This has been a useful z-quest as bouncing off Stephen’s attempt at secularisation has developed zandtao’s understanding. Because of Stephen’s clarity coming to terms with the way he thinks has been beneficial. But zandtao questions whether there is a secular path as there is a need to fudge certain areas and for zandtao key signposts of the path are avoided in order to find an agreeable secular approach.
To begin with zandtao looked at the first discourse to see how close Stephen's secularisation was to the Buddha’s teaching. For zandtao this part of the z-quest was tedious – too academic. But what emerged from this academia was the Buddha’s phrase “knowing and seeing the way things are”. In this approach zandtao determined a number of questions of concern that he included in App A, and these questions focussed zandtao’s mind in this early academic rigour. In the end for zandtao conforming to Stephen’s selective interpretation in order to be secular was too much. This difficult conforming very much revolved around the Buddha’s phrase - “knowing and seeing the way things are”, and much of these App A questions and this Buddha phrase evolved into the 2nd of these 3 prongs:-
love-wisdom and tathata basically coming out of the Buddha’s phrase. These 3 prongs basically coalesce what zandtao has gained from this z-quest.
First and foremost through this z-quest zandtao has realised an increased need for Dhamma practise. During the z-quest there developed another disturbance similar to the threshold of autonomy, and he became aware of how he sometimes let his Dhamma practice slip. Whatever your Dhamma practise diligence and determination are required. However zandtao agrees with Stephen that such Dhamma practice can be secular, and zandtao goes further in saying that it does not have to be Buddhist. Stephen’s Dharma practice revolves around the 4 Noble Truths, zandtaomed took his practice from Buddhadasa’s MwB, developed it with the Companion, and released attachments from upbringing and conditioning using the Seeker Story - zandtaomed's practice is basically from Buddhism.
But daily practice does not have to be Dhamma practice in a secular approach.
Such a secular practice, Dhamma practice or other practice, would develop siladhamma, a way of life for people and society that would be harmonious and ahimsa. Such siladhamma would lead to social wellness, a valuable achievement if it were to happen. This is very important – to know that social wellness can arise from a daily practice from any religion, and does not require a Buddhist approach. But with such daily practices the patriarchy would struggle - would see conflict, that is worth noting.
In terms of the secular approach zandtao recognised that there was an upadana point beyond which different religions institutionally could not let go. These upadana points prevent a common secular path from developing beyond siladhamma. The 1st prong illustrates this as it talks of awakening, and awakening crosses the upadana points of many religions especially those with a deity.
For awakening to occur there is an underlying assumption of sunnata or Source. For Buddhists this assumption is verified by experience (so it is not an assumption), and as Dhamma practice develops we reconnect with the Dhamma (touching sunnata). For Buddhists this is an ongoing acceptable process of awakening, and it arises from our Dhamma practice. Can there be such an “assumption of sunnata or Source” in other religions especially for those with a God or Gods? Zandtao feels that because sunnata or Source is fundamentally nature, and because in other religions God creates nature progress can be made towards an agreed awakening. But in Buddhism awakening arises as an integrated individual integrating within nature; how difficult is this for other religions zandtao is not sure.
By this point zandtao was not trying to live with Stephen’s selective interpretations for secularisation as they led to squirming. But Stephen's clarity meant there was still much to be gained.
As zandtao has already said “knowing and seeing the way things are” led to the 2nd prong. It is this consciousness that zandtao sees as extremely important in society, and was avoided with Stephen’s approach. Recognising glimpses of awakening (becoming conscious of the path of love-wisdom and tathata) is so difficult for most seekers because of the way society perceives awakening; in response to this zandtao has always focussed strongly on such glimpses. Through discussion of his personal history in the Treatise and elsewhere at zandtao, zandtao focusses throughout on the experience of these glimpses (Buddhadasa calls them nibbana-dhatu) encouraging people to recognise these glimpses in their lives as a recognition of path.
Stephen does not emphasise such recognition. There are occasions where Stephen notices glimpsing, but zandtao feels there is a lack of emphasis because of Stephen’s need for secularisation – zandtao takes this as avoidance, avoiding the need for the emphasis on recognition of glimpses of awakening. Zandtao apologises if this is not true, such a view has arisen within this z-quest on the book.
Working on the later stages of this z-quest has led to disturbance. Zandtao likens this to a journey to the sun (journey towards sunnata) as the quest into the unknown investigates sunnata. For zandtao following the path and a journey towards sunnata are not the same. At times the path takes zandtao towards sunnata, he then needs to be determined with his Dhamma practice, but following the path and journey towards sunnata are not always the same. Zandtao sees this as some kind of balance, a balance that might be described as “not being ready”.
For Stephen many questions were eschewed because he described them as metaphysics. Zandtao saw this arising in two ways, firstly the Buddha’s unanswered questions of avyakata, but secondly and more importantly for Stephen institutional requirements - zandtao liked Stephen's use of institutional tickets, before the seeker can move forward. Zandtao does not accept such eschewing, if the seeker’s path chooses to take the seeker there then follow the path. But such questions might well be central to learning.
Zandtao took avyakata as a warning that not all questions can be answered, and perhaps more important not all questions should be attempted to be answered. This zandtao associates with the journey towards sunnata. Whilst disturbance is egoic, such disturbance is not a path requirement – the path brings joy. If we push too hard then there might not be joy and equally there is unlikely to be answers. We have to be ready, the path decides, and we arrive at such a decision through Dhamma practice; through Dhamma practice find your path and let your path make the decisions.
As we quest into the unknown we have to journey towards sunnata at appropriate times (when we are ready). This is path. But there are questions that humans cannot answer and there are questions that an individual might find difficult to answer at a particular time. Zandtao examined his history of disturbances, and recognised that his intellectual ego was taking him to answer questions he was not ready to answer – he calls them zandtao-avyakata. One such disturbance occurred with Eckhart’s 2nd mystery of consciousness – the evolving of consciousness, and zandtao now accepts this. At the time of that disturbance he stopped asking (including the 2nd mystery as zandtao-avyakata), but he now accepts the 2nd mystery as consciousness. Zandtao-avyakata changes, it is not always appropriate to journey towards sunnata. Rather than eschewing metaphysics as Stephen did, have faith in your path and let your path guide you through the dangers and disturbances that arise on a journey towards sunnata, that arise with your own avyakata; of course Stephen eschewed these avyakata because of his need for secularisation.
Yesterday zandtao completed the z-quest on Stephen’s book. As usual there was no Kathleen Turner (Movie – “Romancing the Stone”) feeling of elation because the way zandtao writes – and because it needs online presentation – there is a long process of review. Relating to Stephen’s last chapter was unsurprisingly marred. He was looking at culture so it could be expected that his perception of society would not fit in with zandtao's Seeker Story that emphasised an awareness of patriarchy. However Stephen did suggest that a way forward would be through communities of awakening, perhaps it would be more accurately described as communes of awakening – Stephen’s “tapestry of small-scale, autonomous communities of awakening”. We have this now. Small pockets of seekers gathering together through one path or another eg 5 Gateways Ascension. What we don’t have is a culture of awakening, and that needs investigating – in part 2.
Part 2 Intro/Contents/Previous