The Eight Fold Path – Right Intent

Our meditation subject on Monday was the second component of the Buddha’s Eight Fold Path – Right Intent. Listen to the audio below or read the transcript.

Enjoy your practice.

We could see right view and right intention as the same thing. Both seem to imply thought processes going on and a sense of mental activity to take us forward. The certainly intertwine, but the aren’t the same thing. 

If we see right view as the target, we could look on right intention as the mental activity required to get there. 

If we use the analogy of the journey again, then right view is the final destination and right intention are each of our decisions along our journey to get us there. All the turns to the left or the right, all the decisions about shortcuts across parkland or whether we stay on the road. 

So right intent is very important. If right view is the culmination of our practice, the right intent builds it from the ground up. Step by step or, of course, thought by thought. Because here we aren’t just talking about the major decisions in our life. Actually, what in many ways is more important, we consider each and every thought. 

As we discovered last week, the Buddha recommended to us whether we considered things wholesome or not. So we can look at the individual thoughts and decide if they are wholesome. This is where our practice really comes in to our life. The eight fold path isn’t just something we do at certain times of our week. We are practising every minute of the day. Right intent is focusing on each and every thought and driving it from a place of compassion. This carries us forward to right view. As we get more adept at focussing in this way, so our right view, inevitably, changes, matures. 

So, what about the Buddha’s advice for establishing right intent? Remember last week we talked about the four noble truths? We spoke about the underlying causes for suffering which were driven by the three roots of unwholesome acts. I.e desire/grasping/craving, aversion/ill will/hate and delusion. 

We can look look at each of these and think about what cultivates the opposite of these. 

For grasping and desire, the Buddha recommended we consider renunciation. However, his approach, the middle way, is very soft. He didn’t believe that we all have to give up the household life and become a monk. Desire and craving are attitudes of mind. So is renunciation. So, through our meditation and mindfulness we learn to mentally notice and ‘turn our back’ on craving. He said that we can be a prince in a palace and still gain enlightenment if we do not allow craving and desire into our heart. 

Conversely, If we become a monk, but still crave the rich life, we will still suffer. So renunciation is a mental approach of noticing and disregarding the desire for sense objects. To eat when we need, but not to resort to gluttony for example. 

Aversion. Here we need to look to compassion and love and for this, we developed Metta. Unconditional love with equanimity for all aspects of our life. Again, all mental reactions. Noticing when we are mentally pushing things away, asking why and approaching these things with a degree of acceptance. The other really powerful activity here is generosity, which neutralises Ill will. The practice of generosity is extremely wholesome for us as individuals. A real tonic. 

Delusion runs deep in all of us. It is seeing the world behind the veil of our own minds. I.e. Seeing it behind all of our attitudes, habitual thought patterns, prejudices, religious beliefs etc. The opposite of this is pure view. Seeing the world and the people within it as it is and they are. This takes time and it is on course the practice of mind watching or mindfulness that takes us there. 

For me, right intent really demonstrates the difference between secular mindfulness and Buddhism as a spiritual discipline. Here, with the eight fold path, we are looking to take ourselves forward to a place where we fully alleviate suffering both for ourselves and for those around us. This is the ultimate spiritual goal of Buddhist practice.