Right Intention, a Tool that Drops Away

Dear Sangha,

               Don’t forget—next week is the four-hour block sitting, from 2:30-6:30!

We’ve continued reading and talking about the “Wisdom” chapter of Buddhism: Plain and Simple. We talked about what constitutes a “concept,” or “dharma” (in its small-d definition). As Hagen puts it, it’s “anything with a skin around it, some sort of boundary dividing something from something else.” But can anything be separated out? Hagen takes the concept of “book” and traces everything that’s gone into creating that concept. So what is what we call “book”?

 We talked about “right intention,” the second of the items on the Eightfold Path. Hagen says this aspect is what most distinguishes a Buddha from those who are not awake. “Why?” he asks. “Because in the moment we’re awake, for all practical purposes, we’re without intention. We could say that the intention of an awakened person is just simply to be awake.” Just typing this, I see this better.  Right Intention is a tool that drops away when we’re awake.

We talked, as we often do, about what motivates us to practice, what we thought we would get out of it, and what actually may be the result. Someone said, “I don’t hear compassion mentioned very often.” But in the very next paragraph, Hagen says, “If we want to break the chain of suffering and confusion, our intention should only be to awaken.”  So if we’re awake, or even when we’re on the way to being awake, we sense less separation between what we call “us” and “them.” We step in to help instinctively, as we would if we’d just hurt our own body.

Of course that isn’t how we begin, most of us. We want to end our own confusion and suffering. We want peace. We sit and sit and watch what’s actually there. We see the constant flux.  We begin to realize at a deep level that we can’t hang on to anything. We begin to rest on the undulating sea of Reality.

 Reminder again! Next week is our four-hour block sitting, from 2:30-6:30. Karen will be in Battle Creek for the retreat and I’ll be in Ann Arbor for my husband’s back surgery. Janet will be leading both next week and the one after.
turkeyP. S. Happy Thanksgiving!