re. continuing

So this should be the last of the introductions - I have used them as a way for me to tweak the site and get it to the way I had wanted. I think it's pretty much set up now. I've also posted them in case someone falls onto this site by some accident and they're wondering what this is all about. As I said when I first started, it's really just a place for me to continue my personal studies as well as honour and share the wisdom of my Teachers. For the most part, my study is focused on the Teachings of the Buddha, but if I was to go back to the forest with just my monk bags, I would want to take the words of James Allen with me for inspiration and the writings of Lao Tzu with me for contemplation. So, everything that I would take with me to the forest, I will keep here on this site.

I could not take all of the Discourses of the Buddha with me as that would be a pile of books 35 1/2" high (I know, because I just measured it), so instead, I would bring just three books by the Venerable Nyanatiloka Thera: 'The Word of the Buddha', 'The Buddha's Path to Deliverance', and 'The Buddhist Dictionary'. I feel a strong connection to his writings and these three books because he explains everything using the actual words of the Buddha. These are not books about his view of the Buddha's Teachings, these are books of the Buddha's Teachings. So they would come with me and they will be the ones to represent the Buddha's word on this site. The first one is up, the second will take some time to edit and prepare, and the third is started, but will also take some time to complete.

I would also take the inspiring words of James Allen with me. I only have 'As A Man Thinketh' in print, but because his books were relatively small, I think I would print them all out to take with me and so, I will be putting all of them up on the site over the next little while. His writing is a hundred years old and seems to be very sexist in this politically correct age, but once past that, it is some of the most inspiring wisdom that I have come across and will add nicely to the Buddha's Teachings.

Finally, I would take the writings of Lao Tzu, his Tao Te Ching, with me to contemplate. I would want to take a literal translation and a few example translations for each of the 81 chapters and so that is what I will prepare and put up here on the site. There is no one right translation and I have over a hundred translations to choose from, but that's part of what makes it so interesting to contemplate. It's deep, it's mysterious, but it's also extremely profound and will add something quite different, but very rewarding, to the Buddha's Teachings.

The focus of my study will be the Buddha's Dhamma, approaching it in a very methodical way, guided by the outline created in Nyanatiloka's books, 'The Buddha's Path to Deliverance' and 'The Word of the Buddha' with reference to 'The Buddhist Dictionary'. Nyanatiloka is my guide in this journey and the Buddha's teaching will be the center of study. I will toss in a chapter of James Allen here and there to lift and lighten things up and throw in a chapter of the Tao Te Ching every now and then to get down and deep. Between these three Teachers, there is an incredible path to explore and study.

My method of study is perhaps a little strange because I make use of my ASUS Zenfone 2 and it works something like this. I get comfortable in my chair and I start the session with a short silent meditation, usually with the breath as subject, to clear the mind and create a still space to work (fortunately, there's not much up there so it doesn't take too long to empty). I then bring in the new subject, the material that I want to consider for the session. I will have the selected material cut and pasted into the text app that I use on the phone - QuickEdit Text Editor Pro from Rhythm Software. I read it out loud while recording my words with the built-in ASUS Sound Recorder and then will play back the recording a few times during the session. In between listening to the recording, I just sit with it and let whatever comes up, come up. If something does come up, I record my thoughts using the phone again and the Google Voice Recorder that turns my spoken word into text added to the selected material in the text file. If nothing comes up - that's ok too. The session ends after about an hour.

Later, I can open the text file on the phone or computer and edit and add to it so that I can then post the file to this journal to keep a record of my study. I do this either right away on the computer or later on the phone, with a keyboard, at a cafe. I know it sounds a little weird or techy, but it works quite well and actually allows me to focus on the material better than if I were using books, pen and paper. I do turn off all notification during the session so that I'm not disturbed or distracted.

So this is contemplation more than it is a study. I'm more interested in the thoughts that come from contemplating the material. I'm not interested in trying to remember all of the material, like in school, and I'm not interested in trying to prove whether the material is right or wrong - I take it on faith that my Teachers are telling me the truth. This is true Insight meditation - the practice that leads to insights and the meditation subject is the selected material for that particular session.

I should also say that I'm not here to teach anyone anything - the Buddha through Nyanatiloka, Lao Tzu, and James Allen are the Teachers. What I say here doesn't matter much - it's just a record of my thoughts along the way, along the path. I put them here only to have something to look back on as a record of the journey. The wisdom in the right-hand column is the real treasure on this site and I share it out of respect and appreciation for those teachers who changed my life and continue to influence it.

That's it then. Things will likely change as time goes on, but this is my starting plan. I would like to have a session and therefore, a posting here in the journal each day, but there are always other things competing for time. We'll see. I will need to tweak the format of the entries a little, but I think I have it pretty much figured out for now.

Finally, as this is the 'Path' to NoWhere or NowHere (I do like the play on that word), I will throw in the occasional picture of a path along the way, only because I like the image and the idea of a Path that brings us from where we are to a new place, a place we haven't been before, a place where we can be our true self, our best. That's where the Path can bring us if we're willing to make the effort and that's what this is all about - being the best we can be, always and in all ways.

re. finding Lao Tzu

I've spent a great deal of time over the past twenty years studying the Buddha's Dhamma, his teachings as found in the early Pali texts. I became quite interested in what has been called, the Axial Age - the period between 800 to 200 B.C.E. It was the time of the Buddha, but it was also the time in which all foundations that underlie current civilization came into being. The Axial Age plays a central, foundational, or crucial role in human history. So many of the great philosophers and religious leaders including the Buddha, Mahavira, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Zarathustra (of the Mesopotamians), Moses, and many of the great Greek philosophers including Heraclitus, Plato and Socrates, flourished at roughly the same time, as if something parallel was happening in the world, although people were unaware that similar or complimentary ideas were being developed at the same time.

Of those great teachers, Lao Tzu struck a cord with me and his teachings have interested me very much since. He would have roughly been a contemporary of the Buddha, but his history is much more mysterious. According to legend, Lao Tzu was the keeper of the archives in the Zhou imperial court as it grew increasingly morally corrupt. When he was eighty years old he set out on a water buffalo for the western border of China, toward what is now Tibet, saddened and disillusioned that men were unwilling to follow the path to natural goodness. At the border (Hank Pass), a guard asked Lao Tsu to record his teachings before he left. He then composed in 5,000 characters the Tao Te Ching (The Way and Its Power). After writing this piece, Lao Tzu is said to have crossed the border and disappeared from history, perhaps to become a hermit.

The Tao Te Ching is somewhat like the Bible: it gives instructions (at times vague and generally open to multiple interpretations) on how to live a good life. It discusses the 'Tao', or the 'way' of the world, which is also the path to virtue, happiness, and harmony. This 'way' isn't inherently confusing or difficult. Lao Tzu wrote, 'the great Tao is very even, but people like to take by-ways'. In Lao Tzu's view the problem with virtue isn't that it is difficult or unnatural, but simply is that we resist the very simple path that might make us most content.

In order to follow the Tao, we need to go beyond simply reading and thinking about it. Instead, we must learn wu wei ('flowing' or 'effortless action'), a sort of purposeful acceptance of the way of the Tao and live in harmony with it. This might seem lofty and bizarre, but most of Lao Tzu's suggestions are actually very simple.

First, we ought to take more time for stillness. 'To the mind that is still', Lao Tzu said, 'the whole universe surrenders'. We need to let go of our schedules, worries and complex thoughts for a while and simply experience the world. We spend so much time rushing from one place to the next in life, but Lao Tzu reminds us 'nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished'. It is particularly important that we remember that certain things - grieving, growing wiser, developing a new relationship - only happen on their own schedule, like the changing of leaves in the fall or the blossoming of the bulbs we planted months ago.

When we are still and patient, we also need to be open. We need to be reminded to empty ourselves of frivolous thoughts so that we will observe what is really important. 'The usefulness of a pot comes from its emptiness', Lao Tzu said. 'Empty yourself of everything, let your mind become still'. If we are too busy, too preoccupied with anxiety or ambition, we will miss a thousand moments of the human experience that are our natural inheritance. We need to be awake to the way light reflects off of ripples on a pond, the way other people look when they are laughing, the feeling of the wind playing with our hair. These experiences reconnect us to parts of ourselves.

This is another key point of Lao Tzu's writing: we need to be in touch with our real selves. We spend a great deal of time worrying about who we ought to become, but we should instead take time to be who we already are at heart. We might rediscover a generous impulse, or a playful side we had forgotten, or simply an old affection for long walks. Our ego is often in the way of our true self, which must be found by being receptive to the outside world rather than focusing on some critical, too-ambitious internal image. 'When I let go of what I am', Lao Tzu wrote, 'I become what I might be'.

Nature is particularly useful for finding ourselves. Lao Tzu liked to compare different parts of nature to different virtues. He said, 'The best people are like water, which benefits all things and does not compete with them. It stays in lowly places that others reject. This is why it is so similar to the Way (Tao)'. Each part of nature can remind us of a quality we admire and should cultivate ourselves - the strength of the mountains, the resilience of trees, the cheerfulness of flowers.

I found so many things in Lao Tzu's teachings that complimented the teachings of the Buddha, but the writing is sometimes difficult and requires much contemplation. The Buddha is very methodical in his teaching and he speaks clearly to all of those who would listen. Lao Tzu speaks from an enlightened perspective, which makes his words difficult to understand for an unenlightened mind, but the reward of a flash of insight is well worth the time spent with the text. I'm a long way from fully understanding Lao Tzu's teachings and so I expect there to be many more insights to come as I continue my exploration and study of the Tao Te Ching.

re. learning

The best way to learn something is to fully immerse yourself in it. I wanted to be the best I could be and after looking at all the great religious teachers, I believed that the Buddha's teachings, his Dhamma, was the best way to achieve that. Therefore, when I was told, 'You could be a monk', I couldn't think of any better way to immerse myself - I quickly decided, I would be a monk. Needless to say, that was a life changing moment.

I moved into the Buddhist temple on the west side of Toronto in the summer of 1998 and a few months later I became the first Canadian to take novice ordination in the Theravada school of Buddhism in Canada. There had been other Canadians who had taken ordination, but they all left the country to do it - my ordination ceremony was the first one to take place in Canada. Living at the temple gave me access to a great many books on the early teachings of the Buddha. I was able to learn from the residing monks and also those monks who would visit from time to time. It was a very interesting time and I learned a great deal about the culture and religion of Buddhism. I also learned a great deal about the early teachings of the Buddha, as found in the Pali Canon, and it was from these teachings that I realized just how profound and practical the Buddha's Dhamma truly was.

After spending more than a year residing at the temple, I left Canada for Sri Lanka late in 1999 and took up residence in a small cabin in a forest monastery on a mountain near the central town of Kandy, to focus on the Dhamma and my practice. Shortly after my arrival, I found Nyanatiloka's 'The Word of the Buddha'. I had read many books about the Buddha and Buddhism, but this book, 'an outline of the teachings of the Buddha in the words of the Pali Canon' represented to me the true Dhamma - it was not an opinion or view of an author, it was the collected and well-structured words of the Buddha. After finding this book, I focused my study on the actual discourses of the Buddha as found in the Pali Canon. In 2000, I took my higher ordination and spent a few wonderful years living the way forest monks had lived since the time of the Buddha devoted to practice and study.

In 2003, I left Sri Lanka and took up residence at the only Buddhist center in Kenya, where I spent another few years learning and developing my practice and my studies. During this time I built a wonderful community around weekly meditations and study classes and worked hard to create a good library of Buddhist material. I had the great pleasure to meet many good and supportive people who would visit regularly. I also experienced the religious and political side of the religion of Buddhism, which caused me to examine my own attachments to labels and tradition.

Eventually, I moved into a more independent life as a monk outside of the religious establishment and have continued to grow and develop both my practice and my studies to this day. This independence allowed me to explore other teachers including Krishnamurti, Nisargadatta, Marcus Aurelius, and the third of the three great Teachers in my life, Lao Tzu.

re. finding the Buddha

The death of my mother, almost twenty years ago now, spurred me on to a great spiritual inquiry. It's usually some kind of loss or suffering that causes such an inquiry. The words of James Allen and my own mantra kept me in the right frame of mind, but I was looking for a deeper understanding of life and the way to live it well. I focused most of this inquiry on the religions of the world, an area that always interested me, but an area where I spent very little time after my childhood. Essentially, I put all of the great religions of the world out on the table in an attempt to look at them without any prejudice or pre-judgement. At some point during this process, I came across the word Theravada in a book about Buddhism and I felt an immediate connection. The Theravada tradition of Buddhism, based on the Pali Cannon of Buddhist texts, is the earliest existing school of Buddhism and comes closest to the original word of the Buddha.

The Buddha, whose personal name was Siddhattha (Siddhārtha in Sanskrit), and family name Gotama (Skt. Gautama), lived in North India in the 6th century B.C. His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of the kingdom of the Sākyas (in modern Nepal). His mother was queen Māyā. According to the custom of the time, he was married quite young, at the age sixteen, to a beautiful and devoted young princess named Yasodharā. The young prince lived in his palace with every luxury at his command. But all of a sudden, confronted with the reality of life and the suffering of mankind, he decided to find the solution - the way out of this universal suffering. At the age of 29, soon after the birth of his only child, Rāhula, he left his kingdom and became an ascetic in search of this solution.

For six years the ascetic Gotama wandered about the valley of the Ganges, meeting famous religious teachers, studying and following their systems and methods, and submitting himself to rigorous ascetic practices. They did not satisfy him. So he abandoned all traditional religions and their methods and went his own way. It was thus that one evening, seated under a tree (since then known as the Bodhi-or-Bo-tree, ‘the Tree of Wisdom’). On the bank of the river Neranjarā at Buddha-Gaya (near Gaya in modern Bihar), at the age of 35, Gotama attained Enlightenment, after which he was known as the Buddha, ‘The Enlightened One’.

After his Enlightenment, Gotama the Buddha delivered his first sermon to a group of five ascetics, his old colleagues, in the Deer Park at Isipatana (modern Sarnath) near Benares. From that day, for 45 years, he taught all classes of men and women - kings and peasants, Brahmins and outcasts, bankers and beggars, holy men and robbers - without making the slightest distinction between them. He recognized no differences of caste or social groupings, and his teachings were open to all men and women who were ready to understand and to follow them.

At the age of 80, the Buddha passed away at Kusinārā (in modern Uttar Pradesh in India).

As I read about the Buddha and his teachings, I knew that I had found another teacher who would have a great impact on my life. After going through all the books I could find, I made my way to a Sri Lankan Buddhist Temple in Toronto to learn more from the Buddhist monks themselves. Interestingly, a senior monk suggested that I read James Allen's 'As A Man Thinketh' - I told him it was my favorite book and when I shared 'My Way to Happiness' with him, he exclaimed, 'That's Buddhism'. It was that same monk who on another visit said, 'You could be a monk'. The idea had not occurred to me, that I could be a monk, but there was only one thing to do and I knew my life would change drastically.

re. growing

Twenty-five years passed between finding my first Teacher and finding my second. Those were the growing years, I suppose, doing all the things that one does between the age of fifteen and forty. Good times and some hard times - the usual stuff of life. However, throughout those years, the words and the wisdom of James Allen as found in that one little book, 'As A Man Thinketh' were my guide. I had not found any other of his books, and this was a time, at least for the first half, of no computers and no internet. I find it even hard to imagine such a world now, but so it was.

Those twenty-five years were also the years between the death of my father and the death of my mother. The death of my father, when I was 15, sent me looking for some spiritual foundation and I found that foundation in James Allen. I suppose I imagined that his words are the ones that my father would have told me if we had ever had that talk about life and how to have a good one. What I got from both of them was an underlying goal for my life - to be the best I can be. Another goal that has always been a part of me is simply to be happy, not rich, not famous, just happy - that's enough.

During that time, I looked at other teachers and a few come to mind - Zig Ziglar (what a name!) and his book from 1975, 'See You at the Top', Wayne Dyer and his book from 1976, 'Your Erroneous Zones', and then later, Anthony Robbins and from 1986, his book, 'Unlimited Power' and also Stephen Covey and his book from 1989, 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People'. There were others, but these ones stand out. They were good and their messages powerful, but they didn't grab me that way 'As A Man Thinketh' did. I didn't spend much time looking into religions, it was more the motivational stuff that interested me during that time.

Early in that period, I came up with a personal mantra of sorts, one that I would repeat multiple times daily. I think, in a way, I repeated it so often that I became it or it became the way I lived (as much as possible). I called it 'My Way to Happiness' and it was this:
Keep your heart free of hate
Your mind free of worry
Live simply
Expect little
Give much
Fill your life with love
Scatter sunshine
Forget self
Think of others
Do as you would be done by
Live in the present moment
Never stop learning
Smile, smile, smile.

I believed in the power of good positive self-talk and repetition. 'My Way to Happiness' and 'As A Man Thinketh' were read and repeated so many times that it would be impossible to put a number on it. However, through that repetition, I think I internalized them and lived my life accordingly for the most part. There are always bumps in the road, but it was a pretty good twenty-five years.

However, by the end of that period, both my parents were gone. It's impossible to fully appreciate everything that they did for me, all of the things that made me, me. It's also impossible to express my gratitude to them now, but I thank them every day at the end of my meditation. I'm not sure what they would think of my life, but I hope they would be proud. When my mother passed away, at the end of that period, it put me on another search for a deeper meaning to life - one that would bring me to my second great Teacher and a whole new way of life on the other side of the world.

re. finding James Allen

Thinking back, James Allen was my first inspirational/spiritual teacher. I found his little booklet, 'As A Man Thinketh' in a newly opened eclectic new age shop in my hometown of Oshawa, Ontario in the mid 70's. I had never seen such a shop before then and in my mid-teens, I was so pleased to find it. I spent many hours and many days in that shop - the smell of incense, all of the books and the strange things that are common to these types of shops were all new to me. I was like a kid in a candy store. The first book I purchased, which was recommended to me as I had no idea where to start, was James Allen's 'As A Man Thinketh'. I still have it - a bit rough for the wear of just over forty years, but I still have it. It went from Canada to Sri Lanka and is now with me in Kenya - it's been around.

James Allen lived from November 28 (also my father's birthday) of 1864 to January 24 of 1912. He was born in Leicester, England, into a working-class family and had one younger brother (as do I). His mother could neither read nor write. His father, William, was a factory knitter. In 1879 following a downturn in the textile trade of central England, his father traveled alone to America to find work and establish a new home for the family. Within two days of arriving his father was pronounced dead at New York City Hospital, believed to be a case of robbery and murder. At age fifteen, with the family now facing economic disaster, Allen was forced to leave school and find work (I also lost my father at the same age and was also forced to leave school and start to work as a result).

Although working many hours, he continued to read and study. It was around this time that he began reading Shakespeare and at about age 24 he read 'The Light of Asia' - the life of Siddhartha, Gautama Buddha, told in poetic form. This book acted as spiritual awakener for Allen and started him on his path toward 'perfect peace'. His parents are thought to be Methodists and it is clear that he strayed from his parent's religion, drawing inspiration from many religions and committing to no denomination.

For much of the 1890s, he worked as a private secretary and stationer in several British manufacturing firms. In 1893 he moved to London and later to South Wales, earning his living by journalism and reporting. In South Wales, he met Lily Louisa Oram who he then wed in 1895.

In 1901, when he was 37, he wrote his first book, 'From Poverty to Power' and in 1902 he wrote his second book, 'As a Man Thinketh'. Loosely based on the Biblical passage of Proverbs 23:7, 'As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he', the small work eventually became read around the world and brought Allen posthumous fame as one of the pioneering figures of modern inspirational thought. Although this would be his most successful book, it is said that he felt it to be unsatisfactory and not worthy of print. It was his wife, Lily, who convinced him to publish it. Allen learned about publishing and running a magazine from his time working for Sidney Beard on Beard's magazine, 'The Herald of the Golden Age', and in 1902, Allen started his own magazine titled 'The Light of Reason'.

Each issue of his magazine contained announcements, an editorial written by himself on a different subject each month, and many articles, poems, and quotes written by popular authors of the day and even local, unheard of authors. In 1905, Allen organized his magazine subscribers into groups (called 'The Brotherhood') that would meet regularly and reported on their meetings each month in the magazine under the heading 'Our Groups and Their Work'. Allen and his wife would often travel to the group meetings to give speeches and read articles.

Allen moved his family to 33 Broad Park Avenue, Ilfracombe, England to a house they called 'Bryngoleu', or 'Hill of Light'. He eventually took over full editorial control of his magazine and moved its operation to his house. It was also here where he penned most of his works. He and Lily ran their home as a bed and breakfast and often invited subscribers to their magazine to stay at their home. Some of Allen's favorite writings, and those he quoted often, include the works of Shakespeare, Milton, Emerson, the Bible, Buddha, Whitman, Trine, and Lao Tzu.

Each morning Allen would climb The Cairn, a stony spot on the hillside overlooking his home and the sea, in Ilfracombe where he would go to reflect and meditate. He would then return home and write until midday. In the afternoons, he enjoyed gardening and his evenings were spent in conversation with those who were interested in his work. From his home in Ilfracombe, he continued to publish his magazine and produced more than one book per year until his death in 1912. He wrote 19 books in total, which I have all of in my collection.

James Allen died on Wednesday, January 24th, 1912 at his home with his wife and daughter by his side, he was 47. The exact cause of his death is not known. He was cremated on January 30th at 11:00am in Leicester and at about noon, his brother, Thomas, scattered his ashes into the cemetery surrounding the crematorium, saying: 'As these ashes of James Allen are cast to the four winds of Heaven, so may the Truth he taught permeate to the four corners of the earth, carrying with it Joy, Peace, and Consolation'.

Following his death in 1912, his wife continued publishing the magazine under the name 'The Epoch', until her failing eyesight prevented her from doing so. Lily Allen summarised her husband's literary mission in the preface to one of his posthumously published manuscripts, 'Foundation Stones to Happiness and Success', saying: 'He never wrote theories, or for the sake of writing; but he wrote when he had a message, and it became a message only when he had lived it out in his own life, and knew that it was good. Thus, he wrote facts, which he had proven by practice'.

There are so many things about his life that resonate with me and so many things that he wrote that inspire me to this day. He 'Walked the Talk' and he 'Talked the Walk' in a way that is light and inspiring. I have read his works so much over the past forty years, that it is sometimes difficult for me to differentiate between his words and my thoughts - they seem the same. It will be a joy to go back over his work and to contemplate his words once again here.

re. becoming

So what's all this about then? Not really sure why now, but feeling the need to express gratitude to a few Teachers who have shaped this moment. This is a resurrection in a way - there have been previous lives of this site, but another life seems to be needed at this point. The 'Path To Nowhere' is just as easily the 'Path To Now Here' and it is here and now that the effects of these great Teaches are most relevant. Three Teachers - there could be more and others may be considered, but for now, these three provide all that is necessary to awaken. The Buddha, from over 2,500 years ago, shares his wisdom in a way that all can see and develop for themselves if they choose to awaken. Lao Tzu, also from over 2,500 years ago, shares his wisdom, his view of the world, from the perspective of one who is fully developed and awake. James Allen, from just over 100 years ago, shares his wisdom in a way that inspires all to awaken.

It is really hard to express how profound the wisdom of these three Teachers has been to me. James Allen touched me first, some forty years ago, and made me want to be the best I could be. I then found the Buddha twenty years ago and he showed me how to be the best I could be. Finally, I was able to see the world the way Lao Tzu saw it, one that is amazing and deep in mystery. It's been a long journey and the journey continues still - it never ends really.

On this site, it is my intention to share the wisdom of these great Teachers and to review, reflect and contemplate with fresh eyes. I want to go back and go over them carefully once again - to study them and consider them more deeply. I also want to record that study here. It will be a personal journey and a personal resource - all of the material will be open to anyone, but I really don't expect anyone will find this site and I don't intend to push it out there. If a few friends find it, I will be happy. If anyone else finds it, I will be surprised. In my mind, I will think that I am just writing my thoughts down on these pages so that in the future I will be able to look back on them and see where my study has taken me. Hopefully, I will then be a little wiser and a better writer - that will be enough. And so, the journey begins on this new Path To Nowhere.

re. testing

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