This morning, 9/11, i begin by contemplating avihimsa sankappo -- the intention, the thought and the giving life to mental states of non-violence and non-harm -- one of the three main factors of the Noble Path fold of Right or Wise Intention.
Sankappa means "purpose, aspiration, intention, motivation" or "resolve". Ahimsa (the older Pali is avihimsa) may be familiar to those who have studied yoga, or those who know something of Mahatma Gandi -- and those who know the Buddha -- as the Doctrine and Path of Non-violence and Non-harm.
This right and wise aspiration, purpose, intention, and resolve of the noble ones and their path is three-fold: nekkhamma sankappo, avyapada sankappo, avihimsa sankappo -- the sankappa of renunciation, the sankappa of non-retribution, and the sankappa of non-harming.
Right and wise renunciation is to have the active conscious intention, purpose, motivation and resolve to renounce enacting causes of suffering, both for the short and for the long-term, for self and for others.
Right and wise non-retribution and freedom from ill-will is to have the active conscious intention, purpose, motivation and resolve to not act in retributive ill-will -- to not strike back or lash out in return, now or later.
Right and wise non-harming is to have the active conscious intention, purpose, motivation and resolve of non-harm -- towards both oneself and others, now and forever.
These are the three aspects of Samma Sankappo -- the noble Path fold of Right Intention, Purpose, Motivation and Resolve. This path fold, as with Right View, fall within the Wisdom Division of the Path.
Going to War
Friends have shared with me in recent days that the United States, as led by our president, may be on the verge of going to war -- yet again. Questions arise about the perception of need for violence, of the efficacy of retaliatory violence as a deterrent to further violence (violence to end violence), or using larger and more powerful violence to end smaller violence. And of the perception that sometimes, in certain circumstances, that violence is the only answer, or the best answer, or that one oneself individually, or that groups of humanity (such a nations) may come to the point of there being no other choice.
In the Wisdom Division of the Path, both vision and purposeful conscious choice play an enormous role. It is a deep and fundamental role in how everything turns from there, in how everything emerges -- from heart/mind into the world of words and the world of action.
Actually, in Buddhist terms, the intention is the fundamental root action. Here, in Pali, action is kamma. Kamma means action. A movement or behavior, whether of body or speech or mind. It is the action that is going to bear fruit in the life of the heart/mind over time. It is the energetic patterning that remains, even as consciousness is uploaded to the cloud and the old body goes for recycling, and is then downloaded to run its programming in the new model body in the world of form, or whatever realm of existence its current program is compatible with.
Our views shape our intentions. And our conscious intentions in turn shape our views of the world. They shape our perception of ourselves, our sense of meaning and purpose in being alive and living life. They shape our perception of relationship, and of our sense of greater self-hood or identity. And they shape our lived, felt experience of life.
Of crucial importance, our intentions and active sense of purpose in relationship to self and other/s, either creates lived experiences of personal suffering or of non-suffering.
Encountering the Buddha's teaching, and looking deeply into it internally and externally, let us not be persons who are impoverished or at a lack in terms of personal and communal vision, and personal and communal choices. If we feel such a lack, let us be proactive in seeking wisdom, in seeking vision, and in seeking inspiring examples of making wise and conscious choices.
And if we can find none, or even if we are so blessed to find them in abundance -- let us look within our own hearts to see and know the truth there. The truth that the heart of pure intention speaks. The refuge, bliss, solace and non-affliction of its purity. And the guidance that it gives, in terms of wise response.
Because every other fold of the Path emerges from this wellspring in one's own heart. Our way of being: all our words, our acts, the way we choose to live our life in the world. Turning further, Mindfulness and Right Effort support and enable this deepening. Right Samadhi clears, stabilizes, strengthens, and unifies this heart of pure intention and focuses into penetrating the truths of life and of our existence. Our vision clears. The purity of our intention deepens naturally in this clear vision. Causation is seen and known deeply. Seeing and knowing causation, with a pure heart -- how could we intentionally do anything to harm ourselves or others. It would be antithetical!
Our behavior naturally changes. We have touched into the wellspring.
We are no longer people bereft of vision. Or of choice. And we are free.
Free to act and live in the way that is truly 100% what the purity and virtue and awareness of the most beautiful human heart calls for in living a life of peace and beneficence.
Yesterday Buddhist teacher and bhikkhuni Ajahn (Amma) Thanasanti shared with myself and other students and friends the link to a video expose called "9/11 Truth" on Youtube.
I remember, from within my three year retreat which began in 2000, being called by my abbot to his room to view live images of the World Trade Center towers being run into by airplanes and then falling to the ground.
Growing up with a family rich in forensic engineers and physicists, what was set forth in the 9/11 Truth video was interesting and familiar to me. Rather than "cognitive dissonance" -- which can happen when our knowledge or world view shifts suddenly in ways we are not yet ready to fully handle or process -- causing disbelief; rather than this, i viewed with a growing sense of re-balancing and awareness of the mind.
Rather than "others" from foreign lands and ideologies being the enemy attacking "us", the suggestion that emerges is that a big and very important part of what happened was internal to our own processes of leadership and as a country.
Although the question is not addressed, the mind that is trained to look for and understand causation then begins to look at the why or why this would be. As trained, the mind looks for greed/s, for hatred/s, and for ignorance and confusion/s.
The questions could be asked: Do we or did we have wants (or perceived needs) -- individual and as a society -- that were being addressed? Was or is greed at play? What role was or is retribution, anger & various forms of hatred playing? How does ignorance, blindness and confusion interact with these qualities?
Looking into these questions, the chain of causation begins to unwinds, to open and to show itself in its various links. Seeing and knowing, understanding arises. With the arising of understanding, there is a release of held stress, and suffering and pain. The pains of doubt, of confusion, of held hurts caused by not really knowing.
The seeing of causation is one of the three knowledges or vijjas that comes with awakening, whether gradually unfolding or in sudden and major openings of insight, of knowledge and vision. Their gradual unfolding, together with moments of deeper insight is normal for who is rightly practicing this path.
The Buddha seems to have played a little bit with what he called the Three Vijjas in his teaching. For the orthodox Brahmin priests of his time, the sacred Three Knowledges were of the Three Vedas, the sacred books. (Veda and Vijja share the same root.) For Buddhists, two of the three were knowledge of big picture causation over time, both personal and with regards our whole world.
You may wonder, what was the third?
The third, following on the other two, is the knowledge of the destruction of the taints, of the ending of the afflictions of the human heart. For with truly seeing and knowing causation, in this knowledge and in this knowing, the heart comes to clarity and to peace. No longer is it a ground for the uprising of afflictions, of disturbances, of unrest, and of turmoil. It is healed and is left whole and healthy.
This is within ourselves. And yet, our perceptions and experience are a mirror of the whole world. Our actions and experience are fully part of and effect the whole world. And the choices that we make and the way that we feel moved to live is within the affective context of the whole world. Having more people suffering less can only make our world better.
And at least this much more free of afflictions arising out of greed, out of hatred, and out of ignorance.
Please exert yourself in this path of practice. As if it really mattered for yourself. And as if it really mattered for our whole world. And please do so with a heart of generosity, loving-kindness, compassion and mutual appreciation. Looking upon one another with eyes and heart of loving-kindness.
Just as much as we can. Just as much as we have life and energy for, having taken food on this day. With these active bodies and minds.
I join you in this. My fast today is to take no food for the perpetuation of ignorance or of any of the three poisons. A fast for the ending of poison. Let every morsel eaten today, be for the ending of all suffering that can be ended. For the ending of all hatred that can be ended. For the ending of all harm that can be ended.
Thank you all for reading, and for your practice. For your wise intention. Your purposefulness, and your meaning.
May we all care for ourselves and for each other in support of living and fully manifesting this in our lives.
With respect and gratitude,
Ayya Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni
Inspirations & Resources
- Magga Vibhanga Sutta -- "An Analysis of the Path" -- Connected Discourses of the Buddha (SN 45.8 )
- "Right Resolve: Samma Sankappo", Thanissaro Bhikkhu
- Calligraphy "Peace in Oneself, Peace in the World" by Ven. Thich Naht Hanh courtesy of Upaya Newsletter 2013/09/10