The Buddha’s eight-fold path begins with Right View, which gives you an idea of its circular nature. Wisdom is the ultimate goal, but we also have to have at least some wisdom or we wouldn’t bother with the path at all. Where’s the beginning?
From the N8FP by Bhikkhu Bodhi (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html#ch2):
Our views might not be clearly formulated in our mind; we might have only a hazy conceptual grasp of our beliefs. But whether formulated or not, expressed or maintained in silence, these views have a far-reaching influence. They structure our perceptions, order our values, crystallize into the ideational framework through which we interpret to ourselves the meaning of our being in the world.
Mundane right view involves a correct grasp of the law of kamma, the moral efficacy of action. Its literal name is “right view of the ownership of action” (kammassakata sammaditthi), and it finds its standard formulation in the statement: “Beings are the owners of their actions, the heirs of their actions; they spring from their actions, are bound to their actions, and are supported by their actions. Whatever deeds they do, good or bad, of those they shall be heirs.”
We have encountered this verse before. The path starts right here, with our point of view. Does it matter what we do or don’t do? If no one sees us commit a wholesome or unwholesome act, is the karma the same as if someone does see? Do we understand that our actions and words affect others and, at least as much, affect our state of mind?
Because we are so influenced by others, we are sometimes not mindful of our own intentions. We respond by liking what others like, by wanting what others want, by avoiding what others avoid, etc. The more we drift along on the currents of those around us, the less we are aware of “ownership of action”. It can be terribly confusing, which is why it’s so important to choose our companions and activities wisely. One way to think of it is to ask ourselves: Do the people around me have the same values that I have? Do they behave in a way I aspire to? Would I be better off (spiritually) with these people, with other folks, or on my own?
It’s never a bad time to think about where we stand in relation to the world. Each of us sees the world and ourselves through a unique window. Can we clarify that view?
Next time: recognizing wrong view