Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Simple Intention, Right Intention

Wikipedia says the following of Merton:

Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915December 10, 1968) was one of the most influential Catholic authors of the 20th century. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, in the American state of Kentucky, Merton was an acclaimed Catholic spiritual writer, poet, author and social activist. Merton wrote over 60 books, scores of essays and reviews, and is the ongoing subject of many biographies. Merton was also a proponent of inter-religious dialogue, engaging in spiritual dialogues with the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh and D.T. Suzuki. His career and his life was suddenly cut short when he was 53, due to an accident when he was electrocuted stepping out of his bath.

I have been particularly moved by Merton's discussion on simple and right intention from his book 'No Man Is An Island'. In my own words-right intention refers to spiritually inspired work, but it doesn't turn over to God the results of that work. We do the work as best we can and expect its just rewards. Simple intention turns over the results of the work to God, not expecting anything but to do the work while in relationship with God.

This is moving for me, as I try to learn a new job, or in any work that I do, I certainly try my best. By turning over the results of that work, I don't carry unnecessary stress or fear about how that work turns out.

From 'No Man', p74:

When we have right intention, our intention is pure. We seek to do God's will with a supernatural motive. We mean to please Him. But in doing so we still consider the work and ourselves apart from God and outside him. Our intention is directly chiefly upon the work to be done. When the work is done, we rest in its accomplishments, and hope for a reward from God.

But when we have a simple intention, we are less occupied with the thing to be done. We do all that we do not only for God but so to speak in Him. We are more aware of Him who works in us than of ourselves or of our work. Yet this does not mean that we are not fully conscious of what we do, or that realities lose their distinction in a kind of sweet metaphysical blur. It may happen that one who works with this "simple" intention is more perfectly alive to the exigencies of his work and does the work far better than the worker of "right" intentions who has no such perspective.

A right intention demands that we work with enough detachment to keep ourselves above the work to be done.

A simple intention rests in God while accomplishing all things. ...a simple intention does not need to rest in any particular end, it has already reached the end as soon as the work is begun. ...the end of simple intention is to work in God and with Him....