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Advice from Zandtaomed
Zandtao meditation page

Viveka Zandtao

Following Path

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. Connecting to 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 connecting to 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 connecting to 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 – not the consequences of activism in daily life. Whatever form activism takes in 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 itself 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 (as Caitlin did here). 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; in some way there has to be 100% engagement even if there are no social actions pro tem. But if we cling to the social activism as meaning in life it is ego, when we follow our path and this 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, connecting to the Dhamma, being autonomous – may cause some 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 this meme 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 with the organising of the 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. And those rewards come in terms of fruits - phala.

It is important to note that path comes from nature, and if we all are in harmony with nature then there will be "peace on earth" - "earth in peace". In following our paths we are not making judgements as to right or wrong, we are not assessing the whole and defining our part, we are simply in harmony with nature. There is an understanding that nature will survive if we live in harmony with her, if we all follow the paths nature has given us. What we do is what we were born to do.

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 connect to 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 and Zandtaomed.

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 might well be linked to 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 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 connect to Dhamma, and the purpose of dhamma teachings is to help you develop this connection. In MwB Buddhadasa provides an understanding of meditation (anapanasati) to help you connect to 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 improve our connection to Dhamma requires transcendence – in lokutarra we are closer to 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 connect; Lokutarra is one such state of mind where the connection is developed.

However let’s look at what the Dhamma is not. The Dhamma is not the teachings, the teachings help you connect to the Dhamma but it is not the state of mind 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, Buddhism 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 teach 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 essential].

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 either.

And we have reached a stage for consideration. There is a Buddhist way of life of compassion to end suffering through connecting to Dhamma. But the more we investigate the more we ask questions. But I have faith in the method; and, even if there are not definable 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”. 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 including meditation, 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. By whatever means 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 can lead to 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