Well, it’s taken longer than expected to get this article written but after much thought, reflection and intention here it is.
Right intention, to me, is one of the most pivotal parts of the Eightfold Path. One of the points in the teaching here is renunciation. This doesn’t mean going off into the woods or the mountains, it’s quite the opposite.
The word renunciation may scare some people. The word renunciation is defined as “The act or an instance of renouncing”, meaning to not hold onto something, to rid oneself of something. Some folks may think this means to get rid of everything we have and go live in the woods somewhere with a burlap sack as our only possession. This is far from the case.
Renunciation, from the Eightfold Path perspective, is a good thing. It refers to giving up the things that we grasp onto, the things that hold us back and cause us to suffer. For instance, especially for most of us Western folk, our clinging to the need to accumulate things. If we can manage to separate ourselves from our material lives, to renounce the need to accumulate, we suffer less.
For some, the need to have the newest fashion, for fashions sake, is a big pull. If we don’t have the newest sweater or designer handbag, we cause our-self to suffer. We feel bad because our best friend has it and we don’t, we suffer. This is why renunciation is important, because if we can separate ourselves from this “need to purchase and accumulate” we suffer less. We become our own person as well, which may not be the most Buddhist of ideas since we are supposed to all be the same, but I believe by not following the herd we can think for ourselves. Thinking for yourself, and investigating things on our own, to me, is the biggest form of renunciation.
Right intention isn’t just about renunciation though, the key word is pretty obvious, it’s all about intention. We all have the intention, when stepping on this path, to follow it the best we can. For those of who didn’t have the immediate connection with a teacher or guide we learned about this path with the help of books, mp3 talks and chats online with fellow practitioners. Our intention was there and hopefully still is.
Renunciation isn’t the only part of Right Intention though, there are various factors. One of the others is good will, and that is self explanatory. We aren’t just doing this for ourselves, we are here to do this dharma work in the hopes we can make things around us better. We all hear the rather cliche “may all beings be free, may the all be happy…” all the time, but seriously, that’s what we are doing here. Buddha set this thing in motion, told us all the way to free ourselves from suffering. But he didn’t stop there, it was his intention, as it is hopefully for you, to help spread the message so others can become free.
What are your thoughts on Right Intention (which could also be called Right Understanding)??