Vipallasa Sutta: Perversions
[The Pali word vipallasa is sometimes translated as “perversions”; but some may find this language too strong and prefer the expression “distortions” of the mind.]
These four, O Monks, are distortions of perception, distortions of thought distortions of view…
Sensing no change in the changing,
Sensing pleasure in suffering,
Assuming “self” where there’s no self,
Sensing the un-lovely as lovely —
Gone astray with wrong views, beings
Mis-perceive with distorted minds.
Bound in the bondage of Mara,
Those people are far from safety.
They’re beings that go on flowing:
Going again from death to birth.
But when in the world of darkness
Buddhas arise to make things bright,
They present this profound teaching
Which brings suffering to an end.
When those with wisdom have heard this,
They recuperate their right mind:
They see change in what is changing,
Suffering where there’s suffering,
“Non-self” in what is without self,
They see the un-lovely as such.
By this acceptance of right view,
They overcome all suffering.
I find this sutta extremely powerful in demonstrating the way in which our perceptions and thoughts not only influence, but also create our suffering. And clearly, without these, we extinguish suffering.
Yet although it seems clear and simple, each of us likely finds this much more difficult to practice than we might imagine.
It must be thousands of times each day that we form opinions and judgements about a myriad of things. People, things, art, opinions, even the climate. How often have you been somewhere that you felt was warm yet someone else complained that they are cold? Are either one of you correct?
The reality is that both are perceptions that you each have made personal and are in fact distortions. And this is just one small example of how we make most everything personal and all about us. Our thoughts, views and perceptions are all harmful to our own peace and happiness. Just think about how you feel when you are around an angry person. Probably uncomfortable, perhaps fearful, wanting to flee, and perhaps even observing reciprocal anger beginning to develop.
Now step back for a moment, and you can see that this all began with perversions. Thoughts, views, perceptions and judgements, all with a lack of acceptance and untainted observation.
Now while I understand that none of us are perfect, I do think we possess limitless potential. And in that is the perfection. And perhaps by becoming increasingly aware of our many distortions we unveil more and more of that potential every day. Accept, be mindful, and cultivate.
May you be well, happy and peaceful.