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Prajna Z-Quest on a Secular Path


Ch18 Conditioned minds

“How can you discern for yourself what is authentic and true? That’s our journey.” Jac describes her journey as discerning what is authentic and true, why bother? “There is a place inside you that is deeper than the stream of thoughts produced by the conditioned mind.” Why go to this place?

For spiritual people who have some experience of this place of authenticity, there is no need to ask. Once there is some experience, one way or another seekers want to get there – however long it takes. But from the outside do conditioned people envy such spiritual seekers? Conditioned people have their famous icons, that is who they envy – the wealthy and famous, why bother with spirituality? Or maybe only bother with seekers who express an interest?

In her intro Jac gives her history, and the spirit was powerful. Zandtao could imagine if he asked her why she followed her path she would say she had no choice. Sure the authentic is a better place to be but she had no choice anyway. For zandtao the authentic life is a better place to be but he is frustrated because conditioned minds don’t want to be there. No matter how he describes this better place conditioned minds will find an excuse just to be where they are. For these conditioned minds, why bother?

Jobs, football, holidays, down the pub – conditioned minds can do all this, authentic people mostly don’t want to; conditioned minds don’t consciously want to be authentic. So why bother going beyond conditioning? Why bother being authentic? Aren’t authentic people being in some way selfish because they have to - they have no choice, and if they become authentic they are happier. Why not let them get on with it?

Why attempt to disrupt lives of conditioned minds? Why bother?

Sometimes we hear of the suffering seekers go through before they can become authentic and follow their paths. People on their paths sympathise and want to make it easier for these seekers, so it could be argued that all this path stuff is for path people – leave us conditioned minds alone. Maybe those same people are doing enough for their families, maybe having trouble making ends meet and some spiritual zandtao starts banging on. Sure he maybe has something, but there are mouths to be fed.

When we answer why bother with concern for spiritual seekers we are also involved in a blinkered approach. When monasteries offer refuge from daily life, are they not just helping “their own”?

So why bother? Why not just help seekers and let conditioned minds get on with their lives?

When we look to the spiritual do we see an answer to this? Especially institutions just get on with what they do for their own.

Compassion. Quite simply we bother for the conditioned minds of non-seekers because of compassion. For this compassion spiritual people work towards creating a society so that the conditions arise where people become aware there is a path and want to follow it – they become seekers. So spiritual people work to create conditions in society that will enable spiritual development. This is what in theory would be done if there was no compromise.

This compassion can be seen in 3 ways:-

Nature’s balance and living in harmony with nature is the best way.
Compassion for all to experience all the joys they can.
Compassion for all not to be exploited.

To see the way this compassion can work we have to see the reality of the way conditioning works and the way minds are conditioned. In Buddhism conditioning is considered in terms of paticcasamuppada - dependent origination. Paticcasamuppada has a series of steps that lead to clinging, and much work can be done to avoid attachment and clinging on an individual level; there are many ways a seeker can work with paticcasamuppada. There are a number of times where Jac has worked on releasing conditioning through ideas beliefs etc., it is central to her way towards authenticity. So far (in her book) she has only considered this way towards authenticity on an individual level ie helping seekers who have already begun working on the path and who have come to her for guidance.

But what zandtao is discussing here is concerned with the last part – CoA – a Culture of Awakening. In a compassionate CoA seeking would be enabled by the culture we are in rather than has happened where when awakening starts there is an animosity from the prevailing social culture including mockery. This type of animosity has coalesced now to be amongst the alt-right but used to be far more widespread. Zandtao questions whether there is a genuine enabling of the spiritual path within the censorship of woke culture. Watch Teal on woke culture.

In our upbringing conditioning builds up the self-esteem necessary to survive within our current society. Whilst on an individual level conditioning can be seen as paticcasamuppada, on a social level we see conditioning in terms of the society, conditioning is a mirror of that society.

Let us examine conditioning the way it is discussed in Toltec wisdom as agreement. Upbringing is a process of accepting agreements so that the child can survive as adult. These are not conscious spelt out agreements but a sense of agreement necessary to survive. This process of agreeing is what happens with conditioning, only with the use of the word conditioning there is the reality recognised that we do not have a choice – we do not have a choice as to whether to agree. Society requires agreement, conditioning provides that agreement. Whilst on an individual level we can work against such agreements through paticcasamuppada, the overarching nature of society is that conditioning.

But whilst conditioning works individually there is only the one conditioning process, the conditioning that mirrors society. To understand the way conditioning is we need to see the way society is. So Jac was fearless in removing conditioning but to be sure of removing all conditioning she has to see the way conditioning was in her upbringing and the way conditioning is in her society. For spiritual development we need to go beyond conditioning, to go beyond conditioning we need to recognise what that conditioning is, and for that recognition we need to examine our upbringing and our society. If we deal with conditioning only through paticcasamuppada then we are being blindsided as we do not see what kind of conditioning is coming at us.

So compassion urges us to see conditioning for what it is but it does not draw any distinction – it does not say only see conditioning from the individual level of paticcasamuppada but asks us to see conditioning in society and use that recognition to remove conditioning to work towards authenticity. In the institutions of spirituality how much time and effort is spent trying to recognise the way society conditions us?

This is where we can see delusion and compromise. Do our institutions help us see clearly the way society is? Do our institutions help us to see clearly the way conditioning works to procreate the society we are in? When Jac talks of fearlessly removing conditioning, is she also talking of fearlessly seeing the way society is?

For zandtao seeing society for the way it is is part of spiritual awareness, when we are encouraged to go beyond conditioning then there needs to be a development of tathata that sees society for what it is - and sees the mirror of that society conditioning for what it is. When the conditions are seen it is an easier step to recognise that conditioning in ourselves and work towards removing it. If our institutions are compromised by the society then individually the path to authenticity is compromised because not all conditioning is seen. If we are encouraged to see our society and conditioning in a favourable way then that delusion means we do not see all the conditioning withing us.

Our compassion wants all to work towards authenticity but that cannot happen if society and its mirror conditioning is not seen for what it is. So if we see compassion in these 3 ways:-

Nature’s balance and living in harmony with nature is the best way.
Compassion for all to experience all the joys they can.
Compassion for all not to be exploited.

What does this mean? What implications?

It becomes part of spiritual awareness to help people see exploitation. How that exploitation affects the individual and what that requires of the individual is their choice, but there is a duty of compassion to expose exploitation. Do our institutions and teachers expose exploitation so that we can see conditioning?

As part of zandtao’s work towards authenticity he encourages seekers to determine their Seeker Story. Within this story is their relationship with society and this includes their relationship with patriarchy - imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. Whatever that relationship is has implications for conditioning and the removal of conditioning.

For those people on the path living an authentic life there is joy. When the path brings joy compassion wants to bring that joy for all. When we ask why bother, a good answer is to bring joy but it is understandable that within conditioned minds such joy cannot be seen. To bring this joy it cannot be a matter of telling people to follow their paths as they cannot see this joy. If however there is a wider CoA, then people become seekers and begin to see the joy for themselves. The joy can only be seen as experience eg firstgrace, that is not going to happen for all if there is not a CoA. If conditioning exploits, how can there possible be a developing CoA?

If we are being authentic are we not being natural? If we are following our paths are we not being natural? If we are living naturally are we not living in harmony with nature? Joy arises from this but isn’t living in harmony enough?

But living naturally has something else going for it, something that comes from seeing nature for what it is. Nature knows how to look after herself – it does it naturally ( – sorry). Where do our paths come from? Where does our authenticity come from? Nature. Nature gives us our paths, gives us joy and harmony when we follow them, and if we all followed them we would be living in harmony together. Is this a belief? Not for zandtao it seems an obvious reality – tathata. The greater the authenticity the more obvious this is. No proof, it just is.

So we can see why there is conditioning, and why compassion bothers with the path and spiritual awareness, but what is the mind that is conditioned? If we don’t know where the conditioning takes place how can we begin to release the conditioning? Let us consider zandtaomed’s meme for meditation:-

For zandtao the meditation aspect of the path is to prepare the best vihara, and it is in the vihara that conditioning occurs, so preparing the best vihara is concerned with the conditioned mind. Vihara means vehicle and although it is a Buddhist word it is not a complex idea, it is the vehicle of body feelings and mind. Psychology conditioning would be concerned with feelings and mind, but this has a little confusion because of the lack of clear distinction in using the words psychology and mind. The khandhas are a useful way of clearing this confusion up, 4 khandhas being body, feelings, memories and perceptions, and mental operations. So psychology and psychological conditioning ie the conditioned mind is concerned with feelings memories, perceptions and mental operations. So we have the conditioned mind, psychological conditioning concerned with the vihara – vehicle, but we could also say that psychological conditioning is concerned with wellbeing – in a state of wellbeing there would be no psychological conditioning.

Can we say that psychological conditioning is conditioning that does not want the path? In other words does out society not want the spiritual path? Clearly conditioning prevents authenticity because it gives the mind conditions that are not the authentic and true person, But why is there a need for conditioning, why can’t the conditioning that is a mirror of our society not work with authentic people. And the answer lies within the 3 ways of compassion:-

Nature’s balance and living in harmony with nature is the best way.
Compassion for all to experience all the joys they can.
Compassion for all not to be exploited.

When the authentic person has compassion, all authenticity contains compassion, then the authentic person will not accept exploitation, will experience joys rather than rewards of wealth and fame offered by a conditioning society, and will want to live in harmony with nature not exploit nature’s resources. For these reasons society’s conditioning does not want authenticity. So the psychological conditioning works against authenticity because of these ways of compassion.

Some might argue that this is not true because institutional paths are accepted within our conditioning society. And the answer to this lies in the word compromise. Institutional paths cannot have compassion because compassion works against society’s conditioning. We can see this in the recent acceptance of mindfulness, McMindfulness, where the teaching of mindfulness leads to wellbeing within the world of work, but does not lead to the compassion for people being exploited and does not lead to the awareness of death and poverty through accumulation including war. A significant compromise is institutional focus on wisdom that can lead to spiritual bypassing, so we have to be aware that institutional compromise focuses on wisdom and risks the transcendence that becomes spiritual bypassing. To counter this compromise we have love:-

With prajna’s love-wisdom balance then there is clarity including the clarity that sees society for the way it is and sees society’s conditioning as the mirror it. And with this love-wisdom balance of prajna we see the need for authenticity and the ending of conditioning.

Looking at psychological conditioning in this way we have two approaches for removing conditioning:-

Seeing the impact of psychological conditioning on the vihara of feelings, memories and perceptions and mental processing.
Becoming authentic and following our paths.

This is interesting in that it shows us that it is the vihara that is conditioned. If we can find the place of authenticity Jac talks about and begin to live in this “place” then there is no conditioning. Our two-fold approach is simply spirituality – being authentic and removing conditioning - two strategies with the same aim.

To avoid being conditioned we become authentic, and we see that psychological conditioning occurs within our vihara. Knowing this we can examine our feelings, memories and perceptions and mental processing to see how they have been conditioned. Tools of authenticity help us do this such as the 5 Dhamma comrades arising out of meditation; and there is Jac’s fearless approach of considering every aspect of her own vihara and removing and examining each of her beliefs to reach her authenticity. Zandtao would consider this an aspect of wise enquiry - without the fearlessness.

Considering this psychological conditioning has led to two approaches:-

Recognising that psychological conditioning will happen in the vihara of feelings, memories and perceptions and mental processing.
The authentic is not conditioned so by following our paths there is no conditioning.

Zandtao can see some tautology in the statement “the authentic is not conditioned”, but it is the identifying of the two approaches of following the path and removing conditioning that zandtao feels is helpful. And identifying the areas where psychological conditioning can occur leading to questions like this:-

Are our feelings conditioned?
Are our memories authentic experience or conditioned experience?
Are our perceptions authentic?
Are the results of our mental processes such as reasoning conditioned?

By using this wise enquiry we can begin to find our authentic “place”.

Zandtao feels blitzed when he reads Jac. It kind of feels there is nothing wrong in what she says, but it is not what zandtao does. Is it enough to say paths are different? Is there more to the blitz than just the difference?

Back in upheaval bill became a pain especially because of the drink. Bill confronted people, and severe questioning brought discontent in relationships. Why didn’t people see how unjust society was? And if they did why didn’t it matter? Bill had not developed enough in his spiritual life to ask spiritual questions both of himself and of others. Over time bill learnt that inappropriate questioning just caused separation – a dismissive reaction to the questioning and an alienation from the questioner; confronting people caused alienation. This alienation arose because bill’s dismissal of conditioning often confronted other people’s acceptance of conditioning for the benefits that money and career brought. This acceptance was countered by the harm conditioned society did. As has been said bill was not spiritual as he had not developed a practice, his upheaval had rejected conditioning and rejected the political and economic structure of society. His motivation was compassion, his compassion could see the suffering and he confronted people about it. This confrontation turned to reactions against bill, and with the drink there was a convenient excuse.

Jac is talking of spirituality and focuses on conditioning. She is talking of moving beyond conditioning by examining every aspect of conditioning and making a decision about it. She talks of practices to make us aware of all these conditions, and suggests that one-by-one we ratify the conditioning or not by a process of withdrawal to examine. Zandtao has never done this.

It is not clear what zandtao has actually done but it is not this approach to individual conditioning. Most of his conditioning was brought into question through upheaval, no decision-making or practice just an easy way of rejection. After upheaval new conditioning occurred but a limited amount. Now as part of his practice he releases attachments, feels there is limited conditioning but offers no guarantees. Wisdom through insight meditation tends to suggest conditioning, and if there is awareness there follows release. Has he gone beyond conditioning? He likes to think so, can he guarantee that? No. It would seem that Jac has a much more rigorous process for removing conditioning.

But so far she has not used her compassion to see that the societal system creates conditioning. For zandtao seeing society for the way it is helps make him aware of conditioning eg the moral rectitude of the protestant work ethic – to zandtao this is just conditioned slavery. Seeing the social purpose for the arising of conditioning identifies individual conditioning.

She raises an interesting possibility of neuroscience for understanding conditioning – a Default Mode Network DMN. The way this network functions is that it is a default practice if certain actions are observed. Some conditioned actions are started and this DMN completes them without thought – conditioning. Zandtao has reservation concerning this interesting scientific observation. As Jac says there is not sufficient science in place to confirm this neuroscience. Zandtao questions the correlation between brain and mind. DMN might be able to explain some of the ways egos are conditioned, does it explain all? However she does talk of the need for survival of the DMN, and this fits in well with the survival purpose of conditioning for the young growing into adulthood and surviving in society.

Overall zandtao still feels blitzed by Jac and that can’t be good. Whenever zandtao has felt blitzed by Buddhism it is because he has been out of his depth – journeying too far into his unknown. Is that what is happening with Jac? But Jac has no tradition behind her.

Is this blitz-feel more concerned with the unknown and the way zandtao has some need of control. Is that control a fear – a fear of the unknown? With z-quests there must develop an acceptance of the unknow without it having to become zandtao’s wisdom. Zandtao must use mindfulness to accept the new before it is processed by wisdom. This is reasonable but should not be a blitz-feel – blitz-feel is a clinging confusion.

Having come to terms with blitz-feel zandtao is much more comfortable with Jac – not necessarily agreeing with her. Is there an issue of integration when she is going against the personality? Does the person not change with spiritual awareness? If the person does not change why? Is that clinging? She appears to want to separate her spirituality from her personality, she describes personality as a tool to be used by spirit. Is this integration?

She has embraced the DMN and sees that as a source of self so personality arises from DMN. Is that true? Zandtao has difficulty with that. This is not integration where spirituality integrates all fragments. Zandtao was also not sure what Jac was getting at concerning time and space. It seems to be part of her way of seeing, and zandtao does not want her way of seeing in totality.

Ch 11 on non-duality entered the realm of zandtao-avyakata, so zandtao didn’t go there. It was Jac entering the paradoxical mind-blowing understanding of Source. Maybe there can be some understanding during meditation, but zandtao has no intention of banging his head on analysis of non-duality. Jac has gone into her unknown, and maybe the questions he asks brings her understanding but it is too much for zandtao. “Within the sense of spaciousness, timelessness, there is restfulness, stillness, ease, and peace. This is your spiritual nature, which is also called non-duality.” Zandtao is fine with this. “The non-dual is also a lens of perception, albeit a critical one that marks awakening as a specific attainment along the path. We have an awakening experience when we have a glimpse of non-duality”; that is also fine – touching sunnata, reconnecting with Dhamma.

Maybe there is a question here “If you don’t first identify with the non-dual you will not be able to embody awakening because you will have skipped over a phase of integration whereby one settles into a normal usage of this important perspective. We need to embody and integrate awakenings in order to function in ordinary lives, to stay grounded, and to be practical.” What is this phase of integration? But it is evident “we need to embody and integrate awakenings in order to function in ordinary lives”. In essence this is in some way talking of what is “embodying awakening”.

In her embodiment meditation Jac tries to make the ridgepole a sanctum of emptiness and consciousness, and that the ridgepole effectively contains evolving consciousness. In her meditation she asks that we see death in the 3 centres of the tan tien, heart and mind, so that there is death in the ridgepole before it is filled with embodied awakening, ie the contents of the ridgepole carries on after death. Whilst alive can we see death in these 3 centres? Whilst the meditation is beneficial zandtao does not see death in this way, but he can see emptying the centres of attachment. Jac implies in her meditation that such thoughts are denial, is that true? Zandtao must look at the embodiment meditation and work out his own.

Love from Gaia a la Nicola. Spaciousness throughout body. Clear the 3 centres of tan tien, heart and mind of attachment – not death. Create a ridgepole. What do we fill the ridgepole with? Do Jac again and make my own meditation clearer. Can the ridgepole be filled with evolving consciousness? Can we make it a “soul”?

If embodying awakening is making a “ridgepole-soul” of non-dual, then zandtao is not ready for that but does not exclude it as a possibility. What does identifying with non-dual mean? Zandtao needs a better grasp of what embodiment means. So zandtao, what does embodiment mean?

Overnight there was a clarity concerning embodiment and integration. The “ridgepole-soul” is not about integration, and the personality that is called upon only when “true Jac” wants it is also not integration. In the Manual zandtaomed write about chakras by the bootstraps. At the same time the ridgepole can be seen as a channel containing chakras. So embodiment could be spaciousness, non-attachment in the chakras, “input” sunnata in each chakra embodying and with the final chakra complete embodiment and integration. Embodiment means bringing awakening into daily life, is a “ridgepole-soul” about daily life? Isn’t it more concerned with the evolving consciousness after death? There is a tendency for traditional institutions not to allow this sort of fundamental error but there are people in institutions who are making them.

Yesterday there was an approach that meant zandtao did not have to grasp every point but accept and see where things were going. Slowly the lack of integration became clearer, and this was highlighted by embodiment meditation. However in zandtao’s new extended practice embodiment meditation is a part. Add the following to MwB practice:-

Kaya – Release attachments through the whole body.
Vedana – Start from the head and go down the body releasing emotional attachments that have previously been internalised. Release emotional attachments in the chakras. Breathe in Gaia’s love, and sweep down the ridgepole releasing any last attachments. Be Gaia’s Love.
Citta – No change but emphasise love.
Dhamma – Embodiment in step 15. Gaia’s love through each chakra integrating with body, vedana and citta, integrating the whole body through the 7th chakra. Expand the integrated body to feel interbeing. Step 16 – Faith in the path, released consciousness from attachments to embody love and wisdom to see tathata. These changes must be reflected in his practice here LINK.

Looking again at Jac’s chapter on non-dual suits the meditation changes. “Spiritual maturation necessitates having the ability to be able to shift from one lens to another, as required by daily life. If we believe that one lens offers a more accurate viewpoint of the world, we will have a biased attachment that must be dropped. Our goal is objectivity and equanimity between these two perspectives. It takes some effort to detach from the personal and impersonal lenses, especially as they have been the primary ways we viewed and interpreted the world until our spiritual path to awakening began” [Ch11]. This suggests to zandtao that Jac wants an integrated embodiment of awakening in which the spiritual and personal are working together.

“A spiritual rebel has a binary spiritual practice: abidance and investigation” [Ch 12]. Abidance is not a zandtao focus, maybe that is why he lacks the core practice of dedication, investigation is part of his core practice - wise enquiry. Extended meditation abides more with the embodiment, but abiding means 24/7. This is interesting. “Investigation is the art of figuring out why you can’t sustain ongoing awareness of your spiritual nature.” Because zandtao is not trying to abide 24/7, not enough questions are asked – the dedication thing. It is good zandtao regained trust in Jac or he might have missed abidance. Does he want to change dedication to abidance in the core practice? Yes:-

Investigating abidance leads to this:-

“Having faith in the path” is not strong enough. Whilst zandtao’s understanding was 100% commitment to the path, there was not an explicit dedication nor an explicit time recognition of living the path 24/7 – that is abidance. In his practice on step 16 amend “have faith in the path” to “have faith in the path to abide 24/7”.

“The goal is to have an organic flow between both ( - abidance and investigation) so that you can simultaneously be aware of your divinity and your humanity.” This is a much clearer expression of integration. Good principle for zandtao here – because we want to be integrated does not mean we will be integrated so it is essential for zandtao to be mindful with wise enquiry of himself. Zandtao still thinks Jac’s meditation lacks integration and the “ridgepole-soul” is risky. But it can also be that zandtao does not understand Jac’s intent. As with any z-quest it is a matter of zandtao responding to what he perceives is being written, hopefully what he perceives being written is the author’s intention but there can be many reasons for that not being true including zandtao’s misunderstanding, the author not expressing themselves well, whatever. There is no judgement in this. The z-quest is about what zandtao perceives and therefore tries to learn from. Z-quests on writing is more likely to be the author’s intention than a clip, writing can also go deeper. Negative criticism is never an objective of a z-quest even though ego might take it that way. The sole purpose of z-quest is zandtao learning. It would of course be better – greater learning, if there were more detailed discussion on points of potential disagreement but that is not practical. For readers of z-quests, don’t see zandtao’s perceptions as criticism just see them as received perceptions that he is learning from. Being defensive about the author’s content to the point of excluding zandtao’s perception and possible learning is not constructive.

This is so clear about wise enquiry – “Investigation is the art of figuring out why you can’t sustain ongoing awareness of your spiritual nature.” For zandtao wise enquiry as z-quests are about learning but the purpose has been the development of wisdom, it has not been about abiding 24/7. Of course abiding in wisdom is path, but abiding in wisdom and abiding in love does not mean that there is 24/7 abiding. For zandtao there needs to be development of emphasis to abiding 24/7.

“Their awakening experience was a glimpse of their inner nature, which can show up playing in present time from memory, and there is no authentic abidance. This is what I call a “neck-up awakening.”” So apt a description of zandtao’s upheaval but for zandtao there was only a short time in which bill saw that as meaning more than what it was – an unconscious awakening that needed years of experience to consolidate and develop wisdom. But he likes neck-up awakening that is presumably countered by embodiment.

But zandtao sees neck-up awakening as different to intellect. Intellect is a mental process described as sankhara-khandha, awakening that is not embodied is far more than an intellectual process – it is touching sunnata. Whilst intellect arises from sunnata, it is not touching sunnata the way awakening does – however lacking in embodiment that awakening is. “They attain only a shallow and conceptual awareness.” Neck-up awakening is not shallow nor is it a mere conceptual understanding, or at least that was how zandtao experienced his partial neck-up awakening. For zandtao shallow and conceptual would be appropriate descriptions of sankhara-khandha but inappropriate for his neck-up awakening. It is appropriate to describe his awakening as neck-up because there was only limited embodiment because his awakening did not include a practice. But his awakening was deep and meaningful, compassion changed his life, and there was always path beneath the attachments that dominated his life during the gaining of experience in 2nd childhood. For bill’s experience awakening without embodiment was far more than a shallow and conceptual awareness – it was deeply changing but because of the lack of practice there was no embodiment. When we read a book there is an intellectual appreciation of the text, we hold the text in our minds whilst mindfulness grapples with it. Some of that grappling might lead to conceptual awareness, but this in no way correlates the deep and changing experience of awakening. Awakening has still occurred as there has been a shift beyond conditioning but because that awakening was unconscious and didn’t have a practice egos started to be conditioned again and cover up the path that remained there after the awakening. To describe awakening as shallow and conceptual does not recognise the radical shift that is starting on the path.

To use the terms shallow and conceptual to describe awakening in any way is a belittling process that belongs with patriarchal conditioning. In a Culture of Awakening such an unconscious awakening as bill experienced would be valued. In such a culture there would have been some sort of reaching out to encourage bill to follow his path, and not revert to new conditioning based on what in retrospect was some form of gaining of experience. If the awakening were to be described as shallow and conceptual such value would not be accorded. Such awakenings need to be lauded and cultural efforts be made to embody the awakening even though bill was succumbing to new conditioning. Before there can be embodiment there needs to be awakening, without awakening no amount of practice can produce embodiment. Bill in some ways is ashamed of what he wasted for 25 years but he values the awakening that arose in his upheaval.

Awakening is a shift out of conditioned egos that are developed during upbringing, it is a shift from the conditioned self. It would be good to know how such awakening occurs but there is no analysis that can get through the fog that was bill’s mind just prior to his upheaval. When he listens to Batgap he hears of people with different awakening experiences including such experiences where awakening does not occur even though there is practice. It is important to understand the need for practice as awakening is not an end but without awakening there can be no embodiment that evolves consciousness; practice is not awakened and cannot be embodiment. Is that last part true – a good question? Unawakened good practice is not evolving consciousness, why?

“Those who have a neck-up awakening have limited understanding, lack wisdom and depth, and are unable to live their awakening. Embodiment is not achieved because the body and mind continue to hold experiences and desires. There is an absence of transparency.” When zandtao considers bill’s partial awakening, how does it stand up to Jac’s description here? He would amend this. The understanding was limited as was the wisdom but there was wisdom there. There was a solid connection to the path at the time of the partial awakening, but as time distanced upheaval that connection was submerged by attachment. Embodiment was not achieved primarily because bill was not ready to practice – mainly because he was submerged under attachment. It was a step forward for bill to gain experience as he was so immature but that then left him clinging to desires.

Was there a lack of transparency? This is not a question he relates to his awakening and subsequent 2nd childhood. Is this transparency “following the path”? Then he wasn’t but he was always connected to the path. There was a following in that he was gaining experience, but that experience could have been gained in a more conscious and mindful way if he had embodied his partial awakening – if he had a practice.

A more interesting question perhaps was embodiment after retirement. At that time zandtaomed was following his path developing an understanding of Buddhism and a practice. The question is interesting in terms of the love-wisdom balance. Bill was always attracted to wisdom – he was too intellectual. In retirement he was always learning how to know and see the teachings. He developed some sampajanna. How much?

Once zandtao crossed the autonomy threshold love became a priority first through Real Love, and then by investigation of the feminine way through Nicola. This gave his practice more of a love-wisdom balance, and with the love came greater embodiment. How different this embodiment feels to the sampajanna that arose with the “then 4 Dhamma comrades”. There was never a feeling of absence of embodiment in that there were feelings of integration throughout the zandtaomed phase of retirement. But these embodied feelings of integration do not have the same character as with the love-wisdom balance. During that phase of his path there was a closeness despite the wisdom imbalance, but it is in retrospect that he recognises a lack of embodiment. There was no dishonesty in this “wisdom path”, he was following his path and learning with the suitable rewards as befits “following the path”; there was no dishonesty. There was no rejection of love, there was no choosing of a wisdom-only path. There were the teachings, he learned, he followed them, there was an integration with what he was learning, and there was a level of embodiment commensurate with the wisdom-path. It was all authentic.

But his path took him to the threshold of autonomy, an autonomy that was beyond institutional teachings, and it was then he sought love, understood the connection between love and patriarchy, and recognised love’s embodiment. And recognised why wisdom’s compromise with patriarchy requires love’s disembodiment; love’s embodiment is change and what needs changing the most is the 1%-satrapy of patriarchy. Note it is the 1%-satrapy of patriarchy, not the governments of patriarchy.

Bill never consciously hid in 2nd childhood, neither did zandtaomed hide in wisdom and its institutions; this was just the way his life went. There are understandings of the way the path is. Jac’s fearlessness is a forthright path. Demanding fearlessness of bill when he was hiding in alcohol might well have increased the life of his addiction; he was just not ready – despite upheaval. When zandtao hears some non-duality he is concerned. For argument’s sake let’s say that they are fearless, and they teach fearlessness. They confront weakness in seekers as a means of making them “ready”. But he has heard Q&A’s where his heart went out to the seekers who were unable to confront for themselves, and in their efforts to follow the fearlessness of their teachers were struggling. What happened to them if they lost the struggle? Did they become alcoholics in Africa like my friend who failed with what he wanted as enlightenment. Fearless confrontation does not make a seeker “ready” necessarily, we all have our paths and our readiness. We must avoid ego that clings to complacency but we must recognise that seekers are not always “ready”.

There has been a gap in writing as zandtao focussed on embodiment through meditation. This focus has led to a change but he is still not certain about his path – mainly because of the lack of writing. Writing is an activity of wisdom, that is clear; but it is embodiment of wisdom – writing integrates what arises as insight.

He picked up on abidance and investigation, and recognised that although he had determined a legitimate place for abidance in his practice it had not been in his practice. Again abidance was not in his practice. The change he had made was from “having faith in the path” to “abiding on the path”, this selective forgetfulness is indicative of a state of mind. He “forgot” dedication that became abidance in the 7 core components, and he “forgot” abidance in his practice. Hopefully now he will remember.

“They attain only a shallow and conceptual awareness. Their awakening experience was a glimpse of their inner nature, which can show up playing in present time from memory, and there is no authentic abidance. This is what I call a “neck-up awakening.”” Zandtao has discussed his own distinction between the intellectual and conceptual and what is awakening or the glimpses of awakening. For zandtao it can be thought of as the academic vs a partially-embodied life. But the real question for zandtao’s investigation is what is lacking in his abidance, he has even given the lack a name – warts’n’all. He can’t even phrase the question meaningfully. What about this:- Does abidance mean not watching pointless TV when tired? What does tired mean for his old body? And yet the beach bums do not allow age to limit their activity to the same extent. But zandtao does know his body. Zandtao does need to question his efforts at abidance, and how much warts’n’all is an egoic lack of abidance?

Zandtao can accept the word shallow as in shallow awareness – shallow and deep are on the same spectrum. But glimpse is not a word to dismiss as casually as conceptual – a glimpse of inner nature is a powerful and essential aspect of recognising reconnection with Dhamma but it is not authentic abidance. Are there just two possibilities – authentic abidance or not? Or is it that the path to authentic abidance is a spectrum? Bill’s intense glimpse of inner nature during upheaval was not conceptual, was life-changing, but was not and still is not complete authentic abiding. Complete authentic abidance and enlightenment could be a tautology, and have the same risks attached to it. Enlightenment or not – not so let’s just drink in Africa; replacing enlightenment with authentic abidance does not alter that sentence. How harsh is the questioning towards abidance – is “doing the best you can to be the best you can be” sufficient? Investigate gently, don’t be harsh with yourself. Celebrate the glimpses, they are so invaluable but don’t be complacent – continue investigating. A glimpse indicates abidance but it is not complete authentic abidance. Can there ever be such a completeness? Being true to your path and abiding at the time is fine so long as it is developing; no matter how “good” your authentic abidance is at the time if there is stagnation and complacency then it is not path. Gentle or harsh, seekers must be ready. For zandtao glimpses are not part of “neck-up awakening” but complacency with glimpses is – develop.

“Those who have a neck-up awakening have limited understanding, lack wisdom and depth, and are unable to live their awakening. Embodiment is not achieved because the body and mind continue to hold experiences and desires. There is an absence of transparency.” Zandtao tends to dismiss the neck-up awakening associated with “some kind of understanding” that arises with intellectual study perhaps unfairly, but intellectual understanding lacks wisdom. A glimpse is wisdom but by its nature is partial, a small view – a glimpse. But glimpse is inner nature however “small”, intellectual understanding has not reconnected with the Dhamma no matter what the intellectual words say. Intellectual understanding is not an embodiment, is glimpsing embodiment? Certainly a seeker who has a glimpse is still attached to desire – still holding to experience – not abiding, yet at the moment of glimpsing they are abiding – this cannot be said of intellectual understanding. A glimpse is a moment of authentic abiding, complete abiding would be living on the path 24/7; is that possible? Please don’t be harsh, such dismissal might not be constructive. Is there absence of transparency or is that too harsh? Can there be complete transparency 24/7? Investigate, ask questions but please don’t demand harshness.


Zandtao Meditation page Advice from Zandtaomed

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