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Ch15 A Touch of Realism

“There is absolute conviction that following the path is what to do.” This is 3 or 4 years on, and rereading bits of Ch14 I am amused – so committed. Deep down I accept this quote but there has got to be realism, how acceptable to most activists is such a statement? It is a form of spiritual narcissism, nothing that can cause harm, nothing damaging as an ego but still a bit egoic – we should all follow our paths as a form of collective action. Anyone who has had some form of awakening – partial like mine or otherwise – would buy into what I said in Ch14 but legitimately ask “how real is this?”

I am currently z-questing Sharon Salzberg’s book on Real Love, can I ask comrades to study this and internalise real love before they begin activism? No. Would it be a good thing? Yes. A very good thing – activism based on real love.

Political activism has got to be a dual journey – inner and outer – or else we end up with collective action as the aspect of trade unions who are only interested in increasing wages. A great activist, bell hooks, died Dec 2021, and I did this z-quest as a dedication. It reminded me that bell had an inner and outer journey, her own feminism grew out of studies with a feminist group early in her life where they deeply questioned each other. Pathtivism is taking that a bit further – an inner journey to follow your path, a path that can guide you to more sensible activism. But when I consider the activism I met, any form of inner journey is valid. When I read Caitlin Johnstone I can see activism guided by path so it is not totally unrealistic. Asking all comrades to consider an inner journey as well as outer activism is not unreasonable.

The passed-on activist Audre Lorde crossed my radar because I am considering bell’s patriarchy - imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. When I talk of path activism there is the path reality of going beyond identity because the path goes beyond conditioning. Yet how many activists are working solely within their own identity? How much are the divisions of identity being exploited by the 1%-satrapy (the patriarchy) through financial investment in division at the moment? Audre Lorde addresses this issue socio-politically in an article "Difference and Survival" in her book The Selected Works of Audre Lorde. "It is within our differences that we are both most powerful and most vulnerable, and some of the most difficult tasks of our lives are the claiming of differences and learning to use those differences for bridges rather than as barriers between us" [Audre Lorde Ref 17.5]. From a pathtivist point of view this is the equivalent of saying "be authentic" - both in terms of difference and identity. And she began this talk with "as a poet whose role is always to encourage the intimacy of scrutiny. For I believe that as each one of us learns to bear that intimacy those worse fears which rule our lives and shape our silences begin to lose their power over us" [Audre Lorde ref 17.3]. For me this is a description of the inner journey as an act of political awareness.

Talking about the path could be considered as ignoring where the struggle is - making me ask questions of myself and pathtivism and as a result keeping the pathivism grounded in practice. As a pathtivist I promote path activism asking seekers to focus on following their paths. There is a Buddhist characteristic of anatta which is usually translated as no-self, but I now prefer Eckhart’s description of self as identity. The path goes beyond conditioning, accepts anatta and asks for detachment from identity. Detachment is not ignoring identity, nor is it ignoring the injustices acted upon identities. Detachment is a characteristic of authenticity where the authentic person acts from identity and difference.

I now look at the defiled world and see financed division, identities being given funds causing division – primarily to alienate the MAWPs and cement the right’s puppets – various versions of Trump. Divide and rule colonialism is nothing new - especially to me born in the UK, but it was pointed out to me as a British person that the Hindus had division nailed with the caste system long before the British attempted world domination.

When I examined identity in this reflection, I recalled a time when I once mistakenly identified as black; whilst that was clearly delusional what it now makes me realise that identifying with struggles of whatever type is the best that can be attained - empathy and equanimity - detached empathy. I have always identified with the black struggle recognising the oppression of black people by the 1%-satrapy – the patriarchy, imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. Because of the way my life has traversed, in my activism my empathy has been with the black struggle more than any other. But now in pathtivism I am asking for no-identity - anatta, is this a rejection of my past activism?

If I were to identify with anything now it would be compassion, and in compassion there is empathy for all the struggles against patriarchy; compassion is freedom from suffering for all. Is there a dilemma with this? There is a dilemma with identifying but none with empathy. My compassion goes out to all peoples who are in struggle against the patriarchy, my empathy is there with you in struggle. As a pathtivist I can detachedly identify with your struggle but encourage you to follow the path because on the path there is peace, joy and understanding. Identification with the struggle, whether it is your own identity or the identity of others, brings with it attachment, ego and the sadness of defilement; the path can take you out of all that. And once on the path you can choose from the position of being beyond conditioning as to how much to participate in the struggle of your identity – or the identity of others. For many within their own struggles this will sound like semantics – a semantic excuse for a lack of vehemence and struggle-dedication. Is it not sampajanna - wisdom-in-action - empathy for identities in struggle?

The status of this excuse will be worsened when I add the proviso of enquiry and independence. Compassion has no joining of an organisation with a commitment to a set of rules although there is a clear commitment to the principle of collective struggle; struggle can only have meaning in the collective – not the individual struggle of the privileged “making a difference”. But unlike my time as political activist I will not be compromised by organisational discipline into actions that I disagree with. This compromise is a tool of the isms that I cannot now accept, I decide on every action I do and will not be compromised into actions that I disagree with. 51% majority cannot dictate actions to me – even 60% majority; I agree with Occupy we must be a unanimous democracy - I have seen marginal majorities manipulated by the minority activists far too often.

There is a sense of unity in my position because there is unity in all following their paths – the unity of nature. But pathtivists are such a small minority that unity is numerically meaningless. At the same time there is the class interest of the 99%, and this has been almost completely lost by the financed divisions.

In Audre Lorde's essay on Difference and Survival she started with the above-quoted “I speak to you as a poet whose role is always to encourage the intimacy of scrutiny” [Audre Lorde ref 17.3]; I hope she would have accepted as an intimacy of scrutiny. The essay was a keynote address at Hunter college, and she had asked if the attenders saw themselves as different, they hadn’t but she said “It is that difference that I urge you to affirm and to explore lest it someday be used against you and against me” [Audre Lorde ref 17.3]. In a spirit of Unity I also ask you to affirm that difference, if in some misguided process of identification we deny our differences then in that denial the satrapy/patriarchy will have a hook to use and exploit. If in the process of identification our empathy is asked to deny, then what is denied has the potential to be exploited. It will be used to separate and divide. As a white sis-inactive man I identify with the struggles of LGBTQ+, but as such a man I am different. Sadly many people of my identity do not identify with your struggles, and it is often these sis men who are manipulated into being divided against you by the very patriarchy that exploits them. But that does not make my identifying any less valid. Nor can I be expected to carry the burden of my identity for I am not my identity. As a pathtivist I am an individual who follows my path, and in that path I identify with the different honourable struggles. Unfortunately in my immature days when I identified as “black” my denial led to vulnerabilities, both from the exploiters and from within the struggle itself, because I falsely tried to identify too closely.

Whilst I recognise the difference in my identity I do not attach value to that identity or those differences. On the path there is a socio-political “system” of siladhamma (discussed in Ch 11) that can replace the patriarchy. By acting with #NatureCompassionDecency, within the defiled world identification with struggles have a clear commonality. Actions are defined by siladhamma. How often do we see comrades out of vehemence act without sila, and their actions can then be misused by the media of patriarchy to alienate the majority of the 99%. With sila there can be no such alienation.

I am 100%-dedicated to the path so in that sense I identify with the path. But the path is defined/assigned by nature and not by me, and I accept the wisdom of nature that has paths for us all. What your path is I don’t know, nor do I need to know. I can trust that if you are following your path then nature’s purpose is sufficient. Pathtivism, focussing on the path, will provide you with the qualities such as sila that I associate with the 4 Dhamma Comrades of mindfulness, wisdom, concentration and wisdom-in-action. Such qualities will then guide your actions and your level of participation in actions within the struggle of your identity; on the path we implicitly know that others on the path will act within siladhamma.

Please don’t separate because of differences, denying those differences has led to exploitation through identity by the patriarchy. Be united even in difference, united in siladhamma. Whatever your identity following your path will bring joy as well as the qualities needed to defy the impositions of patriarchy.

“We must define our differences so that we may someday live beyond them, rather than change them” [Audre Lorde Ref 17.14]. Once I had my partial awakening at 23, the path was always with me. It is the strength and power of the path that has guided me and because of that guidance it was why I went whole hog with pathtivism in Ch 14. If there is any time in your life that you feel awakenings, immerse yourself in them and work on the consequences. No matter who you are, no matter what identity you identify with, embrace any awakening. Complete your Seeker Story as a means of understanding your awakenings so that you can have faith in the path. Embrace the path however it arises in you eg Audre’s creativity.

My partial awakening carried me through what I called a second childhood. Whilst there were inner times, this was definitely an outer way in my life. It was my time of activism even though as discussed in Viveka-Zandtao the path was always centring me and guiding me in times of solitude.

After retiring early I gradually moved to becoming 100%-dedicated to the path, and whilst I discuss activism at 70 I am not now a physical activist. My path has taken me to live reclusively in a country I was not born in. I have no community activism although I am an active writer and help with occasional meditation eldering. I see my inner life dedicated to the path as a way of ending my life – giving back.

This type of 100%-dedication would not have been appropriate when younger. This realisation then makes me question whether those times in life where on reflection I appeared distant from the path were actually times I was following the path. They were times of gaining experience, some political activism and community activism in whatever school I was working in once I left the UK. When your path detaches conditioning in younger life, it leads to a form of activism even if that activism is pathtivism or wider spiritual activism. It seems to me only natural that as an adult the path becomes activism – until the seeker enters a time of reflection and giving back. Activism simply means acting in harmony with nature, and because of the exploitation of the 1%-satrapy/patriarchy living in harmony with nature requires some form of activism. This activism arises from understanding the path as well as in others reacting to the conditioning of this defiled world.

As a pathtivist I see path activism occurring within those seekers/activists who spend part of their activism on an inner journey. Such inner reflections can come through the study of isms – Marxism, feminism (communism and socialism) – or it can come from studying the works of activists such as Audre Lorde or bell hooks whose very words challenge the patriarchal conditioning that is the cornerstone of everyone’s upbringing.

Taking an inner journey with spiritual teachers can be rewarding for the most dedicated of activists. Such teaching makes the activist seeker conscious of inner space, and as a result the activist can bring that consciousness to the grassroots movement however the activist is connected to it. Please don’t be deterred by the pathtivist absolutism of the previous chapter. Take the inner journey and marry it to your activism. It will bring the clarity of thought and action that formed the basis of thinking in the first part of this Manual. Without the strength of an inner journey, can you as an activist be certain that your actions are not simply a reaction to conditioning? And if they are emotional reactions how constructive will your activism be and how alienating will it be?

Without the strength of an inner journey can you as an activist have the fortitudinal longevity to continue the struggle when the defiled world of conditioning inevitably knocks you back? Comradeship brings strength but not the strength that comes from the path. And without the strength of the path can you defy the efforts of conditioning especially the conditioning of war propaganda? Without the path can you know what is that conditioning?

So when I write about the absolute conviction of the path, it is vehement, valid when tempered with realism, and essential to be sure that the seeker is beyond conditioning. Follow the path and allow the path to guide your activism - pathtivism.