhikā diṭṭhi, yā evarūpā diṭṭhi diṭṭhi-gataṃ diṭṭhi-gahanaṃ diṭṭhi-kantāraṃ diṭṭhi-visūkāyikaṃ diṭṭhi-vipphanditaṃ diṭṭhi-saṃyojanaṃ gāho paṭiggāho abhiniveso parāmāso kummaggo micchā-patho micchattaṃ titthāyatanaṃ vipariyesaggāho viparītaggāho vipallāsaggāho micchā-gāho, ayāthāvakasmiṃ yāthāvakan ti gāho. yāvatā dvāsaṭṭhi diṭṭhigatāni, ayaṃ diṭṭhi-nivesanā, Nidd I 100.

[29] diṭṭhi-kappa, Nidd I 112-13, 251, 328, 336.

[30] diṭṭhi-purekkhāra, Nidd I 113.

[31] diṭṭhi-pariggaha, Nidd I 129, 275.

[32] diṭṭhi-nissaya, Nidd I 133, 245, 431.

[33] diṭṭhi-lepa, Nidd I 136, 332.

[34] diṭṭhi-upaya, Nidd I 308.

[35]diṭṭhi-pakappanā, Nidd I 316. There are two types of pakappanā, those of taṇhā and diṭṭhi, Nidd I 72, 186.

[36]diṭṭhi-salla, Nidd I 414-15. There are seven darts, rāga, dosa, moha, māna, diṭṭhi, soka and kathakathā, Nidd I 59.

[37] Vibh-a 300.

[38] ayaṃ loko santāpajāto

phassapareto rogaṃ vadati attano,

yena yena hi maññati

tato taṃ hoti aññathā.

aññathābhāvī bhavasatto loko

bhavapareto bhavam evā bhinandati, yad abhinandati taṃ bhayaṃ

yassa bhāyati taṃ dukkhaṃ, Peṭ 26.

[39] ye hi keci samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā vibhavena bhavassa vippamokkham āhaṃsu, sabbe te avippamuttā bhavasmā ti vadā vā pana keci samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā bhavena bhavassa nissaraṇam āhaṃsu, sabbe te anissaṭā bhavasmā ti vadāmi, Peṭ 26.

[40] It should be noted that the Udāna passage which the Peṭakopadesa is discussing, does use the term avijjā, Peṭ 27.

Early Religious Site in Burma to be Excavated

As reported in the DVB, ‘Religious Site could hail from ancient Pyu kingdom’ a site that could be 2000 years old is planning to be excavated by Archaeologists.


The site, in Ingapu Township, is thought to be the remains of an ancient city-state from the Pyu era.

‘The city states of Pyu existed from around the 2nd Century BC to the mid-11th Century, and stretched from Sri Kestra, near modern-day Pyay, up through central Burma as far north as Tagaung, which is about 200km north of Mandalay.

The Tibeto-Burman speaking Pyu people migrated from modern-day Yunnan into Burma and are the county’s earliest recorded inhabitants.’

This particular site is around 8 square miles and contains many Buddhist statues.

‘Twelve Pyu walled cities have been excavated in Burma so far. If the site in Ingapu is found to be from the Pyu era, then it could be one of the most ancient recorded settlements in the country.’





Why the Buddhist view of reality must be ‘true’ for it to be the Buddhist view of reality


It is sometimes thought that Buddhist philosophy is pragmatic in nature. From this it often follows that it is also based upon some form of scepticism. Reality cannot be known in its true detail and Buddhism uses various skilful teachings to overcome suffering and to end the endless cycle of rebirths. Though one can understand why such assumptions might be made, I think Buddhism loses some essential elements with such a bias in our understanding of it. I will offer some reasons on why in this article.


In After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre has suggested that a dichotomy between ‘is’ and ‘ought’, between fact and value, is a modern phenomenon. Indeed, MacIntyre argues that, until modern times, the distinction between ‘is’ and ‘ought’ was not made.[1] Western thought may then make a distinction between thought and action, between fact and value, that was not made in India. This point has been made by Paul Williams:


‘In the Indian context it would have been axiomatic that liberation comes from discerning how things actually are, the true nature of things. That seeing things how they are has soteriological benefits would have been expected, and is just another way of articulating the ‘is’ and ‘ought’ dimension of Indian Dharma. The ‘ought’ (pragmatic benefit) is never cut adrift from the ‘is’ (cognitive factual truth). Otherwise it would follow that the Buddha might be able to benefit beings (and thus bring them to enlightenment) even without seeing things the way they really are at all. And that is not Buddhism.’[2]

The uncoupling of the categories of ‘is’ and ‘ought’ is usually traced to Hume. Since Hume, it has been questioned whether we can derive statements of value from statements of fact. Hume argued the following:


‘In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, it is necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relation of objects, nor is perceived by reason.’[3]



Hume is arguing that a statement of fact, how things are, ‘cannot provide a logical basis for morality’.[4] In other words, we cannot derive what is of value from apprehending the true nature of things. However, as Paul Williams suggests, such a dichotomy may never have existed in India. It does, moreover, greatly alter our understanding of certain statements if the distinction between ‘is’ and ‘ought’ is not made. One set of statements that do not make such a distinction is right-view which expresses both fact and value. Right-view is both an ‘is’ and an ‘ought’ statement.


Firstly, it is clear that without the distinction between ‘is’ and ‘ought’, statements of fact are also statements of value. This means that seeing things as they are is also soteriologically transformative. In the context of Buddhist soteriology, this is usually stated in terms of craving and ignorance being overcome by calm and insight. It is important to reflect upon what is being suggested by the interaction of calm and insight. Early Buddhist soteriology is both descriptive and prescriptive. These two methods are not mutually exclusive. What is of value is based upon seeing things in a certain way: it is based upon insight into the way things are. In the early Pāli canon, what we crave is inseparable from what we know, and what we know inseparable from what we crave. One of the conclusions we can draw from such an understanding is that thought affects action and action affects thought. This process is very clear if we look at the notion of ‘views’ (diṭṭhi). With the adoption of wrong-view an unwholesome course of action follows; with the adoption of right-view a wholesome course of action follows. Our understanding of how things are affects how we act. One of the reasons to adopt right-view and reject wrong-views is because right-view produces this wholesome course of action. It produces the cessation of craving. The reason for this, the early texts suggest, is that it is based upon a true description of reality. Through combining the notions of ‘is’ and ‘ought’ diṭṭhi encompasses a number of factors: the cognitive and affective; the descriptive and prescriptive; fact and value. The affective nature of things is not separate from what is cognitive. The conclusion that we may reach is that insight into the way things are has a transformative effect and that categories that we may normally separate are intrinsically bound and inseparable factors on the Buddhist path. By not separating the ‘is’ from the ‘ought’, the early texts are making an important point. This is that ignorance and craving are inseparable in producing unwholesome action and in turning away from the way things really are. In a similar way, the cessation of craving is caused by seeing things as they are.


Two theories may be proposed as to the nature of seeing things as they are. These are the strong and the weak theories. [5] The strong theory would hold that statements of the way things are are not, in fact, statements of the way things are, but are value statements. Much of Buddhist discourse should be understood as evaluative and prescriptive. Their value is based upon their transformative effect. When the texts speak of seeing things as they are, we should not understand this literally. Such statements produce the cessation of craving, therefore they are true. The weak theory holds that statements of the way things are are, quite literally, statements of the way things are. Further, seeing things as they are produces a radical change in one’s actions. Apprehending things in a particular way is transformative. The strong theory emphasises the ‘ought’, the weak theory the ‘is’ and the ‘ought’. It is the weak theory that I am arguing for in this book. As I am suggesting, the ‘is’ cannot be divorced from the ‘ought’ without undermining the purpose of Buddhist doctrine. The seeing of things as they are is a statement of fact and value.


If the notions of ‘is’ and ‘ought’ are not uncoupled, the idea that Buddhism is pragmatic in nature loses much of its fizz. Further, the idea that the Buddha was sceptical as to the true nature of things no longer holds. The basic premise of all mainstream Indian philosophy and religion (if they were separate entities) is to ‘see things as they are’ (yathābhūtadassana). Without ‘seeing things as they are’ the overcoming of suffering is not possible.


[1] Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (South Bend, Ind, 1981), pp. 54-57, 80-81; see W.D. Hudson, ed., The Is/Ought Question: A Collection of Papers on the Central Problem in Moral Philosophy (London, 1969).

[2] Paul Williams, Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition (London, 2000), p. 40.

[3] David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature: Books Two and Three, ed. by Páll Árdal (London, 1972), pp. 203-4.

[4] W. D. Hudson, in Hudson, ed., The Is/Ought Question, p. 16.

[5] I am grateful to Paul Williams for his help in clarifying my thinking on this issue.