Intentions become delusions

intentions

And how do we develop skillful intentions?

The longer I practice, the more I have come to realize how compassion for others is typically manifested in good intentions. And at the outset of this, one would think that this seems to be a wholesome and loving process.
But there is actually a large problem that can easily be generated by wishing for others to be well. And that happens by way of desire and expectations that we attach to those thoughts and feelings. Thoughts, words and actions that become “wishes” for things to be different and better. Clearly, this begins to fall under the category of prayer more than practice. And that is not to say that I think prayer is wrong or bad, simply that I do not pray and do not wish to pray.

So what do any of us do when we see a loved one suffering or heading down a destructive path? With loving-kindness and compassion, it would only seem logical to want to assist in whatever way we can to help that person. But that is where many of our delusions begin. By thinking they are yours, and that you have a responsibility to do something. But since we in fact do not have the power to control our own bodies or the future, how can we be so egotistical to think we can control or change anyone else’s life?
If “this is not mine, I am not this”, then how can “they” be mine right? Perhaps this is where the saying came from, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions“!

Every-time that we feel empathetic towards another being, we take on suffering for ourselves. As if our pain can in someway diminish or alleviate their pain and difficulties. And then the delusion is created, through the stories we create, that seem to offer a better outcome and an alternate reality for the other person. And there you can see how easily any of us can slip from mindful awareness and acceptance to an ignorant state where both of you are now suffering because of your good intentions. And I just do not see the compassion in that process.

With this in mind, I offer the suggestion of mindfulness and acceptance. And understanding, that as much as me we love someone and want the very best for them, they are not “ours”. The reality that Buddha taught us is crystal clear in the First Noble Truth. “There is suffering”. And the more often that we struggle to eliminate this truth, the more we will in fact increase our own dissatisfaction with our lives.
I think it is truly enough to simply be loving and kind, without the desire for anything to be any different from exactly the way it is.

May you be well, happy and peaceful

  • Ariston Farm

    A really thought-provoking post for me David – thank you for sharing it!  I see it a bit differently in that I think we are all interconnected – Thay calls it “inter-being” – so although I cannot control what happens ( to me or to you), if another is suffering, then that comes into my being as well.  I wholeheartedly support your idea that we can be loving and kind without the desire for anything to be different from what it is [although Jim may want to weigh in on the “desire” part :-) ] .  For me – my daily challenge is to be empathic and compassionate without thinking I need to FIX it.  Indeed, I want to engage with the world and if something I can do will enhance life for me or for someone else, then I’d like to do it.  I do not, however, want to carry that as a burden through my day.  Sylvia Boorstein talked about suffering in a wonderful piece in Shambala Sun earlier this year – and I was encouraged that she is still working on the issue of suffering as well   Often times, I think those who have been at the practice so much longer than I are lifetimes more accomplished at not feeling the pain.  And often, that’s not the case.  Anyway David – thanks for getting me thinking on this today, and creating a space for many of us to think out loud!  Metta!  Patricia

    • WHPDave

      Ariston Farm Thank you so much Patricia, and your comments have me thinking as well! :)

    • WHPDave

      Ariston Farm Thank you so much Patricia, and your comments have me thinking as well! :)

  • Ariston Farm

    A really thought-provoking post for me David – thank you for sharing it!  I see it a bit differently in that I think we are all interconnected – Thay calls it “inter-being” – so although I cannot control what happens ( to me or to you), if another is suffering, then that comes into my being as well.  I wholeheartedly support your idea that we can be loving and kind without the desire for anything to be different from what it is [although Jim may want to weigh in on the “desire” part :-) ] .  For me – my daily challenge is to be empathic and compassionate without thinking I need to FIX it.  Indeed, I want to engage with the world and if something I can do will enhance life for me or for someone else, then I’d like to do it.  I do not, however, want to carry that as a burden through my day.  Sylvia Boorstein talked about suffering in a wonderful piece in Shambala Sun earlier this year – and I was encouraged that she is still working on the issue of suffering as well   Often times, I think those who have been at the practice so much longer than I are lifetimes more accomplished at not feeling the pain.  And often, that’s not the case.  Anyway David – thanks for getting me thinking on this today, and creating a space for many of us to think out loud!  Metta!  Patricia

  • Sandrak

    I agree with a lot of what you said, but I’d like to add a different perspective on prayer if you don’t mind. In prayer, we are not wishing for things to be different, but it is more an act of surrender…not praying to God, but praying in God in a intimate way.  The essence of prayer is “resting in God’s creative love” as Fr. Barron puts it well, and when we pray for others, our prayer links us to everyone and everything else in the cosmos…..”In the divine still-point we find the ground from which all things proceed and by which they are sustained….and thus, the very act of prayer is, necessarily, communal and corporate… I am able, in love, to place my mind in your mind and to project my will into yours, in such a way as to bear your burdens. When Christians speak of praying for one another or, even more radically, of suffering on behalf of one another, they are assuming [CharlesWilliams’] ontology of co-inherence [that is to say, existing in and for the other].[3]Father Barron describes perfectly what prayer means to me.  Prayer brings peace and acceptance through surrender, and it brings love to suffering…and it connects oneself to all existence through love.

    • WHPDave

      Sandrak Thank you so much for your thoughts Sandra.