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Behavioural intentions

Here’s a lovely quote by Stephen Covey.

We judge others by their behaviour, but ourselves by our intentions.

This is brilliant because it is not just what it says, but is also the essence of karma yoga. As we have seen before, karma is not just action, as it is often loosely translated into. But rather, it is based on intention.

What Mr. Covey refers to here in a way is our lopsided view of karma. In our minds, we know that we mean the best. If we were late for work or an important occasion, we immediately have an answer ready. Not to the outside world, but to our own conscience. “I really wanted to be on time, but [it started raining] / [the carpenter came later than expected ] / [ got an unavoidable phone call ] / [add other genuine rationale here ].

This is fine. Things go wrong sometimes, and it’s certainly difficult to be perfect in everything all the time. But we apply these relaxations only to ourselves, not to the world. Why? Because we can only see what others do, and not what they are really thinking i.e. intending.

If as the realized masters say, it is intention that is most important even from a karmic point of view, we must introspect thus: are we being too lenient on ourselves, and conversely too harsh on others?

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