I am looking forward to this section.
Integral to my path is the method of enquiry I have attuned during the writing of Viveka-Zandtao. In this enquiry I have developed faith in the quest (satta) into the unknown, in this section the unknown is going to be what I will find when I examine “following the path”. Before continuing with this section I wrote this Zandtaomed Advice on , I will be ZQuesting about path.
Over my retirement years I have developed pathtivism but in truth there is nowhere that I have given clear guidance on the path. In a sense the path is all things, it is all that matters, it is completely true as far as I know – I have some faith and some understanding that it is completely true. Developing the Dhamma is the path but to me that is a tautology, the advantage of saying this tautology is that for some people there is an understanding of what developing the Dhamma means, and therefore they can understand what the path is – what I mean by the path. But that requires a similar understanding of what developing the Dhamma means. In addition there is the Indigenous path (posted here), path as connected to the Great Spirit similar to path connected to Dhamma:-
Whatever I end up developing in this section, the following has to be clear, there will be no definition of the path – defining is restricting, at best I suspect I can only offer what the path is not. But we will have to see.
This section will bring together my writing on pathtivism so far. Pathtivism means path activism. Pathtivism is 100% about following your path, the emphasis of activism in life is following the path. Whatever form activism takes in daily life, whatever causes people lay claim to, whatever actions in struggle are taken, a pathtivist is conscious that it is as a consequence of following the path, and not that the activism of daily life is the purpose. Whatever activism your path chooses, however your path decides on how to work collectively, it is your path that you are following - the cause is part of your daily life and daily life is part of the world of conditioning. In this way pathtivism proposes a reframing of activism. For most people activism is whatever activity a person chooses to make a change – even the appalling “make a difference”. On the path your pathtivism focusses on how to follow your path making pathtivism the core activism, the consequence of following the path will lead to some form of social activism because social activism is compassion. But if we cling to the social activism as meaning in life it is ego, when following our path leads to some form of social activism that is sampajanna – wise actions of compassion based on following the path. But pathtivism stresses this – follow the path first where your compassion takes you is a consequence.
Another word for following your path is autonomy. But again that only helps understanding if there is equivalent understanding, more than likely what is brought by these equivalent terms – following the path, developing the Dhamma, being autonomous – will cause confusion but at least they will help with enquiry.
Key to understanding path and pathtivism is to understand the relationship between nature, path and pathtivism, I hope to develop that understanding in this section. Previously I have described a Buddhadasa understanding of Idappaccayata-Paticcasamuppada as nature or dhammajati. These are of course terms or concepts of which we will all have different interpretations but some understanding of this might help – or it could cause confusion; again I hope to develop this in this section.
Let me cursorily examine previous pathtivist writings. In the Treatise I developed the 3 tenets and showed how they had affected my daily life:-
In writing the Treatise I wanted to show that the path had always been a part of my life, from upheaval onwards I followed my path however loosely – however much my reflective ego tells me I could have done better. Given the conditioning in life that works against following the path, the Treatise can show you firstgrace, insights and phala (eg bells and banjos) which are indicators-plus of your path. Please look for them in yourselves and act on them.
At the end of the Treatise I wrote this as the path:-
This is what I saw then as the path – I hope to develop it in this section, and it was the basis of the pathtivist manual. The manual began from a different standpoint to where I see it now. It started by trying to show how following the path would be beneficial to activism – in the first part looking at how following the path could help activism. But on the inner journey in the second part there began a completion process in which the 3 tenets became integrated into the path. As the clarity of this integration grew a recognition also grew that focussing on outer activism was not constructive. Following the path requires 100% engagement as pathtivism, with compassionate activism as consequence. This potential paradox is the reality of the path, our path in life, pathtivism, is about activism but it does not mean that we are always carrying placards, solitude with the purpose of following your path is activism – and pathtivism. Once the path had been integrated as described in the manual, it became clear that there was 100% complete disenchantment with activism in the world of conditioning without pathtivism. Activism of itself is not a reward, the rewards come from following your path in nature - pathtivism:-
Activism is your duty – not your reward, phala (fruits) from following your path are the reward. Pathtivism makes it clear that the path is what we do, what we follow as our duty, what provides our rewards. The duty that the path tells us to follow is not the reward, success in daily life is not the measure – daily life is the duty; the path is its own reward.
Through MwB and the Companion I provided a way of developing your path. Unknown during my second childhood, and unknown at the time of writing, what I did in the Treatise and Manual is in some way equivalent to the 4 tetrads of the meditation of MwB and the Companion. Through the 3 tenets and integration into the path, I had followed the 4 tetrads of kaya (body), vedana (energy), citta (mind) and Dhamma (path integration) – the 4 foundations of mindfulness. By following Buddhadasa’s anapanasati-bhavana I was able to reinforce my approach to these 4 foundations to develop the Dhamma – follow the path.
In Viveka-Zandtao I examined solitude and came to recognise that my Viveka was how I followed the path. Throughout my daily life during the work of teaching that had been directed by my path of compassion, and during my activism whose purpose was enabling spirit even when stuck in a room licking envelopes, it was the times of solitude that helped me return to the path, that kept my life centred on the path. Once I found the path in upheaval, solitude maintained a hold on the path whilst fighting off the conditioning of daily life, and now I have the solitude that enables me to give back through Zandtao.
I have always seen writing as part of my path but in the writing of Viveka-Zandtao I have now recognised another path process – writing as enquiry . Bouncing off the thoughts of an author takes me into an unknown – part of my quest, I have faith that this enquiry together with concomitant meditation to clear the mind will bring understanding. In the end I will review this writing as ego arising during the process might leave vestiges of error, clarity at the end of the quest and faith process reviews what has been written to try to ensure there is no delusion.
Pathtivism is the name I have given to my understanding of the path. There is no separation of path and activism, 100% engagement, the purpose of following the path is to be wise in daily life - sampajanna. In Viveka-Zandtao I have examined solitude, quest and faith, all of which contribute to sampajanna - wise actions in daily life. Through there is a method of deep enquiry; but this is not an academic exercise, the purpose of depth has intended consequences in the compassion of daily life. But the measure is not the rewards of success in daily life but the spiritual rewards of phala that come from dhammajati; the path has its own rewards, society's rewards are defilement.
For the pathtivist following the path is doing the best they can to be the best they can be. I will soon be looking at the Buddhist relationship to pathtivism. What I have found with Buddhism is that it discusses in detail areas of Dhamma and the mind, the very terminology such as anatta engages the mind in consideration of conceptual understanding not always discussed elsewhere. It is enquiring into the understanding that comes from the tradition and its use of this terminology which attracts me to Buddhism, with my mindfulness grappling with what has been written especially by Buddhadasa I have gained some understanding.
But doing the best I can to be the best I can be is the essential pathtivist understanding gained from life (and studies); it is vague yet concise.
To begin looking at the path, I want to interpret how I see the Buddhist way of life. I am starting with this rather than describing a pathtivist way of life because Buddhism has been investigated by so many wise people. Basically Buddhism mostly stems from the teachings given by Gautama Buddha after he became enlightened. He taught that to live an enlightened life is to live, according to buddha-nature, a life of compassion to help end suffering for all; Buddhism could be seen as teachings to help do this. From this point on Buddhism gets confused because of proliferations, and I don’t have enough knowledge of these proliferations to describe them in a fair way. In terms of Buddhism I work with the teachings of Ajaan Buddhadasa.
Let me examine first of all “living a life of compassion to help end suffering”, this includes some of the description of the path given in the Treatise – compassion and ending suffering:-
Buddhism gives teachings that help us get to the state of mind where it is possible to live in this way. To get into this state of mind it is necessary to develop Dhamma, and the purpose of dhamma teachings is help you develop Dhamma. In MwB Buddhadasa provides an understanding of meditation (anapanasati) to help you develop Dhamma. The problem here is that Dhamma is beyond description, Buddhadasa helps by teaching that MwB develops the 4 Dhamma comrades of mindfulness - sati, wisdom – panna, concentration – samatha, and wisdom-in-action – sampajanna. Whilst these are good indicators of the Dhamma they are not an actual description. At the same time this description opens up more questions asking what is mindfulness, wisdom, concentration and wisdom-in-action? We have gained some understanding but opened up a greater unknown.
To get to a better state of mind where we can develop more Dhamma requires transcendence – in lokutarra we can develop more Dhamma. So how do we transcend? MwB. As part of MwB the 3rd tetrad on citta teaches us to understand supramundane states, one of which is compassion – karuna. Through meditation Buddhadasa teaches us how to develop better states of mind which hopefully in the end will develop Dhamma. Lokutarra is one such state of mind where the Dhamma is developed, in transcendence Dhamma is developed.
However let’s look at what the Dhamma is not. The Dhamma is not the teachings, the teachings help you develop the Dhamma but they are not the Dhamma itself; the path of pathtivism is not the teachings but something that is developed beyond the teachings.
But to begin to understand Buddhism we have to begin to understand dhammajati, the natural laws of Buddhism and the laws of conditionality, idappaccayata-paticcasamuppada:-
With an understanding of natural law, Buddism recognises that from birth we are conditioned. Nature provides instincts for our survival, and these instincts develop egos and identity which initially help us survive. But as we mature as adults it is expected that we let go of these egos in order to live a life of compassion, it is expected that we go beyond our conditioning to do this; meditation such as MwB is one method for helping us let go of these egos. The Buddha’s teachings also teaches us through the 4 Noble Truths how suffering arises and how through ending attachment and craving we can end suffering by not attaching to desire, and elsewhere in the teachings, attaching to kilesa and clinging to upadana. [I should note here that the Noble 8-Fold path of the 4 Noble Truths is the Buddha’s recommended path to end suffering but when I speak of path I am talking of something more essential although I would be happy to describe the path as the essence of the Noble 8-Fold Path.]
Here is how I described what the Buddha taught – “He taught that to live an enlightened life is to live, according to buddha-nature, a life of compassion to help end suffering for all”. So what is an enlightened life lived according to buddha-nature? And this question is beyond my ability to answer. I have faith that there is enlightenment as discussed in the last section, but beyond that I cannot describe it - partly because I suspect it is indescribable but mainly because I am not enlightened so how can I describe it. I also have faith that the path is buddha-nature, but beyond faith it is not possible for me to answer that.
And we have reached a stage for consideration. There is a Buddhist way of life of compassion to end suffering through developing Dhamma. But the more we investigate the more we ask questions. But I have faith in the method, and even if there are not defineable answers with questioning enquiry qualifies what is and what isn’t. Until we begin to ask it is not possible for mindfulness to grapple with the known and to quest into the unknown.
Above I noted “the Noble 8-Fold path of the 4 Noble Truths is the Buddha’s recommended path to end suffering but when I speak of path I am talking of something more essential although I would be happy to describe the path as the essence of the Noble 8-Fold Path”. Essence is a good word to get some indication. “Essence is a polysemic term, used in philosophy and theology as a designation for the property or set of properties that make an entity or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity” Wiki. This is a useful definition to investigate:- “A property or set of properties that make an entity what it fundamentally is”. This could just be path, the properties of the path that make it fundamentally what it is. Does it add anything having this definition? It begins to when considered with what has been investigated so far. Could Dhamma be considered a set of properties – 4 Dhamma comrades plus? But when we think of the word “property” we are describing a fundamental – an axiom, something that cannot be analysed or broken down further. Properties are an essential description but because they are axiomatic they only have meaning when the property is understood.
When we describe the properties of electricity, “Electricity is the flow of electrons through a conductor. The amount of current (amps) is related to the voltage (volts) pushing the electrons and the degree of resistance to flow (ohms). During their flow around a circuit, electrons can be used to create a number of useful by-products such as heat and light. As electrons flow, they alter the charge of the matter they flow through, which may also generate electromagnetic effects” ref, we can describe the effects but what meaning is the essence “a flow of electrons”? Path as Essence has a set of properties, eg 4 Dhamma comrades plus, that produce effects such as compassion, insight and creativity but there is no sense of definition here – and as said at the beginning of this section there cannot be.
But this does give us a useful approach to the path, can we develop an approach to life that produces these good effects – in Buddhist terms living a life of compassion that ends suffering for all? But it also leads to difficult questions – possibly unanswerable. Can we increase this Essence? How can we best use this Essence? There is a sense of going round in circles, we open a new way of describing – Essence, and we end up with the same – good effects but unanswerable questions. But that in itself is useful, however we look at the path there are unanswerable questions but good effects.
How do we connect the good effects to the Essence? For Buddhism there is a clear method, and for pathtivism I have added description to Buddhadasa’s MwB with the Companion. Because of the wisdom in the tradition there has been much investigation of getting the good effects from the Essence, but this approach is not exclusive to Buddhism. However we do get the good effects from the Essence this is following the path – however we get the best effects that we can get. What is unanswerable is defining the Essence but there is the beginning, a measurement of “following the path” – the good effects. It is not so much the properties of the Essence or path that matters but what are the good effects it produces? The Essence of seeking is finding the best way of producing good effects.
But we have to be careful here in how we measure good effects. In Buddhism the answer to this is clear – dhammajati measures by rewarding through phala. If there is no reward this can question the good effects; society’s reward is defilement, the path’s reward is phala. Following the path is concerned with the rewards and how we recognise them. But whilst recognising phala is meaningful it is very much subjective. At firstgrace I talked of bells and banjos, during the jhana of writing there has been the presence of guys, there are good feelings during meditation, and generally just feelings of presence from being in harmony.
But these phala don't come at will, nor can they be verified - defining conditions and states of mind that will produce phala. The nearest I came to that was in the writing of Kirramura during which I had a routine for writing that involved being absorbed and waiting for phala prior to writing late at night. It worked at that time but is not part of any creativity now. We have to learn about our own phala, recognise them as they change, but note that phala cannot be created or formally developed. They are part of our path, are meant as rewards for following our path, but their only predictability is that they are unpredictable. Learn to recognise your phala so that you know when you are following your path.
That brings me to a question that I cannot answer, is there a meaning to absence of phala or absence of presence? Do we need to be rewarded for every right action? In the past there has been phala for certain good practices, do we need rewards for that or can we just use the Dhamma Comrades of panna and sampajanna - knowing what is wise and putting that into practice?
Social reward is not phala. How society measures "success" is not phala, how society measures spiritual success is not phala; these measures are personal and concerned with our own relationship to the path. But phala are real, personal and motivational; it is sad that it is not more widely known that following the path brings with it these phala. Phala is reward from the path, and the path should be known for having these rewards, But phala cannot be taught, predicted or developed by any scientific/verifiable method. MwB helps us follow our paths, and as we develop the Dhamma comrades through this approach there will be phala, but when and how cannot be defined; using MwB to develop phala is a misuse of the method, MwB is there to help us follow the path - phala are likely to happen but when and how cannot be controlled. I know nothing of siddhis but it is my understanding they are not phala, if you wish to connect siddhis to phala and your path you need to look elsewhere for instruction.
Essence as a set of properties, eg 4 Dhamma comrades plus, that produce effects such as compassion, insight and creativity led to an important understanding of the path, if we are following our path in some way there will be phala and recognising these phala empowers and motivates us. But there is an aspect of the quoted definition that is misleading:- "Essence is .... used .... as a designation for the property or set of properties that make an entity or substance what it fundamentally is .... and without which it loses its identity". In people the path or essence is not connected to their identity. Identity, as self and ego, grows through conditioning from instinct and the need to survive, and becomes a block to expression of essence in mature adults. Buddhadasa, in MwB, describes these characteristics arising from anapanasati:-
In describing what arises on the path, from our essence, we could describe 4 Dhamma comrades plus recognition of these characteristics as well as in some form, phala. Identity is not part of this. Earlier I wrote this concerning properties. Properties are an essential description but because they are axiomatic they only have meaning when the property is understood. With regards to "4 Dhamma comrades plus", understanding the meaning of the 4 Dhamma comrades plus these 5 characteristics (of one ultimate truth) and recognising phala brings some understanding of the path.
Likewise we could consider this guidance from Teal Swan:-
Is it unreasonable to consider the journey to self love in all its meaning as following the path? Can we also examine Teal's processes of a spiritual journey to help us understand the path?
Teal talks of the light of self-love in Shadows before Dawn, how much is this connected to light and path? I will refer to Teal's journey of completion later as it is so similar to my own journey, but there is some sameness to journeys that reach the same place. If the Essence of self love is the same as connecting to Dhamma, if what I call following the path is connecting to Dhamma, then within these journeys there is something that is the same. From the outside clearly these journeys are different - differently described, we could call this journey exoteric - from the outside. But if they are all essentially connecting to Dhamma then in Essence, esoterically, they are the same journey. This same esoteric journey is the Essence of following the path.
And this esoteric journey relates to phala. Phala do not necessarily come to those who study the dhamma or other teachings, they come like Archimedes' Eureka when the teachings have developed insight. Insight is part of the esoteric journey, and it is the esoteric journey that is rewarded. Phala rewards the esoteric journey, the Essence of the path. Essence reconnects to sunnata so as such cannot be described, but we can know there has been such a connection because of phala. Good effects will follow from this connection and can be observed, but phala are the individual spiritual motivations for following the path as Essence connects to sunnata.
Similar to the esoteric and exoteric aspects of following the path we also have the noumenal and phenomenal comparing the Essence of the path to noumenon and the properties of the path to phenomenon. So what we have is a sense of fluidity concerning the path rather than a dichotomy. For the Buddhist when does the dhamma teachings become connecting to Dhamma? On the path when does exoteric become esoteric, phenomenon become noumenon? We have more description, the path is Essence, esoteric and noumenal, phala are indicators of Essence, and this hopefully brings greater clarity; but yet again we are left with unanswerable questions.
I have reached my own impasse of unanswerable questions but I feel that reaching this impasse has been constructive. This is not one of the Buddha’s unanswerable question and I am not making any such assertion. I have reached a constructive impasse beyond which I perceive potential headbanging – at best going round in circles. So far it has been constructive because where I have reached is more informed, and I can use that awareness to move forward in talking of following the path. But what is the path has no answer for me, and for me no need for one.
I have reached an understanding of path and a way of assessing. In Essence paths are the same, the esoteric, the noumenal, the Dhamma. In following the path we attempt to connect with that Essence through the properties and good effects of that Essence, through the exoteric leading to esoteric, through phenomena leading to noumena, and through the dhamma teachings leading to Dhamma. But there are no clear delineations in these dichotomies – are there meant to be? In our actions when is sampajanna pure Essence? Yet we can begin to discern when there is wisdom in the action, but can we ever know the relationship between a wise action, the arising of insight, the known and the unknown? Do we just accept the wise action through understanding and faith? In retrospect maybe there is understanding, in which case analysis makes the wisdom known but in sampajanna there is unknown and there is meant to be unknown; through our practice we can have faith in that unknown helping us in following our path. And through our practice we begin to recognise phala, and through that recognition have faith and conviction in our actions and understanding. I can work with this impasse in giving guidance to help people follow their path.
From the beginning of this section I have claimed teachings are not path. We can follow teachings that have tradition behind them but ultimately teachings do not necessarily connect with the Dhamma or Essence, they provide signposts. The path of Ascension has signposts discussed in this movie; I very much like this movie because of the integral recognition of phala. However its stages (signposts) of 5 initiations appear quite rigid. For me the path is fluid, with such targets there can be failure and delusions of “targets not met”. Enjoy the movie for the path and its recognition of phala.
I now want to investigate Eckhart’s Awakening the Inner Light. As the Openhand people say awakening experiences often show themselves with light, so phala might well be connected to inner light. Buddhadasa talks of the Light of Dhamma, and Teal the light of Self Love in Shadows before Dawn. And possibly Mabel Collins "Light on the Path" where there might be integrity questions. And there is still Sharon's Abiding in Faith - much to bring together.
Note - my Eckhart clip came from a free course. Ajaan Buddhadasa was a Theravadan monk and Theravada is usually funded by dana - donation. I follow Teal Swan through her many free clips on her youtube channel, it is not necessary to pay to learn from teachers how to follow the path - I am retired and cannot afford what the world now asks for and I gift my site. The real spiritual journey is inner, is concerned with going deep, and costs nothing. If we can afford it make sure spiritual teachers get paid, but the priority for us all is to follow our paths and that can be done for free.
[Note - I have shared the Eckhart clip you can download, so references will refer to time into the clip.]
Eckhart began by Jesus saying “you are the light of the world”[00.45], and in terms of phala this sent my mental patterns flying. Nature wants to show us the way – light. The light on the way can only be good examples so when we have reached a state of mind that is the way the light wants to show it gives us light – phala. When we have reached a present state of consciousness then phala is a property of the light of consciousness; phala feel good so it is motivational.
Here’s the rub before I get too fanciful. Our light would recognise light in others – even the light in those who are not aware in some way can see through the defilement to recognise; Eckhart describes such a sense (*1), I have faith in this sense but I have to be careful not to get too fanciful - delusion. This light could show us the way; phala could show the way. Of course in this world of defilement, even if there is light on the path it doesn’t mean the defiled would follow. People speculate that if the Buddha were alive today, would people follow? I hope so but suspect not, but I speculate that most would recognise he would be someone to follow if their defilements were not more important. This is where I went with “You are the light of the world”, it is not where Eckhart went.