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Step Two Notes -- Wise Intention

I like the term: pure intention. in the sense of unadulterated.  Most of  our intentions are intertwined with other intentions and the human mind can only take so much of this "intertwining" before it starts to take shortcults.  If "first do no harm" is my first  thought prior to any action. there is a pretty good chance that i will try my best to insure that my action is harmless.  if i have a list of priorities in which "winning" comes first and "harmlessness" second there is more chance that my action will not be harmless.  If harmlessness if fifth or seventh, or tenth in imporantance i am very likely to hurt people in the process of winning.  Modern life almost insures that our intentions will be impure and multi-tasking is only the most recent glitch in that intertwining of intentions.  Tom O'Day called this "mixed motivation" and specified that it was one of the dillemmas of institutions, especially institutionalized religion.  If religious office confers social status then religious duties may take a back seat to status needs.

Wise intention may arise out of wise understanding or perception, but different understandings may give rise to similar intentions.  The "understandings" of East Asia. South Asia. the West, and aboriginal socities around the world are very different from one another but the "Golden Rule" of Ancient Egypt is known and honored almost everywhere (except, of course, where there are "more important" things going on).  No one wants harm to come them, everyone should wish that harm does not come to others.

I guess i could take Krishna's advice to Arjuna about how slayers can't truly slay and how the slain cannot truly be slain so i should just play out my socially (or divinely) assigned role.  But my understanding has not developed to  that level yet.  In my illusionary world, soldiers die, often killing others before they go.  In my illusionary world, aborted fetuses die, causing pain to clinic staff, family members, and pro-lifers/anti-abortionists.

I was a "hawk" between my seventh and twelth years.  The bombing  of Pearl Harbor made me a hawk, the bombing of  Hiroshima made me a pacifist.  I still am one.  There are still hawks, though their cries seem to have become less shrill.  But most people are doves, neither pacifists nor hawks.  They prefer peace where peace seems possible and accept war where war seems inevitable.  In fact, haven't i just described everybody except a few psychopaths, sadists, and power "eaters?"  As a pacifist. doves and hawks are not ememies, nor are "terrorists" nor foreign armies.  Only war iself is the enemy.  I have vowed never to participate in any war or in any thing called a war.  (Although i do sometimes get caught up  in the "class war," usually to my later regret.)

In the fight between "choice" and "life" i find that i am not a "pacifist" but a dove.  I prefer that every life be extended in time for as long as possible but accept that death is inevitable. sometimes early and sometimes late.  I will argue against every specifiic abortion that comes to my attention while recognizing that i will sometimes lose (and deserve to lose) the argument.  I will never ask the law to interfere with a mother's right to choose.

I was a product of incestuous rape.  Both my mother and her rapist were member of a religion that opposes abortion.  I suspect that she never considered aborting me, though i never was impolite enough to ask.  But anti-abortionist sometimes  put thoughts in  the minds and words in the mouths of the unborn, and i have often wondered how "i" (more my real Self then than  now) might have reacted  to her decision.  I hope i would have applauded her decision, whatever it was.

The intention of harmlessness must be carefully nurtured.  In or  out of sangha (i am by necessity out), with or without a teacher ( i have chosen not to  hunt for one just now) the intention of  harmlessness is not easy,  Many Buddhists  are vegetarians and i respect that; but suppose i decide that plants are "sentient beings" (as they certainly are).  Starving myself would not be harmless.

Human beings may not be able to solve the dillemma of duality and non-duality.  The world of illusion seems all too real and its reality is firmly established in our being long before we know we have a choice.


Feb. 15th, 2016 02:17 am (UTC)
You know, I don't think it's possible to live and be entirely harmless. Antibiotics kill microbes, every time we wash our hands some living being may go to death. And from a Buddhist perspective, I can't really say that some sentient beings are "higher" than others. Where can we draw a line on intention? I think I work with the idea of necessity--do I really need to live? Well, so far yes.

But the thing I can't resolve in my brain is that I'm definitely going to take antibiotics again, but not sure I would fight in a war that threatened me. Maybe I would. But I do try when I can to cut out the harm that really isn't totally necessary.

This is a very hard question, and clearly not one I've resolved!
Feb. 15th, 2016 03:29 am (UTC)
Levels of sentient beings.
I know you are correct.
But i some problem with acknowledging levels of sentience.not because they don't exist, but because of the danger that acknowledging that "hierarchy" poses to my "right view."

Buddha denied that plants are "sentient" (as does the Dalai Lama) and microbes were outside even his enlightened awareness.

But. yes, even a Jain must destroy life.
Feb. 15th, 2016 11:55 am (UTC)
Re: Levels of sentient beings.
I have to wonder about microbes myself, though. And plants!

But even at more complex levels, as you say, even Jains kill, in spite of all the precautions. And in our complex economy, with all the interdependence, it's hard to know which of our actions cause other actions that end up in harm (farming practices, for example).

Feb. 15th, 2016 05:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Levels of sentient beings.
Yes, exactly.
But we need to do our best, and often don't.
Feb. 15th, 2016 10:11 pm (UTC)
RE: Re: Levels of sentient beings.
Yes, all agreed, the whole comment stream. You know, though, I think that one of the central benefits of practice is to move one from identity to effort or action, through failure despite effort, through continuing. That is, to humility as I conceive it.
Feb. 16th, 2016 01:02 am (UTC)
Re: Levels of sentient beings.
Oh, yes! (I hope i said nothing that contradicted that.) Buddha put perception and intention first, but i don't think they were intended to be rigidly sequential. As my speech, action, work, meditative effort, mindfulness, and concentration go sour, i must return to revisit wise perception and wise intention.
Feb. 16th, 2016 01:30 am (UTC)
Re: Levels of sentient beings.
Oh, no! I thought I was making explicit something implicit in what you said!
Feb. 16th, 2016 02:07 am (UTC)
Re: Levels of sentient beings.
Thank you.



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