Lama Surya Das explains that Right Intention asks us to “use our mind and our determination to free ourselves from ignorance, delusion, negativity, and selfishness; to become totally honest with ourselves; to develop a “working” loving-kindness, empathy, and compassion toward all other living beings.”
Right Thought or Intention is second on the Path and the second of the Wisdom Trainings. We tend to think that thoughts don’t count; only what we actually do matters. But the Buddha taught that our thoughts are the forerunner of our actions and that what we think, along with what we say and how we act, create karma.
Right Intention can be described best as commitment to ethical and mental growth. The Buddha taught three types of right intentions: 1. the intention of renunciation, which means not acting on the pull of desire, 2. the intention of good will, meaning not acting on feelings of anger and aversion, and 3. the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion.
“Right Understanding, the first step of the Path, is seeing life as it really is: the objective understanding of the nature of things as they truly are. All things that have arisen, including the so-called being, are nothing but incessant change (anicca), therefore unsatisfactory (dukkha) and productive of suffering. It follows then that what is both impermanent and pain-laden cannot conceal within it anything that is solid, substantial, or unchanging — an eternal soul or an imminent abiding principle (anatta).”
This is the teaching then of Right View or Right Understanding: understanding life as it is; understanding impermanence, suffering, and not-self. Finally, we must understand the Four Noble Truths and how they operate in our lives.
Right View also implies an understanding of karma. We reap what we sow. We have this great “dharma field,” which is our life, (dharma is not only a teaching of truth but also means phenomena) . We can plant whatever seed we want in this field. But we have to remember that whatever seed we plant, will ripen. So, if I’m planting apple seeds I will get apple trees… not orange trees. If I’m planting weeds, I will harvest weeds…not roses. It is up to me to plant the seeds of good. If I chose to plant the seeds of discord, hate, and division, that is what will manifest in my life. Robert Bogoda again, ‘That is to say, consequences follow causes… whether one believes in karma or not “even as a fall from a great height will result in injury or even death, regardless of our belief or disbelief in the force of gravity.’”