The path of Vision
Buddhism begins with a vision of the nature of existence, the Truth or the Reality of things. This is the Path of Vision, darsana-marga in Sanskrit, the first step of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path.
Perfect Vision represents the phase of initial spiritual insight and experience. This may arise many different ways for different people: personal tragedy and loss; spontaneous mystical experience; by experience of nature or the arts, from deep thought, philosophical study, or meditation; as the result of altruistic activity or our whole experience of life; even in a dream. There is no uniform pattern. But however it arises, we should be very careful we do not lose or forget it: this so easily happens.
Buddhism itself has employed many means to communicate its vision of Truth: images such as the Wheel of Life and the Six Realms, representations of the Buddha himself and later elaborations such as the Mandala of the Five Buddhas, also the very image of the Path itself. All these communicate in some way a vision of our actual present state of spiritual bondage, our future potential state of Enlightenment and the way leading from the one to the other.
Conceptually speaking, Perfect Vision is often explained in terms of experiencing the truth of Buddhist concepts such as the Three Laksanas or Characteristics of Conditioned Existence: these teach that conditioned existence is ‘marked’, or shot through, with dukkha, or unsatisfactoriness; anitya, or impermanence; and anatman, or the absence of any fixed selfhood. Other formulations include the Four Noble Truths, Karma and Rebirth, and the Four Sunyatas or Emptinesses.
Buddhist concepts may be compared to a map, whose study can lead us to a glimpse of the mountain itself: however the territory is described, it is important to remember Perfect Vision is a glimpse of Reality that is quite simple, direct, and immediate, and more of the nature of a spiritual experience than intellectual understanding.
After Vision comes Transformation: transformation of one’s whole being in all its heights and depths, from top to bottom, in accordance with one’s insight and experience.
The Path of Vision: glimpsing the nature of existence