2010–2023 Writings
by Michelle Margaret Fajkus

“Nothing whatsoever is to be clung to as me or mine.”
~Joseph Goldstein

Right intention is the second aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path. (Learn about the first aspect, right view.) The Buddha explains right intention as threefold: the intention of renunciation, the intention of goodwill and the intention of harmlessness… as opposed to three parallel kinds of wrong intention, those governed by desire, ill will and  harmfulness.

The Intention of Renunciation

The Pali word for renunciation means “to go forth.” To go forth into the practice of awakening. Renunciation is not a matter of giving up our desires, but rather changing our perspective so that the desires no longer bind us. In other words… letting go. Not merely repressing desires (which never works) but rather letting go of clinging — to the solid ego-identity, addictions, bad habits, detrimental relationships, belligerent self-talk.
Renunciation is constantly accepting what is. This doesn’t usually happen overnight. What do we do with unskillful thoughts and intentions in the meantime? They are fodder for practice. Can we see and accept the fact that we’re clinging? And relax, even just a little bit? That would be a great place to start.


The Intention of Goodwill

Cultivation of goodwill means giving love free of craving and attachment. This is also known as metta. Further, the purest intention is bodhichitta, the wish to realize enlightenment for the sake of others.

For the ultimate benefit of all beings without exception,
throughout this and all my lifetimes,
I dedicate myself to the practice and realization of enlightenment.
Sentient beings are numberless: I vow to liberate them.
Delusions are inexhaustible: I vow to transcend them.
Dharma teachings are boundless: I vow to master them.
The Buddha’s enlightened way is unsurpassable: I vow to embody it.
~Bodhisattva Vows

Of course, we humans have mixed intentions and emotions. For example, upon receiving the news that a friend is getting married to a wonderful person or getting a big promotion, we may feel both joy and envy. We need to honor both the parts of ourselves that are open and the parts that are not (yet).

The Intention of Harmlessness

In “mathematical” terms, suffering equals pain times resistance. Where there’s lots of resistance to painful sensations or situations, there’s a plethora of suffering. No resistance = no suffering.


With this in mind, we can cultivate and emit compassion — for all beings, including ourselves. When we put ourselves in another’s shoes, empathy arises quite naturally. Over the eons, we’ve gone from only caring about blood ties, to religious brethren, to fellow countrymen and women… the next step is care for all sentient beings and Mother Earth herself. I wonder, can we build a truly empathic civilization? When? How?

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for upcoming posts on the other six aspects of the Eightfold Path.

“…practicing charity and compassion without attachment is the way to reaching the Highest Perfect Wisdom, to becoming a living buddha.” ~Diamond Sutra

2 responses to “Wise Intention: Renunciation, Goodwill, Harmlessness”

  1. […] Post navigation ← Right Intention: Renunciation, Goodwill, Harmlessness […]

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