Right intention

Right view and right intention together make up the “wisdom” portion of the 8-fold path. Both of these factors are concerned with aim, where and how we aim our attention. This is one reason these two steps are listed at the beginning of the path. If we face in the right direction before we start to move, we’re bound to end up at least close to where we want to. If we face in a wrong direction, or don’t know which way we’re facing, we’ll end up in unintended places.

Right intention is also called right thought, right understanding or right resolve. It is made up of three main components:

— Intention of renunciation
— Intention of goodwill
— Intention of harmlessness

The intention of renunciation is an invitation to be aware of those times when we’re motivated by greed for something material or for a specific outcome, and we make the effort to counteract the greed, to replace it with contentment. If we set our intention in this way, we will become sensitive to our motives; when greed arises, a little bell might ring in our minds as we recognize the specific feeling of clinging. Once we examine it, we may see the possibility of releasing it. This release is renunciation.

From Bhikkhu Bodhi’s book (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html):
So the problem arises of how to break the shackles of desire. The Buddha does not offer as a solution the method of repression – the attempt to drive desire away with a mind full of fear and loathing. This approach does not resolve the problem but only pushes it below the surface, where it continues to thrive. The tool the Buddha holds out to free the mind from desire is understanding. Real renunciation is not a matter of compelling ourselves to give up things still inwardly cherished, but of changing our perspective on them so that they no longer bind us. When we understand the nature of desire, when we investigate it closely with keen attention, desire falls away by itself, without need for a struggle.

In reflecting on this principle, one thing I noticed in my own experience is that, having given up alcohol some years ago, now when the offer of it comes up, I feel a pleasant sense of release. Where once I’d be uncertain about whether I should or shouldn’t take a drink, everything is simple and worry-free.

Intention of goodwill and harmlessness next time…

The factors of the eight-fold path are:

1. Right View (of the ownership of action)
2. Right Intention (renunciation, goodwill, harmlessness)
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration

1 Comment

Filed under The 8-fold path

One response to “Right intention

  1. I am fascinated by your “definition” of renunciation. Formerly, I learned (and believed) that failing in one’s efforts to renounce something was the result of a lack of sincerity. Now, I see that renunciation is more about won’t-fulness than will-fulness! Strange and amazing! Thank you.

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