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Zanshadtao - Z-quest



To be Reviewed

Ch 2 Bypassing Anatta

I first met the use of the term “spiritual bypassing” during my centring summer when I used some of Teal Swan’s teaching. I find this talk of hers as a useful description of spiritual bypassing:-



This is the opening of her talk, and she goes on to say “Spiritual bypassing is the act of using your spiritual beliefs to avoid your un-met needs, deep pain and unresolved wounds. Spiritual bypassing is a form of avoidance. Because it’s a form of avoidance it is resistance. Spiritual bypassing is in fact the shadow side of spirituality.” She then goes on to describe different aspects of bypassing, all of which I accept as part of bypassing and therefore a problem. Then at 6.20 mins she says “The path of Spirituality is meant to be a path of reintegration. It’s meant to bring you into an aspect of wholeness in and of yourself.”

I support what Teal is saying in her video, the practices she describes of spiritual bypassing are not following the path. The problem I have is that whenever I hear people discussing spiritual bypassing they are discouraging the following of the path. Maybe this is not so, but it is how I have experienced it recently. Throughout my life the problem has been different, people I have met are afraid to validate their spiritual experiences and are not willing to follow the path. I don’t wish to gloss over the issues of spiritual bypassing, but the priority is for “everyone” to follow their spiritual paths - encourage seekers as much as possible.

For me these attacks on bypassing usually arise from academia, the intellectual establishment – Teal is not part of that. My experience has been that during meetings with intellectuals in general they are unable to experience the fruits of following the path, and therefore deny the existence of the path.



This bypassing gives the intellectual additional ammunition to deride the path. Listen to Teal’s criticisms but please don’t use them to avoid the path, following the path is what we are meant to do and brings with it great joy.

However, is bypassing the shadow side of spirituality? In my own case I am conscious of weaknesses, ways in which I am not following the path. Mindfulness teaches me not to be weak in this way but consciously I continue. This is not shadow because I am conscious. If you listen to Teal’s video and are conscious that you are doing those things, this is weak discipline but not shadow. You can consciously make changes if you choose.

The issue with shadow is that we are not conscious of the shadow, the shadow has been fragmented leading to a split personality disorder – minimal or possibly traumatic. I am conscious of being weak, but with shadow there are actions we take that are beyond our control because they have emerged from shadow - not from consciousness weak or otherwise. Dealing with shadow is usually a process of making the shadow conscious so that we can control actions that arise from a conscious shadow. Making shadow conscious and dealing with the actions is a process of integration, but we cannot deal with unconscious actions -integration must first make shadow conscious.

In I examined the role of solitude in my path, was I bypassing when I went off on my own? So the issue of bypassing is not necessarily about particular actions but the intention. Clearly some of the characteristics Teal describes are not path, but others might on occasion be path-by-intention. Whilst judging itself is not a characteristic of a follower, what we have to be careful of is describing a spiritual person by observation when the intention might well be spiritual. The issue is mainly concerning the kilesa of avoidance. Are people avoiding their duty and responsibility in daily life when they describe their lives as spiritual? There is of course the opposite failing, are seekers avoiding their spiritual duty by hiding in activism? In the Manual I tried to look at both concluding the need for path-activism – pathtivism.

I am turning to Connie Zweig’s book “Meeting the Power of Spirituality: the Hidden Power of darkness on the Path” (known as Spir in references). I think there is a fundamental difference in approaches between Connie and myself, and I feel it is important to find this to stress the importance of following the path. Connie’s focus is on shadow that in the last chapter I described as unconscious conditioning of the mind, I think that the promotion of the spiritual path adds so much to life. Perhaps more than integration? I will be studying this book as a Z-Quest; it will appear that I will be nit-picking, and nit-picking is intellectual. If I find no significant difference I will make that clear in conclusion, and then I will ask you to see my differences as nit-picking and therefore to ignore such intellectual vagaries. I don’t think that will happen but please allow me Z-Quest license to begin with.

“How can someone be enlightened and act out of shadow?” (Batgap 14.00 mins). Earlier Connie described boomers as having an “enlightenment or bust” mentality; here is how she described enlightenment “Pure awareness, big mind, can be reached only through meditation. Enlightenment or liberation from suffering is a result of the regular experience of that” [Spir 8.12]. Does her question that in enlightenment someone can act out ofshadow come out of that? As a meditation teacher I don’t talk about the absolute of enlightenment, my path is not concerned with being enlightened but



With an understanding of enlightenment as some form of perfection then the person cannot act out of shadow because they are enlightened and therefore perfect. But with following the path the teacher is doing their best. “Being the best they can be” would likely to have involved reintegration of shadow as part of that “being best” - "being best" is letting go of conditioning, but it is conceivable that some shadow sneaks through with the best will in the world. Can we be certain that we have let go of all conditioning? Does this have to be bypassing? Or is a better question concerning the intention of the teacher?

Is the path a staged process with a finishing line? For example Connie had TM in common with Rick, and there was an objective of transcendence. There is no issue with transcendence being part of the path, it happens. But transcendence as an objective – some kind of 24/7 transcendence? Such an objective creates a “bust” – creates failure, an objective failure that is completely different from “doing the best you can”. For example, you could be doing the best you can, but never reach enlightenment or 24/7 transcendence; does that mean you are not following your path? Equally perhaps you reach a level of transcendence, and say “got there” giving up to some extent. Isn’t the problem objectives – summative objectives? Is there anything wrong with the formative practice of “doing the best you can”?

Let’s ask again “Is the path a staged process with a finishing line?” Or is it fluid where doing the “best they can” might unintentionally allow shadow through? I am asking these questions without a great deal invested in them because I feel that a spiritual teacher ought to have reintegrated shadow – at least damaging shadow. But for me the path has no absolute position as it is about personal best. If a teacher doesn’t keep it “in his pants” I would have him struck off – except there is nowhere to strike him from. If a teacher exhibits shadow that is hurtful, I feel the same way. But it is fluid and each situation requires its own assessment. In the end it depends on what the teacher claims, I don’t like to make claims – in the website there is experience and methodology that can lead to that experience.

However Connie became disillusioned with the spiritual group she had joined and “Today I see my awakening to this longing in my soul as my awakening to a conscious life, a second birth. I see it as the fuel that drives my ongoing quest for greater understanding and for ecstatic experience. I see this longing behind my other deepest longings. I see it behind my images; I hear it behind my words. I see this longing before me, before I was, and before I become. My goal is not the end of longing; the holy longing itself is my guide” [Spir 8.40]. It appears that this holy longing is totally within herself, and is not part of nature as is the path. Is this conscious life she refers to consciousness within? Is this the difference? Does this limitation explain it? If this is what she has done, it would explain.

At the same time I do not hold with “ecstatic experience” as an objective:-



This is dhammajati – living life according to nature as described by Buddhadasa. In 4 we have the fruits or benefits - the ecstatic experience Connie sets as an objective. They are rewards for performing duty rather than an objective. Is this the same? I think not because of attachment, there can be attachment to the ecstasy; performing duty is just done – carried out – without attachment by design – duty, sometimes the ecstasy happens. Is this the same?

“I have found in my counseling work with hundreds of clients that this essential yearning – a secret feeling with many disguises -- lies hidden at the source of each person’s life story. It is the seed of a soul’s desire, which spurs us to take certain actions, which in turn evoke more desire and again more action” [Spir 8.43]. This pleases me; even if Connie does not see mental wellness (including integrating shadow) as a prelude to the path, she is recognising the path. As it is not yet clear to me what her position is, I want to draw a distinction. Soul is not something I agree with, but by letting soul be the description of the natural function of returning to source there is no problem. Desires for spiritual action are not created by following the path, the path clears away the obstacles (egos/shadow) that conditioning has created. Is this a semantic difference rather than the real distinction about ecstatic experience I described above – as yet I don’t know. However, Connie’s notion of soul appears to be a personal desire and fits in with the individual totality she described above, rather than path coming from interbeing or Unity, Nature or Source. Perhaps this difference between soul and path from Nature goes beyond integrated wellness, perhaps recognising interbeing is a spiritual “extra” path can provide. Techniques for integrating the individual might not be fundamentally different than the first 3 foundations of mindfulness, but interbeing or Source provides a home that completely negates shadow because there is no possibility of ego when there is sunnata – no self – anatta. What does interbeing bring?

In truth I found her intro confusing especially when she was talking of spiritual shadow work; for me this is a contradiction in terms. Shadow arises from conditioning, and spirit is beyond conditioning. So this leaves a question – is my discussion of shadow arising from conditioning incorrect? – is there a component of shadow that is spiritual? Now I say no, but we will have to look at what she says.

But she finished with something I could get along with “But psychological growth and spiritual awakening are not the same animal; spiritual shadow-work does not lead inexorably to enlightenment. In the final section of this book, we move through the shadow to the light – through the deafening betrayal and heartbreaking disillusionment, back to the continuing longing of our souls, and ultimately onward to the end point of evolution itself – union with the source.” [Spir 8.55] Union with source sounds a fine spiritual awakening, it is also beyond the individual that I have criticised; an intro is just that and cannot represent the whole book. It does of course lead to the need to investigate source something that intellect cannot do. “Although psychology is my lens, this book does not reduce spirituality to psychology or reduce the ineffable to words. Instead, I intend to use psychology to explore spirituality, rather than to explain it” [Spir 8.62]. This perturbs me as I don’t know how mind can explore spirit – spirit is experienced in some way – connecting to Dhamma, mind cannot understand that. I can also therefore ask – is spirit beyond mind, not separate but beyond? Again my answer to that currently appears to contradict Connie, but let’s see what she says.

Let’s see where she goes. “In The Holy Longing, I explore an even more primary hunger: the drive toward self-transcendence that fuels evolution itself in the physical, mental, and spiritual worlds” [Spir 11.32]. There is a phraseology that confuses me “physical, mental, and spiritual worlds”, and the issue is implied delineation – are these 3 worlds separate? The physical and mental worlds are not separate as there is some obvious observational sort of overlap, but this “separation” is constantly recognised by science when the term “physical and mental worlds” are used. Then there would be an implication that there are three separate worlds - physical, mental, and spiritual – with some sort of overlap, but for me this is a misdirection. As with the phrase “God is immanent”, the physical, emotional and mental worlds would in some way be included within the spiritual world whilst paradoxically that spiritual world is also beyond, that beyond being transcendence. When spirituality is described as Unity, that Unity includes physical, emotional and mental without separation. Science in general (I include psychology in science as part of academia) likes to separate – delineate, this is a danger when science talks spirituality (why I say the intellect cannot understand the spiritual). But it is possible that I am being unnecessary about her language, and that no such delineation is meant. Giving a sort of parity between evolution in physical, mental and spiritual to me totally diminishes the importance of spiritual evolution; the spiritual path goes “way beyond” the physical and mental, but what is “way beyond”? Talking about that might well be the point of zanshadtao!

“In the mental realm, the holy longing is at work in individual development as the soul longs for manifestation. It attaches to form and conception takes place, beginning the downward journey from unconscious unity to ego consciousness, the journey toward a separate self” [Spir 11.35]. “But for mystics of all traditions and for transpersonal psychologists and philosophers, who intuit the larger story of the holy longing, this moment is another stage in the cycle of consciousness: the beginning of what the Sufis call “the great return.” The holy longing is transformed from a yearning for separation and individuality to a yearning for ego transcendence and union” [Spir 11.37] “In the spiritual realm, this will to transcend is built into the human soul as spiritual aspiration. This yearning can be felt as a restless hunger to unite with a holy Other, something greater than ourselves. It drives the telos or direction of the journey from ego consciousness to Self realization, from personal to transpersonal life, just as the silkworm emerges a butterfly, to use St. Teresa’s metaphor” [Spir 11.38]. To begin with I cannot fault this “from personal to transpersonal” but then it struck me – she speaks of a “holy OTHER”. There is no OTHER; there is Unity, the transpersonal is that Unity without the ego that separates, an ego that she says is created by the Holy Longing. I describe this process as conditioning with survival instinct - not necessarily dissimilar, there is then ego that as mature seekers we let go of. This personal spiritual aspiration for the path means a return to Unity, the separation was a delusion created by ego, created by conditioning. Clearly this is a different explanation, how significant is that difference?

Reflection 1 – This z-quest is different and somewhat unfair. I am questing into the author not to understand but to find where we disagree, to be perfectly honest this would best be done in person. In fact although my z-quest is to nit-pick at points of difference, I am not actually interested in distancing myself from Connie’s position – I just feel we are seeking something different. I am investigating shadow, and trying to determine what it is about following the path that is more beneficial than psychological wellness; Connie might well agree that there is something as she seeks ecstatic experience. With her spiritual background she recognises spirituality but is what she recognises the same – and are the differences important?

Firstly there is sunnata and anatta, and I am surmising Prajnaparamita. Using Eckhart’s two mysteries there is the first mystery of recognition of consciousness and the second mystery of evolving consciousness – perfecting wisdom. In her life review Connie describes her life as being about consciousness including 30 years as a psychologist. For me mental wellbeing is concerned with conditioning, detaching old conditioning and not attaching new conditioning; this conditioning can be egoic or shadow egoic. In my terms this is about the vihara – the first 3 tetrads of physical, emotional and mental, but again using those terms perfecting the vihara has a purpose – quest into the unknown. And this quest concerns Eckhart’s two mysteries - discussed here. With the wellness of the vihara consciousness is freed – faith in my terms as described in this advice on faith and vihara, faith in the path that can take you into the unknown – make the unknown conscious through wisdom and insight.

But making consciousness aware has two stages – the stage of insight and the stage of intellectual understanding. When we bring into consciousness an insight such as during meditation or even an ah-ha moment, it need not necessarily be strictly cognitive or language-based. Insights are true but in terms of language might not be complete. When I was blogging regularly, insights for a blog would arise but I could not fully define that insight. Whilst the insight had deep conviction there was a certain vagueness that needed to be worked through so that the insight had a clarity for daily life – I described this for myself as putting the bones on insight. In my mind there was no doubt about the truth of the insight, truth is a property of insight, but it was not always clear how to bring its relevance into daily life. I suppose it was a process of sampajanna with the tools of sankara-khandha being used to bring the daily-life clarity – what Connie might call conventional clarity. Sankara-khandha brings intellectual understanding – the stage of mental operations. For me a clear distinction between the spiritual of insight and the psychological of intellect.

This insight arrives through a personal vihara but it is not personal, it comes from sunnata – as does the physical, emotional and mental. This is anatta – no self, but it is an understanding of no self I gained from journeying into Prajna. This is a development of the sunnata from Buddhadasa into Thay – the Heart Sutra. So in discussing this I am very conscious of the Diamond Sutra – appendix A, take the warning. Words are so difficult for this. There is no self, it is the way of sunnata. The anatta of Buddhadasa is hard enough but the sunnata of Thay even worse. I think I can make the distinction between Connie’s spirituality and the perfecting of Prajna, and in Zanshadtao I have to make clear what benefits that brings – as part of my learning I don’t know yet.

For descriptive purposes I am going to draw an arbitrary distinction between Buddhadasa-anatta and Prajna-sunnata. I have already said that I think there is a “distinction between Connie’s spirituality and the perfecting of Prajna”, but I think there is also a distinction between Connie and Buddhadasa-anatta. Now anatta is a Buddhist term, and in Buddhadasa’s "Mindfulness with Breathing" by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (MwB) arises in the 4th tetrad. It is no-self and Buddhadasa would use sunnata for this I surmise. Connie’s description of psychology and ensuing spiritual is in terms of self and I met one use of the word Self – an extension of self to Self. Connie also used Other, is that Self? Are we talking of the difference between TM and Buddhism, Hinduism and Buddhism? Are we talking of the Buddha’s journey to evolve Hinduism, anatta being one such evolution? And if that is the case what does accepting the truth of anatta bring to the spiritual path? What are the benefits of anatta?

As a psychologist Connie is focussed on self – in a practical situation this is understandable but is that self without anatta? Is the spiritual aspiration she speaks of concerning self and not the nature of dhammajati? What is the source, the unity she aspires to? What does this distinction bring to Zanshadtao – the spiritual path of nature as opposed to the spiritual aspiration of self to Self. That is going to be difficult to be fair as I don’t know TM and Hinduism except from theosophy times forty years ago.

So Zanshadtao could be all about anatta, sunnata and Prajna, none of which can be put into words!!! But what is spiritual shadow if it is not shadow ego on the spiritual path? Please excuse the continued nit-picking but they have these reflections in mind.

End-Reflection

“Christian mystic Meister Eckhart put it this way: “Now the seed of god is in us. The seed of a pear tree grows into a pear tree. The seed of god grows into god”” [Spir 11.38]. It is not unusual for such a seed to be described – as in the next quote below, and yet mean seed that leads to anatta. But at the same time, if Connie is in some way literally talking about us growing into gods rather than returning to source then we have the significant difference discussed in Reflection 1; there is much to be clarified around that point. “Buddhists teach this too: they believe that a seed of Buddhahood lies at the core of every sentient being, and its realization is the end point of our evolution” [Spir 11.38]. More confusion. We are all Buddha-nature, Source, sunnata. So that seed is not a form of individualisation but the seed of Buddhahood that returns us to source. Whilst there have been Buddhas in the past, these are not separate selves; they just manifest as individuals. [The language of the intellect has great difficulty with anatta and then Prajna. Muttley]. When I look at ants I can see a separate creature that functions as an ant collective, waves appear single and powerful yet they are just a property of sea. The seed of Buddhahood returns to source.

In describing holy longing “I suggest that by making conscious the descent, development, and ascent of the soul, we can participate more consciously in evolution” [Spir 11.49]. I find myself falling further back into a Buddhist dogma or doctrine difference, and that is not constructive. The descent from birth is based on instinct and conditioning creating egos that we let go of to return to source – sunnata. This is not a soul’s journey but the effect of conditioning – the cause and effect of daily life. And we have the first crux of the discussion – why Buddhism? When does it matter that it is the Holy Longing of a soul and when does it matter to be the teachings of anatta in Buddhism? In Buddhism the Buddha did not answer whether there was a soul, but did propound anatta. Of course, I can’t answer what the Buddha did not answer, so there could be difficulties here. The path asks us to go beyond conditioning – to transcend the conditioning – cause and effect of daily life. Is this the conscious “ascent of the soul to participate in evolution”? Is this Prajna or Eckhart’s evolutionary 2nd mystery?

From now on there is some clarity, and that there is a difference of anatta. I am not here to promote one doctrine over another except where there is clarity in practice. Or conversely a disadvantage in practice. I am a Buddhist for reasons of “better practice” so unless anatta gives such a reason I will not mention doctrinal differences. The path comes from nature and takes us beyond conditioning, Holy Longing takes Connie in descent, development and ascent of the soul; I am interested only in knowing when anatta does this “better” - different.

When does anatta matter? When does Prajna matter?

I just came across this, immediately I jumped at it and thought great.

but then I thought When does anatta matter? When does Prajna matter? For most aspects of what is in the meme they don’t, and I feel the same about Connie so far – for most they don’t matter. Anatta is not nit-picking but when?

Is there shadow of the soul? A bit of wickedness there Muttley!!

[Spir 11.51-11.72] Under the subtitle of “Awakening the Holy Longing” Connie discusses how she has the longing in many patients over 35, how the longing shows itself diversely across all religions, how the longing can get buried in substance abuse, or how seekers ignore the call and hide in fear. If it is ever-present, however bypassing manifests itself such longing needs to be encouraged and not ignored. That is my big concern ignoring the awakening call that can bring such benefits. Despite difficulties for a while my call was unavoidable and I am ever so grateful; for this reason please don’t be held back by claims about bypassers, but do be wary and avoid those who try to abuse.

““The inner urge that sets us seeking is itself the thing we are looking for.” Karlfried Graf Durckheim” [Spir 11.74]. The urge in the seeker is what the seeker seeks – there is no separation except for the ego that is in the way. The vihara, the vehicle of the seeker, with faith can find what it’s looking for – itself. I liked this quote.

“However, the road is often crooked and narrow: the spiritual dream carries many believers neither into the blue sky of clarity, nor into the waters of absolution; instead it delivers us into the cloud of ambiguity, into the chaos of dissolution. With spiritual shadow-work, I suggest that this very ambiguity can become a way out of the prison of spiritual innocence and into a greater life of spiritual maturity” [Spir 11.134]. So what she is describing as spiritual shadow work is a recognition that people can have spiritual desire but not be following their paths. Maybe this repressed path could be referred to as a spiritual shadow and releasing it helps seekers back onto the path. Difference feels much less now, we’ll see.

“With the rise and consolidation of the ego, the holy longing is transformed from a yearning for individual separateness toward a radiant burning for union with the holy Other. It may emerge as a longing for another individual in romantic union or for a spiritual communion with a group or teacher or for a more unified state of consciousness” [Spir 13.72]. I haven’t experienced the path in this way, and it has been different enough to discuss here. In the last chapter I discussed my partial awakening leading to a fuller awakening in retirement especially during my centring summer; and I see that gradual process continuing until I am not capable. This compares with “a radiant burning for union with the holy other” even though I see it as a process of letting go of conditioned egos. At the partial awakening the path was strong, new and strong, and closeness to the path was a measure ever since then; whilst there is no vigour in my current feelings I have never felt closer to my path (except maybe at the Chiswick loft) but my awareness now is far clearer.

For the downward cycle, which Connie describes as “the rise and consolidation of ego” because of the “yearning of the holy longing”, I feel no connection to my path, and question whether there is a connection to holy longing in the downward part of the cycle. The downward part is however natural so it is path in that sense. I see it more in terms of survival although I have learnt that (as a teaching) rather than experienced it. The survival comes from instinct, initially the instinct for mother-love and father-love with food associated with that. Through that love conditioning created egos that helped me survive in society whilst I was educated into social agreements conforming to the middle-class ethos that I rejected once I started work. To describe anything that happened prior to the partial awakening as holy seems completely inappropriate to me, it was simply a time of conditioning. I don’t know where the partial awakening came from, I just accept it as having happened – maybe kamma, something that is beyond my understanding.

Since my partial awakening there has been some sort of agency that I measured as close to the path. During my second childhood, initially I was close to the path; I made efforts to be close without any great understanding of those efforts – what I did just worked. Once I started teaching closeness to the path became less of a measure. The holidays were a time of spiritual recovery in solitude interspersed with occasional jhanas and occasional writing, a creativity with the associated jhanas that the path gave me at partial awakening. Efforts became more conscious after 20 years when I started a mid-life review that led to some meditation, and a conversion to Buddhism 5 years later. By this time I was not thinking in terms of closeness to the path but more in terms of Buddhism, study and meditation. My decision to retire was related to closeness; even though I covered it up at work it became harder and harder to come back from the holiday’s solitude, and I had sufficient money to retire early when I did. In a typical year of teaching my path was only the solitude, and the teaching became harder and harder to suffer; in retirement I did some volunteer teaching. Through the teaching and solitude I had gained the maturity I lacked at the partial awakening, and through Buddhism I got closer to my path throughout the year, close enough that efforts then brought me to the path of writer that is now followed.

In the downward part of the cycle there was no agency so I am not willing to describe that as path, unconscious path gave me the partial awakening – firstgrace, and then some sort of agency or effort has characterised the path since then. Throughout all of my life there has been conditioning – as there is in everyone’s life, but the path started with the partial awakening when I started to go beyond that conditioning.

Now we have language issues because “I started to go beyond that conditioning” is not correct. As far as I recollect there was no agency in my partial awakening, it just happened – “I” did not cause it through some sort of desire or awareness. I am comfortable with saying that the causality came from sunnata and not any longing associated with “I”, the “I” at that time was ignorant of the path. Through second childhood it is possible to say that some sort of “self concerning spirit grew” – I did not understand anatta then, and accept that this “spiritual self” guided me. But even then there was a routine of teaching and solitude. Once my compassion took me into teaching, the teaching itself was simply conditioned teaching – I just taught. The holidays as centring in solitude had path guidance written all over them rather than any spiritual desire. There was no pattern or direction to the holiday solitude – just get away and centre, more studying in the holidays as I got older but the reading was part of the getting away and had no conscious developmental structure. There was no self guiding me, the agency was not I, I was following the path.

For me Buddhism meant meditation. Since retirement the “inner guide” of meditation gave direction. There was a lifestyle that involved meditation and study with the study coming from meditation. The writing started with Matriellez getting rid of the teaching – conceivably that could be argued as conditioning with some creativity. There was Baengoi that started before I retired, Matriellez gave way to the Treatise, I was blogging regularly but books were slow – much quicker now (since 2017). What makes decisions does not seem to be that conscious. Let’s take Viveka-Zandtao – a long book that took not much more than a year. A friend said listen to this – a podcast interview about Stephen Batchelor’s book on solitude, I did, forgot it and then it later came to me to write Viveka-Zandtao.

Zanshadtao was building – it seems that intellectuals are using bypassing to discourage seekers from following the path. I listened to the beginning of the Batgap interview with Connie Zweig and Zanshadtao started – I then discovered I had listened to Connie during the centring summer. As a mathematician, I can plan – organisation was a strength, but there feels no such direction in what I do. Some days ego must be less and action happens – it just happens. Even with Zanshadtao I don’t know where it is going. I was going to listen to the Batgap interview, I stopped, now it is the book, and then …? When Zanshadtao broke through there was a blitz of structure – not happened before, I don’t know whether I will stick with it. It all feels erratic, stuff comes through at times of less ego. Meditation is meant to be regular but not always, and there is no correlation, if I was organising this it would be more orderly! How much of this has anatta as component?

Same quote “It may emerge as a longing for another individual in romantic union”. Love is an integral part of the path, but immaturity was central to my state of conditioned egos. I was too immature to consider the life of a spiritual teacher but to be fair despite the awakening I was unaware of the spirituality in the path. Prior to the awakening there was a shallow shell of conditioned egos, and this combined with an intense shyness had made romance impossible. Once there was awakening there was something to relate to, and relationships started – not many, but they became about the cosmic union. And when it happened it was Peyton Place. Despite the pain it was still love, and it was into retirement before I began to feel grateful for this romantic love because it opened the door to spiritual love.

After the partial awakening there was much seeking – diverse eclectic seeking that completely fits Connie’s phrase a “smorgasbord of tastes (that) never satisfies”. This stopped with Peyton Place, and after her seeking became replaced with politics – and then travel. There was never much contact with the spiritual community in my second childhood and little contact with creatives. This prepared me for the solitude that characterises my path. But apart from the turmoil around my partial awakening the path was always there but never a radiant burning.

I can only characterise the appearance of path as erratic. Now the path is constant as sunnata, by its very nature it wants to come through. But sadly conditioning is always constant so this means that even after partial awakening there was always egos. There was no choice in my agreement with middle-class conformity so there was limited ego for firstgrace to fight. But egos and alcohol addiction followed that awakening so whilst the path was a constant it was often blocked – by addiction to begin with and then ego. With the mid-life review after 25+ years of second childhood egos were let go allowing the path in that became Buddhism and then writing in solitude. With this sort of reflection on my path it is not appropriate to call it holy longing. Even with the benefits of partial awakening I can only say the path was there and sometimes came through, a description that so much more fits the path of Buddhism fighting conditioning than any holy longing. But I am so grateful it was there.

Connie talks of a turning point in the cycle of consciousness. For me it was hitting bottom and firstgrace coming – an appropriate turn! My ego of clinging to middle-class conformity was very weak, there was limited consciousness invested in it. The conformity pushed me to qualifications, and through qualifications the first job – fortunately a good one but one that I thankfully wasted. But middle-class conformity is far more than education, it is the whole package including marriage, the home and the desire for kids to follow that same conformity. It is the package that is more than qualifications that provides the discipline to hold down and excel in a career. I had none of that. Then I stepped down from the good job, good that it might have held me longer, to a job where I struggled to get up, and a social environment that meant nothing to me. I went to the bottom with the booze, and at the weakest egoic point firstgrace came in with a bang – thank goodness.

Personally I cannot relate to holy longing as the driving force. There are similarities because the path is constant – giving the appearance of a holy longing. But it seems more apt to see that path pushing through egos at whatever times than it does to describe a desire that implies conscious application. My “spiritual self of collected spiritual egos” would want to talk of holy longing that I was more or less conscious of, but a constant path pushing through at times of egoic weakness feels a more accurate description.

I like this path pushing through as a meditation elder. The path is always there, but is blocked by conditioning. In MwB meditation we go through the tetrads letting go of egos, first with kaya, then vedana, then citta, and as we perfect the vihara at some point the path can decide to come through especially if we work on the 4 Dhamma Comrades of sati-mindfulness, panna – wisdom, samathi – concentration, and sampajanna – wisdom-in-action. The path is always there, it is anatta, and our conditioned egos block it from happening – until they don’t.

“In Wilber’s terms, this turning involves the shift from pre-personal to personal (ego) to transpersonal levels of development. Transpersonal experience involves the extension of identity beyond (trans) the individual ego to encompass wider aspects of the mind, humanity, or the cosmos. In the context of transpersonal psychology, the holy longing is an innate urge to transcend the ego, to move up the ladder of evolution, to reach ever greater levels of awareness toward unity with the transcendent One” [Spir 13.77]. This describes the process in a personal and transpersonal way with reference to Ken Wilber; it doesn’t fit for me, read it (Connie’s Chapter 2) it might fit for you.

“Today, at the height of the ego’s reign, many people believe we have outgrown the gods. They can be explained away as projections or reduced to childhood fantasies. But I believe, with Jung, that the archetype of god incarnates within us as the Self, a spark of the divine. And it will be present, called or uncalled. If the imago remains unconscious, if it acts upon us outside the boundaries of awareness, then it can pull us like a magnet towards unknown territory. It can keep the heart in bondage to childhood representations. It can trap the mind in idolatry. It can cause the soul to wander endlessly, without rest. With our overemphasis on rationality, the holy longing has been banished. In turn, this has resulted in the widespread loss of the imago dei. However, just as building a relationship to our shadow images can deepen and enrich our soul life, so can the meeting with the god image. And in our society that encounter often takes place when we fall in love” [Spir 13.116-13.118].

Yesterday, I finished here tired – not sharp – not clear. The writing had gone to the right place but in the fatigue I had missed the point. Ditthupadana – clinging to ideals. Why had I missed the point when Connie works in academia? Why had I missed the point when she quoted Ken Wilber? It is the metier of academia to put forward hypotheses, and gather info about that hypothesis as a means of justification. That is exactly what Connie has done – a theory of Holy Longing and justification thereof, a theory of imago and justification thereof. There was experience of her clients who had this holy longing there but experience was not the benchmark because it is academia.

I saw it as TM and Hinduism against Buddhism positing anatta as significant, but that is not enough either. Buddhism is ditthupadana unless you experience it. Without clarity I used experience to justify the path and ego – anatta, but that makes it true for me. True for others? That’s up to you! True because it is Buddhism – mostly no way. Especially early on in retirement the theories of Buddhism turned out to be good in practice. Now I don’t say that of Buddhism but say it of certain teachers – mainly Buddhadasa and Thay. And what they said turned out to be true. But even then it is not true for me until it is true for me, and likewise it is not true for you until it is true in practice. How much of this book about spirituality is about theory? Shadow is not theory but in looking at shadow I don’t want to be bogged down in theoretical constructs – ditthupadana, in this Z-quest I must see through this filter, the filter that weeds out ditthupadana. SEE ditthupadana.

Reflection 2 I had a typical break caused by minor ill-health. Coming back, I see a good process going on – eventually. Holy longing is a desire like the word aspiration, it is individual and not anatta; I am comfortably pleased with that assessment (a bit contradictory for anatta Muttley). “Holy longing” would be an appropriate description of that aspect of sunnata in conventional terms so long as anatta is recognised. Whilst it is good for me to be clear about anatta, I am not sure if I have attempted to convey to others why anatta is a better practice than individual spiritual desire? Perhaps that should be part of this z-quest.

Anatta is an issue for the consciousness of the path - Eckhart’s first mystery. Does the 2nd mystery come in yet – what I am calling Prajna? Is there a process of perfecting wisdom? In some senses maybe, there is a greater clarity about anatta for me – maybe perfecting my “wisdom”. I need to then reaffirm the Buddha’s Diamond Sutra warning that for me says whatever aspect of truth I am investigating or propounding, make sure I am practicing atammayata to the best of my ability. (see Appendix A). Don’t get sucked into the intellectual trying to understand what it can’t, and then go wayward – attaching to sankara.

Spiritual Love Spiritual love is the natural state of sunnata – anatta, the conditioned ego blocks this off by deluded romantic love or pain from relationship. So again longing expressed in human terms can be understood through anatta.

The realities of romantic love were best described by Thich Nhat Hanh to a French woman. Given the stereotypes I imagine this young woman growing up seeking romantic love, and hoping Thay would reinforce that conditioning. Didn’t happen. My romantic love I called Peyton Place for all the pain it brought me. I lived with that pain for maybe 7 years until the shadow was released in Nyanga. But there was still ego there after Nyanga – a forlorn hope for romantic love that lasted until I retired. This hope took the form of providing a home for someone, and fashioning images of where I would meet such a love. Ever since the arts collective there was always the female artist, then the homely woman – such an impossibility as I never wanted children, travel made me think of woman from different cultures, then a woman had to have a base in their culture so I had to be settled, and finally Thailand – Buddhist women of beauty – with the reality of mutual exploitation that typifies mixed race relationships here. None of these images were real, none were based on knowledge of real women in their cultures, it was all based romantic egoic desire. Once I had reached the stage of having stopped searching for a partner, there was the possibility of spiritual love. And over time that came, and with it the realisation that Peyton Place had been needed to push away my ego and allow spiritual love through, cosmic love had failed, romantic desire could not be fulfilled in the real world so conditioned ego had nothing to hold onto leaving sunnata’s spiritual love to come through.

It cannot be doubted that we are conditioned towards romantic love. This upbringing comes from the family’s need to continue, the social stigma that comes from being single, Hollywood’s theme of walking down the aisle being the beginning of happiness, and commerce’s focus on the family unit being the source of consumerism. But it could be argued by those whose marriages last until death that their love was romantic, I view this as legitimate dependency. Typically there is young love, a mixture of conditioning based on the need to leave home and the sexual urge; this passion feels real. The passion and community pressure brings them into marriage, there are children, and before any realisation can happen there is a lifestyle trap of family, home and work. After the children have grown there is the extended family, and the convenience of a stable home and a partner who provides some comfort. Such love can be enjoyed especially when the couple compares with other couples and the fear of living alone.

I wish every couple good fortune, and I hope they enjoy their lives together with a minimum amount of suffering; whilst I value my solitude that does not prevent me from wanting people to be happy. It is not my experience but maybe a seeker within marriage can find spiritual love because somehow their marriage enables them not to have conditioned egos. Paths are so varied, and I am so happy for anyone finding spiritual love. But as an institution marriage (and relationship) are setup for conditioned egos, and therefore as an institution will create egos that prevent reconnecting with sunnata.

This understanding of ego and relationship (cosmic or otherwise) is very different from the romantic longing Connie talks of. I am grateful to Peyton Place for the experience of deep love that eventually helped me reconnect with spiritual love. But I see that romantic love as a stepping stone to spiritual love. I again find this anatta analysis as clear and helpful – stepping back from egoic longing and seeing that spiritual love is always present in sunnata. Clarity – there is anatta and ego – nothing in between, no personal spiritual longings.

“What is the relationship between this longing for a human beloved, or imago amore, and the longing for the divine beloved, or imago dei?” [Spir 15.4]. My answer is that imago amore is a stepping stone, a removal of conditioned egos helping us reconnect with sunnata; there is no longing. The 4NT talks of not clinging to desire, is calling this desire longing or aspiration anything other than clinging? The spiritual lesson, the lesson for pathtivists, is that making such words as aspiration or longing “spiritually real” is a form of clinging, avoid such delusions and egos. A lesson of anatta.

Here in terms of longing Connie describes how the longing of romantic love (Eros) can function as the stepping stone “Eros appears on the threshold between our reach and our grasp, drawing a thin line between subject and object, lover and beloved, and thereby stoking the fires of holy longing. We glimpse the beloved, and walls of separation crumble. We gaze into his eyes and recognize an ancient symmetry. We hear an obscure call to ascend, to leave our limitations behind in a flight toward the heavens. An instant later, we are jolted back to earth, inside our own skin, inside our own solitude, inside our own suffering” [Spir 15.6]. “The walls of separation crumble” – reconnecting to sunnata.

But the last sentence screams at me fear of loneliness. Spiritual love is part of solitude – viveka, there need not be suffering in solitude. Anatta includes letting go of the separation of our own skin, accept that “our own skin” is still sunnata, work on letting go of the attachment that conditioning promotes with the separation of individuals; despite the conventional separation of individual bodies we are still Unity – like waves in the sea.

Connie uses Eros as a divine “gap between what we have and what we seek” leading to “I suggest that it’s not people we crave; it’s not sexual union; it’s not material satisfaction. It’s self-transcendence toward a higher level of spirit, toward union with god” [Spir 15.8]. This again is focussed on the individual and risks ego with longing and self-transcendence. With anatta the transcendence has nothing to do with self, transcendence occurs when the vihara is sufficiently devoid and ego and faith takes us to lokutarra – transcendence reconnects with sunnata. Is this just pushing the Buddhist line? No, because longing and self-transcendence both attach to a self, admittedly a self that “by these terms” is spiritual but it is still self. When seekers speak of Self it is beyond ego, but it somehow feels there is an intermediate “spiritual” attachment between ego and anatta. And attachment is ego. There would be agreement in the two views – getting rid of ego, the disagreement would be that Self, self-transcendence and longing are “spiritual egos”. If there is attachment then it matters, for Self is there attachment? That is for the experience of seekers who accept Self, self-transcendence and longing.

“And when it appears in the form of romantic yearning, it is ultimately a spiritual desire for greater and greater union or completion.

“Therefore, the erotic yearning of human love both conceals and reveals divine love. It is not simply individual longing; it contains or reflects cosmic longing.” [Spir 15.10]. What Connie is talking about is very useful in understanding romantic love and spiritual love. Accept anatta, see ego as concealing spiritual (divine) love, and then fit what Connie says into that framework. Then there is meaning together. Start with conventional love, seek “cosmic” love, and then go beyond the individual, reconnect with sunnata – anatta – the driving force all along. Romantic love from the conditioned ego can lead to spiritual love of sunnata by letting go.

“And, like the imago dei, the imago amore evolves as our consciousness develops. Therefore, as the tension of otherness ignites our yearning, love becomes a vehicle of evolution” [Spir 15.27]. Overnight there was clarity concerning imagos that showed itself in meditation. These imagos are image-egos, and because they are egos we have to be careful how we use them – how I am comfortable for using them in psychology I will discuss below. An imago I use as Zandtaomed is the “inner guide”. This is an imago of wisdom, and in meditation there is a seeking of the inner guide with a view to wisdom guiding action in daily life – sampajanna; this is a use of 2 of the 4 Dhamma Comrades arising from meditation. There is no restrictive use with the inner guide, I am not forming an image of wisdom that would restrict the wisdom I reconnect with. Meditation simply seeks the inner guide, meditation asks the question, insight arises and I act on this wisdom, sampajanna. The inner guide is not wisdom, it is an aspect of wisdom that I reconnect with during meditation.

Another imago I have beneficially used is the imago of the inner child as discussed in Thay’s “Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child” LINK. In order to learn from the inner child Thay’s reconciliation creates an imago of the inner child that in meditation there are conversations with. In my case there was already present the ego associated with the inner child, Thay’s method gave this inner child an image-ego to converse with, and once the inner child was heard that image-ego disappeared – letting go of the ego (image-ego).

When egos are created there is a risk of restriction. The inner guide is not a restriction of wisdom, it is an attempt to develop insight during meditation – reconnecting with wisdom. In a sense one could describe MwB as reconnecting with the 4 Dhamma Comrades as a whole, although at present I see it more as perfecting the vihara to release consciousness that faith uses to follow the path (my clearest discussion of path is here in Viveka-Zandtao LINK). In Zanshadtao I have used path synonymously with anatta and sunnata.

With the imagos I have discussed here there have been two processes concerning anatta, the inner guide attempts to access the wisdom of sunnata (anatta) but in no way restricts that wisdom. Thay’s reconciliation embodies an imago of the already existing inner child with a view to letting it go, this embodiment increases the ego then lets it go – a beneficial process.

I do not have the confidence that the way in which Connie describes imagos does not cause restriction. Because Tantric Buddhism includes the word “Buddhism” does not mean that I accept it, I have never used it – I have various Buddha images on my altar for meditation but they are not part of my MwB method. If I have an internal imago dei as an objective to aspire to, to help me connect to God ie fashioning God, that could well be restrictive. Is this what Connie means? It is not my method so I don’t know, making any form of desire as longing or aspiration runs the risk of attachment as spiritual ego – already discussed. Because I don’t use such methods there is no restriction for me, is there for Connie and any who follow similar teachings? That is for them to decide. In my practice there is no restriction of sunnata. My practice says try to perfect the vihara and release any attachment as consciousness that the magnetism of faith can reconnect with sunnata. This practice does not fashion sunnata, does not restrict, it detaches egos of upadana, kilesa and khandha, freeing up the attached consciousness for faith to use in reconnection. (See advice Vihara and Faith LINK).

For psychology, and therefore an aspect of integration and completeness, I can see the recognition of imagos as useful. In psychology we are dealing with conventional mind, a mind that is full of egos – this could be seen as the mind (citta) of the vihara that we are trying to perfect, make complete, integrate. When we look at the vihara, are all the egos visible – are we conscious of these egos or are they hidden? Shadow! For example, was I seeking imago-mum in any partner I had? And if so, did it create problems? In my case if it is true then it is shadow as I was never conscious of it. When I look back at relationships, pain such as Peyton Place and others, this imago-mum pales but was it there and did it matter? I don’t know. As a meditation elder I need to be conscious of potential shadows because in my limited experience shadow always arises during meditation – for myself and the seekers I work with. I have normally relied on my own personal experience of shadow to help the seekers, and in truth this lack of awareness is a weakness. Seeing Connie’s imagos as potential shadows helps, I suspect, but I can only know from practice. As my method deals with what arises in meditation, imagos are going to be described by the seeker in what arises. In Ch 11 of the Companion there is a description of integrating fragments, egos or selves that have formed either consciously or unconsciously as shadow; it is part of the Zandtaomed method to consider such imagos, egos or shadows.

The emphasis of the method is to work with what arises – the egos that arise – and letting them go. Seekers with some form of seeking come to me, as opposed to psychologists for who seeking need not be conscious and for whom clients are looking primarily for mental wellness. There is a different emphasis in working with seekers as compared with psychology and clients. I am not trained as a psychologist and consider that interactions could arise where dealing with the egos and shadows is way beyond my capability.

At the same time there can essentially be no compunction on the path, the seeker has to be ready to leave behind the raft of the teachings and follow the path. Can pressure increase that ability to leave behind the raft? Personally I think no, but there are far wiser people who can possibly answer that. For me there needs to be a balance in perfecting the vihara freeing up faith and sunnata to do the rest. However, there is a sense of compunction when a client looks for psychiatric help because they are having difficulties coping with daily life. There is a clear need for coping. In terms of shadow this coping could well mean that shadow is interfering with daily life and the client does not know why it is happening. Such a client seeks mental wellness. For the spiritual path such shadow functions at a different level. There is seeking, and the shadow is creating egos that prevent reconnection to sunnata; a seeker in general is coping with daily life, has a level of mental wellness, but feels there is more to life than the daily grind. This feeling is ongoing pressure from anatta, has a level of compunction, but is not the same as the need for mental wellness to cope with daily life. Is it anatta functioning at different levels?



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