There is much discussion about correctly translating/understanding the Pali word samma. In an attempt to better my own understanding of the Dhamma, I’ve tried to understand the original meaning of the word as imagined by the Buddha. Input and corrections are much appreciated!
If samma was purely moral/ethical then describing the buddhist path in terms of SILA/samadhi/panna makes little sense. If we follow this interpretation of the path, we are developing morality/ethics with samma-vaca, samma-kammanta, samma-ajiva.
In not trying to add to the mess of giving the term a brand new english translation, I propose we do our best to understand the original meaning while using whatever translation best fits the context of the situation.
When samma is used to describe the buddha (sammasambuddha) or arhants (sammagata) it denotes someone who can see clearly now that they have fully realized the path.
Seeing as the buddha and the noble ones lived/wandered in a very mountinous region and often resided on peaks (Vultures Peak), they must have noticed how clearly one could see things from a summit.
Thus, I believe it would be best to see the path in terms of having to climb a mountain in order to eventually see clearly from the summit.
Ditthi (view) is usually listed first and I believe this is extremely important. In the example of climbing a mountain, we can only view things from where we are on the mountain and the further we climb up the clearer things become. “Right” view or “wrong” view are only relative to our current situation. Ultimately there is no right or wrong, just actions that will lead us up the hill or back down it.
In this context, samma is the summiting of the path and when one has fully incorporated the eightfold path into their life they can see clearly just like the buddha and the noble ones.
It does make sense when experience is observed to reveal sila gives rise to samadhi as part of a causal sequence:
"For a person endowed with virtue, consummate in virtue, there is no need for an act of will, ‘May freedom from remorse arise in me.’ It is in the nature of things that freedom from remorse arises in a person endowed with virtue, consummate in virtue.
"For a person free from remorse, there is no need for an act of will, ‘May joy arise in me.’ It is in the nature of things that joy arises in a person free from remorse.
"For a joyful person, there is no need for an act of will, ‘May rapture arise in me.’ It is in the nature of things that rapture arises in a joyful person.
"For a rapturous person, there is no need for an act of will, ‘May my body be serene.’ It is in the nature of things that a rapturous person grows serene in body.
"For a person serene in body, there is no need for an act of will, ‘May I experience pleasure.’ It is in the nature of things that a person serene in body experiences pleasure.
“For a person experiencing pleasure, there is no need for an act of will, ‘May my mind grow concentrated.’ It is in the nature of things that the mind of a person experiencing pleasure grows concentrated.”
Virtue does require an act of will.
—Anguttara nikaya 11.2
From the Buddha’s own pre-awakening experience:
“And as I remained thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, thinking imbued with renunciation arose in me. I discerned that 'Thinking imbued with renunciation has arisen in me; and that leads neither to my own affliction, nor to the affliction of others, nor to the affliction of both. It fosters discernment, promotes lack of vexation, & leads to Unbinding.”
Majjhima Nikaya 19
This is correct. Views determine perceptions, changing view changes perceptions.