These are interrelated quite obviously – to know our purpose, to diagnose why and how that purpose is not happening, and curing these reasons so purpose can happen.
The purpose could be described as realising Gaia’s awakening - realising consciousness. Let’s examine that. Gaia – Mother Nature – is the Unity that we are. Beyond zandtao's understanding Gaia gives us paths that we follow so that Gaia is realised; for each of Gaia’s apparent separate entities there are paths to be followed to realise Gaia. Having faith in Gaia is sufficient in terms of any understanding, because as “human individuals” we work on our own awareness and realisation. So within the context of Gaia we have our paths, awakening to those paths and realising them in daily life is our purpose. Questions concerning Gaia beyond this might well be fruitless questions, questions that could even disturb and might well not be constructive. However questions concerning our awakening and realisation are essential as that is our purpose – to follow our path.
It is necessary to understand how we grow up to follow our paths. From the time we are born there is conditioning; Gaia designs this conditioning to protect the newborn, and then when they mature the adult let’s go of this conditioned self or identity and begins to follow their path to reconnect with Gaia. In reconnecting with Gaia humans evolve consciousness thus helping Gaia realise.
Ideally this upbringing and maturity runs smoothly, from newborn to realising awakening and evolving Gaia-consciousness. However now it is not running as an ideal, in totality it is for Gaia to know why. For humanity on our paths upbringing is not leading to the maturity that follows the path for most people. This is the diagnosis, and the cure is to find ways of returning to the ideal process.
Let us examine the diagnosis in more detail. As a generalisation people are not following their paths; they are not awakening, they are not realising that awakening for themselves, and they are not realising that awakening in daily life. It is necessary to consider a diagnosis for each of these three.
Why aren’t people awakening? The conditioning is so strong that people are clinging to their selves rather than releasing these egos and following their paths. For zandtao this is the awakening diagnosis, rather than maturing and starting their purpose through awakening people are clinging to the self-esteem of their upbringing. Why is this happening? For most people they are not aware during their lives that they are meant to awaken, and for those who do develop this awareness there are societal forces that are discouraging this awakening. People are clinging to selves rather than awakening, the process of conditioning has become unbalanced.
How has this process become unbalanced? For this we need to understand that in the conditioning process egos are created to build up self-esteem to enable the process of survival into adulthood – prior to the mature release of this identity of self-esteem. These egos can be considered as life-forms in the sense that ego has a survival instinct. These identities desire to survive, and it is the desire of the identity to survive that is preventing awakening; this egoic survival has become too strong. Within purpose there is a process of awakening built-in, but for so many people egoic identity is so strong; somehow the conditioning process has become too strong in terms of establishing these identities.
Why has this conditioning process become so strong? The ego’s desire for survival has become systematised strengthening the conditioning that develops ego in upbringing. This conditioning system not only provides the strength for the ego to survive into adulthood, the conditioning also strengthens that ego in adulthood so that few have the maturity to follow the path. The conditioning is so strong that the process of disidentification with egos does not begin to occur for most people, and the conditioning is strong enough to defeat most awakening processes that occur in society. So this leads to 2 cure approaches:-
How could we develop awakening?
How can we counter the system of ego survival?
Earlier on zandtao discussed the culture of awakening (CoA), and recognised that in his own case it was not the lack of a CoA but his lack of a good practice that prevented awakening – what is now his Prajna practice. There is no reason why we cannot be brought up with a practice either within the family or within the education system. However whilst there is a CoA it could be greatly improved eg by practice and appropriate education. But this improvement is prevented by the ego-survival system because appropriate education and practice does not exist.
Let us consider what does exist in the current CoA. Once people are looking for the path there are many paths they can choose, that is good; what is not so good is that those paths do not always have an appropriate practice. At the same time we should note that within society as a whole there is a – lack of faith in the paths of Gaia-consciousness; also as a part of that society there are false paths such as cults as well as appropriate awakening paths.
Within our current society how does awakening arise? Mostly through pain and suffering. For seekers awakening starts through pain and suffering that arises out of conflict with their own ego-survival system and society, their awakening process is stronger than the way conditioning impacts on them. This pain and suffering is not ideal, but given the strength of the system it is now necessary.
How does this awakening show itself? There is the path that arises through awakening arising from pain and suffering or the path that arises through the awakening of creativity; this is awakening through what zandtao calls Prajna or love-wisdom, the creativity of loving, the creativity of insight – producing Prajna, and the creativity of being creative. Through pain and suffering as conflict there is disidentification with the ego, and the pain and suffering coming from the survival instinct of the ego as it is released; yet despite this pain and suffering there can also be the joy of awakening, the joy that arises from following the path. Through creativity there is identification with the Muse – one of the processes of consciousness reconnecting with Gaia. Good practice helps with disidentification, and development of innate creativity through connection with the Muse also recognises the need for disidentification.
Awakening in this way however is only the first step but because awakening and creative experiences can be so powerful many seekers get stuck trying to recreate these powerful experiences. This again is an ego-survival process, what some call spiritual ego. For zandtao this clinging is one of the aspects of bypassing, good practice develops and lets go of such egos that want to bypass.
Once there is awakening there needs to be realisation, and this realisation has 2 stages – integrating awakening on an individual level and integrating awakening into society. These two processes of integration are not distinct, how we integrate as an individual is affected by the way we can integrate into society and vice versa.
For zandtao this personal integration has occurred in two ways. Firstly through his Prajna practice there has arisen the 5 Dhamma comrades – sati/mindfulness, love, panna/wisdom, samatha/concentration and sampajanna/ individual integration – wisdom into practice. Secondly there has been integration through his writing as z-quests, and if insight arises in meditation or in daily life then zandtao puts “flesh on the bones of these insights”; this is his personal integration through creativity. Whilst zandtao’s writing is available for others at his website, there is very little integration of his awakening with society now - previously when younger the connection he had with the path through upheaval and compassion was concerned with integration in society.
So all roads of restriction of the realisation of awakening very quickly arrive at the ego-survival system and society. So to end such restrictions we need to consider what is this ego-survival system that has such an impact. Firstly we ask does our CoA look at this system and seek methods to end their restrictions? Mostly the answer is no. Our CoA, through institutions or otherwise, mostly examines these restrictions as to how they impact on the individual helping the seeker to develop awakening and integrate it into themselves and into Gaia-consciousness individually. How restrictions impact on individuals is described as kilesa or defilements or some such equivalent, and the CoA offers education and refuge to help individuals. But this is concerned with individual development and not directly concerned with the restrictions the system applies. Apart from individual development little is done concerning the system as a whole.
Most seekers do not even name this social system of ego-survival, and the very name is a trigger – patriarchy. Zandtao recognises that seekers in general will not use this word patriarchy - imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy, however they will be comfortable with words such as kilesa or conditioning - but not comfortable with the word patriarchy; this comes from the way teachings are. At the end of the Seeker Story, zandtao asks seekers to examine the impact of patriarchy on their own personal development, if we cannot see how patriarchy impacts we cannot name patriarchy as the ego-survival system nor can we recognise the egos the system creates. But if we can name the source of the restrictions we can begin to work on the restrictions in order to increase awakening and the realisation of awakening by removing those recognised egos. For zandtaomed this recognition of patriarchy comes at the end of the Seeker Story. Zandtaomed recognises that the seeker needs help with their individual struggle through developing the 5 Dhamma comrades, and it is only when there is sufficient strength and protection from these comrades should they be exposed to the recognition of the restrictions arising from patriarchy. It is easier for seekers to follow their paths and release egos ignorant of the restrictions of patriarchy, but for complete integration seekers need to release all egos so at some point they must become conscious of those egos that arise from patriarchy's need to survive; the awareness and release of these survival egos will bring the seeker in conflict with patriarchy. For zandtaomed becoming aware of patriarchy's survival egos comes at the end of the Seeker Story.
One way that has helped zandtao become more conscious of the patriarchy as the ego-survival system has been the “feminine way” as discussed by Nicola Amadora. This way of loving immediately illuminates that patriarchy is in conflict with love, and therefore patriarchy is in conflict with path. Many religious institutions compromise with patriarchy, at best they adopt approaches that do not conflict with patriarchy. What this has led to is an imbalance concerning love and compassion, and an avoidance of recognising the harm caused by patriarchy through wars of accumulation, famine and impoverishment, and others. Such institutions tacitly accept compromise in order to promote their teachings, protect their wisdom, and provide refuge; would those institutions be able to fulfil these duties if they confronted patriarchy? But the problem is that the power and influence of patriarchy is increasing, and from zandtao’s observations and experience it is mostly impossible to be awakened within patriarchy. Individual teachers have found positions within patriarchy so long as they have been able to raise the finance to live – often through books and appearances. But for ordinary seekers how can they find money to realise their awakening - how can all awakened people survive through teaching and selling books?
So patriarchy is hindering human development because it restricts the realisation of awakening. Sadly the patriarchy is so powerful that institutions connected with awakening are unable to confront or even name this system that restricts awakening. Individual seekers are unlikely to embrace patriarchy but they have to learn to accept the restrictions and find ways to awakening and realisation that circumvent the worst restrictions of patriarchy. However globally the impact of patriarchy still causes high levels of harm, and compassion needs to address this; love addresses it directly.
Cultivating Love – A feminine way for the masculine
This is concerned with a spiritual way out of patriarchy. Whether through innate patriarchal attitudes or because of institutional compromises required by the religious to exist within patriarchy, what is received as spiritual advice has innate patriarchal bias.
Let’s start with this, a reasonable depiction of prajna practice towards tathata:-
Through prajna there is love and wisdom leading to the seer seeing. For practices within patriarchy there is the risk of bias towards wisdom. Within this bias is the risk of spiritual bypassing where transcendence, going beyond conditioning, can lead to avoidance where the seeker avoids through separation as recluse or otherwise - as opposed to immanence (immanent transcendence) where the seeker goes beyond yet remains within the world of conditioning.
It is interesting to consider monasteries in terms of this bias. A monastery can provide refuge and teaching, both of which are needed in current times. But those teachings don’t usually include an aspect of tathata – the seeing of society as patriarchy, nor do those institutions focus on their own patriarchal attitudes. In terms of love and wisdom this leads to an emphasis on wisdom and possible separate transcendence - not a balance between love and wisdom through immanent transcendence. Towards love is an effort to redress this imbalance.
In Viveka-Zandtao zandtao examined his own connection with solitude; it has been prominent throughout his journey, and included within this journey was the acceptance of transcendence in solitude. Whilst in Viveka-zandtao he spoke of solitude as being a theme in his development, it was always seen as the various awakenings during solitude being then realised in daily life – immanence. Once across the threshold of autonomy zandtao’s autonomy took him to real love – an awakening of real love - of spiritual love, but looking with tathata there still feels a need for a better balance.
Recognising this after being propelled by Nicola Amadora, he tried her divine mother meditation. He felt the love and got back prajna – love-wisdom. Then it didn’t work. One of the first realisations Nicola gave him was the common sense that maybe women did not want to open up to him as a man - zandtaomed the elder, he attempted to address this – he doesn’t know how successfully. It is perfectly reasonable to accept that women might not choose to work with zandtaomed because he is a man.
To be honest zandtao has difficulty with this, has always had difficulty with this because truth is truth – beyond masculine or feminine. In daily life bill was frustrated by women avoiding aspects of his understanding of this truth because he was a man. Now as zandtao and zandtaomed he accepts this as a consequence of patriarchy, and recognises that it is part of his duty to make efforts to make his practice and advice receivable by women. There is no doubt that in the development of his own path there has been a wisdom bias through his own attraction to wisdom teaching and his failure to see this as having bias. This was enhanced when his mid-life review took him to Buddhism where he continued with his wisdom bias through Buddhist teachings. With his autonomy through crossing the Prajna threshold he can now try to develop a love-wisdom balance that can hopefully mean more women will find his advice receivable. To this end part 3 is concerned with developing and embodying this balance.
The implications of living in such a deeply-entrenched patriarchy are vast for seekers on the path. Firstly there needs to be recognition of kilesa, and then seeing that these kilesa have been systematised in patriarchy. Once there has been this recognition a seeker will start to look for and release patriarchal egos from upbringing; this is the beginning. In adulthood there will continue to be patriarchal conditioning, and the seeker needs to be aware of any possible reconditioning and not allow such egos to arise. It is reasonable for a seeker to turn to religious institutions in developing the practice for their path. Zandtao notes that when he turned to Buddhism there was not love-wisdom in his practice, and that he has work to do to ensure that his Prajna practice has no bias.
At the end of part 1 zandtao put forward the 7 core components of a good practice:-
Zandtao notes that this core approach does not specifically state the need for love-wisdom balance although it would be part of an integrated path; it is included within seer consciousness - feeling knowing and seeing the way things are. As part of his practice and his reconnection with Dhamma, zandtaomed promotes the mindfulness/sati, love/karuna, wisdom/panna, concentration/samadhi and embodiment/sampajanna. Here love and wisdom would arrive equally for the seeker, and hopefully the seeker would attempt to embody love-wisdom equally through sampajanna. However given the bias of our patriarchal society it would be good practice to cultivate the arising of love and the embodiment of that love to create a better balance.
Out of love-wisdom comes tathata:-
And for seeing this tathata, we need to feel, know and see the way things are; this comes from love-wisdom balance.
Nicola talks of the Divine Feminine and promotes this in her teachings. One consequence of recognising a Divine Feminine is that there would be recognition of a Divine Masculine. For zandtao in the right circumstances that would mean a quest for the Divine Masculine, but given the level of patriarchal conditioning that could well lead to the development of male egos instead of a Divine Masculine. At present zandtao sees his quest for the Divine Masculine as following the path with its arising of the mindfulness/sati, love/karuna, wisdom/panna, concentration/samadhi and embodiment/sampajanna, and making efforts to remove the restrictions in our current Culture of Awakening to enable all seekers to follow their own paths - to enable women to better follow their own paths.
As with all seekers (as described in pathtivism) their first duty is to follow their own path, to remove conditioning, and reconnecting with Source to develop the arising of the mindfulness/sati, love/karuna, wisdom/panna, concentration/samadhi and embodiment/sampajanna. With their paths will come the vision of tathata and in that vision each seeker will recognise what to do to work on removing the kilesa system of patriarchy.
Nicola addresses women, not exclusively – but in a way that promotes the feminine way through women. Zandtao needs to get inside this more - to understand what is appropriate for him, and there are two ways that can move him that way – Thay’s Cultivating Love and more practice of metta meditation with Sharon Salzberg – feeling love. Thay’s cultivating love has a talk but he will begin with the 4 brahma-viharas. Beginning with 4 brahma-viharas is a good start because it is already step 9 in his practice.
Let’s examine that practice a little. How much of the best vihara, the first three foundations of mindfulness, is patriarchal? This is hard because zandtao does not know what is patriarchal, it is a different unknown – can he recognise his own patriarchal conditioned egos? The Seeker Story does some work on this bias, what more is needed to develop a love-wisdom balance?
Zandtao is concerned that in MwB ("Mindfulness with Breathing" by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu) Buddhadasa does not talk of love – and the love-wisdom prajna balance; if he saw the way patriarchy limits love in the way zandtao does, surely he would have spoken about it? But zandtao could conceive of such considerations being termed political, therefore daily life and egos, and not be considered path. But Theravadin institution in Thailand appears to be unquestionable on the issue. When Bhikkhuni ordination (Ajaan Brahm here, Ajaan Brahm and Ven Canda here) happened there was a closing of ranks, a Bangkok Buddhist church group he was then involved in belittled this patriarchal sin and attempted to deflect criticism of the institution. It was described by the institution in terms of “storm in a teacup” variety whereas in daily life the storm that is patriarchy creates a level of dukkha that is unprecedented - if there is sufficient recognition of the nature of patriarchy dukkha can be seen as a consequence of that patriarchy.
Essentially patriarchy restricts love in daily life, personal love being restricted is part of the same conditioning that creates racism, that creates wars for 1%-accumulation, whose imbalance creates famine and impoverishment as there is only one conditioning. The daily life issues of racism, war and famine are not usually considered as part of one conditioning. Patriarchy restricting love is not usually considered to be the same kilesas whose greed creates war for 1%-accumulation. Why? Because releasing kilesas is considered a personal act, and is taught as a personal act. Whilst conditioning of paticcasamuppada is considered important within the institution of Buddhism it is seen on a personal level, it is taught as a personal tool of development. Systemic conditioning is not considered so Buddhist teachings don’t usually address patriarchy. But there is only one conditioning, and that conditioning produces kilesa and war.
Undoubtedly restricting love is a significant spiritual issue and as there is only one conditioning zandtao questions why this restriction is not addressed on a regular basis throughout all religious institution. When you consider the practice triangle:-
if this depiction is accepted tathata cannot be complete without love. Tathata cannot be complete through the teachings of institutions that are compromised by patriarchy as there cannot be a love-wisdom integration.
Yesterday zandtao listened to Thay discussing the 4 brahma-viharas – metta/loving kindness, karuna/compassion, mudita/ empathic joy, and upekkha/equanimity. But this morning he woke up and tried to develop feeling love initially through metta meditation. As the feeling developed in him there was a good feeling - a greater feeling of balance, maybe? To know there is a need for spiritual love is not enough, feeling is essential; practice must include a feeling of love especially if the practice has previously had a wisdom-orientation.
At present his practice is changing to feeling-orientated so he must be careful not to lose the understanding he previously gained through wisdom. But this is about balance, it is about recognising how to provide that balance within his existing prajna practice. Feeling love is an integral part of any practice as it is part of integration, love-wisdom integration – prajna integration. Zandtao felt love when writing Real Love but he did not include it as part of his practice, that will be changed somehow. So far he has developed two changes:-
Feeling love as daily practice
Connecting with Gaia
This could be step 15 of his practice - zandtaomed autonomous practice. The best vihara is required for love, as yet he has not determined what is patriarchal bias within the development of the best vihara. Except there is a bias, there is an inherent bias towards wisdom and not enough efforts to balance wisdom with love. He must see how, see how the 12 steps of the best vihara need to change in his practice. Step 9 is concerned with the seeds of the 4 brahma-viharas for Buddhadasa developing the highest qualities of mind. This high quality must include love. Mastering the vedana has to include consideration of the feelings of love. Where does love arise in the kaya? Release the attachments but promote the love. Some changes have been made, and the practice looks much more balanced.
It feels better already, now to Thay. We must grow our love so it must be part of practice. From the Real Love z-quest there were changes to practice in terms of patriarchy but there was not enough effort to grow love especially given the inimical presence of patriarchy. Growing love must be practiced. In the Seeker Story we have to develop a section of growing love - growing love from our daily lives and growing spiritual love.
In this book purpose began as a z-quest into a “secular path?” Stephen proposed that secular path related to the 4 Noble Truths, but through consideration of this zandtao proposes the 7 components:-
Perhaps these can be used in a secular sense? Paths that go through institutions have their own ways, or paths that have been found through the individual will have their own forms of development; these secular components can be used – does your path have these components? This could be especially useful if there is over-reliance on a teacher.
At this point zandtao asked if there was a culture of awakening – CoA. Through asking that he understood that in his younger years as bill there was no path because there was no practice. As soon as there was practice there was awakening – of a form. In his formative years this CoA was alternative but given the increases of McMindfulness in the 21st century it might now be more mainstream, but McMindfulness has hijacked meditation for wellbeing and productivity; it is not meditation for awakening. Zandtao’s 7 core components of practice are concerned with awakening, and could be used as a benchmark of your practice especially if you came to mindfulness or even awakening through wellbeing.
But with consideration of practice and the secular came the consideration of institutions, and whilst institutions have their place for developing practice what happens when autonomy arises? It seems that institution could restrict the individual except in special situations. Across all institutions it is secular to leave once there is autonomy, that is secular path.
But mostly with the institutions and consideration of the secular there is patriarchy. Institutions compromise with patriarchy and so can exist side-by-side even if there is no harmony. In our current world how can there be such a compromise when there is so much dukkha? The quest into the unknown took zandtao into the tathata of patriarchy, and the relationship of the spiritual path to patriarchy – what are the restrictions? And it became clear that was love. Wisdom can compromise with patriarchy but love cannot. Yet the path for zandtao is now the Prajna practice of love-wisdom.
For zandtao knowledge can be studied and he has found wisdom develop from study and meditation. How can he learn to feel love? How can he find the love-wisdom balance? What about patriarchy? There are institutional practices such as the Bhikkuni ordination debacle that need to be eschewed. But there was a need to see the arising of 5 Dhamma comrades including love/karuna, and for the vision of tathata “feeling, knowing and seeing the way things are”?
Now for a more detailed development and embodiment of love-wisdom balance in part 3.