The purpose of this treatise is to present my journey, and hope that there is some information in that journey that will be of use. I began with looking at the three tenets of Zandtao:-
Improving the mind
Harmonising our energy
Taking care of our bodies
I brought these three tenets together into a personal development system that I believe can bring peace. But a significant problem we have are the systems in society that we have given our agreement to. Although these systems might present themselves as democratic, the reality is that these systems favour the 1%, bringing with them death and destruction from war as well as financial hardship globally that in itself brings death and destruction through hunger and poverty. Through their addiction to power and profits – and in some cases drugs, the 1 % exploits our planet for their own ends upending a natural system that could provide for all harmoniously.
Integral to this is the system of wage slavery, the 1% needs working people to make their profits, and we begrudgingly give our agreement to this wage slavery. Do we want the jobs we do? Mostly we don’t, we just do them. I wanted to teach. Entering teaching I hoped to find a niche where I could do genuine teaching, but in the end I just became a purveyor of exam success where possible - and creating failure where that success was not possible. So even a job that could benefit people by educating them becomes part of a wage slavery that creates disadvantage.
For our freedom we need to take back responsibility for all our lives. In my life I have lived and worked with people, befriended others for whom wage slavery was accepted – agreed with. Respite was often found through spare time activities such as political activity, working for good causes, looking after family and friends. We have compensated for the lack of control in our working lives by the good work we do in our spare time. Facing reality tells us that this is not working, it is not enough. Despite these good intentions of the majority of the 99%, the addiction of the 1% has taken us to a climate crisis, a continual state of war throughout the world, and a level of economic exploitation that greatly exacerbates poverty and world hunger.
Movements such as Occupy are beginning to recognise that we need to be individually responsible for our actions in the workplace. Under political approaches such as anarcho-syndicalism, these people promote genuine grass roots consensus democracy. Such approaches promote genuine freedom in the workplace, and through this freedom greater social cohesion would be created bringing with it a compassionate society.
But is such a description of freedom enough? Is it enough to remove the controls of the 1% and the incumbent wage slavery? Is that freedom? Thay sees the need for people to relearn how to live connecting spiritually with themselves and the Beauty of Nature, and to this end he has established Plum villages as example communities. In this way he is offering people a taste of freedom.
So what is this freedom? Any description I can give will never be complete for two reasons, firstly words will only limit such a description and secondly I am not free. In social terms I am quite free. I am retired and have sufficient money to live. I am not incarcerated and have few social responsibilities. But spiritually am I free? No. So how can I possibly describe freedom? Because I am fortunate to have had a taste of it. The spiritual Path offers carrots. As we move along the Path we get enticed not by earthly goods but by experiences of spiritual freedom. These enticements act as ways of moving forward, such experiences are “rewards” for being on the Path pointing us in the right direction. But such enticements just happen and cannot be recreated. Accept that following the Path, living a good life, releasing all attachments - however you describe the Path – will bring with it a taste of freedom. Here is an extract of a blog I wrote at the time I glimpsed this freedom:-
A Glimpse of Freedom
Yesterday I had a glimpse of freedom, and for want of a better way of saying it was so freeing - liberating. Today it has gone but I can describe it and I know why it has gone.
I want to describe what I felt first. There was a sense of freedom in my centre, this sense grew out of a feeling that I was free from conformity, free from dogma, free from discipline, and this sense of freedom was able to link with a wider freedom. This was in line with the mother and child luminosity HHSR describes on p162. It was good.
I took the feeling as a vindication of two things, following K’s piercing lead I should begin to question what’s happening with too much dogma, and secondly a vindication of the apparently austere discipline I have been promoting with this sila and so on. I will take the description further. This glimpse of freedom came from a sense of safety and security, that I was safe and secure knowing that my 3 aspects, mind, energy and body, were going to function properly and that I was free from worry about them. It was my mind that was free but my mind was controlling my conduct through good moral discipline, I was trying to harmonise my energy – missed the beach because of Songkran for a week?, and my body was as healthy as it could be as I was not giving it toxins. With these things being taken care of my inner mind was left free and it flourished and at times developed this mother and child reunion.
I say it was a glimpse because last night I indulged samsara and let mindfulness off for the night - not trying with 100% Path. Therefore there was not good discipline and so I had difficulty finding the freedom today. The glimpse was there, and as all good glimpses it is there as a reminder of what can happen if you do things properly – if you are mindful. Just to emphasise it is not one experience that this is about but that you need to keep going, keep mindful. Keep the external discipline so that the inner mind is free to flourish.
In Buddhist theory, freedom means freedom from the cycle of the birth and rebirth of self, can we ever attain this? Such freedom is called Nirvana. So anarcho-syndicalists are attempting to work for Nirvana, and as they don’t approach such from a spiritual position their efforts at freedom are limited. So is there any point in trying to marry the two positions? Most definitely yes. And in marrying the two positions we have a totality that can be experienced by all. Let’s have an end to the arbitrary distinctions where political activism demands a political freedom that ignores the spiritual and conversely the spiritual seeker removing themselves from social reality often condoning people whose actions restrict social liberty such as Tony Blair. Spiritual freedom only comes with social freedom and social freedom for all only has meaning when spiritual freedom is its objective.
With nirvana being freedom from the cycle of birth and rebirth, where is the practicality in such an approach for daily life? How do we decide on approaches to freedom in daily life specifically as in the case of anarcho-syndicalism we are seeking freedom as a social legitimisation of a political strategy? We begin to get an understanding of this if we say that society needs to give us the freedom to follow the Path and then we begin to have a practical strategy once we determine the meaning of such a Path in daily life. And we have discussed Path earlier so we connect to this Freedom by understanding the Path.
So let’s connect back to the Path and see. I am happy with that connecting. This treatise started from a primarily spiritual position, and as of Ch16 developed a socio-political position. Now I am returning to consideration of the Path as a means of finding Freedom, and connecting the Path to political positions such as anarcho-syndicalism. I might even suggest that Freedom is the objective of Occupy.
Fundamental to an understanding of Path is that we all have one – that is our Karma. So what are the implications of saying that we should be free to follow our Paths? And why is that of political import or connected to Freedom? Our Paths are how we fit together as part of Nature’s community, they are what we are meant to be. We should be free to be what we are meant to be. We have a responsibility to our communities, and living this responsibility is part of our Paths. Trusting in Nature, our Paths interlace into Nature’s network – our community on earth. The function of our political system is to enable our freedom to live the Paths as Nature intended.
This is of course vague, and arguing for this politically at Hyde Park Corner might open us up to ridicule:-
What do we want? Freedom
Free for what? To follow our Path.
When do we want it? Now.
But essentially that is the political demand. Let us consider this political demand in a bit more detail. It requires that individual freedom be respected in line with community needs. That is not the same as accepting freedom for selfish motivation, such as freedom to earn as much money as possible. It allows freedom to make a profit within certain bounds bearing in mind that resources are finite. To a certain extent money represents those resources and accumulating money in the hands of a small group of people is not in the community interest because it means others must have less of those resources. Of course motivation is important so the system has to have a flexibility that will help motivate, but accumulation for accumulation’s sake is not such a motivation as it implies others must suffer, others must have their freedoms curtailed. Another word for this might be consideration, considering the rights of others to follow a Path.
It is further essential to understand that in the Natural order of things bringing up children is the number one priority, the purpose of our community is to bring up children – unless we consider the ultimate motivation – Freedom from the cycle of birth and death. Leaving aside this motivation for the moment, our social priority needs to be referred back to the children and the way we bring up our children in the family. This is a context in which our Paths must limit themselves. Examine our current society in terms of the quality of upbringing of children. It falls lamentably short. Many of the world’s children are in poverty, and lacking in educational opportunities. In the West parents are both encouraged to work leaving them with little time to care for the children as they are tired. In some cases this work imperative is financial, in other cases it is a measure of social status, but in neither case is the primary objective their children’s upbringing. In fact society’s family emphasis is a primary platform of the consumer exploitation incumbent in 1% strategy. When people in the West have children they are not the joy they are many places in the world, they are a financial burden thus encouraging the adult wage enslavement integral to the soulless work we expect in the manufacturing industry or service sector.
Education is integral to this process, the motivation of education is to produce people to work in the system as overseen by the 1%. But education for freedom is essential within a free society, and in terms of the Path that means “leading people out” so they can find their own Paths (for more discussion on this see Matriellez). Through an understanding of freedom to find our Paths together with the primary community function which is to bring up children we have a societal structure for freedom, the Paths that people would naturally follow fit into this.
Home becomes the fundamental social unit that we have to enable. Parents need help to ensure that their children are given the best opportunity to find their Paths. Elders as teachers become a priority in providing these opportunities, and our community direction in targeting this upbringing is to support parents in their needs whether as weaknesses in themselves or supporting weaknesses in the children. In none of this is profit a motivation, governance does not exist to promote state interests but the exact opposite its purpose is on the micro level of helping the family. Once you remove the motivation of the 1% for self-aggrandisement anpersonal profit you have a natural order of society in which children can grow up to find their Paths to promote life in a caring community.
At the same time we need to understand that on a personal level there is a significant aspiration connected with enlightenment – freedom from the cycle of birth and rebirth, and that is learning. We live to learn, our Paths are to learn – there is freedom in learning. And the objective of this learning - the enlightenment that is freedom from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Now whether you accept this motivation because of its dogmatic or religious content, the primary motivation of learning per se is still part of an individual’s Path – the Path of Learning.
And there is a final context in which these freedoms as our individual Paths become integrated and that is in ONE planet.