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10. Right Understanding

03/05/202019:18(Xem: 286)
10. Right Understanding

Right Understanding

Venerable Sumangalo

Now that we have memorised the eight points of the Buddha’s Noble Path, let us try to gain a good clear idea of what each of these points mean. First of all, we ought to find out what is meant by “Right”. In the case of the first point, Right Understanding, we can say Right Understanding means correct understanding, the best understanding, understanding that is true, understanding that is not half-true, half-false, but is the very best and most complete understanding we can get. If it is less than our best, then it is not Right Understanding. This means that each one of us must try hard to get a really good understanding of the Buddha’s Path. If we fail to make a good start, then we are like the man lost in the desert.

Let us pretend we have just bought a motor-car and have filled the tank with petrol. The tyres are new and the motor car has plenty of oil. We have a road map and know very well where we wish to go. There is only one thing to keep us from starting our trip at once. We do not know how to drive and, until we gain the proper understanding of how to drive, the car is useless to us. If we try to drive without knowing how, we place ourselves in great danger. It is also like this with the Eightfold Path. Unless we first get Right Understanding we cannot make Right use of the other seven paths.

In the Dharmapada the Lord Buddha said, “All that we are is the result of our thoughts.” Good understanding and good thinking go together. They are like twins that are never separated. Just as it is dangerous to try to drive a motor-car without first understanding how to drive, it is quite as dangerous to use the other seen points without first of all getting Right Understanding. Without good use of the mind there will be silly speech, foolish actions, wrong effort, and nothing but trouble for us. A bad beginning usually has a bad ending. The only good way to make a sensible start on Lord Buddha’s Path is to make a Right start by trying hard to get Right Understanding.

Once a certain man owned a mango orchard and took great delight when the fruit was ripe. He was very fond of eating sweet fruits and often ate so many mangoes that he had severe stomach-pains. He kept a blue bottle filled with a powerful medicine and, whenever he suffered from eating too many mangoes, he took medicine from the blue bottle. One day his servant noticed that the bottle was almost empty. He needed a bottle in which to place some poisonous fluid he used to cure sores on horses, so he took the empty bottle and filled it with the horse medicine. Some time later on, the owner of the mango grove ate too many mangoes and, feeling stomach-pains, went in search for his blue bottle.

The bottle was not in its usual place but, after long searching, he found it. To his surprise the bottle was full, yet the last time he had seen it, it was almost empty. When he poured some medicine into a spoon he saw that the colour was different and, when he tasted the medicine, there was a very different flavour. Yet, just because the medicine was in the blue bottle, he took a large dose, and soon he was sick almost to the point of dying. We see from the foolish actions of the mango grove owner how dangerous it is to do anything at all unless first we understand what we are doing. The Buddha taught us to see clearly and think carefully. If we do this, then we shall gain good understanding. Remember we cannot make good use of the Buddha’s Path until we have obtained Right Understanding.



You who will to know

In the truth shall grow

And to fullest knowledge win

By the light within.


Unto humankind

Is the task assigned

All by reason’s power to test

And to choose the best.


Reason’s steadfast flow

Doth the pathway show

Out of error’s woe and night

Unto wisdom’s height.


Cease from base desire,

Ardently aspire

Pure in mind to be

From all evil free.


Then shall reason’s ray

Merge in truth’s bright day,

And in full enlightenment

You shall find content.

                         -A. R. Zorn



  1. If our understanding is half-false, half-true, is it “Right Understanding”?
  2. What happens if we try to drive a motor car without knowing how to drive?
  3. What happens if we try to go through life without understanding how to live?
  4. Does a bad beginning usually have a good ending?
  5. Can we have Right Action if we do not have Right Understanding?
  6. Was the man who owned the mango grove wise or foolish?
  7. Did his trouble come from “bad luck” or bad understanding?
  8. What are the other seven points on the Eightfold Path?
  9. In the poem at the end of the lesson, what is meant by “the power of reason”?
  10. Is Right Understanding something that even boys and girls can get if they really try to think clearly?

Typing for Quang Duc Homepage in Melbourne, Australia:
Quảng Đại Thắng (Brendan Trần) & Quảng Đại Khánh (Nathan Trần)

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