I’m surrounded by people better than me.  Or better in the way my judgmental mind still falls into the trap of ranking things.   I have the privilege of being around huge givers.. People who are truly making a dent in the universe, sincerely stepping up and living in full service to humanity, adding more love all over the place.

I was at a business function recently and someone snarkily said “are you just in the kindness business now or what?”. I let it pass but I heard very clearly what they were saying… that it seems I’m devoting my time and focus and attention on things that don’t seem business oriented and perhaps in their perception I’m over sharing my service work and other passionate interests and losing sight of the fact that I run a business.

I consider this a while and recognize in large measure it’s a reaction to life observed thru Facebook.

Many of us are observing and knowing each other in only this way these days and I am making a strong determination to not do that.  Who I am on Facebook or anywhere else is not all of me, not a substitute for knowing who I really am, what I’m really about.  I’m certain same goes for you.

But even weeks later, this person’s comments linger in my consciousness and I know now when that happens it’s a sure sign I need to take a closer look.

Where is my ego overshadowing my heart?

What’s motivating my actions in a positive and negative way?

Am I giving in order to get?

Am I helping with a goal of receiving?

Am I looking for recognition or validation?

Am I using loving-kindness or service work in order to be loved by the recipient?

These questions grow in me and mulling the answers feels essential.  I think anyone not bullshitting would have to answer affirmatively to at least some extent.  When someone says they have no ego, I know it’s never totally true.  Ever.   (I actually think we have an epidemic of claiming ego as something “bad” instead of creating a healthy awareness of its strengths and weaknesses)

Buddhists believe the intention behind all actions is what matters most.   For example, many Buddhists take a vow to not kill… which if taken literally means they simply can’t live.  Every time you step in the grass you kill something and the shoes you wear killed many things before they landed on your feet.  You can’t not kill.. but you can have the intention to not kill.  What matters is the intention behind the action.

If you believe in karma and the collection of meritorious deeds, a Buddhist perspective is that good actions that are based in ego or wrong intention have no meritorious value and create negative karma.  Even when the work you do generates much good in the world, the intention behind the effort is what we’re measured by.

This is bad news.  I ponder how imperfect my intentions have been and sitting near the middle of my life, I wonder if I have enough time to counteract the negative karma I’ve created by being an awesome person doing so much good in the world but often motivated by intentions that are based in ego, seeking to be noticed and recognized, etc.  Humbling to consider.

Thankfully, I don’t necessarily believe this entirely.  I actually think the good generated, even from ill-intended action, is still good.

If we take this Buddhist concept of Karma seriously, we also must consider the equally valid teachings of the Middle path.. the fact that anything viewed in extremes isn’t sturdy.  My gut tells me my truth is somewhere in the middle… that we need to find the gentle space where we strive to have our intentions as holy, noble and pure as possible and yet recognize we are imperfect beings that will never achieve total purity of intent.

I began to research the word intention and remembered I had written an article about it a while ago that is perfect for this discussion:

 

RIGHT INTENTION:  STEP 2 on the NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH TO HAPPINESS

More?

Discussion

  • Christopher Trent

    Every single thing we do is never purely anything. I think the idea that there is, or can be, simple homogeneity of any source of either intention, action or thought is merely a theoretical artifact of the duelistic way we like to categorize the world. I think we wish we can have simple, pure intentions, but that is just not typical for complex adaptive systems like our minds (mind-body(s)).

    Each emotion, thought, intention, action is the result of a vast mandala of causes and conditions. When we say our intention, for example, is “good” or “unselfish”, we are doing a sort of averaging and naming for the sake of brevity and convenience of thought and communication, not reflecting the subtle truth of reality.

    To do that, we would need to somehow describe one momentary slice of time literally containing the entire universe at that instant. Because, what we call “you” is just another emergent designation, isn’t it? So we can’t just describe all of the bits of “you” alone, we would need to understand everything around you, that has influenced you, that influenced those things, etc., etc,. etc. Well, that is not only awkward, it is logistically impossible. Isn’t philosophy fun? But, I digress.

    Our intentions are always a mix, always a pinch of this and a dash of that. I think if we keep striving to make them, “on average” more wholesome than not, more win-win that selfish, more honest than dishonest, less harmful than harmful, then we are doing what sages refer to as purifying our minds, little by little. And to do that, we sit, we meditate, we polish the mirror, the tool we use for self-examination. And, slowly reality and our virtue comes into focus.