Intention or volition is a mental concomitant or a characteristic of mind. It is the most important mental factor in mundane consciousness. It co-ordinates all the mental states associated with itself on the object of consciousness like a captain of a football team who fulfils his duties and regulates the duties of others as well. Therefore, volition fulfils its functions and regulates the functions of other mental concomitants associated with it.
Its mission is to accomplish the task good or bad, or simply it determines the action. So, without intention both mind and body will come to standstill. According to Buddha “volition or intention is action, having willed, one acts through body, speech and mind.”
But we must not misunderstand that the intention and action are both the same; they are two different things. But consciousness arises only with intention. In other words, the energy required for the mind to function is supplied by intention.
So we eat, drink, run, work or perform every action through intention. It is intention that moves a hand or stop it. First, intention orders the mind to think, and then to act physically.
Volition also determines whether an action is moral or immoral. Without the permission of intention any good, bad or neutral action is unable to function. There are no habitually occurring good or bad actions unless there is not a will. Basically, If the intention is benign the action is wholesome; if the intention is malign action is unwholesome. The subsequent result derives depending on the quality of the volition.
One may think, we don’t need an intention in our habitual automatic actions. An action may happen easily and effortlessly through a constant repetition of one theme. A bad habit may occur pretty quickly after one or two repetitions. Then we find it happens unconsciously. But nothing happens in the consciousness without a will. In habits, due to the severity of the emotion those specific actions occur effortlessly; intention does not require deliberate effort. If an action happens without a will we can never come out of a bad habit and develop a good habit or mind. So, in mundane world the most important mental factor is intention.
“Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.
Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.”
- Lord Buddha