Assumptions and Views

This Sunday Jeff H guided our Sangha as we listened to a very powerful talk by James Baraz titled “Seeing Beyond the Mask: Looking Past Our Assumptions”.

In his teaching on the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha describes in the Second Noble Truth four kinds of attachments that cause suffering. One of these is attachment to ideas and opinions. We explore this topic of looking beyond our views and opinions that are causing so much divisiveness and separation in these pandemic days.

Jeff writes, “James provides a humbling account of quickly jumping to judgement about someone, only to be quickly proven wrong. I know that I have had similar experiences. Collectively we may be able to do better if we discuss the topic and learn from each other.”

The talk by James is available here:

More of Jeff’s notes from our gathering follow:

“Don’t be so quick to judge”

Can we not be so quick to judge? Our biology and our social training conspire to hone our ability to see a person and immediately classify them. A story about the person can quickly follow. If we are lacking mindfulness, the story can become well-developed based on nearly zero information about the individual we observe.

James described the process of observation in typical terms:
• Sense contact: the eye and a person
• Perception: a human being; positive, negative, neutral
• Mental formations – thoughts about the object
The process happens “automatically”. We typically cannot prevent sense contact nor perception. Mental formations are more under our control, in theory, as we may be able to use mindfulness to limit how far we take the story that starts to unfold after perception.

The Buddha’s teaching on views sets a pretty high bar. We need to abandon all views and opinions. For lay practitioners, the bar is probably too high. If we look deeply, we can see that we carry around views and assumptions which lead to suffering in ourselves and in others. Self-study and accrued wisdom can help us lessen this suffering.

A quote which struck me:

The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. Who can cut out a piece of their own heart?

We lose our capacity to act wisely when we put others in a bin. We create a sense of separation.

You have no moral authority over anyone who can feel your underlying contempt.


The challenge with views is amplified when we perceive that people’s decisions affect us all. We will suffer less when we do not banish everyone with different views. 

Everybody has their own reality.

James Baraz

If you could read the secret history of your enemies you should find enough sorrow and hurt to disarm all hostility.


Don’t push others out of your heart
Never give up on anyone
Send metta to everyone
Wish for others to find their own goodness

The challenge and the practice:
Be clear and strong in communicating your own take on things in a way that can invite someone to see things in another way, while not putting anyone out of your heart.