Intentional Practice

African forest elephant (Loxodonta africana cyclotis), Gabon.

Intentional Practice

Buddhist practice at its core assumes we have the power for our own salvation. Buddha’s last words were “Work out your own salvation with diligence” He chose those words carefully. In a sense those last words are the essence of Buddhist practice. We want to save ourselves from our own self-imposed limitation and the suffering inherent in those limitations.

The SigmaTropic System uses a model of intention that is consistent with how karma is described in the Pali Canon Buddhist scriptures, and without ascribing any absolute authority to buddhist methodology, we can use the Buddhist model of karma as a good working model for how intention relates to our practice.  Understanding and working with intention skillfully is a deep subject and it is what we are doing whether we realize it or not- in the beginning of practice most of what we do is guided by unconscious intentions- but we begin to become more aware of these intentions, and we can begin to guide the intentions in our consciousness.

Anyone doing Buddhist meditation practice in the way that has an intention of awakening, should, at the very beginning of their training, become very clear on the complex mental phenomenon of intention and the role it plays in related mental phenomena. This is perhaps the most important chapter of the book, because setting good baseline intentions is the foundational practice that makes any other practice of mental development possible. We inherently have some goal in mind that is different from the current reality- this implies we intend for something in the future. But the mental phenomenon of intention has no bearing on objective reality, time, or any other measurable phenomenon. We are not concerned with absolute reality- we are only concerned about (and can only experience) our direct experience of life. In that arena, our intentions are a highly influential and malleable tool to mold “reality”. We will eventually see that reality is mind- all of it – and in the process of arriving at that realization, we see how intention plays a role in fabrication.

Intention can be directly observed as a fundamental mental event which is functionally related to other fundamental basic mental events. These events can be called “mind moments” and it is an empty term which only means, “the fastest quark of phenomena that can be perceived and fabricated by mind as an “individual sensation”. These characterizations go on the baseline assumption that they can be subjectively observed as discreet “sensations” – which is an assumption that holds until the later chapters wherein Magick is introduced.

We can take the assumption that sensations and mental subjective events in our experience are observable with scientific parameters- but as we will learn, each framework presented rest on certain assumptions, and it’s ok to know that those assumptions are assumptions. We can construct working models of development despite not ultimately knowing what “truth” or “ultimate reality” is. So for the purpose of the SigmaTropic Systematic Training, and getting the attainments described in the Regulations, we can simply take the working assumption that intention is a simple mental event that can be consciously induced, promoted, and cultivated.

Practice instructions:

We take this as a working baseline assumption, but it is also easily verifiable in our direct experience right now. For example, as an exercise, sit in your comfortable meditation posture, and settle your mind for a few breaths, then wish

“may I be peaceful”

either aloud or silently, and as you elicit that wish, enjoy the experience of sitting there breathing. You can synchronize the breathing with the saying, as do a couple rounds of this.

“may I be peaceful”

When you close your eyes, you may see images of yourself smiling, you may feel confusion as to who is wishing what, you may feel a wholesome sweet sense of goodness, but whatever you feel, that intention for goodwill and the concentration, actually directly changed your subjective experience. The chain of mental events leading from the utterance of the phrases, to any subsequent feelings and urges, is causal and conditional, depending on the person, their current way of being, and is as varied as there are people. One common feature of people is that they have ability to imagine/visualize a future different than reality as it presents now, they are able to logically and analytically break down the imagined future into a concrete path and practice, and when a person completes this process through many iterations and on many different axis of life, they come to see something that can only be observed on longer term timescales- intentions that are consciously and persistently held, tend to mold the events of reality on a moment-by moment basis as well as on longer timescales. The import of this notion cannot be overstated. These mental events themselves are literally woven into the fabric of perception. Understanding intention is a thus key understanding in the SigmaTropic system. This key fabrication is a tool that we can use and observe in all its manifestations, and in doing so, we see that intention and suffering are related, and when the chain of dependent origination ends, perception ceases i.e. cessation.

Intention, as the Buddha says, is the same as an inseparable from karma, and that deserves a thorough explanation, as it seems to me that there have been gross misconceptions about the way intention and karma are related.

Buddhist karma and intention

“Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect.”

Here, the Buddha is quite clear that intention is karma. Intention is the driving force of karma, and what we intend is what we intend to do with our actions of body, speech, and mind. Here there is a very clear distinction between the intentions underlying our behavior, and the karmic effect thereof. We can do charitable things with a selfish intention and will not experience any wholesome feelings about our act. Contariwise, if we give in generosity, then we can reflect on that pure act of wholesome giving, and that will condition the mind for future wholesome states and giving.

“‘I am the owner of my actions (kamma), heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir’…” There are beings who conduct themselves in a bad way in body… in speech… and in mind. But when they often reflect on that fact, that bad conduct in body, speech, and mind will either be entirely abandoned or grow weaker…

 Our choices and deeds have consequences, and our intentions will bear fruit of which we will be the heir, whether the fruit of those deeds is favorable or not. We can either choose to cultivate positive intentions that are based in wisdom, or cultivate unwholesome intentions, which invariably lead to suffering and stress.

“A disciple of the noble ones considers this: ‘I am not the only one who is owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator; who — whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir. To the extent that there are beings — past and future, passing away and re-arising — all beings are the owner of their actions, heir to their actions, born of their actions, related through their actions, and live dependent on their actions. Whatever they do, for good or for evil, to that will they fall heir.’ When he/she often reflects on this, the [factors of the] path take birth. He/she sticks with that path, develops it, cultivates it. As he/she sticks with that path, develops it and cultivates it, the fetters are abandoned, the obsessions destroyed.”

 Christians would attest to the fact that an intention to be like Jesus, [as a way of being] actually makes it more likely they will have such other, related experiences, such as rapture. Their intention to draw closer to God and away from things of the world that take them away from God, leads to an actual subjective experience of closeness to God, and likely more moments in the future of reading the Bible, praying, and studying. In the example of the path factors above, the reflection itself and the understanding is empowering- that’s why rapture arises- it motivates and compels a noble person to reflect on karma- because they understand that their deeds are their protection. This is simply how the mind works and it makes sense when we start paying attention to intention. This is just one example, but the simple concept of accumulation of conditioning (i.e. repeated conditioning) is explained in detail in Accumulation Concentration.

Intention for Awakening

“May I Awaken!”

What a powerful compassionate wish – probably the best wish anyone could ever have. We definitely want to state to ourselves what our intention is in doing our practice. It might not be awakening, but if your intention is not for the goodwill of all beings, then you are not practicing in the SigmaTropic System. We want to be very honest with ourselves and non-judgemental about what we are trying to do with the practice. Intentions that involve causing suffering to other beings or engaging in unrestrained lust, will lead to a direct experience of suffering. On the other hand, intentions which are rooted in the brahmaviharas and insight do not lead to suffering. These intentions lead to the cessation of suffering.

Therefore, if we are suffering, we have a misalignment of intention and action- cognitive dissonance is created as a result. This creates the subjective experience of a self-other duality. We can see that the suffering we create in the mind has two basic constituent parts which make it suffering:

  • self – “mind”
  • world – “reality”

The intentions that we have is never a thing we should ignore. If there are unconscious intentions driving our behavior, then we may encounter suffering and not be able to pin down the source. We may be avoiding something. In that case we look at our action (all of conscious manifestation), and our intention. If the two are congruent then we wouldn’t be suffering. Therefore, the difference is suffering– the out of phase sense between what we want (intention) and what we actually have (reality). And when we try to actually observe suffering in our direct experience- it is like that, it seems to just fall apart and disappear. It really becomes clear that any mental activity that we have- it is entirely by choice- including suffering.



The SigmaTropic Cycle of Manifestation

  • Creation Stage. An imagined identity or desired event is visualized and the mind is set on actualizing it. In this stage the meditator sets out for awakening and strives to attain it as soon as possible, for the benefit of all living beings. The meditator visualizes herself with the enlightened qualities she seeks.
    1. We visualize a particular event happening.
    2. We visualize a particular experience we want to have.
    3. We remember a meditative experience we had before, and we visualize it.
    4. We maintain a strong conscious intention to actualize that identity or experience.
  • Observation Stage– We do the meditative technique, observe the mind, and respond to what arises. This is the stage of applying an exercise, maintaining mindfulness, and attempting to learn something from our experience and work toward the imagined goal.
    1. We carry out a meditative exercise.
    2. We identify any stress in the moment, and the constituent parts that make up stress.
    3. We evaluate whether we are manifesting the intended result or not.
  • Stabilization Stage– Sometimes suffering arises and the mind loses the intention and is destabilized. This is a responsive stage where we bring the mind back to a state of calm into the present moment while watching the process. We are stabilizing and integrating the new information.
    1. We stabilize the mind and observe the process of cessation of stress.
    2. We rest the mind in this state and remain watchful for any hindrances.
  • Unification Stage – This is a state of rest and nourishment for the mind. Bringing the mind into unification makes intentions and visualization more powerful. This is a stage where exploration and curiosity flourish.
    1. We bring the mind to calm abiding and fulfillment in the now.
    2. We develop mental and physical pliancy.
    3. We expand this state of mind to all activities during all hours of the day.


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