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What is Right Understanding?

The Wisdom Path (Prajna)

(Note that "wisdom" is prajna in Sanskrit, panna in Pali.)

The Eightfold Path or eight areas of practice that touch all aspects of life. Although they are numbered from one to eight, they are not to be "mastered" one at a time but practiced all at once. Every aspect of the path supports and reinforces every other aspect.


To practice the Path is to train in three areas of discipline: wisdom, ethical conduct, and mental discipline.


Right Understanding is also sometimes called Right View. It is insight into the nature of things as they are, in particular insight into the first three Noble Truths—the nature of dukkha, the cause of dukkha, the cessation of dukkha (dukkha - suffering).


Right understanding is the understanding of things as they are, and it is the four noble truths that explain things as they really are. Right understanding therefore is ultimately reduced to the understanding of the four noble truths. This understanding is the highest wisdom which sees the Ultimate Reality.


Right Understanding

According to Buddhism there are two sorts of understanding. What we generally call “understanding” is knowledge, an accumulated memory, an intellectual grasping of a subject according to certain given data. This is called “knowing accordingly” (anubodha). It is not very deep. Real deep understanding or “penetration” (pativedha) is seeing a thing in its true nature, without name and label. This penetration is possible only when the mind is free from all impurities and is fully developed through meditation.

The Buddha points out many times that we need to reflect on what we think, because thoughts lead to actions. He reminds us that wrong views lead to wrong decisions, and wrong decisions lead to wrong speech and action, and so on, until we reach “wrong outcomes”


One of the most appealing aspects of Buddhism for a contemporary person is that the Buddha never asks us to have blind faith. We are always being asked to understand.

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