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The Path of the Dispossessed
Here is a possible explanation for something that has puzzled me for a long time. Why did I have to go through an upheaval? I have no objections because following the path has been such a blessing but at the time with the upheaval before starting on the path why did I hit bottom? Was it necessary for me to hit bottom?
At the start of the Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle described his own “hitting bottom” before coming out the other end, and becoming one of the world’s great spiritual teachers. Why was this necessary?
A now-dead teacher I follow is Ajaan Buddhadasa, and he had no history of upheaval as far as I know. Recently I have been trying to follow Indigenous Wisdom, it appears that for those following the path there is not the same upheaval although some such as Lyla June have had trouble with drink.
Now the Buddha talks of suffering in 4NT, we learn from suffering so it could be suffering that kickstarts us on the path. Yet I perceive a cultural difference – possibly, I am not the Creator to know.
When I consider Ajaan Buddhadasa fitting seamlessly into the Buddhist Thai monastic tradition, I see a tradition that makes such a transition seamless - I am not saying all monks are following the path. Consider Indigenous peoples transitioning seamlessly into the Red Path, does this require any upheaval?
But for me there was no path or tradition to seamlessly slip into. I was fortunate because I found arts people to help me but these people were still on the margins of society, and the surrounding pressures were to conform and my path alienated me from this conformity. Fortunately the path brings with it an inner strength that gives the ability to cope with such adversity.
But this adversity still provides a challenge that usually fights the direction of the path. Our culture requires consumption, it requires a certain amount of financial income to survive. Yet our society does not recognise the importance of the path, it does not reward the path’s abilities. Whilst ET can make sufficient money, there are many teachers who are spiritually aware and yet struggle to make ends meet. Whilst they could be supporting people who are starting on the path, they are forced to choose “careers” that will enable them to get money to survive in society.
In other words I contend that the society I was brought up in – that caused my dispossession makes it hard for people to follow the path. These people on the path find ways of compromise within my culture. Whilst their spiritual awareness always helps those around them this compromise always presents a schizophrenic decision, the path is directing and pulling them yet society pulls in a different way towards compromise with consuming and conformity. Whilst people on the path exhibit competence (an attribute of the path), they are far from using their full potential for the benefits of their culture. Such a waste.
As I have said most people on the path survive in western culture with some sort of compromise. At the same time, these people are always seeking a relationship with nature; so often they become reclusive – again their abilities are not fully used.
There are two further points I want to make about this situation. Because western culture does not encourage people to follow the path, those following the path are restricted by the society they grow up in. Especially for those on the start of the path they still have “normal” attachments. Maybe they are married, maybe they have financial commitments, there might well be a natural commitment to the culture of your birth. Their life is to follow the path within this western culture, within this culture of dispossessed, within the restrictions this culture places on them. As this path comes from Gaia how do they return to Gaia in a society that is dispossessed from Gaia? Secondly are these followers of the path able to help a dispossessed society and culture when their abilities are not valued? Always for these people the path will find some way of helping - that is the nature of its compassion, but in dispossessed cultures the system does not give sufficient respect and therefore those cultures miss out.
There is a very serious negative impact of this missing out. The path is the same for us all whichever culture we are in, spirit is spirit, the path is the path, being is being. But the teaching aspect of the path responds to where the community is at - "mixed ability". In dispossessed cultures like mine the path responds to ego. The ego in my culture is so dominant in greed and arrogance that the spiritual teach about ego. This of course is positive, any lessening of ego can only be beneficial. This is not the problem, the problem is emphasis. People on the path in my culture emphasise ego, and do not emphasise Gaia. It is greed that is destroying Gaia, it is the resource-exploitation without any Gaia-consciousness, it is the consumerism of my culture, all this is detroying Gaia, But the spiritual emphasis is on the individual, it is on the need to learn about ego and its khandha aspects - different words for different paths.
Compare this with Indigenous cultures whose leaders, Elders, are given respect for following the path. As soon as people are beginning to follow the path in Indigenous cultures they promote Gaia, it is Gaia-consciousness that dominates their cultures, not simply the need to deconstruct ego. Both paths end in the same place, but the emphasis is not the same. The Buddhist path, magga, is typical of this. The Noble 8-fold Path focusses on the individual. Of course individuals who follow the 8-fold path will eventually become Gaia-conscious but on the way they will maybe focus on ego and not Gaia. In the end as Buddhadasa puts it they will see idappaccayata as God LINK, but on the way they will be working on ego eventually leading to anatta (no-self) and then idappaccayata.
For this reason ecologically we need to be Indigenous-led as their cultures have the connections with Gaia that can help rebalance Mother Earth; their cultures are not dispossessed. Therefore their wisdom is there to help the world, help Gaia. Whilst our cultures are working on ego they are working on Gaia living in harmony with Gaia. Hence the need for an Indigenous-led Green New Deal.
I spoke of my culture being dispossessed, indigenous cultures become dispossessed in a different way, a far worse way. They are subject to genocide. So whilst they can maintain their connection with Mother Earth they suffer from genocidal exploitation, the dominant ethos of my culture. We impose suffering on those with the wisdom to help us survive. What do we do!!! These cultures need defending not simply because they have human rights, they need defending because they have the wisdom that can help us all to survive. They need defending because they know Gaia, live Gaia's wisdom, and we as dispossessed don't.
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