Buddhist Paradigms

To begin, a view is they way we see ourselves, and each other, and this world we live in. These are the maps we use; the way we orient ourselves. Another word for this is our paradigm…


In very moment we have a view of some kind, even if we don’t have language for it. It’s the basis of all that we think and say and do;

A view can be less or more true; and, a view is something we start with, and it can be something we can have as an aim, as when we are developing and maintaining Right View.

The way most people experience their lives and this world is one we that can call ordinary view, or mundane perception. It has a few characteristics that are easily identifiable. From a Buddhist point of view, it’s said that,

We take as impermanent to be permanent;

We take what is suffering and the cause of suffering to be happiness;

and we see what is not a self at all, as a self.

Lama Zopa calls such relative truth of ordinary view, truth for the all obscuring mind -and the idea here is that our mundane view continually projects ideas onto reality that do not match what is here. Until we learn to see correctly, with a profound change in our consciousness, we will find ourselves perpetually in conflict, and unfulfilled.

Lama Zopa also taught on what he called pervasive, compounding suffering – a phrase I found to be very interesting. It means – in all places, at all times, and, increasing, like compounded interest increases, not only on the original amount owed, but then on the interest itself also. Ignorance, confusion and suffering are like this – they are always increasing, and are so difficult to get out of for that reason.

I would like to introduce here four views, or paradigms – the view of the ordinary person, also called mundane view, or impure perception, and then three Buddhist paradigms, those of higher rebirth and Liberation, the Mahayana motivation, and Sacred Outlook, or Pure Perception. These correspond generally to what is taught in the Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. There is overlap between these, ideally, or we can say, they are each inclusive of the others. This is just my own opinion, of course.


For someone without any training, or education, or insight, these are the general characteristics of what we can call

the paradigm of samsaric view, or the samsaric mind:

it is one that is ceaselessly wandering through the six realms {the hell, hungry ghost, animal dispositions, human, angelic and Divine realms} – sometimes up, sometimes down, without choice or control, and without knowledge of what is needed.

{It should be noted, they say in the Tibetan Tradition that most of our experiences throughout countless lifetimes are those of the three lower realms.}

The experience of an ordinary person can be compared to being in a room without doors or windows – to such a mind, there seems to be no way out. Moving through the experiences of the six realms of samsaric suffering and change is all that is known by ordinary view, or mundane perception.

There are however other views we should know about.

These Buddhist paradigms are presented one at a time, so that they are accessible.


The first one says that there is a way out of suffering. This is what the Buddha taught from his very first talk, Turning the Wheel of the Dharma, and throughout the rest of his life.

This is the paradigm of the knowledge of higher rebirth and liberation. This begins with ethics, or right actions, which are the cause of temporal happiness and well being, and continues with teachings on meditation and freeing our mind altogether from suffering.

For those who don’t think in terms of past and future existences, it still works to practice in this way, respecting cause and effect. We can see the results of our actions in this very life, and that greater happiness, peace, and fulfillment are possible.

Such a view makes a great difference to someone who until that time has known only confusion, suffering and dissatisfaction, and seen only that in the lives of others, loved ones, strangers, and adversaries if there are any.  Hearing this, and believing in this possibility leads naturally to the aspiration to care for ourselves well, and to be forever free.


Then, when joined to love and compassion for those we see around us, that view leads to the thought that what we all need is this freedom and ease, the health and safety, that the Buddha taught and that was then realized by his followers, and generations of followers and teachers, right up to the present day.

This thought brings with it great courage and power, and the willingness to do whatever we can to realize the teachings ourselves and to share the benefits of that with all.

We call this then the paradigm of the Mahayana view and motivation, and it opens the way to connecting with holy beings, guardians and protectors, to kindred spirits here on this earth, and to enlightened understanding and activity.



From there, and completely based upon the Mahayana view and motivation, and meditations the paradigm of sacred outlook, or pure perception becomes accessible.

This is the Vajrayana View, that is taught and the skillful means practiced in the Buddhist Tantras. This is the way of seeing and being in the world is where we know and express our own divine nature, with the knowledge that we are living in a sacred world.