How I came to Theravada Buddhism
Right View in Buddhism is the first step of the Eightfold Path. This is why we say it’s a Path of Wisdom, not just doctrine or belief. It’s a noticing and observing of ourselves, our lives. The Buddha taught what is obvious, what is there to be seen. Although it’s there to be seen, it doesn’t mean we see it; it may be obvious but it doesn’t mean we understand or notice it. Maybe we miss it all the time because it is so obvious. The which we need to consider. He taught nothing outside of what can be seen and realised within this body, with this mind. The whole path is to be developed through this body and mind. We have all that we need. All we have to do is to start noticing what is around us. That’s when the spark of Right View begins to arise. The result of Right View is that Right Aspiration or Right Thought arises. This happens to us in various ways. I’m sure it has happened to many people, especially when we have a traumatic experience, or something helps us to stop and think and observe.
One very nice story is of a man I know here in Perth, Australia. He was brought up as a Buddhist actually, and considered himself one, but never really took an interest or practised anything beyond just the superficial. On one occasion , he decided to go on a trip, with his wife, around Australia, camping and driving. While they were travelling from Perth to Adelaide, they camped out in the desert. One night, camping in the middle of nowhere, just open space, he couldn’t sleep. So, he got up, went out to the emptiness of the desert. He found himself completely alone. In this emptiness, he noticed himself, this human being, and he became very aware of the emptiness in this life. What am I doing? What’s it all about anyway? All this study and accumulation of degrees and knowledge and money, so what? What do I want out of life? A spark of Right View there, a stopping and considering. The mechanical, the habitual existence comes to a stop for a moment. All thought comes to a stop for a moment and this reflection arises: a consideration and appreciation of one’s present existence. Right View arises.
The above paragraphs describing my experience are taken from a booklet by Ajahn Jagaro, “Calm and Insight”, published by the Buddhist Society of Western Australia(1988). I would like to continue telling that story which happened in 1979: After that long four-week journey driving around Australia with my wife, I went back to Perth and resumed my postgraduate research. Not long after, I was informed by one of my wife’s friends that a Western Buddhist monk of the Thai Theravadin tradition was visiting Perth and the monk, Phra Khantipalo, gave a series of talks about Buddhism and Buddhist meditation. I went along with my wife to attend one of these talks. Somehow, I felt very much “at home” with what the monk said about the Buddhadhamma. It was simple, but practical and straight to the heart. It did make sense to me. It seemed that at last, I had found those missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that first presented themselvs in my mind since that trip through the desert. I decided to join the Buddhist Society, and have been practicing the Theravadin tradition ever since.