Just as a seed of neem, bitter cucumber, or bitter gourd, planted in moist soil and receiving water, would all lead to fruits with a bitter flavour, so for a person of wrong view…whatever bodily action, verbal action, and mental action he undertakes in accordance with that view, and whatever his volition, yearning, inclination and activities, all lead to harm and suffering. For what reason? Because the view is bad.
Just as a seed of sugar cane, hill rice, or grape, planted in moist soil and receiving water, would all lead to fruits with a sweet and delectable flavour, just so, for a person of right view…whatever bodily action, verbal action, and mental action he undertakes in accordance with that view, and whatever his volition, yearning, inclination and activities, all lead to well-being and happiness. For what reason? Because the view is good. (from AN 10:104, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi)
The second section of Bhikkhu Bodhi’s book, The Buddha’s Teachings on Social and Communal Harmony, is called Personal Training. The personal training referred to starts with generosity and moves on to various forms of moral conduct and culminates in loving kindness practices. But all of the training is dependent on having a mental framework that supports moving in a wholesome direction, that is, right view.
If we think that our actions don’t matter, that we can behave as we like without regard for effects on others and habits in ourselves, then we cannot develop. If we understand that whatever we do has consequences for ourselves and others, then we are facing in the right direction. Our intentions, motivations, desires and inclinations will all follow from our view.
One way we can understand ourselves better is by watching where our attention goes during any given day. Sometimes we feel that our life is just one interruption after the other and that we can’t actually “get” anywhere. Sometimes we feel adrift and aimless. Other times we may be so focused on one project or worry that everything else falls away. Through any of these or other experiences, we can remember that our interactions with other beings illuminate our view. The quality of the conversations we have, the tasks we remember or forget to do, the people we seek out or avoid – all of these are indicators of our view.
If we feel sour or sweet, we can observe the effects of our actions on other people, and take them as guiding evidence, showing us (and others) when we are spreading harm or benefit. No one is perfect, but if we give it our attention, our view can (gradually) become sweeter and our influence more beneficial.