Holding wrong views.
We incur a root downfall if we hold wrong views denying anything that we need to believe in order to achieve liberation. Examples of this can include rejecting any of the stages of the path, such as the need to rely upon a Spiritual Guide, karma, the four noble truths, the disadvantages of self-cherishing, bodhichitta, emptiness, Tantra, etc.
There is a difference between holding wrong views and having doubts or questions. Doubts and questions are normal, and in fact are a good thing if we use them as fuel to deepen our understandings. Holding wrong views also does not mean not yet believing or understanding a given instruction. Holding wrong views means we come to a definite conclusion that something in the Dharma is wrong and we are right, without us having an open mind about the question. If we have a valid reason why it is wrong, we don’t incur this fault. But 99 times out of 100 (well actually 100 times out of a 100) if we have such a valid reason it will be refuting some wrong understanding of the Dharma, not a correct understanding. All correct understandings of the Dharma seem eminently reasonable when properly understood, even if they are nonetheless quite radical notions.
In general we can say our gaining of realizations occurs in a progression. We start out with wrong views about pretty much everything. The first step is conceding it is better to have an open mind and to admit that we don’t really know, but we intend to investigate the matter more carefully. As we start to do this, our wrong views start transforming into doubts tending towards a wrong view. We continue to investigate and ask questions, and eventually these doubts start tending towards the correct view. We continue to probe and to test and eventually we might start getting the initial inklings of faith in a given object. We think, “this idea in the Dharma is probably right and I am probably just understanding it wrong, so I better keep checking.” Eventually this believing faith becomes stronger and we start to develop admiring faith thinking how much better our life would be if only we realized fully this particular idea. This admiring faith then transforms into wishing faith, where we genuinely want to gain this particular understanding. This wishing faith then transform into effort to actually gain the realization. With effort comes experience, and with experience comes valid reasons which then are used to support what are called “inferential valid cognizers” about some subject. An inferential valid cognizer moves beyond faith to personal wisdom on a subject, but even this is not strong enough. We keep investigating, keep testing, keep contemplating until eventually these inferential cognizers transform into direct perceivers of the truth of the particular idea of the Dharma. We see directly it is exactly true. We continue to increase the power of our direct perceivers until eventually they transform into yogic direct perceivers, where we realize the truth of the given subject directly with our very subtle mind of great bliss mixed with emptiness. These are called yogic direct perceivers. Our goal is to eventually attain yogic direct perceivers of every single stage of the path. Once we have done so, we will swiftly become a Buddha!
Destroying places such as towns.
We incur a root downfall if, with a bad motivation, we willfully destroy a place of habitation or an environment. Unless we are a political leader, it is unlikely we could incur this downfall by physically destroying a town or somebody’s home. But this is something that can easily happen, for example, with respect to insect colonies.
It is also entirely likely we could incur this downfall, or at least a similitude of it, in many other ways. For example, if we were to engage in sexual misconduct with somebody who is married, this could easily destroy that person’s home, which is even worse if kids are involved. It does not take sexual misconduct to destroy somebody else’s home, depending on the circumstances it may only take a few words of divisive speech. Even if the communities are not completely destroyed, they can easily be sufficiently disrupted that they are never the same again.
Likewise, in the modern world, places are not limited to the physical world, but can also include virtual environments, such as on-line communities. Divisive or hurtful speech can easily destroy the harmony of a community, ruining it for all.
Sometimes it is also possible to destroy a community by not doing what is required to save it if it is within our power to do so. The circumstances of living beings are vast, and it makes little karmic difference between actively destroying a community and not saving one when we otherwise could.
It is, however, possible that actions such as these may become necessary depending upon the circumstances. But we need tremendous wisdom to know whether it is appropriate to do so, and we must make sure that our mind is completely free from delusion and governed only by concern for others. To take an easy example, if somebody is being abused by their partner and you encourage and aid them to escape from the abusive relationship, you may be destroying somebody’s home but it is an act of compassion not only for the victim but also for the abuser.