Setting Spiritual Intentions


I tell people that I don’t make New Years resolutions. I tell myself that, too, but the truth is that every year I surreptitiously make a few. Being secretive about them is a way to give myself an out but lately I’ve been pretty good at keeping them.

The value of an action is found more in its intention than in the action itself, so when I make a resolution I try to be clear about the intention behind it before I commit to it. Focusing on my intention helps me to see how my resolution fits into the bigger picture of my life and its relationship to my sense of what I was put on this earth to do.

A resolution is a vow to reach an objective. An intention is the state of having a purpose in mind. So an objective has to serve an underlying purpose in order to be worthy of the vow to accomplish it. And in my case, I want the underlying purpose of my objectives to be spiritual rather than material.

But in order to ensure that my intention is spiritual I need to have a clear understanding of what ‘spiritual’ means and how it differs from ‘material’. I can make a distinction in terms of qualities: changelessness, cognizance, and joy are spiritual qualities. A spiritual intention is one that serves the purpose of illuminating such qualities for others and for myself. Matter, by contrast, is temporal, insentient, and joyless so a material intention is one that reflects or even reinforces such qualities.

Many of us make New Year’s resolutions based on goals that are associated with our bodies. Our goal might be to lose 10 pounds or to eat a healthier and more compassionate diet. The resolutions we make in pursuit of such goals might be ‘I will go to a yoga class at least 3 times a week’ or ‘I will start eating Quinoa casserole instead of Cheesecake.’ On a more altruistic note, we might make helping others our objective and therefore resolve to spend a certain amount of our time raising awareness and money for a worthy cause.

Whether philanthropic or self-interested, in each case the intention is to increase happiness and reduce suffering. And those are good intentions. But if, in each case, the benefit is limited to changing the temporary experience of the body, mind, and senses then the resolution is based on a material intention because the body, mind, and senses are composed of material qualities.

We may temporarily experience joy through our senses, but the senses themselves are just a transmitter; we are the ones experiencing the transmission of the senses. And they transmit misery just as easily as they transmit ecstasy so if all our pleasures are derived from the senses then what tastes sweet in the beginning will taste just as bitter in the end;  the source of our pleasure eventually, but inevitably, becomes a source of misery.

Our resolutions always involve solving a problem: insufficient happiness or too much distress. A resolution based on a material intention can only offer a temporary fix; it can’t get to the root cause of any problem or provide lasting happiness and it leaves a residue of anxiety because time eventually wears away the effects of all material solutions.

But if we see all living beings in terms of their inherent spiritual qualities, as eternal sparks of consciousness connected to one another through the agency of a common source of all consciousness, then where is there any scope for anxiety? We are spiritual beings having a human experience; our nature is to be eternal, fully cognizant, and blissful; all the problems we have as humans are associated with the body!

So there you have it, my resolution revealed: to systematically try to see all beings equally in terms of their intrinsic spiritual qualities and, in so doing, make all of my interactions truly personal, meaningful and enduring.

One Trackback

  1. By Jan 14th – 20th | YIOM Site on January 20, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    […] Hari Kirtana Das ever so eloquent, gave us insight into his 2012 intention. […]

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