The second aspect of the Eightfold Path is right intention. Here I am talking about our motivation; the spark that fires us into action.
Right intention is divided into three parts: letting go, goodwill and harmlessness. So lets look at these one by one.
Letting go – what we are letting go of is attachment to, or craving for, objects of desire. How much we let go is a personal thing, but the more we loosen our grip on objects of desire, the less we suffer, because Buddha stated that clinging to desire is one of the causes of our suffering. Until we are able to let go of this craving, we will never reach a place where there is no more suffering.
Letting go of our clinging desires may sound easy, but when we try to release our grip on cherished objects, a strong feeling inside tries to stop us from succeeding. This is because since time immemorial, we have been attached to our friends, family and belongings. Thus, it is never easy to suddenly let go. It may not be easy, but it isn’t impossible.
The Buddha taught us that letting go isn’t about giving up all material things but secretly still cherishing them. What he said is that by understanding the nature of desire, we manage to let go of our cravings. We must investigate our desires and understand their true nature: impermanence and suffering.
If we contemplate impermanence we will see that nothing lasts forever. So what is the point of getting ourselves worked up over something that isn’t exactly what we think it is, and isn’t going to last. We will never be able to find permanent happiness from impermanent things.
So contemplating impermanence is one of the best ways of letting go of clinging to objects of desire. It takes time to change our perceptions and it isn’t easy, but if we don’t start , we will never finish.
A wise person is able to let go.
To let go is actually to receive,
To receive boundless happiness.
Goodwill – this is the opposite of ill-will and is a mental state. When we have goodwill towards others, we wish them well and do not want any harm to befall them. However, it is too easy for us to start wishing ill-will on others. Lets look at some examples.
If you have just separated from your partner and it all ended a bit messy, you may wish that your partner comes to some harm. This is ill-will, and such thinking is only going to bring harm upon yourself. First, we think and then we act. So if our thoughts are negative, it follows that our actions are also going to be negative.
Another example would be if you are in line for promotion and the only thing in your way is your colleague. Out of jealousy and pride, you wish that some harm befalls your colleague, so you could get the promotion. This is nothing but ill-will and based on your own selfish needs; it does not show any regard for the other’s thoughts and feelings.
We want happiness in our lives, but we must understand that every other person also wants happiness. How, then, do we liberate ourselves from ill-will? The thought that other people also seek happiness causes goodwill to rise within us and makes us wish that they be happy, peaceful and well. In other words caring for others’ feelings and showing them genuine warmth clears away ill-will.
I am not talking about sympathy or pity, but real empathy – putting ourselves in other people’s shoes and truly understanding that they wish to be treated kindly and with warmth.
One of the best methods of build goodwill is to do the Metta-Bhavana meditation.
Harmlessness – this is the intention to not hurt anyone, either physically, mentally or verbally. We have to realise that we are not the only ones suffering. Everyone wishes to be free of suffering but is still gripped by pain, despair, anguish, dissatisfaction and other kinds of suffering.
We must understand that we, too, play our parts in other people’s suffering by not having compassion for them, not caring for their well-being and not seeing that like us, they want to be free of all types of suffering.
So how do we begin to feel compassion towards everyone? We have to contemplate on people’s suffering, but don’t just pick people you know and like. Also contemplate on people you dislike and don’t know. Think of how people are suffering and radiate compassion towards them. This, of course, will not stop their suffering, but it will make you a more compassionate and helpful person.
We have to ensure that whatever we think, say or do does not harm anyone – this is the intention of harmlessness.
I have only giving a brief description of right intention here, but you can find more information in ‘The Best Way to Catch a Snake.’ http://www.amazon.com/The-Best-Way-Catch-Snake/dp/8129119528/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351924354&sr=8-1&keywords=the+best+way+to+catch+a+snake
Next time I will cover right speech.