Warning!! Remember the Diamond sutra Warning!!.

Prajna Z-Quest on a Secular Path

A Culture of Awakening?

Ch2 Being ready

When are we ready to follow the path? Recognising readiness would be an aspect of a Culture of Awakening - like a signal or a rite of passage, as soon as there are signs of readiness the culture would kick in bringing out that readiness and helping the seeker start on their awakening path. That certainly does not happen, in fact in mainstream culture it used to be the opposite with such signs being mocked.

Perhaps if the seeker is ready to awaken in society now - as opposed to for bill when younger, there is more of a culture ready to welcome you with the wellness industry coming into mainstream. Whilst it is certainly the case that some of the teachers within wellness have awakened, and would be able to develop wellness into awakening, wellness itself is more concerned with coping - at best developing body, emotions and mind of the 4 foundations without the awakening emphasis of integration. Sadly it might also have "changed for the worse" where a ready culture of McMindfulness is there to exploit - take your money? Even if there is more of a mindfulness culture there still exists a exemplified by the lack of the 4th foundation enabling the prevailing patriarchy to manifest itself within the spiritual world through the exploitation of McMindfulness.

How do we know we are ready? Deep down readiness wants to make itself conscious, it is the path emerging. It is like a path beacon that is continually flashing readiness, but egos and attachments prevent our consciousness from seeing it. We know we are ready when sufficient of these blinkers have been removed, and readiness comes into consciousness purview.

What do we do to get ready? Discussing readiness is phenomenally ambitious to begin considering so throughout there must be humility – great humility. But what we do to get ready is straightforward, it is practice. And this z-quest has been about the nature of practice, the connection of practice to institutions, and the autonomy that grows out of practice.

Throughout spiritual life there are a great many aphorisms or phrases that have deep meaning. A phrase the Buddha said that zandtao read in this z-quest has had a great impact throughout this book – “knowing and seeing the way things are”; zandtao was "ready for this". Why or how was his practice ready for this?

Bill’s first group spiritual experience was with theosophy. And every meeting there was on old guy (my age now!! ) who always stood up and said “the mind is the great slayer of the real”. This phrase is so meaningful as are many spiritual aphorisms, but there used to be a collective yawn when this guy stood up at the meetings. At the time the phrase grabbed him this guy was ready; perhaps every other theosophist at those meetings were alienated from the phrase, but equally how many of those attendees will have remembered the phrase because of this guy?

We have to be ready. Zandtao doesn’t know of a spiritual word for “being ready” yet it is so important because if we are not ready it doesn’t happen. No amount of drive and vigour can make us ready until we are ready - until our autonomy is ready. Vigour will not make us ready, but apathy or complacency will take us nowhere. Zandtao can recall Batgap talks in which the seeker was vigorous on their quest throughout their lives and almost at the point of “giving up” the path came to them – because they were ready.

His upheaval happened to bill but he was not ready to go any further at the time. Bill’s psyche was ready for upheaval because he had no self-esteem, this lack enabling the path to break through; what little “academic” self-esteem bill had from his conformist upbringing was knocked on the head because he had no discipline for the world of work. There was very limited self blocking the path, and he was fortunate to receive firstgrace. But he was not ready to go further at the time.

At one stage he made connections with 2 lawyers who lived together opposite the school he was teaching in. He had met one at a theosophy thing and a friendship arose – until the booze came back. Zandtao recalls bill enjoying good conversation after work; for most of the time in that job, after work meant drinking or crawling home to recover having survived a day with a hangover. One of the lawyers would come home, and immediately go to his room where he meditated; when he was finished he would come and join the conversation. Zandtao admires that discipline. Bill had met such discipline in someone he admired, and even though at the time he was doing a theosophy course that was designed to develop Dhamma practice this practice was never something bill embraced until the mid-life review. He was not ready for such a practice. Bill saw the benefits of Dhamma practice, was following a self-study to develop a Dhamma practice but was just not ready for it.

These things cannot be forced. But here’s the rub. You don’t know when you are ready until when you are ready it just knocks you back. And it was all worth the wait. Even though bill was 23 for upheaval – very lucky, it was another 35 years before zandtao could say for certain that he was following the path – and maybe another 10 before he could call this a path of awakening.

Bill met a guy in Africa, and for some reason the quest for enlightenment had grabbed him earlier in his life. He joined a group (or he may have been in the group when his quest hit him) to work on his enlightenment; it never happened, he gave up and turned to drink. 15/20 years later when bill met him, he encouraged this seeker to continue trying but he was too disillusioned and was comfortable with the drink. When this guy came upon his quest he was not ready, and he gave up because he was not ready; bill thinks it likely that unfortunately he will never be ready.

With regards to readiness what advice do teachers give? Their form of Dhamma practice. Follow the Dhamma practice and at some point aspects of awakening will come. Seekers comply and then eventually give up or have some awakening. Does readiness arise with Dhamma practice? Zandtao answers that it can. Can readiness arise without Dhamma practice? For zandtao it arose with bill’s upheaval (partial awakening) without Dhamma practice, but zandtao was not ready for further awakening until there was Dhamma practice. The best way to be ready is Dhamma practice but even then there is no certainty.

If there isn’t awakening then the seeker needs to recognise that there is a weakness in their Dhamma practice; firstly zandtao will examine this in terms of his own practice and then in terms of the 7 core components. Let’s look at the 3-memes:-

If there is no awakening, are we doing the best we can? Whilst being gentle, if there is no awakening the seeker needs to analyse the other 2 memes. Firstly there is the best vihara. Because zandtao’s Dhamma practice is built on MwB (the 4 foundations) then the vihara is the first 3 tetrads – kaya, vedana and citta. How do we know that there is the best vihara? Difficult to answer, we know for sure if there is awakening.

Preparing the best vihara has many facets. For zandtaomed that preparation began with the 3 tetrads but as well he realised that if the vihara was to be “best” he had to release attachments based on his Seeker Story. He extended the work on the 3 tetrads into a detailed enquiry into his conditioning through the Seeker Story. So whilst awakening depends on the best vihara, there is much work to be done preparing that vihara to make it ready. In this chaper zandtao will be looking at improvements to the Seeker Story to help us be ready.

The 4th tetrad is concerned with reconnecting with Dhamma, there is no awakening without such a reconnection. There is no ABC in such a reconnection but if there is no awakening then there has been no such reconnection. It is possible that that is because of there not being a best vihara, but it is also possible that there is not sufficient faith in the path. And that faith comes from Dhamma practice that builds the Dhamma comrades. With the Dhamma comrades the seeker follows their path, begins to see the way things are – tathata, and in that following there is a state of readiness for awakening. With tathata there will come a greater understanding of conditioning, a recognition of how conditioning has created attachment to the vihara, and so will allow the seeker to release more attachment to prepare the best vihara for awakening.

There is a totality of a reconnection process of readiness. If there is no awakening then the Dhamma practice needs improving. Attachments prevent reconnection so we follow approaches that release attachment from the conditioning of the first 3 tetrads. Yet this is not enough so we need to build the Dhamma comrades to help us follow the path, and in so doing we develop the tathata that helps us recognise the conditioning. Releasing attachment from conditioning is an ongoing process that involves a cycle of releasing and recognition, we recognise through tathata, release then develop our tathata for further recognition in order to release. For zandtao MwB was not enough until he developed the Seeker Story, but that Seeker Story came from understanding the 1st 3 tetrads of MwB. The 4 foundations (tetrads) work as a developing totality.

So now we consider readiness for awakening in the light of the 7 core components. In enquiring of the 7 core components, as well as explaining the process for readiness zandtao will be trying to recognise weaknesses in his practice. Disidentification with attachments of known conditioning is what happens when preparing the best vihara, and with the best vihara there is integration both as an individual as well as with the whole – interbeing. As the components are only core zandtao’s MwB practice would add to it, to improve integration we build the Dhamma comrades. Developing is important. In MwB development is cyclical, releasing conditioned egos, build Dhamma comrades, increased vision of tathata, greater recognition of conditioned egos, leading to the starting of the cycle again with more released egos.

Abidance means 100% dedication to the path, and how impossible this is for most seekers who require money from the world of work – from the patriarchy. Apart from spiritual teachers with sufficient income, how can seekers abide? There is the further dilemma of bypassing, where is the sampajanna (Dhamma comrade) if the seeker with finance withdraws from the world of work as their abidance? So sampajanna might choose the world of work with its increased kilesa and conditioning to avoid bypassing. Abidance is a huge dilemma for the young, for zandtao in his old age he can write and publish on his website. However it is not read, and this lack of reading comes from the choices he made in school-teaching; that time has passed.

Autonomy has arisen through his Dhamma practice leading to the crossing of the Prajna threshold, it is a natural state ready for reconnection. If we are ready for awakening there is autonomy, and vice versa. We build autonomy through the Dhamma comrades, how much autonomy we need is only answered by whether we awaken.

Essentially seer-consciousness means recognition of glimpses of awakening that arise. This is discussed below and is part of the development of the Seeker Story in this chapter. Such awakenings and glimpses arose through MwB - through the Dhamma comrades, and as a seeker need to arise in your practice. If they are not arising then you must question your practice as they arise naturally with the Dhamma comrades - with good practice.

Wise enquiry brings all the other components together. Without enquiry there is no identification of attachment and therefore no integration. The seeker must enquire after development, and wise enquiry leads to the best abidance – we analyse our life situation to develop abidance. Through enquiry we can recognise our autonomy ensuring that the autonomy is not self-driven, and with enquiry we can recognise awakenings and any blocks to awakening. With enquiry we see if our vihara is its best, and using our tathata we enquire whether we have recognised all attachments. The 7 core components can add to the readiness for awakening.

Our readiness for awakening arises from our Dhamma practice that can always be developed. In MwB terms gently seek that development through preparing the best vihara and having faith in the path through developing Dhamma comrades abiding in the ongoing cyclical process of disidentification and tathata. In this chapter we will be adding to the cyclical process that is zandtaomed’s Seeker Story

Dhamma practice is the path to awakening but it is also the path. In other words, at any point in time the best way for you to live is on your path whether awakening is happening or not. In zandtao’s case there was the wonderful experience of upheaval. On reflection this was the best way for bill to be at the time. Unfortunately bill let things go – mainly with the booze, and didn’t find his path again until well into retirement – even though he was getting closer once he had started his Dhamma practice. He was getting closer through his Dhamma practice, and is still getting closer. Are there awakening rules for everyone? Maybe but zandtao doesn’t know them. But on his path as he was getting closer there came glimpses (Buddhadasa – nibbana-dhatu). To begin with these glimpses were the bells and banjoes of upheaval, and later on there were the guys of scifi writing. When he first retired these glimpses came as insights in meditation, but now when he is writing focus can usually bring insight. Dhamma practice brings zandtao closer to the path and in that closeness there are glimpses.

The path is the best way to live daily life. Through autonomy there is control of daily life, and how we live is through our siladhamma. The Dhamma practice as seen from the 7 core components also improves the way we live our daily lives. It is an ongoing process of integrating fragments and helping reconnect to the Whole, and there comes disidentification with selves of daily life. With what arises there is wise enquiry that questions conditioning detaching from repeating previous ego-induced behaviours, and hopefully there comes recognition of feeling, knowing and seeing the way things are and being able to use that vision. Following the path towards awakening is about daily life, living the best daily life.

What is important to know about this is that if we focus on Dhamma practice and living our best daily life we eventually become ready. When? For zandtao that is not known.

So in order to live our best daily life we follow our paths through Dhamma practice. When we look at the 7 core components of secular practice many of the components directly affect our daily life and practice but the one that most directly affects our conduct is disidentification. Once we let go of selves there is siladhamma. We need autonomy to direct us towards this letting go, we need wise enquiry to help us let go, and we need the overarching integration as direction. But what we do is disidentify.

Getting ready and living our best life are the same process of Dhamma practice, and what we focus on is disidentification with attachments. So for getting ready we now look at disidentification with attachments that will add to our Seeker Story.

So where do these attachments come from? Conditioning. There is one set of conditioning factors but this conditioning has two particular ways of affecting us - through instinct in our upbringing and through maintaining "habits" in adulthood. Through our instincts in our upbringing, conditioning helps us to conform and make agreements with our families and society. The way of the path is that through maturity we would let go of such conditioning and start to follow our paths. So we let go of the conditioning from upbringing, and we don’t allow any new attachments to arise as we follow our paths. The conditioning remains the same throughout our lives but the way it affects us is different.

What happens with instinct in our upbringing is that conditioning builds up self-esteem so that we can cope with adult life. Unfortunately in adulthood that very self-esteem becomes the barrier to the path as we habitually hold to the attachments of self-esteem that had served us well in surviving. At the same time the collective self-esteem reinforces the conditioning that had led to the success of that self-esteem. So we have conditioning that is primarily instinctual in building up self-esteem habitually being reinforced by that self-esteem making conditioning in society far more entrenched.

Self-esteem that enables survival is not composed of positive attributes. Whilst it has built a self that can survive, that survival has been built on kilesa - defilements. There are many kilesa but zandtao sees the main ones as greed (lobha), hatred (dosa) and delusion (moha), when channelled as survival these kilesa can provide the self-esteem that will be effective for social survival in young adulthood. However it is not necessary to carry that kilesa burden throughout adult life. Dhamma practice is concerned with releasing that burden – releasing all defilements. As part of our daily Dhamma practice we look to see if defilements are arising and let them go – disidentification. Quite clearly this disidentification process is not happening for most people. The very kilesa that have created survival through self-esteem have become entrenched in our social fabric. Rather than encouraging a seeker to go through a process of releasing, society encourages further kilesa conditioning entrenching the habits of self rather than releasing them - releasing the self - anatta. The ramifications of this collective entrenched self are disastrous for humanity.

Given there is an ongoing process of kilesa conditioning that we need to disidentify with, how can we recognise what this kilesa conditioning is? How can we help people recognise that there is a need to release this entrenched self when so many people have only achieved sufficient conditioned self-esteem to cope with social survival? For many people establishing an entrenched self of coping becomes their need for survival, and they turn to wellness. Wellness is based in the spiritual path but many wellness teachers ignore the higher aspirations of spirituality. And this wellness works because for many the conformity of self esteem in upbringing doesn’t work – or works partially, and they feel that in adulthood it is this failure of full self-esteem that makes it difficult to cope; society does not try to dispel this delusion - it does not promote the mature path of letting go of self. So there is a wellness industry to enable people to cope. In terms of wellness upbringing through family and education tries to provide the self-esteem for young people to survive and enter the world of work, if that upbringing is not conformist enough then wellness picks up the slack.

This slack is on the increase but not for the right reasons. The social entrenchment of this conditioned need for self-esteem to conform to society’s way of self-oriented existence has led to an increase in the need for wellness. On the minimal level there is the need for money to survive, holding down a job is difficult for those with low self-esteem – that is if there is work available. But conditioned society focusses on the need for success in social terms; many perceive themselves as failures in society’s terms and seek wellness support to build up this need for social success.

But there is something more heinous happening with regards to this social appropriation of human development. Instead of turning to spirituality and releasing the self that enabled initial social success, conditioned society pushes people towards a more self-oriented existence through social status etc. So instead of wellness leading to the spiritual path wellness is used to promote success motivation, instead of wellness supporting the natural process of releasing self it has become an industry that supports self-esteem in conditioned adults of our society. But not only has conditioned society appropriated wellness it has appropriated spirituality. In recent years, typically through Google Talks, mindfulness instead of being a tool (Buddhadasa – a Dhamma comrade) on the spiritual path, it has become a tool for workplace coping – and maybe even a tool for the social success model.

Whilst written in these terms of conditioned society or success model this co-opting of wellness and mindfulness might not appear too much of a problem, in fact it is part of an existential problem. Our spiritual paths come from nature, and if we follow our paths then nature’s balance can be maintained, this appropriation of wellness and mindfulness to support conditioned society is an imbalance. As an imbalance this appropriation might appear insignificant but it is part of a much wider problem that needs to be recognised.

So far zandtao has described the kilesa conditioning as developing self-esteem in upbringing, and that this conditioning has led to entrenched self in society. But what has not so far been discussed and what is not discussed much in general is the impact of this kilesa conditioning, what this entrenched self in society has led to.

This is a huge question and the implications are rarely discussed in the spiritual process. Firstly there is conditioning and this kilesa conditioning impacts all of us. There is only one set of causes and conditions in the world, and these causes and conditions affect each individual differently. Note here that zandtao describes one set of causes and conditions in the WORLD, this means that the conditioning process has the same kilesa components throughout the globe eg in Yemen and Syria, the US and Europe; the kilesa are no different. Similarly the causes and conditions that affect black women are the same causes and conditions that affect the Christian Right, and are the same causes and conditions that affect indigenous peoples. When we accept kilesa into our lives, that kilesa increases the kilesa in the causes and conditions of all the peoples of the world.

And of course the same kilesa of greed hatred and delusion impact on the planet, and that affects all of us including the climate deniers.

There is one set of causes and conditions for all the peoples of the world. Do you accept that? And what are the implications for accepting that? The causes and conditions are the same throughout the world but as individuals they clearly affect our lives differently. As a white male do we experience these causes and conditions in the same way as a black woman? As a red person on a reservation do we see the same causes and conditions as Washington? As a Syrian do we see the same causes and conditions as a Canadian? We can look at these causes and conditions as kilesa conditioning or we could also consider them as the systemic name – patriarchy - imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.

One set of causes and conditions for all peoples of the world was hard enough to accept but it must be even harder for many spiritual people to accept that the systemic name for kilesa conditioning is patriarchy. As bill, zandtao was already sympathetic to seeing the world as a patriarchy; he then went through a spiritual process in the Seeker Story that confirmed this. This understanding was enhanced through zandtao’s “Dedication to bell hooks” and then further developed in the second part of Real Love. There was a lot of work involved in unravelling conditioning to accept that patriarchy and causes and conditions are the same. Perhaps for many spiritual people this is not an understanding they will come to, but in the same way that spiritual people need to unravel the conditioning of their upbringing perhaps they also need to unravel the impact of the causes and conditions as patriarchy?

Revealing Patriarchy

In the Seeker Story zandtaomed examined the question of identity within patriarchy, this was developed from the dedication and Real Love; zandtao will expand on that here. The intention of this section of revealing patriarchy is for spiritual seekers to develop their own understanding of patriarchy in their lives. Please note that zandtaomed addressed this in the Seeker Story, but in zandtao’s view a seeker’s primary task is to find their path; it is for teachers to understand patriarchy in spiritual life. This revealing of patriarchy is intended to enhance a seeker’s own discovery and for them then to consider the question of patriarchy as part of spirituality.

Zandtao has copied a blog he write as a dedication to bell hooks. It will form the basis for changes in the Seeker Story so it has been included here in full. At the end there will be a link to the changed Seeker Story.

At her passing bill sent out a fb post “Sad - bell hooks died last week, she was a writer you can trust. In memory read and engage with one of her books?”; zandtao decided on his own dedication, a z-quest on the book “The will to change, men, masculinity and love”. When zandtao works on a , he engages fully with what is written (describing a ); bell hooks was such a true writer that engaging with her always disturbed. This was no exception; meditation was disturbed by sankhara-khandha analysing sanna-khandha raising vedana-khandha - then meditation stopped, and in daily life at the beginning zandtao couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with what was wanted to be said. Here is the blog about the dedication with some contextual edits as part of the z-quest.

The real engagement of this Z-quest process is how much of an inner journey you go on. It was not about completely believing bell’s opinions but looking at what bell said and applying it to bill's life. For bill that meant going back and looking at family extending the inner work bill/zandtao did on reconciling the inner child using Thay’s “Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child” in centring summer. It involved looking at family dynamics, back to being a teenager at school, a young man at uni, and the conditioned man prior to upheaval.

Upheaval is the term zandtao uses for the partial awakening that occurred when bill was 23. In this description of the path:-

we are looking at going beyond conditioning – patriarchal conditioning. Because of upheaval much of the conditioning was gone – not all. So zandtao thought that this process might not be long but it took over a month, zandtao journaled throughout and wrote 81711 words because of the genuine engagement. This was about family dynamics and embarrassing behaviour when young and is not for online. But when you look at this stuff deeply you can see the patriarchal behaviour bell points at – the impact of the conditioning. Because of patriarchal conditioning we do not discuss these things but even in the privilege of middle-class suburbia the patriarchy has observable negative effects. Depending on your level of privilege your conditioned behaviour does not have all the aspects that bell describes - the impact of conditioning on different cultures appears to be different conditionings, but through zandtao's inner journey he recognised that her truth has so much application within his life. Start by accepting what bell says is true, embrace it as truth until you can be sure that aspects can be rejected. Your first reaction whoever you are will be “the patriarchy does not have this impact on my family, my upbringing”, but it does. It is not IF her description of imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy is true, but HOW MUCH? How much was her truth in your life?

For a while zandtaomed stopped using bell’s terminology because of triggered reactions to the terminology itself, for the same reason zandtaomed has stopped using 1%-satrapy – not because the terminology is inaccurate but because people have been conditioned to react to the words themselves. The purpose of this is to go in and understand, zandtao doesn't want that stopped because of a conditioned response to trigger words. For the purpose of this inner work accept that these words have been turned into a barrier, an emotional reaction, to prevent us from understanding. The conditioning nature gives us is about survival, and through our upbringing we survive with an identity (self/multiple egos). Our collective identities have led to a defiled world that conditions us. Bell accurately describes the full extent of this conditioning but depending on our privilege we do not feel the full impact of all that she describes even though the conditioning is the same. Be clear about this.

It is also important to be very clear as to how bell uses the terminology because we are likely to emotionally react unless we are mindful with our clarity. For bell patriarchy was the system of imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. Patriarchy is about the conditioning by imperialism, white-supremacy and capitalism, how all of these conditionings have come together and favoured men in some ways (privilege) as well as harming them in others. This harm shows itself in chauvinism in individuals – chauvinist violence and abuse and chauvinist sexploitation, as well as leaving men themselves abused emotionally. As all men we need to examine how the conditioning of patriarchy creates this privilege and harm through us.

And as women, enquire as to how this conditioning affects you with collusion amongst others. Zandtao mentions women here because patriarchy does not just affect the conditioning of men but also the conditioning of women, whilst women are often victims of the conditioning of men through violence and sexploitation they can also be conditioned to collude with patriarchy; this comes from bell's teaching. Zandtaomed's Seeker Story is directed towards men, specifically white men, but women as seekers might gain from development through some of the Seeker Story but they might choose to work with a woman elder as opposed to zandtaomed. Zandtaomed has no wish to add to the patriarchal bias that already exists in spirituality. Engaging with the Seeker Story will bring up issues for women that would best be guided by a woman who supports the process.

All men need to consider patriarchal conditioning, and zandtao specifically mentions monks here. Monks are brought up with patriarchal conditioning, and whilst they can be good men who have mostly gone beyond conditioning, the fact that there are chauvinist issues within their institutions is a recognition that conditioning is still affecting them – see perpetuating patriarchy. This process is about how, not if – no matter how good men we are there will still be an impact deep somewhere, the imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy affects us, and understanding this is an inner journey that would benefit all men. In Ch 10 of the Manual the shadow process “embracing the MAWP” was discussed, now is being added this Z-quest on bell’s “The will to change, men, masculinity and love” to that process – “embracing the MAWP by engaging with bell hooks”; in this chapter there are details.

To begin understanding conditioning it is perhaps easier to understand the term agreement in Don Miguel Ruiz’s “Four Agreements” – Toltec wisdom, because quite simply conditioning is not forcibly imposed - it happens as part of upbringing and daily life unless we can go beyond it. In describing the wisdom of agreement Toltecs see it starting during upbringing; basically upbringing means that as children we grow up to agree with whatever society requires of us to live together without excessive conflict. As children we grow up making one agreement after another until we are adults. In the home there will be a certain level of patriarchy young boys will be expected to agree with, in the schools whether taught or from peers there will be a certain level of patriarchy that young boys will be expected to agree with, and from media including social media there will be a certain level of patriarchy young boys will be expected to agree with. No matter how much young boys want to grow up being fair to women, by the time they are young men they will have reached many agreements with the patriarchy that will have made them sexist to varying levels. How this can be changed to be fair to women is difficult, it is not a matter of agreeing that we live in a patriarchy – these are just agreements that have been made since birth, not a matter of choice. This is not meant as apologising for behaviour, it is not meant as a justification for sexist behaviour; it is just a fact of life. Young boys are conditioned to be sexist at some level, as all people are conditioned to be racist at some level.

As a Buddhist zandtao looks at these agreements in a different way, and that is the conditioning of paticcasamuppada, the law of dependent origination:-

This law is complex especially if we are going to use it to release our conditioning. What is described is how egos are formed, the birth of an ego in 10; with egos the “mass of suffering arises” including patriarchy. However conditioning also propagates itself. The first conditioning children meet is that of instinct, nature had decided that in order for us to survive we develop instincts that protect us; by the time we have reached young adulthood the identity that instincts create has developed various levels of patriarchy. Buddhism recognises this law, but not all Buddhists take it into social understanding. Once conditioning has created society, that society through media, education and others procreates that conditioning so that in adulthood people have to work hard to overcome conditioning at all levels - the conditioning that people already have from childhood and the further conditioning that society imposes on us as adults. It is amazing that with this level of conditioning anything ever gets changed even if there is a will to change.

Bell recognised that the patriarchy does not exist in isolation, she used the absolutely wonderful and accurate term “IMPERIALIST WHITE SUPREMACIST CAPITALIST PATRIARCHY?” (see why here p8). Whilst to me this is accurate and explains the interaction between the economic system, racism and patriarchy, for more than 99% of people this term would be too much and at least half would turn off at the very use of the term – or start to water it down. Our conditioning is instinctive - the way nature intended from birth, followed by social reinforcement that accurately bell called imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy - sadly now a divisive term. To change patriarchy systemically we need to change the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Is that possible?

For zandtao recognising this level, the totality, of conditioning is the first step to actually coming to an approach to “solve” the problem of patriarchy. Patriarchy cannot be “solved” without “solving” all aspects of the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy – without “solving” this conditioning.

Zandtao also associates the discussion of revolutionary vs reformist feminism with bell hooks. When a female CEO wants to be paid the same as a male, this is reform because as CEO this woman is a representative of the 1% in the 1%-satrapy – a political term bill used for the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. By revolutionary feminist bill takes it to mean the need to overthrow the capitalist system before (or at the same time as) overthrowing imperialism, patriarchy and racism. Whilst non-violent revolutionary is the nearest to overthrowing conditioning it is still a reaction to conditioning as is reformism, the way to “solve” conditioning is to go beyond it.

So far zandtao has described pathtivism as an approach to end the patriarchy but whilst following the path is the single most important approach to patriarchy and conditioning in general, it is not really a solution because so few people are attempting to follow their path. This next, siladhamma, is little better as a solution because it is all-encompassing, individuals can follow their paths and this might lead to siladhamma being society’s model. Institutions, families and wider, can accept siladhamma as their model/way of life within the patriarchy, but for society to become a siladhamma is perhaps less likely than the impact of pathtivism where sufficient people are following their paths to correct the current imbalances. What is possible however is that the 1%-satrapy, bell’s imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, will be seen by sufficient people to be the problem that they might seek an alternative, and siladhamma is such an alternative.

For zandtao siladhamma was a term used by Buddhadasa that he picked up on after initially developing #NatureCompassionDecency in Viveka-Zandtao - as used in 3-memes; such new memes would now have #siladhamma.

#NatureCompassionDecency was initially developed as a means of coping with the that was taking young seekers without the discipline for monasteries into cults. How can we possibly live together when we cannot be compassionate and decent to each other? And how can we possibly survive if we cannot live in harmony with nature? When our behaviour is being conditioned, we can turn around and say that we cannot behave in this way because we accept that in our lives we live by siladhamma. This can work on a micro as well as a macro level; it can work in relationships and families.

Bill never did this but it could be a way of starting relationships by agreeing to live by siladhamma. In monasteries there is the Vinaya, a code for Buddhist monks, and a hierarchy based on time lived in a monastery. Why not have a code in relationships? Siladhamma. In all relationships agreements are made, why not make these arrangements siladhamma?

However, can siladhamma ever become society’s conditioning? It can be within individual families, and people who live by siladhamma are often respected but this respect is a respect that they present with a caveat – they cannot personally be compassionate or they need money not compassion. Siladhamma as a way of life would spread when people see it can work and they then see how it makes people happy.

Patriarchal conditioning would be negated if we practised siladhamma in relationships – if siladhamma became the way we lived in the home. It would end the coercion of borderline-abuse, and would ensure that the sexual act was based on compassion (or love).

This consideration of nature in siladhamma leads to an important aspect of sexuality within a relationship and within society – understanding the needs of another in the relationship. Firstly those needs have to be discussed in order to be recognised. In patriarchal coercion the needs of the short-term sexual gratification of the male is tacitly recognised and sadly expected, in relationships how much attention is given to the sexual needs of the woman? That attention varies in different relationships but what is important is that the attention needs to be equitable, how often is it?

What about other relationship needs? What about the home and security? Presumably in a loving relationship such discussions would arise within the context of love, a context in which both people love each other yet are free to fulfil themselves by following their paths – if that is possible here is Thich Nhat Hanh on romantic love. Thay brings into question the possibility that love can truly flourish in relationship, maybe this issue will arise in this dedication because for me love means spiritual love.

Returning to home and security, in some cultures tradition states that men provide the finance for the woman to look after the home. What about the male stereotype of the provider? On the question of home and security, are there different innate needs for women and men or do the various expressed needs for men and women come from conditioning? Whilst there are clear physical differences between women and men, are there character differences that come from nature? What does the Divine Feminine mean?

But how natural are differences between women and men? That is such a difficult question, and it is a question that rigid adherence to the dogmatic position of equality alienates many people, women and men alike. When we consider what is “natural” it is necessary to begin to consider what is naturalness for women and men. This brings us back to the path, and considerations of what the path means. MwB helps with this. Through MwB ("Mindfulness with Breathing" by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu) we develop the vihara – equivalent to the first three tetrads so that we can use our faith to reconnect with the Dhamma – the 4th tetrad. It would not be unreasonable to consider a boundary of conditioning to be that of the 3rd and 4th tetrad, the vihara is the vehicle of conditioning, the vehicle of the 5 khandhas; through transcendence faith provides the force that reconnects to the Dhamma. Beyond conditioning what is natural is the Dhamma.

But is there a “natural” difference concerning the khandhas? Kaya – body – definitely, vedana, sanna and sankhara – zandtao doesn’t know. Zandtao suspects vedana will be naturally different as vedana is closer to kaya. Asking if there is a natural difference in characteristics might just boil down to whether there is a difference in the way women and men have feelings. Would that include feelings about home?

By observation we can see various commonalities across cultures in which men are providers (“hunters”) and women look after the homes, whilst this tends to suggest that this is a naturalness it could also be that patriarchy has latched onto this perception to exploit it. Of course it could be a natural difference, and that the problem lies in patriarchy placing higher value to the work of the provider than the home - to increase accumulation. And what about people who put the home as a priority? Personally from the outside zandtao values the home higher, and sees addressing the need for a greater focus on the home as being a fundamental problem in society. This emphasis on the home came up in the education evaluation of Matriellez, because of all the home problems children carry with them and because of the lack of integration between school, home and society. But when you consider nature, natural characteristics, home and roles, there can be no simple straightforward answer. It is nature vs nurture, what arises during conditioning? What arises during the patriarchy? There are some obvious attributes of patriarchy, the violence, the legal framework that attempts to defend short-term gratification at the expense of a woman’s autonomy over her own body, where does nature come in this?

With this understanding of path conditioning and siladhamma zandtao started using bell’s book as a guide through an inner journey of patriarchy. Because zandato embraced the process and investigated dubious aspects of his past, examined family, relationships with women, lust and violence this process has taught him a great deal; much arises in a journal of 80000 words. Zandtao found the question of nature is not possible to conclude – when does conditioning end? Typically there are even different views on kaya, the sex urge in men and conditioning, is it different in each man? Different for a woman? The deeper your journey goes the better, the more you consider embarrassing moments in your life the greater you will understand patriarchy, the more you examine family issues the greater you will understand patriarchy, the better you do this inner journey the less able you are to share the details.

After 80000 words

Zandtao went deeper and deeper until he reached Ch10 of bell’s book on integration – integration of fragmented patriarchal egos, and by then path siladhamma conditioning and bell’s feminist masculinity came together – amusing coincidence it is Ch 10 in the Manual where zandtao discussed integration. There is no magic wand that can instantly end patriarchy, would that there were. What we can do is break individual conditioning down one person at a time, it is the journey to do that that zandtao has just been on, and it is that journey he strongly recommends for others as part of their path.

Feminist masculinity can be part of your path – the path has many ways, that is why bell’s integration in Ch10 and the path come together. Feminist masculinity can become an awareness programme for men. Back in the day bill ran racism awareness, it was beneficial. Awareness of feminist masculinity can also be beneficial. To begin with there needs to be a safe space, for men to feel free to express their intimate struggles there needs to be absolute trust – zandtao does not believe that any inner journey for a man will not bring shame if shared in a hostile place; issues of lust abuse and violence can be deeply shaming. That is not the purpose – investigate, understand and let go.

So we start with a safe space – a support group, counselling, meditation – a safe space. From his own journey, there were these inner themes:-

Inner Theme 1 – Family dynamics

a) Understand the patriarchal abuse in the family whether emotional or violent
b) How was the expression of love in your family? Mother love for the children? Father love for the children? Parents loving each other? Children loving parents?
c) Know the mother and father in you.

Inner Theme 2 – Accepting an abusive childhood

Examine the consequences of the abuse in your life as you were growing up - as an adult.

Inner Theme 3 – Relationships

a) Look at past relationships, see if there is a pattern based on what you inherited from an abusive childhood.
b) Look at the father in you (women – mothers), have you brought him into your relationships.
c) Examine the childhood abuse, are you bringing it into your relationships? Are you abusing your partner in the same way he abused your mother?
d) Are you loving? How much mutual respect do you show? Is control an issue?
e) Examine how you relate sexually. Are you a caring lover? How do you manage lust in your relationship? What is your relationship with masturbation/ejaculation? Is your sex life a substitute for patriarchal success? Does this substitute lead to exploitation of your partner?

Inner-theme 4 – Work

Examine your fulfilment in your work life, can it be improved? Is it based in wage-slavery?

Inner-Theme 5 – Masks with other men

a) Examine your mask. What is it you cannot say?
b) How does your mask relate to patriarchy?

Within bell’s Ch10 there were different issues that she raised that of course would be involved with such a feminist masculinity awareness (quotes are taken from Ch10):-

1) Something wrong

Bradshaw “The feeling that I have done something wrong, that I really don’t know what it is, that there’s something terribly wrong with my very being, leads to a sense of utter hopelessness. This hopelessness is the deepest cut of the mystified state. It means there is no possibility for me as I am; there is no way I can matter or be worthy of anyone’s love as long as I remain myself.” Training can then proceed to turn that feeling into understanding.

Feeling something is wrong with patriarchal conditioning is a good place for the feminist masculinity to start, it is a place where conditioning is beginning to be rejected. Feeling something is wrong is also a good place to start on the path.

2) Addiction

Suffering, caused by lack of integration and rage at the world leads to “alcoholism or substance abuse. Workaholism is the most common addiction in men because it is usually rewarded and not taken seriously as detrimental to their emotional well-being.” “At the moment when addictions stop keeping the pain at bay, many men sink into depression.”

3) Blaming feminism

Understanding feminism and patriarchy is essential to removing conditioning, so investigating if or how much feminism is blamed is part of integration. Are you an active feminist? If not, why not?

4) Pain, Rage and Grief

“many men seeking to be whole must first name the intensity of their rage and the pain it masks.” “Anger often hides depression and profound sorrow. Depression often masks the inability to grieve.” “To grow psychologically and spiritually, men need to mourn. The men who are doing the work of self-recovery testify that it is only when they are able to feel the pain that they can begin to heal.” This is very much the shadow process of Nyanga zandtao described in the Manual, it was not about death of a loved one but about the pain and suffering in love.

“Unable to acknowledge feelings, fathers often cover them up with rage, cruelly severing their own attachment to the son and refusing his love and admiration.” “Our myths and religious stories are full of narratives in which the son is depicted as the father’s enemy, ever poised to steal his power.” “Only the man who chooses a healthy model - wherein the father figure, the adult man of integrity, the guide who shelters, protects, and nurtures the son - can gracefully attend the assertion of his own son’s healthy autonomy.”

5) Control

“The patriarchal model that tells men that they must be in control at all times is at odds with cultivating the capacity to be responsible, which requires knowing when to control and when to surrender and let go.” “At the same time, constructive criticism works only when it is linked to a process of affirmation…. It is the highest realization of compassion and empathy with others.”

6) Willing to Change

“If a man is not willing to break patriarchal rules that say that he should never change — especially to satisfy someone else, particularly a female - then he will choose being right over being loved.”

Training Summary

“Critical analysis is useful when it promotes growth, but it is never enough. The work of affirmation is what brings us together. When men learn to affirm themselves and others, giving this soul care, then they are on the path to wholeness.” “No longer separate, no longer apart, they bring a wholeness that can be joined with the wholeness of others. This is interbeing.” “Men of integrity are not ashamed to serve. They are caretakers, guardians, keepers of the flame. They know joy.” “This is the true meaning of reunion, living the knowledge that the damage can be repaired, that we can be whole again. It is the ultimate fulfillment that comes when men dare to challenge and change patriarchy.”

It is the inner journey that brings such wholeness and integrity, it is a journey that is stronger and carries greater conviction than intellectual awareness. Bell noted that earlier in the feminist struggle supportive men slipped back because of the ongoing presence of patriarchal conditioning. With an inner journey grows conviction and an ability to withstand and resist the conditioning that tries to pull you back. This conviction grows as the inner journey continues. If feminist masculinity is ongoing then there will be a continuous process of enquiry of what patriarchy's conditioning throws at us. We trust our own conviction above what the system throws at us.

And this inner journey can be taken further through techniques such as meditation where there is still the ongoing enquiry that negates conditioning and there is still the strengh of conviction that is the beginning of the path.

This is of course a theoretical training course that has arisen out of feminist masculinity awareness inner journey through “embracing the MAWP by engaging with bell hooks”. It needs practice and tuning. As Zandtaomed, if such a situation were to arise he would be prepared to run such a feminist masculinity awareness course as the daily emails are effectively journaling, and meditation would be a good way of helping someone go inwards – deeply. As elder he would attempt to enable such a man to develop the awareness and strength that comes from taking the inner journey to understand patriarchy, enable him to consolidate that strength, and develop the autonomy that can give him the conviction to withstand patriarchal conditioning throughout his life. Bell recognised throughout that there was a need for a systemic change, but how does that come about? In the Pathtivism Manual zandtao discussed activism. His conclusion - pathtivism - path activism. Pathtivism is the struggle for people to follow their paths, and when they follow their paths they look at how much of their life is actrivism. Can the system be changed through non-violent revolution? Working with individuals through pathtivism helps change the system and provides the strength and conviction to withstand patriarchy, let your autonomy decide for you.

Wow, what a journey! After his centring summer zandtao did not think there was stuff like this to uncover. This took over his life for a month of 80000 words. The journey was not emotionally draining, because he has done so much work like this before. If you are going to do such inner work, please make sure you have someone with you or at the other end of the phone, a safe person and a safe space - any work that looks properly into family dynamics must bring out "demons".

Whilst he was not too drained zandtao had let himself go. Early on in the month he had stopped meditation. He was sleeping and then immediately getting up and journaling this dedication, it had gripped him that much. This morning he got up the same way and started reflecting in his chair Zandtao was too immersed in conditioning. He couldn't meditate. He had to force himself to meditate. There was no reconnection with sunnata. Why not? Sanna - he was immersed in egos of memories and perceptions that were blocking sunnata. He felt a glimpse at the end after he collapsed on the bed. This is not good. He must meditate and get back to where he was. This does not disturb him as the inner work was beneficial, balance will come back.

It became clear where the imbalance was that gave rise to the "letting go". It was about vihara without faith, conditioning the vihara in the sanna-khandha letting go of the vedana-khandha of upbringing, but what did not happen was maintaining the reconnection with the Dhamma because he was not trying to do that through meditation. This was not so much a problem with the centring summer because the released faith reconnected. With this dedication to bell hooks there was greater depth and understanding but no new powerful shadows that would help with reconnection. However the quality of the dedication has been the development of the programme, this would help zandtaomed as a meditation elder - and maybe feed into other work?

Whoever you are - even Good Men, learn about your feminist masculinity. This is not an easy journey especially if you have not done inner work before – make sure you have a safe person and a safe space. The more privileged you are (more benefits from the patriarchy) the less likely you are to accept what is required for this journey. Accept bell’s opinions of the imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy, and try to understand how the patriarchy has impacted your life. Remember conditioning will have made agreements to reject bell’s terminology. Don’t reject; ask how not if, go deep and ask how. Remember we are talking about conditioning that has been made in our upbringing – in our families; coming to terms with family dynamics is hard, difficult and requires a safe person/space. As we let go of our conditioning we begin to follow our paths; and if we can, we follow our paths in spaces of siladhamma.

Embrace your MAWP by engaging with bell hooks. Zandtao's dedication.

Developing a Path Story

One of the possibilities in the intro to the Secular Path? was the development of a Path Story - along the lines of a Seeker Story. As this z-quest has developed such a separate path story is not appropriate. There is the following part on awakening in Seeker Story. This will be examined and amended appropriately:-

Step 1 Brainstorming

Record all awakenings, insights, creative moments, meditation moments; just record them as they come to you. Take a break taking your mind off awakenings. Now go back and see if there are any more awakenings to record.

Step 2 – Categorise your Awakenings

Nature – As in 5 Gateways awakenings often occur when we are away from our routines, in nature – on cliffs, up mountains, deserted beaches watching the sea. These awakenings don’t have to be full blown as described in 5 Gateways. Being in harmony with nature can be considered a form of awakening. Walking on coast paths away from towns bill would often feel alone but in unity with nature (no bells and banjoes). Record such feelings of harmony with nature.

Go back through your brainstorm, and list the times in nature when you have felt the harmony/unity. Any other times? What does being alone in nature mean to you?

Step 3 – Ah-ha moments

Ah-ha moments – insights – come from the path. In teaching bill would encourage an insight process. Homework – kids stuck on a maths problem. Try, leave it. Come back to it, no good? Leave it overnight waking up with the solution. Sometimes you can wake up in the middle of the night. Or you can have a Eureka moment.

Look at your brainstorm. Which of these are ah-ha moments? Can you think of others you haven’t recorded? Have you developed techniques such as “sleeping on it” to develop these insights?

Step 4 Grander Awakening Experiences

Bill talks of his upheaval as firstgrace:-

Zandtao likes Eckhart’s idea of a firstgrace freebie, that at some point in your life the path breaks through and gives an earth-shattering experience. In bill's upheaval this experience was over an intense period of time – weeks and months. Many people on Batgap talk of personal moments of awakening. For some people awakening to become enlightened might be a reality, it is not this that zandtao talks about even as a Grander Awakening Experience. But there are powerful awakening experiences, powerful religious experiences that people have spoken of over time.

If you have had such an experience, record it in detail – from start to finish. Once you think you have recorded all the detail, leave it – do something else. Come back and see if there is more detail you can remember. Revisit this experience often, remember it, relive it, relive the details. It is the experience of your life.

Warning:- If you have been fortunate to have a Grander Awakening Experience even as firstgrace, be careful not to try and recreate it. Accept the grandness (the bells and banjoes) as a one-off experience. Awakenings will continue to arise if you are following your path, they do not arise because you recreate the circumstances where it has happened before. It is not the circumstances of the event that creates the awakening but whether you are following your path – after the freebie of firstgrace.

Step 5 Moving your Awakenings on

We have looked at details of awakening events. Based on the warning we are not looking to recreate the circumstances of those events because we have moved on. Our paths have developed so awakenings will happen as rewards for getting closer to our paths. Such rewards as awakening experiences can simply be affirmations that you are following your path. Awakening experiences as insights can be that path showing you how to learn – by putting flesh on the bones of an insight. Awakening experiences in nature can be telling you to get out and centre yourself more.

Celebrate your awakening experiences but remember they are not the path. Look at descriptions of the path, what do you think of them? In light of conditioning? Of awakening?

So there will be an updated Seeker Story, an important part of zandtaomed's meditation.

The duty of the seeker is to make themselves ready as best they can.

How do we make ourselves ready? By preparing the best vihara through releasing attachments. Through the conditioning of upbringing and the ongoing conditioning in daily life there are attachments to the vihara, and good preparation means releasing those attachments. This is done in a good practice, for zandtao the dhamma practice of MwB where the 1st three terads release attachments to his vihara. How do we know we have released all the attachments? When total awakening occurs – whatever that is?

However with a good practice partial awakenings occur. Through his faith in the path zandtao uses his dhamma practice to reconnect with the Dhamma by enabling the Dhamma comrades during the 4th tetrad where some forms of awakening occur. With these awakenings come the recognition of tathata, and in that recognition of tathata comes an increased understanding of conditioning. From that improved understanding of conditioning we are able to release further attachments. This is a cyclical process that goes on with the seeker with awakenings releasing attachments that enable further awakenings. In terms of the 3-memes we do the best we can by preparing our best vihara by releasing attachments that through our faith in the path enables further awakenings making us aware through tathata of ways of preparing the vihara. Is there an end to this cyclical process? Zandtao cannot answer that – beyond my job description as they say, but what comes with this cyclical path is greater happiness as we improve our viharas by being more awakened. This is our practice making us ready.

In this chapter zandtao has used this cyclical process by recognising attachments arising through the patriarchy by "embracing the MAWP with bell hooks". As part of his recognition of conditioning zandtaomed asks seekers to understand their Seeker Story, and through that story release attachments. With the dhamma practice of MwB that zandtaomed offers these attachments can be released, and with the reconnection of the 4th tetrad the seeker can build an improved tathata that can then become a part of their Seeker Story that releases further attachments. Zandtaomed can help seekers make themselves ready.


Books:- Real Love/Viveka-Zandtao/Treatise, Pathtivism Manual, Pathtivism Companion/ Wai Zandtao Scifi/ Matriellez Education.
Blogs:- Zandtao, Matriellez, Mandtao.