…Intention. It is a big word these days. Very close to one of the new commandments. There is something very serious about that word these days. Not without reason. If we examine our intentions deeply, we can be surprised at what we find. If we set our intentions consciously, it is a little super power.
Intentions, to avoid the over serious end of the spectrum, might well be disambiguated from aspirations. Thich Nhat Hanh has a good way of distinguishing them. He talks about the north star. We may have an aspiration to keep true to its direction, to hold it in our sight, to ever move closer towards it. “We may never reach the north star he says, but it will set us on a course” That would be an aspiration; to get closer to the north star. An intention, aligned with that, is to just make sure that I keep going north. That intention is realizable, I can keep going north, even though my aspiration to reach the north star won’t ever be realized.
So what is my north star? What is my north? The Buddhist ideal is to reach the stage of a Bodhisattva, one who stays in this world, even stays this side of Nirvana, just to keep helping others in this world get closer to their own north, their own release from suffering, their own happiness. I know I am very far from that. Wow, in so many ways I was much much closer to that at the age of 18 that I am now at 70. Bows to that prior self that was me, his aspirations were clearer somehow, and yet, he had so many obstacles both internal and external he did not see, much less have a handle on.
In the Bodhisattva aspiration, even this is a good place to start. To begin from a seed of aspirations and intentions and to nourish them by compassionate contemplation of ourselves, even the selves that have come before. My aspiration then seems clear; that giving benefit to others in terms of supporting their path in an authentic and unsentimental way is truly a great aspiration for me. I know that as I think of benefit to others I will reduce my own suffering, pretty much off the top, to say nothing of my Karma, which is something I don’t speak to. One quote attributed to the Buddha, paraphrased says: “Don’t try to understand your Karma, it will drive you crazy.” I think that’s true. Attempts to wrestle my life, past, present, future, into a corral of mental construct is just another way of trying to grab control.
What then are good intentions for me? Releasing the idea of a separate self, to more fully realize inter-being in each moment, this is a good direction, going north, into a freedom that knows no limits, and is aimless except for expansion and warmth.
By Evalyn Baron
On November 12, 2022
Loved this entire rumination!