Intention 2 (Mangala Sutta 7)

Residing in a suitable location,
Good deeds performed in the past,
Setting oneself in the right direction;
This is the greatest blessing

Continuing on from the last post, setting oneself in the right direction is something we need to practice over and over again, until it becomes automatic. Even after it becomes habitual to check our intention, situations can arise to test us.

When we’re aware of our intentions, we can choose to act on those that are motivated by kindness, generosity or other wholesome states, and choose to restrain those actions or words that we recognize as originating in unwholesome intentions.

This sorting process – noticing what comes up (usually unbidden) and filtering it through our wholesome-unwholesome dosimeter – is the basic training of our minds. We start with whatever natural inclination we have and work with whatever skills we’ve acquired so far in life. Regardless of where we start, it’s the direction and the application of a strong but subtle effort that moves our experience in a more wholesome and satisfying direction.

It’s really important to skip the step where we feel badly or criticize ourselves for every bad intention we notice. Really important. It’s a completely unnecessary and unhelpful response, as if you expect to run a five-minute mile on your first try. See if you can be grateful for the unwholesome intentions as well as the wholesome ones, because the unwholesome intentions show us exactly where we need to work. The wholesome ones are usually satisfying in themselves. Notice those as well, and try to figure out what conditions might sustain them.

As a reminder or motivator to undertake this training, I offer a very famous verse from the Buddha’s teachings, the first verse of the Dhammapada:
Mind is the forerunner of all things.
Mind is the master, mind is the maker.
If one speaks or acts with a defiled mind
Then suffering follows
As surely as does the wheel the foot of an ox.

Mind is the forerunner of all things.
Mind is the master, mind is the maker.
If one speaks or acts with a pure mind
Then happiness follows
As surely as does one’s shadow.
(translated by John Kelly)

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Filed under General, Mangala Sutta

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