Two kinds of intentions

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From an essay by Thanissaro Bhikkhu:

The two most important points in the Buddha’s teaching on karma — the two that set it apart from every other version of karma taught in his time — are that karma is intention, and that present experience is shaped by two kinds of intentions: past and present. Past intentions that are ready to ripen establish the range of possibilities that you could experience right now. Your present intentions pick and choose from those possibilities to shape what you actually experience. …

As you meditate, these points alert you to the fact that some things you experience in the present come from past intentions, and some from present intentions; you have to be able to tell the difference between the two if you want to read the results of your present actions.

Found at The Worst Horse.

Breathe.

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2 responses

  1. Bhikkhu’s analysis of the two kinds of intentional drivers – past and present – is quite liberating. Because, with attention to the mind’s function, we create the opportunity to act with conscious, aware intention in the present.

    Of course, that’s easy to say – my own intentions are usually hidden behind the all-consuming forces of anger, ignorance and desire. So part of the self-study is to examine my actions in ways that might reveal the intentions behind them. I can do this maybe, oh, 2% of the time. The rest of the time, the ox completely runs away from me.

  2. Hi, Barry. My dharma teacher likes to say that our past experience sets up habits. Often we just react in a habitual way to a familiar situation. I know this is true for me! When I finally notice myself reacting out of habit, that’s when I have the great chance to do something different the next time. He also says that when we say “feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness” (skandas), the impulses are karma. Habit = impulse. Knee-jerk reactions. Yeah. And you are so right that all this is usually hidden from our view. It’s so obvious in one way, but in real day-to-day life, it’s not obvious at all.