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The Path

The Path is a wonderful word but it is so difficult because it is vague - as it has to be. I like writing that for the intellectuals who want precision. I should talk about what the Path means to me, that might help. I would like to start by giving a theoretical picture of it. In our lives Karma/Kamma or destiny has a journey for us, I described the seed we are born with that accumulates the baggage that make up our lives. Mind gathers those experiences around the seed but depending on the current state of mind such experiences can be close or far from the Path. During my earlier adult life for those experiences that were close to the Path I started saying "following the True Path" - or not for those far away. But what did this concept mean? It is not a theory or philosophy that can become the subject of an intellectual discussion, it has a substantive meaning because of the associated feeling; your Path is how you feel about it at the time. Discussion only has meaning if it is an attempt to use words to describe a shared feeling. Describing it as "following the Path" was the only way my heart could talk to me at the time. If I was close to the Path I felt good, if I was not I did not feel so good. There were some stages I did not feel good at all. Especially when my drink addiction was at its worst.

But I always had these affirmations, and I held them strong to me as they gave me a conviction in life that I called at that time "soul". Very rarely did I hold my mind still, yet when these experiences came it was like an absolute stillness that was powerful and held my mind. Slowly over a period of 25+ years I moved along or around this Path, at one stage eschewing the addiction to alcohol - it was notable that the experiences only occurred when I wasn't in the throws of addiction. After this number of years I had a religious experience. I visited Thailand and was drawn to the wats. Whilst in Wat Phra Keau I was staring at the Emerald Buddha for what seemed like more than an hour at the end of which I started calling myself a Buddhist. This started my time in which meditation was more or less a daily practice - and ended the "bells and banjos" experiences. I say that with a slight tinge of regret because of their power but what happened through meditation was that rather than having these sporadic experiences I felt a greater general happiness as meditation gave me more mental control. The affirmations pointed to the need for meditation, pointed to the Path, and once I began meditating seriously greater happiness on the Path came. Throughout the time on the Path when I had "bells and banjos" experiences, my life would also have peak and troughs - and there were troughs like the drink. Now my life has peaks and troughs but the graph has moved up the happiness axis, the amplitude is nowhere near as large so the downs are still happy whilst the peaks are happier. My demeanour is happy, people call me happy, and although there are times when that happiness is disturbed as I resolve Path's issues, I have moved far on from those days where my mind lacked the stability and my heart occasionally sank. Genuine happiness is a good measure of the Path.

In the intro I spoke of the Path as "mixed ability". In some ways I don't like that term. In education when good teachers use it, they are trying to convey that all that matters is that the student does the best they can - the fourth agreement. But in practice in education all that matters is whether the student passes the exam because that is what the system is geared for - see Matriellez. Sadly there is a spiritual parallel, many people perceive that all that matters is enlightenment. For me this is not true, people doing the best they can on their own Path can be happy. There is enlightenment, and for those that is meant for life will be hell if they don't get there. But it is not meant for everyone, do the best you can and be content . or happy.

There is a cultural issue that I want to discuss here that might shed some light on this. The approach to the Path in the East and West can be very different. In Thailand Buddhism is integrated into daily life. Young people are encouraged to spend time in the monastery, and for those who want to take orders there is no major leap - shave your head and join up to follow your Path. The process of following the Path is socially seamless, no trauma, no upheaval; once they wear the orange robes the individual's integrity on the Path is a matter for them - and appropriate discussion elsewhere. Contrast that with stories in the West. Following the Path is far from seamless. Western custom and practice points people away from the Path. There is the church but much that is western life discourages involvement in the church, people need conviction to join the church - there is a feeling of going against the flow. Far from seamless. Many westerners come out East to find themselves!! For some there is a jump as happened to me. I will describe my jump. I went to school and uni, and got my exams - not with any great conviction satisfactory throughout - sorry Nana. By the end if uni drink had intervened and after horrendous 18 months in the computer industry Nature kicked in, I hit bottom and came out the other side having "awakened" to some extent on the Path. This brief description does not describe the depths I hit at various stages, depths that on recollection bring shame. I then had a conviction about the Path but life was still far from seamless. Lacking moral integrity and beleaguered by the drink I still had much work to do even though I had gained some insight. Even after losing the drink the job still had its grip before giving myself to the Path - completely? Nothing seamless about what happened to me.

There seems a similar pattern amongst many westerners, and people talk of this jump as transcending, I think of this transcendence as jumping out of the conceptual mind and accepting the non-conceptual mind, jumping from the superficial intellectual mind that analyses on the surface and moving inside into the incisive mind of insight. I believe that western life and education makes this process harder, but I am only aware for myself of a western upbringing. In the west there is a kind of club of people who have made this jump - followers of the Path and whilst it is very important for these westerners what has happened to them, the Path is not exclusive to them. All people have their karma, and have their Paths to follow at their own pace and ability. What is to be done is to do the best they can, in describing the Zandtao approach I am trying to offer help to do this. We have begun with looking at the mind, what next is important for improving the mind.

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