Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Jim Smith, modified 11 Months ago.

Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

It seems like a pragmatic approach would be goal centered and that might involve having an intention during meditation.

I don't think that is necessarily bad if it keeps one focused on a technique and helps one do the technique correctly because it explains the purpose and mechanism involved in the technique.


However I do think intention can also act as a nucleus around which self can form. And intention can become so ever-present that one doesn't even recognize it's existence. If you have an intention and aren't aware of it and it is a nucleus for self (or a source of dukkha) - that might be a problem.

Do folks ever meditate without intention?

Is that even possible if the intention to meditate without intention is an intention?

I think it is possible because there is a difference because the instructions and the actual practice. The instructions will necessarily involve an intention: "do this ...". But while carrying out the instructions one may be able to do them without intention.
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Nick O, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Intention is unavoidable, right? To walk over and sit on the cushion in the first place demands intention. Nothing wrong with intention. Intention without expectation is the tricky part. 
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Jim Smith, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Nick O:
Intention is unavoidable, right? To walk over and sit on the cushion in the first place demands intention. Nothing wrong with intention. Intention without expectation is the tricky part. 

A person's self concept may be in part defined by their personal goals (intentions). If you want to let go of self don't you have to let go of intentions?
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Chris Marti, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Jim, there is a self that is not permanent, is unsatisfactory, and is not you. The assumption of a permanent self, an unchanging, ever-present controller of all things, is what we call ignorance. That is what the historical Buddha was talking about. The reality of having many impermanent "selves" that fleetingly exist only in this moment is not inconsistent with Buddhism, and you might want to consider that intent does not require a permanent self to exist, either.
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Jim Smith, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Chris Marti:
Jim, there is a self that is not permanent, is unsatisfactory, and is not you. The assumption of a permanent self, an unchanging, ever-present controller of all things, is what we call ignorance. That is what the historical Buddha was talking about. The reality of having many impermanent "selves" that fleetingly exist only in this moment is not inconsistent with Buddhism, and you might want to consider that intent does not require a permanent self to exist, either.
Isn't the problem attachment to a self, whether it is a permanent or impermanent self? Isn't it the attachemnt (craving, 2nd noble truth) that causes the dukkha?

I am not implying intentions are necessarily bad, but I think an intention can someimes can grow on a person and become an attachment without the person realizing it - so sometimes it might be helpful to question whether this is happening - and see what it is like to give up your intentions for meditation (and even life in general) once in a while to see what that is like.
Olivier, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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That is how you attain nibbana !
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Chris Marti, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Jim, I think I'm confused about what you're getting at on this topic. Yes, clinging to anything is dukkha. But that's Buddhism 101, right? Is there something else you're asking? Something about pragmatic dharma specifically?
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Nick O, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Jim Smith
I am not implying intentions are necessarily bad, but I think an intention can someimes can grow on a person and become an attachment without the person realizing it - so sometimes it might be helpful to question whether this is happening - and see what it is like to give up your intentions for meditation (and even life in general) once in a while to see what that is like.

IME, there is a cycle. Becoming disatisfied with what is going on so that you increase intentions on meditation and investigation. Then there's a breakthrough and you see how silly all your efforts are (equanimity). To awaken you have to just give up, but not too soon! Intention and surrender work together to bring insight. 
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Jim Smith, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Nick O:
Jim Smith
I am not implying intentions are necessarily bad, but I think an intention can someimes can grow on a person and become an attachment without the person realizing it - so sometimes it might be helpful to question whether this is happening - and see what it is like to give up your intentions for meditation (and even life in general) once in a while to see what that is like.

IME, there is a cycle. Becoming disatisfied with what is going on so that you increase intentions on meditation and investigation. Then there's a breakthrough and you see how silly all your efforts are (equanimity). To awaken you have to just give up, but not too soon! Intention and surrender work together to bring insight. 



Intentions can turn into a ego attachments (a misperception of self that causes dukkha) because issues of success/faulure, winning/losing, and craving, can arise when someone attempts to do something (has an intention). I think is is useful to be aware of this and to check to see if intentions have become attachments and in that case to let go of the attachments (which feels like letting go of the intentions).
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Nick O, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Jim Smith:
IME, there is a cycle. Becoming disatisfied with what is going on so that you increase intentions on meditation and investigation. Then there's a breakthrough and you see how silly all your efforts are (equanimity). To awaken you have to just give up, but not too soon! Intention and surrender work together to bring insight. 



Intentions can turn into a ego attachments (a misperception of self that causes dukkha) because issues of success/faulure, winning/losing, and craving, can arise when someone attempts to do something (has an intention). I think is is useful to be aware of this and to check to see if intentions have become attachments and in that case to let go of the attachments (which feels like letting go of the intentions).
I agree. But also, does not being "aware of this and checking to see if intentions have become attachments" involve intention to do so? You can see where this is going..

What is Right Effort?
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Nick O, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Jim Smith
A person's self concept may be in part defined by their personal goals (intentions). If you want to let go of self don't you have to let go of intentions?
Letting go of intentions and self does not mean that they do not arise, no matter how awake. It's the clinging to or identifying with the results of those intentions that causes the dukkha.   
Olivier, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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I'm pretty sure that if there is reality, experience, that means there is intention. Absence of intention means absence of dependent origination means ashankhata.
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Ni Nurta, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Intentions do not cause dukkha and there is always some intention behind any action, even if diffused and very subtle.

Badly formed intentions, especially ones which cannot be easily met will cause dukkha. Those are then called expectations and expectations cause agitation in mind and dukkha and interfere with practice.
There is difference between "this session I will get to 4th jhana" and "this session I will practice toward reaching 4th jhana".
In the first case you get dukkha if you do not get to 4th jhana and actually since reaching the goal is not certain you get subtle dukkha right away making whole 4th jhana this much harder. So even if you know you can do something it is more skillful to form intentions without any expectations. Even if you seem to make zero progress toward goal if the intention was right you won't experience dukkha. Over time this way of forming intentions becomes second nature and removes a lot of dukkha from your life.

It works the same way even if you really had self and it does not have anything to do with self, no self, duality, non-duality, etc. There are whole meditation traditions like Advaita Vedanta where the point is not to deny existence of self but to discover it. Technically everything about meditation in these is identical, just resulting flavour of the experience is different. I would even say better than no-self in Buddhism but that would be my personal preferrence if anything else emoticon
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Ni Nurta:

Badly formed intentions, especially ones which cannot be easily met will cause dukkha. Those are then called expectations and expectations cause agitation in mind and dukkha and interfere with practice.
There is difference between "this session I will get to 4th jhana" and "this session I will practice toward reaching 4th jhana".
In the first case you get dukkha if you do not get to 4th jhana and actually since reaching the goal is not certain you get subtle dukkha right away making whole 4th jhana this much harder. So even if you know you can do something it is more skillful to form intentions without any expectations. Even if you seem to make zero progress toward goal if the intention was right you won't experience dukkha. Over time this way of forming intentions becomes second nature and removes a lot of dukkha from your life.


This is exactly what I tried to formulate in my meditation class a while ago, but I didn't get the nuances clear enough even for myself. Thanks for clearing that up for me! 
Martin, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Hi Jim,

I think I get the issue you are pointing at. Intention is pretty close to desire/clinging. I don't think this problem (if it is a problem) is particular to Pragmatic Dharma. After all, the Buddha's last words are reported to have been "Strive on diligently." The issue (if I'm understanding it properly) seems to be explored in traditions like Soto Zen.

Are you familiar with Kenneth Folk's three speed transmission? (https://eudoxos.github.io/cfitness/html/cfitness.html#the-three-speed-transmission) His view is that some approaches/techniques/attitudes work best certain situations and one can switch between them. I think he might say that stepping back from intention is best done when one has got up to speed with some striving. 
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Dear Jim,

Good question, but there are some problems:

1) There is no fixed thing called "Pragmatic Dharma", as much as some would like there to be for various reasons. Pragmatic Dharma is a loose term for lots of possible things, often including MCTB and the like, but really, as I see it, it is the basic attitude "What works is key" rather than what those things that work for you happened to be. For example, MCTB doesn't work for some people, so, for them, it clearly wouldn't be included in "pragmatic dharma".

2) Intentions arise many times a second all day long. There is no way to stop this while one is alive except by deep sleep, severe brain damage, or anesthesia. Every thought is proceeded by an intention. Every movement, even of attention, is proceeded by an intention. Every word, deed, etc. is proceeded by an intention. That's just how the system works. Sometimes the sense, "Ah, an intention has arisen to practice a certain way!" arises. Sometimes the sense, "No intention regarding how to practice has arisen!" These are both just qualities that arise naturally, determined by conditions, and neither is more of a "self".

3) It is true that most don't train well to perceive intentions arise before actions, and so, like so many things, due to poor perception and igonrance, a sense of a self is made out of the pattern of these poorly perceived, impermanent, naturally arising qualities. MCTB, regardless of its inclusion by anyone in "Pragmatic Dharma", highly recommends noticing intentions as they are, gives numerous instructions on things like formal resolutions in practice, skillful relationships to goals, and the like, which you can find here in www.mctb.org.

Best wishes for your practice,

Daniel
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Ni Nurta, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Daniel M. Ingram:

2) Intentions arise many times a second all day long. There is no way to stop this while one is alive except by deep sleep, severe brain damage, or anesthesia. Every thought is proceeded by an intention. Every movement, even of attention, is proceeded by an intention. Every word, deed, etc. is proceeded by an intention. That's just how the system works. Sometimes the sense, "Ah, an intention has arisen to practice a certain way!" arises. Sometimes the sense, "No intention regarding how to practice has arisen!" These are both just qualities that arise naturally, determined by conditions, and neither is more of a "self".
Good point.

I would however say that for reducing suffering it is better not to generate new intentions on purpose and rather reduce any existing intention and precision of any intentions we do already have to not be too specific. Whole sense of self issue seems not to be caused by experiencing own sense of self but by having too much sharp precise intentions as to what mind/body will do in moment to moment fashion.

If I had for example intention to be aware enough to start my work then I will get up, prepare water and cup of coffee and then wait patiently until it is less hot and drink it. Doing these actions would give me enough stimulation for me to be more awake and I can just start my work.

If however I was in to generating sharp intentions that I exactly need coffee now and plan each step then I would need to prepare plan for each body movement, precisely plan each step how and when it will happen and then body would still do these action on itself and not exactly how planned which difference would then be experienced as dukkha because there would be cognitive dissonance between how I expected body to move and how it did. Then there might be difference between state of things and how I imagined these states to executed eg. I thought coffee is in cupboard and it is somewhere else and this put wrench in to whole carefully crafted plan which then need to be adjusted. Besides body and mind know what to do and do not need plan beforehand to react and execute actions it need to accomplish task.

Same with meditation, even more so because of ever changing landscape of the mind. If I want exact mind state then it is best for me to be as vague about what I want and even remove such expectation and let mind do its thing without any intentional actions or papering plan on how to get there. If I do have plan based on how I did it before then most likely I will execute wrong actions at wrong times missing most of what mind did before and definitely what it had to do to get there and instead mind will be distracted with all the comparison of what is and what was planned.

Then generating intentions on purpose in general doesn't seem to help with anything. I actually do not know what I need before I get there and some actions were taken to see the current state of things. I might think I need to be happy and having intention "I intent on being happy today" is the same as making a plan. Something might happen during the day and I won't be actually feeling like experiencing happiness and rather sadness would be the most appropiate and pleasant experience to be had. What to do with the formed intention for happiness then? It is another dukkha generating encumbrance.

tl;dr
Intentions happen all the time but content of these intentions mean difference between experiencing peace and experiencing dukkha. The less intentions and less precise intention the more peace and less issues with their execution, less dukkha.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Ni Nurta:

If however I was in to generating sharp intentions that I exactly need coffee now and plan each step then I would need to prepare plan for each body movement, precisely plan each step how and when it will happen and then body would still do these action on itself and not exactly how planned which difference would then be experienced as dukkha because there would be cognitive dissonance between how I expected body to move and how it did. Then there might be difference between state of things and how I imagined these states to executed eg. I thought coffee is in cupboard and it is somewhere else and this put wrench in to whole carefully crafted plan which then need to be adjusted. Besides body and mind know what to do and do not need plan beforehand to react and execute actions it need to accomplish task.


Lol, you just described what it's like to live with a combination of autism, ADHD and Tourette syndrome. 
A. DIetrich Ringle, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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I had no idea if pragmatic dharma addressed this issue when I started formal practice. My guess would be no. Conventional life addresses intention. Buddhist practice does not.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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A. DIetrich Ringle:
Conventional life addresses intention. Buddhist practice does not.

Yes it does. For instance, Mahasi noting involves noticing the intentions that precede all action including thoughts. There are many approaches to Buddhist practice that involves setting an intention, both long term intentions (such as precepts) and short term intentions (such as setting the intention of working towards a specific jhana). 
A. DIetrich Ringle, modified 11 Months ago.

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What if post count acted as intention. Would a good buddhist strive after arahantship within a community rather than being a silent buddha? Silent Buddha's are superior to arhants. ? I just want you to think about this...

If you want to know my relationship is to buddhadharma, I would say this, I believe I am at a standstill due to 7th jhana being so unforgiving! So I am wary of increasing my post count to high to enable 7th jhana to swallow me whole. This fear has been addressed in a couple of my other posts!
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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A. DIetrich Ringle:
What if post count acted as intention. Would a good buddhist strive after arahantship within a community rather than being a silent buddha? Silent Buddha's are superior to arhants. ? I just want you to think about this...

Intentions don't require someone making them. Why don't you think about that...?

Also, wouldn't you say that it's somewhat paradoxical to make a post insinuating that posting is inferior? Lol

Withdrawing from the world into passivity is not my ideal. Also, I'm neither a Buddha nor an arahant, but someone who seeks feedback on my practice in mutual exchange with other practicioners. And since there are many others who are here to learn, just like me, I occasionally interfere when someone posts something that I happen to know is misleading. I certainly hope that others do the same. 
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Ni Nurta, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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A. DIetrich Ringle:
What if post count acted as intention. Would a good buddhist strive after arahantship within a community rather than being a silent buddha? Silent Buddha's are superior to arhants. ? I just want you to think about this...
Mother had three sons.
First copied her and others. Second was always in doubt. Third didn't really know anything.
The first became Arhat, the second became Pratyekabuddha and the third became Sammāsambuddha.


If you want to know my relationship is to buddhadharma, I would say this, I believe I am at a standstill due to 7th jhana being so unforgiving! So I am wary of increasing my post count to high to enable 7th jhana to swallow me whole. This fear has been addressed in a couple of my other posts!
7th doesn't swallow you so much as it spits you out emoticon

You need to chill...
A. DIetrich Ringle, modified 11 Months ago.

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Do you think jhanas are something limited to Buddhism? I am trying to dig deeper on the matter!
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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A. DIetrich Ringle:
Do you think jhanas are something limited to Buddhism? I am trying to dig deeper on the matter!

No. 

Best wishes for your ongoing practice, with regard to 7th Jhana and more broadly.

In my experience, when I can't reach higher Jhanas, it usually has lots to do with to weak intention, or shattered intentions.
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Jim Smith, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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Buddha defines as suffering to be clinging to the aggregates. One of the aggregates, formations, includes intentions.


Thanissaro Bhikkhu:
https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/KarmaOfQuestions/Section0013.html
Of the five khandhas, fabrication is the most complex. Passages in the canon define it as intention, but it includes a wide variety of activities, such as attention, evaluation, and all the active processes of the mind. It is also the most fundamental khandha, for its primary activity is to take the potential for the experience of form, feeling, etc.—coming from past actions—and turn it into the actual experience of those things in the present moment.

Thus intention is an integral part of our experience of all the khandhas—an important point, for this means that there is an element of intention in all suffering. This opens the possibility that suffering can be ended by changing our intentions—or abandoning them entirely—which is precisely the point of the Buddha’s teachings.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.than.html
"Now this, monks, is the noble truth of stress: Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.
Jason Massie, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Does Pragmatic Dharma address the issue of intention during meditation?

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In Practical Insight Meditation, Mahasi instructs to note intending very earlier in the instructions. I wish i would have paid more attention to that one when I first read it.

After watching intentions, you can see that you cant change intentions. They are not under control. Just as you cant will a sound or and itch into/out of existence, same for intentions. 

In Daniel's book, he says try to do something other than what you are doing. I suggest adding just glimpse of the flow of cause and effect that got you to this moment.

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