Kaccayanagotta Sutta – Right View

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Introduction

The Kaccayanagotta Sutta is a teaching on Right View and also a clear explanation of the common misunderstandings of “emptiness” and non-duality. Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent translation from the Pali uses the word polarity to describe the extreme (wrong) view of existence and non-existence rather than create a doctrine of non-duality by fixating on these views as if they are the only views possible. When the Buddha’s teachings are fully developed it is clear that all things in the impermanent phenomenal world are discrete in a practical sense.

The insistence on a non-dual doctrine obscures reality and contradicts Right View and the entire Eightfold Path. As seen here the Buddha shows that a non-dual doctrine is an extreme (wrong) view rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

The simple teachings on Dependent Origination are used by the Buddha to show what is meant by the Eightfold Path as the “middle way” that avoids extreme views. Notice that there is nothing in the direct teachings of Dependent Origination that would imply a doctrine of interdependence, interconnectedness, or inter-being, as these are non-dual teachings rooted in wrong view.

The “world” is a metaphor for confused and deluded views that result in unsatisfactory experiences or Dukkha.

The Kaccayanagotta Sutta

The Buddha was staying at Savatthi, at Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. The monk Kaccayana Gotta approached the Buddha with a question: “I don’t understand Right View. Can you teach me how Right View relates to the world?”

“Kaccayana, the confusion and deluded thinking in the world arises from polarizing views. There is the view of (permanent) existence and a view of (permanent) non-existence. When the origination of confused and deluded thinking is understood and abandoned, from Right View it is seen that ‘non-existence’  does not occur. Furthermore, When the cessation of confused and deluded thinking is understood and abandoned, from Right View it is seen that ‘existence’  does not occur.

“The world is sustained by attachments, by clinging to conditioned thinking and wrong views rooted in ignorance (of Four Noble Truths). One who has developed Right View no longer clings to attachments, or fixated (conditioned) thinking, or self-obsession. It is understood that stress arising is stress arising. It is understood that stress passing away is stress passing away. In this, their knowledge is independent of other views. This is how Right View relates to the world.

“The view that everything exists is a wrong view and the view that nothing exists is another wrong view. My Dhamma avoids extreme views. I teach from the middle, I teach the Eightfold Path as the middle way that avoids extreme views. [1]“The middle way shows that:

•    From ignorance (of Four Noble Truths) as a requisite condition come fabrications.

•    From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness.

•    From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form.

•    From name-and-form as a requisite condition comes the six sense-base.

•    From the six sense-base as a requisite condition comes contact.

•    From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling.

•    From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving.

•    From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging and maintaining.

•    From clinging and maintaining as a requisite condition comes becoming.

•    From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth.

•    From birth as a requisite condition comes aging, sickness, death, sorrow, regret, pain, distress and despair.”

“Such is the origination of extreme views and the entire mass of confusion, delusion, and stress.

“Now:

•    From the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of fabrications.

•    From the cessation of fabrications comes the cessation of consciousness.

•    From the cessation of consciousness (conditioned thinking) comes the cessation of name-&-form.

•    From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media.

•    From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact.

•    From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling.

•    From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving.

•    From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance.

•    From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming.

•    From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, regret, pain, distress, & despair all cease.

“Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress & suffering.” [2](This last is the 12 links of Dependent Origination)

End of Sutta

    When developed and fully integrated, the Eightfold Path shows that fixed views are also views that “fix” a self within fixed views. The Buddha’s teachings bring understanding and release from fixed views and develops the understanding of the potential of each moment to incline mindfulness towards awakening, towards full human maturity. Each moment holds the potential to cease becoming rooted in ignorance and develop the requisite conditions, through the Eightfold Path to become free of all ignorant views and live a human life from Right View. Peace.

[1] In the Samyutta Nikaya, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, the sutta setting the wheel of dhamma in motion, the Buddha’s first teaching, he presented the “middle way” of the Eightfold Path. In this sutta, the Buddha refers to the extreme views of existence and non-existence as the compulsion to engage in constant sensory stimulation (clinging to existence and experience) and the asceticism of denial (manipulated non-existence) both of which have been incorporated in modern Buddhist practices.  The following is from Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent translation (linked below).

“There are these two extremes that are not to be indulged in by one who has gone forth. Which two? That which is devoted to sensual pleasure with reference to sensual objects: base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable; and that which is devoted to self-affliction: painful, ignoble, unprofitable. Avoiding both of these extremes, the middle way realized by the Tathagata — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.

“And what is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding? Precisely this Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.

“Now this, monks, is the noble truth of stress:[1] Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.

“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.

“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of stress: the remainderless fading & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving.

“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: precisely this Noble Eightfold Path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

  1. Four Noble Truths
  2. Dependent Origination

Kaccayanagotta Sutta – Right View

by

The Kaccayanagotta Sutta – Right View is a teaching on Right View and also a clear explanation of the common misunderstandings of “emptiness” and non-duality. Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent translation from the Pali uses the word polarity to describe the extreme (wrong) view of existence and non-existence rather than create a doctrine of non-duality by fixating on these views as if they are the only views possible. When the Buddha’s teachings are fully developed it is clear  that all things in the impermanent phenomenal world are discrete in a practical sense.

The insistence on a non-dual doctrine obscures reality and contradicts Right View and the entire Eightfold Path. As seen here the Buddha shows that a non-dual doctrine is an extreme (wrong) view rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

The simple teachings on Dependent Origination are used by the Buddha to show what is meant by the Eightfold Path as the “middle way” that avoids extreme views. Notice that there is nothing in the direct teachings of Dependent Origination that would imply a doctrine of interdependence, interconnectedness, or inter-being, as these are non-dual teachings rooted in wrong view.

The “world” is a metaphor for confused and deluded views that result in unsatisfactory experiences, or Dukkha.

The Kaccayanagotta Sutta

The Buddha was staying at Savatthi, at Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. The monk Kaccayana Gotta approached the Buddha with a question: “I don’t understand Right View. Can you teach me how Right View relates to the world?”

“Kaccayana, the confusion and deluded thinking in the world arises from polarizing views. There is the view of (permanent) existence and a view of (permanent) non-existence. When the origination of confused and deluded thinking is understood and abandoned, from Right View it is seen that ‘non-existence’  does not occur. Furthermore, When the cessation of confused and deluded thinking is understood and abandoned, from Right View it is seen that ‘existence’  does not occur.

“The world is sustained by attachments, by clinging to conditioned thinking and wrong views rooted in ignorance (of Four Noble Truths). One who has developed Right View no longer clings to attachments, or fixated (conditioned) thinking, or self-obsession. It is understood that stress arising is stress arising. It is understood that stress passing away is stress passing away. In this, their knowledge is independent of other views. This is how Right View relates to the world.

“The view that everything exists is a wrong view and the view that nothing exists is another wrong view. My Dhamma avoids extreme views. I teach from the middle, I teach the Eightfold Path as the middle way that avoids extreme views. [1]

“The middle way shows that:

        From ignorance (of Four Noble Truths) as a requisite condition come fabrications.

        From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness.

        From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form.

        From name-and-form as a requisite condition comes the six sense-base.

        From the six sense-base as a requisite condition comes contact.

        From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling.

        From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving.

        From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging and maintaining.

        From clinging and maintaining as a requisite condition comes becoming.

        From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth.

        From birth as a requisite condition comes aging, sickness, death, sorrow, regret, pain, distress and despair.”

“Such is the origination of extreme views and the entire mass of confusion, delusion, and stress.

“Now:

        From the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of fabrications.

        From the cessation of fabrications comes the cessation of consciousness.

        From the cessation of consciousness (conditioned thinking) comes the cessation of name-&-form.

        From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media.

        From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact.

        From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling.

        From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving.

        From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance.

        From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming.

        From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, regret, pain, distress, & despair all cease.

“Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress & suffering.” [2]

(This last is the 12 links of Dependent Origination)

End of Sutta

    When developed and fully integrated, the Eightfold Path shows that fixed views are also views that “fix” a self within fixed views. The Buddha’s teachings bring understanding and release from fixed views and develops the understanding of the potential of each moment to incline mindfulness towards awakening, towards full human maturity. Each moment holds the potential to cease becoming rooted in ignorance and develop the requisite conditions, through the Eightfold Path to become free of all ignorant views and live a human life from Right View. Peace.

[1] In the Samyutta Nikaya, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, the sutta setting the wheel of dhamma in motion, the Buddha’s first teaching, he presented the “middle way” of the Eightfold Path. In this sutta, the Buddha refers to the extreme views of existence and non-existence as the compulsion to engage in constant sensory stimulation (clinging to existence and experience) and the asceticism of denial (manipulated non-existence) both of which have been incorporated in modern Buddhist practices.  The following is from Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent translation (linked below).

    “There are these two extremes that are not to be indulged in by one who has gone forth. Which two? That which is devoted to sensual pleasure with reference to sensual objects: base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable; and that which is devoted to self-affliction: painful, ignoble, unprofitable. Avoiding both of these extremes, the middle way realized by the Tathagata — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.

    “And what is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding? Precisely this Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.

    “Now this, monks, is the noble truth of stress:[1] Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.

    “And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.

    “And this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of stress: the remainderless fading & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving.

    “And this, monks, is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: precisely this Noble Eightfold Path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

[1] SN 56.11

[2] Dependent Origination

My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings  (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland and Maurice Walsh, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.

Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.

I have made contextual edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.

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