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If you want to be more mindful of your intentions
May 27th, 2014

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

If you want to be more mindful of your intentions,
be mindful of the labels you use

We've previously seen that « you're not my … » often is merely trying to ignore feedback (, and that labelling others pushes them toward "identity views", i.e. toward 'ignorance' in Buddhist terms (

A reason to question your own certainties and your own intentions is that throwing labels can be extremely manipulative,  i.e. your certainties (labels) co-arise with your intentions (desires).

The labels that come to your mind ordinarily reflect more how delusional you are (in how much you wish the world would be conforming to your wishes, just because they're yours) than they reflect reality.

In general, you'll start labelling others negatively when they're in your way, and positively when you perceive them as useful (to yourself).
The more they disagree with you, the more you'll become absolutely certain  that they're mean, unkind, ungenerous, sexist, racist, dogmatic, biased, prejudiced, uneducated (or arrogant out of a superior education), insecure, unethical, etc. Whatever  is convenient in the current situation to justify that they're biased, that they're wrong, that you don't need to listen to them and that they should listen to you!

The list of 'defects' that we're capable of attributing to others is so long, it shows by itself how keen the consciousness is to blame others (out of frustration… and life can certainly be frustrating!).

You might then say to someone things like « you're very unkind. » Not only this likely is an erroneous interpretation of their state of mind (an interpretation possibly experienced  as a certainty  though!), but it also points to a defence mechanism: you just play with the hope that their desire to "be a kind person" (to see themselves positively) will allow you to corner them into complying with your views, with your desires.
Instead of reflecting on your desires, you let these cause a venomous speech full of accusations.

By this point, it is clear to any observer that your desires (both lust, desire to get, and aversion, desire to avoid) have obscured your "mental fabrications", your 'views' —which themselves caricature reality, by the very nature of conceptualisation and labelling.

A double deformation of reality doesn't bring you back to seeing reality though, you're just further away… The question is then: can you observe yourself, can you avoid this form of ignorance co-arising with personal preferences?

You're not condemned to never see reality as it is. It fact, you can  "see reality as it is", here and now. The key lies in dropping the labels, dropping the fabrications and subsequent proliferations: don't label other people, and in particular don't label them when they disagree with you!

They might  indeed be clinging and ignorant, but the key is to question your own clinging, your own ignorance: one doesn't solve an ignorance with another ignorance… you might be both wrong!
It is, in fact, very likely that you're both wrong: why else do you see wars perpetuating today, or caricatural individualism leading to the Law of the Strongest under the guise of some moralistic narratives? Most people think they're right when they're wrong, and most people think they're right most of the time.
Ethics are guidelines for ourselves, not to be imposed on others (; imposition does not lead to peace, but self-enquiry might. Whether you use conventional ethics or ultimate characteristics of existence as a tool for enquiry (, the key lies with a true intention of self-enquiry!

By committing to refrain from labelling, you give yourself a tool to become more aware of the labels you use, how often you use them, how much they tend to come back again and again… You create a voluntary resistance to the ordinary tendency of labelling, and every 'shock' between the wholesome cultivation and the ignorant tendency will provide you with an opportunity to notice, i.e. to be more mindful.

When you become more mindful of your labelling, and you understand how labels are influenced by your desires, you can also see more of your intentions, and you can enquire into their wholesomeness… You can strengthen wholesome intentions by acting on them, and weaken unwholesome ones by restraint.

Labels are not always wrong but, like any other powerful tool, they're to be used mindfully, when appropriate, and with a wholesome intention. Criticism might be constructive, while praise might be malevolent… The labels themselves are neither wholesome nor unwholesome, they're tools; intentions do matter, they are karma, they inform how you experience the world.

photo: Nam June Paik's installation "TV-Buddha" (1974)