Expanding the Buddhist definition of ‘Right View’ through Spiritual Counseling

One of the fundamental and central philosophies of Buddhism is the Noble Eight-Fold Path – eight steps to enlightenment through wisdom, ethics and meditation. The path has eight aspects that are always listed in a specific order: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.

Like any integrated system, all of these parts work together simultaneously.  And listing them separately, I imagine, helps contextualize and organize them as teaching tools for those who study Buddhism. Quoting Pema Chodrun, ‘Buddhism is really big on lists’. 

The Buddha taught that the foundational groundwork of clear seeing, of Right View, is the first step we take toward Enlightenment.

Right View refers to very specific buddhistic philosophical tenets: the inevitability of death, the truth of karma, the reality of rebirth, the nature of samsaric existence, the impermanence of all things, the absence of a fixed individual self, and the interconnection of all things. Lama Surya Dass, author of AWAKENING THE BUDDHA WITHIN colloquially calls these, when adopted as a belief system, ‘mind changers’.

But Right View, to me, needs to be malleable and individual, not just Buddhist. Each person who comes for spiritual counseling is in a search of their own personal ‘Right View’ – a way of being and an intimate belief system that supports their growth, healing, individuation, and potential.

So often, the ‘view’ that clients have of themselves and the world, is in direct opposition to their greater good; a ‘wrong view’, so to speak. Helping them dismantle this, a spiritual counselor must guide the client into unlearning that which has contributed to this mistaken way of being/seeing and to bring them toward new possibilities.

The counselor, therefore becomes not just a loving presence of unconditional love and support, but a teacher as well. Knowledge is a doorway to choice and possibility and it helps destroy the illusions and ignorances that block people from the discovery of their truest selves.

When counselors are able to provide information and knowledge, it can help the client to transform unhealthy habituated patterns and beliefs.

For instance, the acknowledgement of the truth and validity of a client’s childhood trauma (this actually happened to you!), and explaining what trauma is and what it’s long term effects are, can be tremendously healing.

Other examples might include – teaching loving-kindness meditation to someone who tends to be hyper-vigilant and distrustful of others. Helping a client see that their pattern of attracting abusive relationships may stem from some unfinished business with a parent. Explaining to one conflicted about his sexuality that many indigenous cultures revere those who are thought to be gay, lesbian or transgendered; often referring to them as ‘two-spirited’ and pedestalizing them as spiritual leaders of their communities.

The above are just a few of an infinite number of examples that demonstrate how Right View can be essential to healing.

People are often living lives from a foundational belief system of mis-knowledge that is not supported by contemporary psychology, essential spiritual truths, or the energetic laws of quantum physics. In order to heal, we must traffic in truth, and truth is often obscured.

That which is suggested by the counselor as a course of action, or taught as new information to be integrated, are not absolute edicts or commands to be followed by the client. Rather, they are the material with which the counselee learns to see themselves differently. An invitation to adopt a kinder, more inclusive and supportive outlook; one that is instrumental in helping them to claim their wholeness.

From AWAKENING THE BUDDHA WITHIN:

Right view is the reliable touchstone that reminds us to look at the world without delusions or distortions about reality, or ourselves; to see roses where there are roses and thorns where there are thorns. Right view emphasizes the development of wisdom, or prajna, which at its essence means knowing what is, knowing how things work, and knowing oneself and others. 

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