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Thread: Right intention and the Corinthians

  1. #1

    Right intention and the Corinthians

    Yesterday, I attended a colleagues wedding.
    Having a wedding at church was very important to her, and I felt honored to be invited.
    I don't know if they always quote Paul and the 1 Corinthians 13, I just know I never really understood that one but found it very poetic.

    "If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing."
    (from:, now)

    The catholic priest offered his interpretation, of course, but I was reminded of right intention.

    So one can do many things and know much, but if done without right intention, it is not complete?

    Or two people can appear to do the same thing, but in fact, they are doing differently, as their intention is different?

    Please do not take offence that I'm diving into something nosey scholarly here - it was a wonderful experience, in fact, to have something in this text make sense for me.


    P.S.: There's a proverb in German, "Wenn zwei das Gleiche tun, ist es noch lange nicht dasselbe.". Maybe "When two people are doing the same thing, it's not the same by far.". Normally, that's understood as "Quod licet jovi, non licet bovi." But see above.
    Last edited by Jika; 08-17-2014 at 11:09 AM.

  2. #2

    Tricky questions, which can lead to one very long elaboration, but to cut it short, here's an example of doing the same thing with different intention giving different doing...
    Consider a person (A) holding another person (B) on the ledge of a cliff.
    It is quite different if person A is holding person B so he doesnt fall off the ledge and if person A is holding person B to push him off the cliff, right?

    Don't understand what you mean with the complete question, but I would also say that doing the first case (to not fall off) is done with "right intention" even when holding on to person B with "force".

    Life is our temple and its all good practice

  3. #3

    Right intention and the Corinthians

    A master asks a monk you have been here for some time now and have not asked for a teaching. The monk says I am already enlightened. The master asks how so? The monk says "No need to seek Buddha since I am already Buddha." The master tells the monk that it is just as he thought. The monk does not understand and is not enlightened. The monk asks why is his understanding wrong? The master says "No need to seek Buddha since I am already Buddha." Same but different phrase.

    Gassho, Jishin
    Last edited by Jishin; 08-17-2014 at 03:07 PM.

  4. #4
    Hi guys ,

    Interesting to see this here on the forum and thank you for posting! A good thread that, although the message of this quote from Corinthians it is a the core of Christian faith, is also not very far from Zen practice either. At the same time however, its message could not be further away from Zen too. I´d like to reply but do this as shortly as I can because, as Jundo has told us many times, we should not talk too much Tennis during the Football practice. With this in mind, I´d like comment on this verse from Corinthians and your observations. You see, I teach this stuff to kids in our Church ( 63 lovely 12 year old brats that often really don't care, lol) and also practice Zen as sincerely as I can. Because of this, I am always seeking where both teachings meet and study them. This passage is surely one of them!

    With Jundo´s permission, a little observation on this but looking at it from the Zen side.

    To fully understand the passage, we must realize where and when Paul wrote this in his letter to the newly founded community (or Sangha if you will). Like with so many of these things, people heard the good message and started off radically with great enthusiasm. Much like students of Zen ( like me), we start with an enormous amount of energy and take in every word said or written about it we can find. After a while, this pink Zen cloud diminishes a bit and we start asking questions, get bored and wonder why things are done the way they are done. Maybe we study some other flavors of Buddhism and take what rings our bell there to incorporate it in our practice. Great stuff and it is a good thing in Zen but in Christianity, not so much. In Corinthians the same thing happened and Paul feels the need to put a stop to some pf the debates. People started to wonder and look around. Under influence of the Jewish law that they were familiar with, heated debates flared up about the doing of `good deeds´ and some started keeping score stating a good balance would ensure a place in heaven. Jesus himself opposed this very thing many times stressing the point: ITS ALL NOT ABOUT YOUR OWN EGO!

    Paul answers by showing them the way to a new and very different kind of love. A love that does not keep score and does not seek itself. An altruistic one that is also seemingly impossible to achieve and at the same time something we are all capable of if we really try. Like the vows we take at Jukai, it all sounds impossible and at times even frustrates us but we try anyway and so, we cannot break them. The Love Paul speaks of is the love and the action that comes without expecting reward or gain. Most of us, when we do some good by helping others, giving a generous amount to a homeless person or clean out the park for the GSD, is never 100% fully altruistic. In the end, we love the feeling that we ( ego) did something good or hope for appreciation or a reward even if it is only a feel good moment itself. There is always something in it for us, a motivation that is very hard to shake. Sitting and examining this is a very useful practice too, I think?

    In my opinion, this is where Christian teaching and Buddhist teachings converge very close saying the same thing. If you hold on to your ego and self, you cannot achieve it. Ego clouds the mind and is often a selfish motivation that in turn causes Dukkha. The passage is not about good intentions in itself. Precisely the opposite really. It is about action that comes from the right place. A pure and egoless action, motivated by a very different kind of love. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" so to speak. This level of love, called Agapé ( opposed by the romatic Eros) is an enlightened kind of love, mature love that goes beyond the self serving ego or the affirmation of the self. We should do good and love all beings precisely because they are not two. If you put your hand on a hot stove, you don't hesitate or contemplate? You quickly take it off! You protect you self, naturally. Paul teaches us that the very instinct ( love) towards our own personal well being, should apply in the very same way to anyone and everything around us. Just as quick and without compromise. You just do 'good' out of a reflex. Correctly and swiftly every time without premeditation or hope for gain. It is the love of a mother for her child or, in disguise, a medic trying to save the life of an enemy soldier, only because he is also a human being worth saving. It is the love of the Boddhisatva.

    On the other side, it is also a great divide between both teachings because the love Paul speaks of, is the love that comes from conversion to Christ and something that comes from living in His name. The problem is that Paul states that all good deeds out of love, that are not based on Christian gratitude for the sacrifice for the salvation of all people, are void, not valid and in vain. It is a selective thing saying only love out of true faith and the action that comes from it has merit in the eyes of God. How can this be? It is in my mind a very difficult issue that I sometimes try to answer.

    We should keep in mind though, this was written in a letter sent to a starting sangha that had trouble finding its way in a hostile world. There was always a danger of disintegration because of internal power struggles and the influences from outside the small community. Corinthians seemingly were hardheaded people (like most of us) and tended to "one up" each other even in spiritual matters. Paul, not being one of the original 12 apostles ( who witnessed and listened to Christ when he was alive), had to react "ad hoc" and answer in writing to huge problems from a distance while being in captivity. Romans, Hebrews, Corinthians, Efesians, people Filippi, etc. all started asking practical questions at once about how to build a community or sangha without having specific and detailed instructions. "What about divorce? What about the role of man and women? What about sharing means? What about funding? What about the divide between rich and the poor? Is a priest better or then a layman and if so, how do we treat this?

    I often wonder what it would have been like if they had G+ in those days. How different the world would be now. Many misunderstandings and explanations (and struggle) comes from interpretation of what was written in different ways and still causes global trouble today. Not exactly something new even to us Buddhists, right? In the end, I for one always try to keep the words of honoured Nishijima Roshi in mind who said, "Both true".

    Please, give it a shot and read it with a Zen frame of mind. Pretend you live in Dogens time and just started your own sitting group in say, Rome. Questions arise and you send Dogen a letter. After a year Dogen writes you back in his very own style with what he thinks is the most important, knowing it will take years before any reply from you will arrive. Read Corinthians like that and you would be surprised about what you'd find.

    Now, it is not my intention to spark the old discussions about Buddhist Christians or Christian Buddhists. Please, read this comment as a humble opinion from an odd guy that happens to study this stuff a bit and no more, OK?

    Good intentions? Yes, but what if they stay just intentions and action is lacking?
    Good action? Yes, but what is our real motivation? And if we really, really know the real motivation, what does that mean? Can we still speak of good or bad? Can we shake that off? Great questions, no?

    Pardon the lengthy post about Tennis and I hope it is of any use at all.




  5. #5
    Thank you myoho. That was very interesting and informative.

    Kind regards. /\
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  6. #6
    Hi All,

    ah, I was just on my way to my Overthinkers Anonymous meeting, but I think I will skip it to address these posts. Lots to consider here! One thing really caught my attention:

    If you hold on to your ego and self, you cannot achieve it. Ego clouds the mind and is often a selfish motivation that in turn causes Dukkha. The passage is not about good intentions in itself. Precisely the opposite really. It is about action that comes from the right place. A pure and egoless action, motivated by a very different kind of love.

    Myoho, are you saying that intention arises from ego, or is a function of ego? And when we transcend ego, intention will go with it? Hm. I like this very much.

    Ok, one would then act, not from good intention (or bad intention), but without intention really. Instead of being driven by intentions, one's actions would arise naturally, spontaneously, appropriately, in accordance with whatever reality is manifesting. For instance, a need arises, and appropriate action is taken to fill that need. Suffering arises, and appropriate action is taken to lessen that suffering. In this case Right Intention is no intention at all! Forgive me, I am reasoning this out as I go, and probably not saying it very well. And... We can count on these actions being "good" ones, skillful, beneficial, and not "bad" or destructive, because... they arise from the “right place” you mention... which would be the ground of reality, where there is no separation...? !


    Maybe I can still catch the second half of my meeting.


    p.s. I saw Right Intention & The Corinthians open for Gladys Knight & The Pips in 1963, they were awesome
    Last edited by Byokan; 08-17-2014 at 10:11 PM.

  7. #7
    Lisa!! You make me laugh tears!! The rest needs some time and thought and sitting, answer follows.Thank you very much, Gassho, Danny

  8. #8
    Well, Maybe that is the thing is isn't it? Not to chew on it too much. Doing something good is wonderful but loses its shine if we dwell on it too much. Sitting and living with everything through and through means taking the good and the not so good as life, just as it is and live it fully. If we do good deeds, the trick is to let go when it is finished and move on. Like in sitting where we try not stick to thoughts, good or bad, in daily life it works the same I guess. Striving to always do good , love perfectly all the time without fail always sounds like another fixation to me or running away from something. It is an interesting discussion during recess but then we must go sit again and drop all of this, right?

    Right Intention & The Corinthians featuring Sam The Sham & The Pharoahs



  9. #9
    Wonderful thread!

    I have nothing insightful to contribute with at the moment. Just listening in.
    Thank you.

    ~ Please remember that I am very fallible.


  10. #10
    Hi All,
    if Overthinkers Anonymous has a branch for people with a Stupid Question Disorder, I hope meeting hours do not overlap, I'd like to join both...

    At first I apologize, because Fugen pointed me to the fact that I do not know what I'm talking about.
    Then I apologize for starting Tennis-topics, though I was hoping I had hinted that Tennis wasn't really my question.

    But as I love your answers so very much, I do not regret I've posted this.

    Myoho, this was a fascinating explanation. Thank you.
    In fact, I had some of your examples in mind when asking (like good, rewarding feelings for doing something), only my choice of the term "intentions" seems to be wrong, I'm sorry.
    In our society, action is mostly judged by the outcome (easier to see), not the motivation (hard to know).
    So one can give money to the poor in a way of "I am rich - he is poor" (separate, becoming even more pronounced by my emphasis on my role). Be a nurse as "I am healthy - he is the afflicted", or give a teaching "I am the teacher - she is stupid".
    Good action to an external observer, but promoting separateness within.
    Thus, I felt a good action to be "incomplete" as long as there is any difference in level, or separation between the sides (in the acting person's mind).
    One needs a glue, Kannon, Love, the Bodhisattva vows, fill in... to combine a good action with the appropriate mental state.

    You said it much better.
    I'm just stumbling around, and listened to old words with beginners ears.


  11. #11
    Good day everyone,

    Thank you all for this thread. Gassho. My brain is swirling.

    Danny, could we possibly find the glue you mention in Zazen? Action. Intention. In just sitting don't they melt away into a singularity of action/intention, non-action/non-intention? Nothing incomplete.

    When our thoughts wander we just come back to sitting. When our actions wander (are unwholesome maybe?) we should just come back to Right Intention? This could imply that if we practice Right Intention like we practice on the cushion, we will get better at cutting through the separateness you mention. Although it may take us quite a bit of practice!

    I don't know, I hope this makes sense.



  12. #12
    Hello again,

    no need for glue, there is nothing to fix.

    Only realize delusion... the greatest of which is separation.


    p.s. the clock is ticking... how long until someone says "just sit!"

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Danny B View Post
    At first I apologize, because Fugen pointed me to the fact that I do not know what I'm talking about.
    Then I apologize for starting Tennis-topics, though I was hoping I had hinted that Tennis wasn't really my question.

    No need to apologize, its all good practice.

    Life is our temple and its all good practice

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