Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:
Ask yourself: “What are we here for?” There’s got to be a purpose to what you’re doing. Sometimes we hear that meditation is all about having no agendas and not trying to change anything at all. But I’ve never seen the Buddha describe it that way.
You’ve got to have a purpose. Think about the four noble truths. Where in the four noble truths is your purpose today? When you see the Buddha’s definition of ignorance, it doesn’t mean having preconceived notions. It doesn’t mean trying to change things. Ignorance means not seeing things in terms of the four noble truths.
For most of us, that describes the state of our mind. We’re thinking about other issues, other problems, usually based around our sense of who we are and what we need to keep who we are going — or around the people, the relationships we love, to keep them going as well. Those kinds of issues, those kinds of questions the Buddha said, are ignorance from the point of view of trying to put an end to suffering.
So even though you may have responsibilities in the world, at least for the time being, put them aside. The mind will be a lot stronger if you can. And you also find that there are areas within you where you’re creating a lot of unnecessary suffering. That suffering is weighing you down. When you’re weighed down, you’re less able to deal with your responsibilities. So putting the issues of the world aside is not an irresponsible act.
That’s one of your first agendas. It’s written into the basic refrain for right mindfulness: subduing greed and distress with reference to the world. All the issues you have about what you want in the world or how you’re upset about the world, you just want to put those aside. If they come up in the mind, you put them aside.
I’ve been reading different books on mindfulness and one of the strangest things I’ve found was in one book where the author said that the Buddha tells you never to interfere with anything that’s happening in the mind. But that right there conflicts with the basic formula: putting aside greed and distress, or subduing greed and distress with reference to the world.
That part of the formula means that you’ve got to put aside anything that gets in the way of your seeing things simply in terms of the four noble truths. That takes a lot of effort. Sometimes the effort requires a lot of ingenuity on your part and sometimes it’s just a matter of watching things, allowing them to subside on their own. This is an individual matter. But even just watching things has an agenda. You’re doing it because you want to understand them, or you’ve found that that’s the most effective way of dealing with that particular problem, that particular distraction. We deal with these things because we’re here to figure out why we’re creating unnecessary suffering and what we can do about it. Part of what we can do about it, of course, is to develop the path.
From: A Clear Agenda
by Thanissaro Bhikkhu