The words stopped my reading… I mean I read them and had to go back to them, immediately – not even finishing the sentence before returning.
Intention has long fascinated. It’s one of those vitally important words that belong with a handful of others, like memory, or will, or detachment, or even truth. Each of them carries great import when, and only when, it’s placed in its correct hierarchy of spiritual importance to mankind. It’s hard to imagine how important these words are. Familiarity has dulled their powers, but that can be fixed by conscious exposure to their reality.
The rusty object can be dug from the earth and, with time and dedication, lovingly restored to the mantelpiece.
“Intention chooses heaven”
I was reading a Buddhist text quoted in a favourite author, Tiramit, in which the placing and importance of ‘intention’ was clearly spelled out.
In the book of Genesis, we are admonished: ‘But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’. This instruction, far from being some general command, is a specific psychological reference that a certain pattern of thinking will take us away from ‘heaven’.
Good and evil is to like or dislike. By liking or disliking we engage with the elements of life which draw or repel us. Instead of ‘seeing the heavens reflected in a calm sea’ we create the waves that prevent us from seeing the starry sky.
So how do we get back to bathing in the eternal calmness of starlight? One of the keys is to understand the proper place of intention; and to do that, we must examine our own lives in detail to find out what stops us using the full power of this human faculty.
Intention is not simply will. Will is a kind of sustained emotion. It keep our effort focussed on a goal, a direction. Intention is to find that focus in the first place; moreover, to find a space within us where we can see the possibilities with the greatest inner clarity and calmness.
The article referred to when the Buddha, sitting under the Boddhi tree, was assailed by the demons of Mara. He repelled them by calling the Earth to witness the large number of perfections he had accumulated over ‘past lives’. Tiramit’s post invites us to interpret such ‘past lives’ in two ways: literally or figuratively. If the latter, then it invites us to review the highs and lows of our present lives in a way that is attentive yet dispassionate – seeing everything we have done, accurately and honestly, yet not allowing either negative or positive feelings (dislikes or likes) about each experience to arise. We make it simply part of the wave that was and is our lives. It is truth, if viewed in this way. It therefore simply becomes an ‘is’, or as the Buddha would have said, it is ‘thus’…
Such reviews of personal history are a time-honoured method of arriving at a state of equanimity. We need to acknowledge the power that like and dislike have held over us. We need to see that the world’s accolades of material gain are not those belonging to the inner consciousness. Very different qualities are valued by our inner Self.
And get past being the victim or the star of the show…
Within equanimity, we are alert to but not identified with, events. We see our past as important only in that it got us ‘here’; and here is immediately relinquished to the movement of the now, ever fresh and ever full of potential – but if equanimity prevails, that potential has been subtly altered. It’s like an equilateral triangle: balance the like and dislike of the two base points and something wonderful happens at the third…
Our true, inner power in the now is to be present to it, which, in turn bring its sense of presence to us. The world becomes intelligent as teacher. This marriage of attention and power invites a new state of intent, as we clearly see the right way forward and move consciously along a front that unites our inner and outer worlds.
A full understanding of this requires that we investigate what is actually meant by ‘Karma’, rather than the petty ‘action and judgement’ modes of its comprehension.
We will discuss the ‘law of Karma’ and its deeper implications, in next week’s Silent Eye post.
The Dhamma Footsteps article is here.
©Stephen Tanham 2021
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.