TREATISE ON ZANDTAO
Harmony in Daily Life
To achieve this harmony in daily life is where the truth lies, and to achieve this is why Zandtao follows the three tenets. Where is the harmony when you wake up feeling ill, or lacklustre, or your mind is dissatisfied and wants to run here, there and everywhere. There is no harmony.
And if there is no harmony there is no happiness. Where does happiness come from? Being. We are all One – check One the movie (F5) for Oneness from different platforms. Oneness or the Nature of Being cannot possibly be described, words cannot express it, if you find someone claiming they can describe its wonder then don’t go there. From my limited position I am willing to try to describe a process towards Oneness that includes Harmony in Daily Life.
We grow up believing we are all separate, this is an egotistical-bound way of teaching that leads to conflict. If we are all One then why would we fight, why would we have war, why steal, etc. Instead rich people get richer, men want to sleep with another’s wife, we want what is not ours. Because we are completely caught up in separation, and our attitudes are entrenched in maintaining that separation. But what if that separation was a delusion? Now at first glance that question is laughable? Look in the mirror. You see your body, and if they are there you can see your partner’s body; they are separate. It’s obvious, isn’t it?
Have you ever watched an army of ants? Do they function as a group of individual ants? As you watch the column move towards your food it would be easy to imagine them as one unit - no separation. Of course we are not ants. I love the sea, and am fortunate enough to be able to visit the sea often. At a distance you look at the sea, it is one huge mass of water – wonderful. As the sea nears the land the sea grows waves and they start to turn over – sometimes big and powerful. If one looks at the wave, or swims near the wave, it is hard not to see a huge and powerful separate entity. Look at the wave from land, and look away. Now look back, where is it? It is gone. What is there? The sea. The wave, however magnificent and powerful, is just the sea – oneness. Suppose you are swimming, and a wave heads your way. If you stand to confront it you feel its presence. But as the wave gets near you, duck into it. Nothing, there is just sea; this natural entity of wave could have caused you serious damage but is just sea – oneness.
Now these are analogies, and in describing Oneness I can only use analogies because to me it cannot be described definitively. But in thinking about these analogies one could imagine a wave saying I am separate until it dies away as it rolls into land. Isn’t it possible to conceive of a situation where an entity considers itself separate when it is in fact just Oneness? For me this is the dilemma of human life. All our lives we are taught that we are separate, this fosters the conflicts, and our lives take on the usual misery. Through our upbringing we agree (see The Four Agreements App A) to this view of life that leads to sadness and dukkha.
So if we are One, how could it work? There are many ways that this Oneness can be described, the following explanation is just one. It works for me - I hope it works for you but if it doesn’t look elsewhere. This explanation, as to how it might work, is not important, what is important is to recognise Oneness and work to create harmony in your daily life so that you can be part of that Oneness. OK, let’s give it a go. Conceive of an Inner Essence inside all of us, and that all the Inner Essences are not separate but One, they are Being together. That’s not too difficult. All these Essences could be drops in an ocean, water in a stream - the usual analogies. Through conditioning this Essence attracts its burden, and this burden becomes the apparent separate individual which we live our lives in – a burden like the forming of a wave as it rolls onto the beach or into the cliffs. As this Essence develops mind, mind forms an ego that survives through separation. And here we have the cause and the solution to the process. As we grow up in life our egos agree to this separation, we learn to see each other as individuals, and our lives join in the melee of conflict that is dukkha. But what if we can detach from that ego, and allow the Inner Essence to experience Oneness with itself? It is that experience of Being that all the bells and banjos of spirituality are about. This is a description of a process, it is not Being – Being cannot be described, and even if it could our language filters would soon destroy the understanding.
What we need to do is break the agreements we have made as we have grown up, agreements with our parents, education and society. We need to unlearn the contents that our minds have been filled with, heal our bodies and minds, and then we are able to accept the unity between our Essences and Oneness. In Tibetan Buddhism this has been described as Mother and Child Reunion – I like that. For that Reunion to occur there has to be harmony in daily life. One word that might describe this Essence is Pure. So there needs to be a sense of Purity in how we live so that our Essence is comfortable in its Reunion. If conditions of Purity always surround the Essence then Reunion occurs; if conditions of harmony always surround the Essence then Reunion occurs. In other words our conduct in daily life needs to provide the conditions that allow the Mother and Child Reunion to occur – Being.
There needs to be a sense of confidence that these conditions can always apply, that this harmony will always exist for Being to be experienced. And this is what all the discipline is about, the tenets of Zandtao, or whatever other dogma is used. The discipline, the dogma, the details they are not the purpose, they are parts of processes that lead to harmony – the conditions for Reunion. I sometimes think of it as a shaping – but a shaping without shape. Oh I so like that, it is one of those completely confusing spiritual statements that are made. It means a lot to me but maybe nothing to the reader – sorry I’m smiling. To add to the confusion, if there is a shape it doesn’t work.
I can explain that better, here goes. The answer is not in the discipline or the dogma, otherwise people would just be following a set of rules and Oneness would occur everywhere. Here are the 10 commandments, jump into Enlightenment. Doesn’t happen. It is necessary for people to internalise the discipline, not so that they behave like someone else, but that their conduct and behaviour is completely natural. Do not behave in a certain way because you have heard a talk or read a book, but because you feel it is absolutely the right thing to do. When you feel and act in the right way then your Essence has complete confidence that in your daily life you will be creating the harmony that allows for the Reunion.
A significant part of this conduct is sila, moral integrity. Now sila is not a moral set of instructions, that would be dogma or shape. It is a morality integrated into your being – Essence. Whatever life throws at you your conduct will be shaped by this integrity. The 10 commandments or the 5 precepts might be sets of rules that will help, but in every situation? In the West these issues have become much harder. Parents and grandparents of the 60s generation grew up with a strict moral code, this Victorianism that Pirsig (B14) referred to throughout, and I discussed previously. They followed these sets of rules. Society was more stable but 60s people knew this was not internalised. It all changed – it all went pear-shaped in the 60s. Young people began to question, with the pill sex was without strings, and very soon structures like marriage became threatened. At the same time as rejecting the Victorian hypocrisy they rejected Victorian common-sense that eventually led to a mentality that encouraged uncontrolled debt. Taking advantage of this, speculators eventually took us into the recession that is an excuse for the finance establishments to appropriate all our earnings through government taxation and financier’s exploitation. Whilst pre-60s people grew up with a moral code, since then western upbringing has led to a haphazard morality that leaves many of our children now growing up immorally. I am thinking particularly sexually. It now appears that many of our teenagers grow up with a promiscuous approach to life – although I am conscious that there is a significant backlash amongst some teenagers. What happens with multiple partners? Apart from the obvious risk of sexual disease and AIDS, an act of love has become copulation. There are unwanted pregnancies, unprepared mothers and a new generation of confused children.
How much does this promiscuous life hurt others? Previously western men travelled the world seeking conquests. Having the financial wherewithal to tempt women from poorer cultures, these women entered sexual relations with these men. The men moved on, and the girls were left with the dilemmas of facing conflict in their cultures (these cultures often preferring virginity as a prerequisite for marriage). Improving global communication alerts communities to this problem but cultural clashes around morality continue to exist. Promiscuity is not a moral choice, it is hedonist. In the West we do not grow up morally, and this breakdown of morals takes us further from the Path.
Communities grow up around different visions of enlightenment. These New Age communities might be considered developments from the hippies for whom promiscuity was a new adventure. How much hurt is caused when a man sleeps with another man’s partner or wife within these communes? “A woman is not property so sleeping around is acceptable” is the sort of adage that can apply in such communities. But deep down it hurts. Suppose there are children, isn’t there insecurity? Yet many such communities might be setup around some dogmas that purport enlightenment. Makes it hard to work.
Having sila governing our codes of conduct is not about a prescribed code of conduct and discipline, it is concerned with the sense of freedom that can allow Being to be experienced simply because we know that when we wake up the next day our actions will have been, and will be, harmonious.
Sila is not only about sexual harmony but consideration for others. Sila is compassionate in its actions so that harmony naturally follows. There cannot be laws and discipline that create this compassion, but that compassion comes when the harmony of our daily life provides the conditions that become the Path of the Mother and Child Reunion. And the most important natural tool we are given to ensure that our Path is harmonious is mindfulness. Mindfulness can be seen as our warning system that can keep us on the Path. Mindfulness protects us from actions that might take us off the Path. When we are considering inappropriate action there is a voice that warns us, how often sadly do we ignore it.
Where does mindfulness come from? It develops through meditation. As our mind develops harmony in our daily life we develop the warning system. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to taste aspects of freedom – experience our Being, once tasted we have the motivation to develop sila and mindfulness. Here it is important not to try to imitate previous experiences but just to know that such experiences can occur if we are in harmony with our daily life, the motivation is to harmony (sila and mindfulness), not for the experiences. Mindfulness also develops from practice, trying to develop awareness 100% in the Now. This awareness is not easy but the benefits of harmony in our daily life are worth it.
It is important for us to try to develop this harmony in all aspects of our daily life, and for me there have been significant social changes recently that affect our understanding of this harmony. It is this I want to investigate next. Let me consider mindfulness, and how far we are mindful. How far do we extend our understanding of our actions within our early warning systems? It is usual within spiritual circles to consider our actions as being moral with regards to relationships. Typically a religious home might be considered that of genuine parents bringing up healthy well-behaved children. Whilst this is hard enough to do, I wish to bring questions to bear on this scenario.
If this is a western family then I have already alluded to some of the problems. Western children grow up in a society that is not moral, parents have to fight that. They need to provide a moral code for their children which will hopefully become internalised as sila when they are adults; this moral code may well require firm discipline. So maybe the kids are well-behaved, but what about healthy? Our bodies easily become conditioned to unhealthy food as children, our sweet tooths encourage us to eat rubbish – and when children are subjected to the marketing ploys associated with the sale of unhealthy food it makes life even harder for parents. It is not an envious position such parents are in where just by being good parents they have to marginalise their children from the bad practices of mainstream. Not only is this true with food but it might seriously be considered true for education as well, where the only appropriate choice for a curriculum and appropriate discipline might well be a home study programme – see Matriellez on Education.
As an individual the choice is perhaps clearer. With food the choice is not to eat processed food, buy organic and in general this requires local purchasing. This also brings us to a very significant notion, that of the mindful consumer. I discussed earlier the notion of mindfulness as an early warning system. But a more complete understanding of mindfulness might be “means deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening inside yourself—in your body, heart, and mind—and outside yourself in your environment” (B11). One other way of seeing it is 100% in the Now. Perhaps our most significant social act is how we spend our money, and to understand the power of your money is an aspect of mindfulness. In terms of food it follows from the body Zandtao tenet that we mindfully consume by buying organic and local produce. Sourcing this is a problem and ideally it could be solved by like-minded people coming together and forming a mindful consumer network. Whilst this sounds nice and idealistic in theory, in practice it is dangerous. If it were to be successful it could threaten the markets of Big Food, and as such counter-measures would occur. Perhaps it is not better to look at grandiose plans.
However this network exists under different guises. In many western countries there are already organic cooperatives, there are even organic organisations where you can earn your keep working on organic farms – “WWOOFing”. How we use our money is very important – a significant call to arms in the movie Ethos [F4]. In terms of our food our purchasing is governed by the availability of organic food, to buy organic our only sources are local. But what about other purchases? Now this becomes more difficult, how do we buy an organic computer? An organic car? But what about an electric car? Mindfulness is not usually extended beyond being discerning about emotions and desire, but isn’t that an arbitrary boundary for mindfulness? Is that a boundary that mindfulness makes or is it made by the ego that might be threatened by the marginalisation that such an engaged position as the mindful consumer might have? What about our savings? What is happening to them? Do we know where they are invested? Would we be happy knowing or do we avoid thinking about it because of the interest gained? For each of us, including myself, I feel there is a need to question our consuming patterns in the light of mindfulness.
Once we mindfully begin to see the way our consuming patterns are manipulated by Big Food, then we could start to consider other areas of expenditure. An important reduction in expenditure arising from healthy eating is that we reduce our medical expenses. But we can consider our health expenditure in other ways. Do we subscribe to natural healing methods such as herbs, massage, acupuncture, or do we dive for the pill bottle and the knife of western medicine? Are we under the spell of Big Pharma?
Once we begin to investigate mindfully how we spend our money, the next question that obviously arises if we are mindful:- how do we earn our money? Already we have seen that our daily consumption is impacted by the Big Corporations, to consume organically and locally is an alternative to them. But what about our livelihoods? Does it matter who employs us? Surely that is a mindful question to ask?
Now I want to put that mindful question in the context of our journey – our Paths. Does how we work affect our journeys? If we refer back to my earlier description of harmony in daily life, then we can see that a requirement of our work situation would be that harmony. Can anyone working for a Big Corporation be morally comfortable working for them?
I then reviewed my own working decisions, and they do not sit comfortably with me. I was always in conflict as a teacher. Now I was always prevailed upon spiritually to be aware of these conflicts and not get attached to them, not get involved in them. I was never able to do this. A simple conflict is that I wanted to teach the kids but the dominant ethos of an education establishment is careerism and profiteering – again discussed at Matriellez Education. Throughout that "almost" book there is the constant theme of the Corporate Paradigm in which the inadequacies of our existing education systems can be traced back to the requirements of the Corporations. Does our education system fail, or is it successful because a few pass becoming CEOs and the rest fail then becoming desperate for any job that will give them money? I am very clear in my own answer for education that I was always hampered by this Corporate Paradigm, and I am now comfortable with the conflict I was always in as that was my sila creating conflict fighting compromise.
But what if I had been teaching in a different environment? What if I had been teaching the children of organic farmers or herbal doctors, and rather than seeking money for that teaching I was satisfied with barter or services. What if in this teaching I had been able to choose a curriculum that was working towards the Path, that promoted morality and maybe even sila amongst the students, or that taught mindfulness? What if I was teaching outside the Corporate Paradigm, teaching for teaching’s sake and not seeking financial reward but happiness?
What if this mindful consumer network was extended? As more and more people become mindful of how their money is being misappropriated, then they choose to minimise their involvement with money seeking alternative rewards, happiness, barter and payment by community currency to enable bartering. To choose how we work with sila means that we have to seriously consider how we can work outside the Corporate Paradigm. For many people who are mindful of how they work, they now choose caring professions but this still keeps them earning, paying taxes and usually spending most of their money within the Corporate Paradigm. Perhaps it is time to think beyond this, to recognise that our consuming is our strongest weapon, and choose mindfully how we consume. At the same time as we consider how we consume, perhaps we can take a closer look at how we earn; can we find a way of working that does not involve earning money? Can we barter our skills enough to live? For Nature we work towards a zero carbon footprint, for our daily life strive for zero money imprint?