Right View and Minimalism

Right View is about getting rid suffering in order to create more space for happiness.

A revised version of this essay is collected in the book Eightfold Minimalism: Essays from A Minimalist Abroad, now available from Amazon.

The first component of wisdom, and the first element of the Noble Eightfold Path, is Right View. It isn’t the opposite of having the wrong view, but of not necessarily having the best view. Right View is about perspective and objectivity, not being beholden to one interpretation of things or seeing the world through one select set of filters. It’s about trying to experience reality as it actually is.

We all know people who are so deeply entrenched in a political, religious, or personal ideology that they see everything through that lens. We’ve all encountered people who, rather than looking at facts and forming an opinion or making a decision based on them, begin with a conclusion and then cherry-pick the information that provides them with confirmation bias and supports their position. We’ve all had to deal with people who will take statistical outliers and present them as the norm because that deception upholds their cause. We know these people because at some point in our lives we’ve all been those people. It’s human nature.

In Buddhist terms, Right View is often interpreted as understanding what causes suffering. When we know what causes us pain and unhappiness, we can work toward avoiding it or getting rid of it. When we know what causes suffering in others, we can take steps to not intentionally hurt people, and even work at easing their suffering.

Right View

Holding the Right View really the first step toward minimalism. We know that all of the stuff we’ve accumulated isn’t making us happy. We know that paying for it, maintaining it, cleaning it, moving it, and generally having to deal with it takes away resources that we could be putting toward things that do make us happy; excess can be a cause of suffering. We know that a schedule filled with meetings and appointments and activities wears us out and eat up our time, so that we don’t have any energy or room left; mindless activity can be a source of suffering. We know that relationships with inward-facing people can cost us resources as well as chip away at our self-confidence and our self-esteem; relationships can be a cause of suffering.

Right View is that component of wisdom that allows us to identify our actual needs, and to separate our needs from our wants. Having Right View is how we understand what to keep, and what to get rid. Right View is all about getting rid of the causes of suffering, in order to create more space in our lives for happiness.

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