Alan Watts – Enjoy the Dream

In this lecture Alan Watts talks about meditation, silence and other concepts of reality and life.

alan watts


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this particular weekend seminar is devoted to buddhism and it should be said first that there is a sense in which buddhism is hinduism stripped for export last week when i discussed hinduism i discussed many things to do with the organization of hindu society because hinduism is not merely what we call a religion it’s a whole culture it’s a legal system it’s a social system it’s a system of etiquette and it includes everything it includes housing it includes food it includes art because the hindus and many other ancient peoples do not make as we do a division between religion and everything else religion is not a department of life it is something that enters into the whole of it but you see when

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a religion and a culture are inseparable it’s very difficult to export a culture because it comes into conflict with the established traditions manners and customs of other people so the question arises what are the essentials of hinduism that could be exported and when you answer that approximately you get buddhism as i explained the essential of hinduism the real deep root isn’t any kind of doctrine it isn’t really any special kind of discipline although of course disciplines are involved the center of hinduism is an experience called maksha liberation in which through the dissipation of the illusion that each man and each woman is a separate

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thing in a world consisting of nothing but a collection of separate things you discover that you are on one level an illusion but on another level you are what they call the self the one self which is all that there is the universe is the game of the self which plays hide and seek forever and ever when it plays hide it plays it so well hides so cleverly that it pretends to be all of us and all things whatsoever and we don’t know it because it’s playing hide but when it plays seek it enters onto a path of yoga

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and through following this path it wakes up and the scales fall from one’s eyes now in just the same way the center of buddhism and the only really important thing about buddhism is the experience which they call awakening buddha is a title and not a proper name it comes from a sanskrit root and that sometimes means to know but better waking and so you get from this root bodhi that is the state of being awakened and so buddha

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the awakened one the awakened person and so there can of course in buddhist ideas be very many buddhas the person called the buddha is only one of myriads because they like the hindus are quite sure that our world is only one among billions and the buddhas come and go in all the worlds but sometimes you see there comes into the world what you might call a big buddha a very important one and such a one is said to have been gautama the son of a prince living in northern india in the part of the world we now call nepal

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living shortly after 600 bc all dates in indian history are vague and so i never try to get you to remember any precise date like 564 which some people think it was but just after 600 bc is probably right most of you i’m sure know the story of his life but the point is that when in india a man was called a buddha or the buddha this is a title of a very exalted nature it is first of all necessary for a buddha to be human he can’t be any other kind of being whether in the hindu scale of beings he’s above the human state or below it he

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is superior to all gods because according to indian ideas gods and angels or angels would probably be a better name for them than gods all those exalted beings are still in the wheel of becoming still in the chains of karma that is action which requires the need for more action to complete it and goes on requiring the need for more action they are still according to popular ideas going round the wheel from life after life after life after life because they still have the thirst for existence or to put it in a hindu way in them the self is still playing the game of not being itself but

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the buddha’s doctrine based on his own experience of awakening which occurred after seven years of attempts to study with the various yogis of the time all of whom used the method of extreme asceticism fasting doing all sorts of exercises lying on beds of nails sleeping on broken rocks any kind of thing to break down egocentricity to become unselfish to become detached to exterminate desire for life but buddha found that all that was futile that was not the way and one day he broke his ascetic discipline and accepted a bowl of some kind of milk soup from a girl

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who was looking after cattle and suddenly in this in tremendous relaxation he went and sat down under a tree and the burden lifted he saw completely that what he had been doing was on the wrong track you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and no amount of effort will make a person who believes himself to be an ego be really unselfish so long as you think and feel that you are a somewhat contained in your bag of skin and that’s all there is no way whatsoever of your behaving unselfishly oh yes you can imitate

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unselfishness you can go through all sorts of highly refined uh forms of selfishness but you’re still tied to the wheel of becoming by the golden chains of your good deeds as the obviously bad people are tied to it by the iron chains of their misbehaviors you know how people are when they get spiritually proud they belong to some kind of a church group or an occult group and say we are the ones who have of course the right teaching we’re the in group we are the elect and everybody else outside is uh really off the track but then comes along someone who one-ups them by saying well in our circles we are very tolerant and we accept all religions and all ways as leading to the one but what they’re

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doing is they’re playing the game called we are more tolerant than you are you see and in this way the egocentric being is always in his own trap so buddha saw that all his yoga exercises and ascetic disciplines had just been ways of trying to get himself out of the trap in order to save his own skin in order to find peace for himself and he realized that that is an impossible thing to do because the motivation ruins the project he found out then you see that there was no trap to get out of except himself trapped and trapped are one and when you understand that there isn’t

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any trap left i’m going to explain that of course more carefully so as a result of this experience he formulated what he’s called the dharma that is the sanskrit word for method you will get a certain confusion when you read books on buddhism because they switch between sanskrit and pali words the earliest buddhist scriptures that we know of are written in the pali language and pali is a softened form of sanskrit so that for example whereas the doctrine of the buddha is called in sanskrit the dharma but in pali and in many books buddhism you’ll find the buddha’s doctrine described as the dhamma and so in the same way karma

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in sanskrit becomes in pali kama buddha remains the same the dharma then is the method now the method of buddhism and this is absolutely important to remember is dialectic that is to say it doesn’t teach a doctrine you cannot find anywhere what buddhism teaches as you can find out what christianity or judaism or islam teaches because all buddhism is a discourse and what most people supposed to be its teachings are only the opening stages of the dialogue so the concern of buddha as a young man the

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problem he wanted to solve was the problem of human suffering and so he formulated his teaching in a very easy way to remember all those buddhist scriptures are full of what you might call mnemonic tricks numbering things in such a way that they’re easy to remember and so he proposed he summed up his teaching in the form of what are called the four noble truths and the first one which because it was his main concern was the truth about dukkha suffering pain frustration chronic dis ease it is the opposite of sukha which means sweet pleasure etc

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so insofar as the problem posed in buddhism is dukkha i don’t want to suffer and i want to find someone or something that can cure me of suffering that’s the problem now then if there’s a person who solved the problem a buddha people come to him and say master how do we get out of this problem so what he does is to propose certain things to them first of all he points out that with dukkha go two other things these are respectively called anitya anitya and i’m not man

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means permanent so impermanence flux change is characteristic of everything whatsoever there isn’t anything at all in the whole world in the material world in the psychic world in the spiritual world there is nothing you can catch hold of and hang on to for safety nothing not only is there nothing you can hang on to but by the teaching of anatman there is no you to hang on to it in other words all clinging to life is an illusory hand grasping at smoke if you can get that into your head and

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see that that is so nobody needs to tell you that you ought not to grasp because you see you can’t see buddhism is not essentially moralistic the moralist is the person who tells people that they ought to be unselfish when they still feel like egos and his efforts are always and invariably futile because what happens is he simply sweeps the dust under the carpet and comes back again somehow but in this case it involves a complete realization that this is the case so that’s what the teacher puts across to begin with the next thing that comes up the second of the noble truths

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is about the cause of suffering and this in sanskrit is called trishna trishna is related to our word thirst it’s very often translated desire that will do better perhaps is craving clinging grasping or even to use our modern psychological word blocking when for example somebody is blocked and dithers and hesitates and doesn’t know what to do he is in the strictest buddhist sense attached he’s stuck but a buddha can’t be stuck he cannot be phased he always flows just as water always flows even if you damn it the river just keeps on getting higher and higher and higher until it flows over the dam

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it’s unstoppable now buddha said then dukkha comes from krishna use all suffer because you cling to the world and you don’t recognize that the world is anitya and anatman so then try if you can not to grasp well do you see that that immediately poses a problem because the student who has started off this dialogue with the buddha then makes various efforts to give up desire upon which he very rapidly discovers that he is desiring not to desire

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and he takes that back to the teacher who says well well well he said of course you are desiring not to desire and that’s of course excessive all i want you to do is to give up desiring as much as you can don’t want to go beyond the point of which you’re capable and for this reason buddhism is called the middle way not only is it the middle way between the extremes of ascetic discipline and pleasure seeking but it’s also the middle way in a very subtle sense yes don’t desire

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to give up more desire than you can and if you find that a problem don’t desire to be successful in giving up more desire than you can you see what’s happening at every time he’s returned to the middle way he is moved out of an extreme situation now then we’ll go on we’ll cut out what happens in the pursuit of that method until a little later the next truth in the list is concerned with the the nature of release from dukkha and so number three is nirvana nirvana is the goal of buddhism it’s the state of liberation corresponding to what the hindus call

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moksha the word means blow out knee and it comes from the root nevrti now some people think that what it means is blowing out the flame of desire i don’t believe this i believe that it means breathe out rather than blow out because if you try to hold your breath and in in indian thought prana breath is the life principle if you try to hold on to life you lose it you can’t hold your breath and stay alive it becomes extremely uncomfortable to hold on to your breath and so in exactly the same way it becomes extremely uncomfortable to spend all your time holding on to life what the devil is the point of surviving going on living when it’s a drag

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but you see that’s what people do they spend enormous efforts on maintaining a certain standard of living which is a great deal of trouble you know you get a nice house in the suburbs and the first thing you do is you plant a lawn you’ve got to get out mow the damn thing all the time and you buy expensive this that and soon you’re all involved in mortgages and instead of uh being able to walk out in the garden and enjoy it you sit at your desk looking at all the books and filling out this that and the other paying bills and answering letters what what i’m not a rot but you see that is holding on to life so translated into colloquial american nirvana is [Laughter] because if you let your breath go it’ll come back

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so nirvana is not annihilation it’s not disappearance into a sort of undifferentiated void nirvana is the state of being let go it is a state of consciousness and a state of you might call it being here and now in this life we now come to the most complicated of all the number four margaret in sanskrit means path and the buddha taught an eight-fold path for the realization of nirvana this always reminds me of a story about dr suzuki who was a who is a very very great buddhist scholar and uh

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many years ago he was giving a fundamental lecture on buddhism at the university of hawaii and he got to he’d been going through these four truths and he said ah fourth nobu truth is caller nobor eightfold path first step of uh noburu april path called shoken show can japanese mean right view or buddhism fundamentally is right view right way of viewing this world second step of number 84 path is uh oh i forget second step you look it up in the book [Laughter] oh well i’m gonna do rather the same thing

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what is important is this the eightfold path is really got three divisions in it the first are concerned with understanding the second division is concerned with conduct and the third division is concerned with meditation and every step in the path is preceded by the sanskrit word samyak in which some is the key word in pali sama and so the first step samyak drishti which means drishti means a view a way of looking at things a vision an attitude something like that

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but this word samyak is in ordinary texts on buddhism almost invariably translated right this is a very bad translation it does of course the word is used in certain contexts in sanskrit to mean right correct but it has other and wider meanings some means like our word some which is derived from it complete total all embracing it also has the meaning of middleweight uh representing as it were the fulcrum the center the point of balance in a totality middleweight way of looking at things middleweight way of understanding the dharma

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middleweight way of speech of conduct of livelihood and so on now this is particularly cogent when it comes to buddhist ideas of behavior every buddhist in all the world practically as a layman he’s not a monk undertakes what are called pancha sila the five good conducts sila sila is sometimes translated precept but it’s not a precept because it’s not a commandment the formula when the buddhists you know these priests say chant the precepts you

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know [Music] life departure taking away i promise to abstain from so the first is that one undertakes not to destroy life second not to take what is not given third ho ho this is usually translated not to commit adultery does say it doesn’t the anything of the kind in sanskrit kamesu mitchara vera means i undertake the precept to abstain from exploiting my passions

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buddhism has no doctrine about adultery you may have as many wives as you like but the point is this when you’re feeling blue and bored it’s not a good idea to have a drink because you may become dependent on alcohol whenever you feel unhappy so in the same way when you’re feeling blue and bored it’s not a good idea and say let’s go out and get some chicks and uh have some sex fun that’s exploiting the passions but is not exploiting the passions you see when drinking say expresses the conviviality and friendship of a group sitting around the dinner table or when sex expresses the spontaneous delight of two people in each other

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then the fourth precept nusavada to abstain from false speech this doesn’t simply mean lying it means abusing people it means using speech in a phony way like saying so or the attitude of america to this situation is thus and thus you see that’s phony kind of talking anybody who studies general semantics will be helped in avoiding speech the final precept is a very complicated one and nobody’s quite sure exactly what it means

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it mentions three kinds of drugs and drinks we don’t know what they are but at any rate is generally classed that narcotics and liquors now there are two ways of translating this precept one says to abstain from narcotics and liquors the other liberal translation favored by the great scholar dr malala sakura is i abstain from being intoxicated by these things so if you drink and don’t get intoxicated it’s okay you see you don’t have to be a teetotaler to be a buddhist this is especially true in japan china my goodness how they throw it down [Laughter] i once say but a scholarly chinese said

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to me you know before you start meditating just have a couple of martinis because it increases your progress by about six months well now you see these are as i say they are not they’re not commandments they’re vows buddhism has in it no idea of there being a moral law laid down by some kind of cosmic law giver and the reason why these precepts are undertaken is not for a sentimental reason it is not that you’re going to make you into a good person it is that for anybody interested in the experiments necessary for liberation these ways of life are expedient

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first of all if you go around killing you’re going to make enemies and you’re going to have to spend a lot of time defending yourself which will distract you from your yoga if you go around stealing likewise you’re going to acquire a heap of stuff and you’re going to again make enemies if you exploit your passions you’re going to get a big thrill but it doesn’t last when you begin to get older you realize well that was fun while we had it but i haven’t really learned very much from it and uh now what same with speech nothing is more confusing to the mind than taking words too seriously we’ve seen so many examples of that

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and finally to get intoxicated or narcotized narcotic is anything like alcohol or opium which makes you sleepy the word narcosis in greek means uh nox is sleep so if you want to pass your life seeing things through a dim haze this is not exactly awakening [Laughter] so then uh that’s the concern so much for the conduct side of buddhism we come then to the final parts of the eightfold path there are two concluding steps which are called explained the word samadhi but i’ll write it here again

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means recollection memory present-mindedness seems rather funny that the same word can mean recollection or memory and present-mindedness but shmeethi is exactly what that wonderful old rascal gorjev meant by self-awareness or self remembering shmriti is to have a completely complete presence of mind so it uh there is a wonderful meditation called the house the jackpot meditation at least that’s what i call it that the southern buddhists practice he walks and he says to himself there is a lifting of the foot there is a lifting of the foot next thing he says there is a perception

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of the lifting of the foot and then next he says there is a tendency towards the perception of the feeling of the lifting of the foot then finally he says there is a consciousness of the tendency of the perception of the feeling of the lifting of the foot and so with everything that he does he knows that he does it he is self-aware this is tricky of course it’s not easy to do but as you practice this i’m going to let the cat out of the bag which i suppose i shouldn’t do but you will find that there are so many things to be aware of at any given moment in what you’re doing

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that at best you only ever pick out one or two of them that’s the first thing you’ll find out ordinary conscious awareness is seeing the world with blinkers on as we say you can think only of one thing at a time that’s because ordinary consciousness is narrowed consciousness that’s being narrow-minded in the true sense of the word looking at things that way then you find out that as in the course of going around being aware of what you’re doing all the time what are you doing when you remember or when you think about the future i’m aware that i’m remembering i’m aware that i’m thinking about the future but you see what eventually happens is you discover that there isn’t any way of being absent-minded

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all thoughts are in the present and of the present and when you discover that you approach samadhi samadhi is the complete state the fulfilled state of mind and you will find many many different ideas among the sects of buddhists and hindus as to what samadhi is some people call it a trance some people call it a state of consciousness without anything in it knowing with no object of no of knowledge some people say that it is the unification of the noah and the known all these are varying opinions i had a friend who was a zen master and he used to talk about somali and he said

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a very fine example of samadhi is a fine horse rider when you watch a good cowboy he is one being with the horse so an excellent driver in a car makes the car his own body and uh he absolutely is with it so also a fine pair of dancers they don’t have to shove each other to get one to do what the other wants him or her to do they have a way of understanding each other of moving together as if they were signing these twins on the physical ordinary everyday level the samadhi of which buddha speaks is the state uh which is as it were the gateway to nirvana

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the state in which the illusion of the ego as a separate thing disintegrates now when we get to that point in buddhism buddhists do a funny thing which is going to occupy our attention for a good deal of the seminar they don’t fall down and worship they don’t really have any name for what it is that is really and basically the idea of anatman of non-self is applied in buddhism not only to the individual ego but also to the notion that there is a self of the universe a kind of impersonal or personal god

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and so it is generally supposed that buddhism is atheistic it’s true depending on what you mean by atheism common or garden atheism is a form of belief namely that i believe there is no god the atheist positively denies the existence of any god all right now there is such an atheist if you put a dash between the ah and theist or speak about something called an atheos theos in greek means god but what is a non-god

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a non-god is an inconceivable something or other i love the story about a debate in the houses of parliament in england when as you know the church of england is established and therefore under the control of the government and the high ecclesiastics had petitioned parliament to let them have a new prayer book and somebody got up and said it’s perfectly ridiculous that parliament should decide upon this because as we well know there are quite a number of atheists in these benches and somebody got up and he said oh i don’t think there are really any atheists here we all believe in some sort of something somewhere [Laughter] now again of course it isn’t that uh some buddhism believes in some sort of

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something somewhere and that is to say in vagueness here is the point if you believe if you have certain propositions that you want to assert about the ultimate reality or what paul tilley calls the ultimate ground of being you’re talking nonsense because you can’t say something specific about everything you see supposing you wanted to say god has a shape but if god is all that there is then god doesn’t have any outside so he can’t have a shape you have to have an outside and space outside it to have a shape so uh that’s why the hebrews too are against people making images of god

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but uh nonetheless jews and christians persistently make images of god not necessarily in pictures and statues but they make images in their minds and those are much more insidious images buddhism is not saying that the self capital s the great atman or what not it isn’t denying that the experience which corresponds to these words is realizable what it is saying is that if you make conceptions and doctrines about these things you are liable to become attached to them you are liable to start believing instead of knowing so they say in zen buddhism the doctrine of buddhism is a finger pointing at the moon do not mistake the finger for the moon

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also we might say in the west the idea of god is a finger pointing at god but what most people do is instead of following the finger they suck it for comfort and so buddha chopped off the finger and uh undermined all metaphysical beliefs there are many many dialogues in the pali scriptures where people try to corner the buddha into a metaphysical position is the world eternal the buddha says nothing is the world not eternal and he answer nothing is the world both eternal and not eternal and he don’t say nothing is the world neither eternal nor not eternal and still he don’t say nothing

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he maintains what is called the noble silence sometimes later called the thunder of silence because this silence this metaphysical silence is not a void it is very powerful the silence is the open window through which you can see not concepts not ideas not beliefs but the very goods but if you say what it is that you see you erect an image and an idol and you misdirect people it’s better to destroy people’s beliefs than to give them beliefs i know it hurts but it is the way that is what cracks the eggshell and lets out the chick of course if you want to stay in the eggshell you can but you’ll get addled [Laughter]

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this then you see is why buddhism is in dialogue form the truth cannot be told it can be suggested it can be indicated and a method of interchange between teacher and student can be arranged whereby the teacher constantly pricks the students bubbles and that’s what it’s all about and because that’s the way it is we find that in the course of history buddhism keeps changing it develops it grows as people make all these explorations that the original buddha suggested they find out all kinds of new things they explore the mind they find out all the tricks of the mind they uh oh they find out ever so many things and they begin to teach these things talk about

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them and some people influenced by in modern asia influenced by protestantism say let’s go back to the simple original teachings of the buddha these people say let’s get back to the simple teachings of jesus well the simple teachings of jesus are as lost as lost can get nobody can read the new testament with a clean mind today because whenever you look at the bible don’t you hear some preacher’s voice in your childhood reading those words hasn’t your culture taught you to interpret these words in certain ways you can’t get back and nobody can get back to buddha you can only go on to buddha so that’s why in zen they just burn the books up i mean occasionally because to burn up books you’ve got to have some books to banner but when uh you know you guys say that

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the teaching of the founder is the thing this is terrible it’s like the oak suddenly saying one day hey we ought to have all these leaves around here we ought to be just that simple little acorn now a living tradition grows and but what it does is this as it grows say grew from a seed an acorn keeps dropping off new acorns you don’t go back to the old acorn you get a new one that becomes a new seed for another tree this is fine now let me just warn you the scholarly study of buddhism is a magnum opus beyond belief there are two collections of buddhist canonical scriptures one is in pali the other was originally in sanskrit but we don’t have a complete collection of it in sanskrit we have these collections in tibetan

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and chinese bigger than the encyclopedia britannica as a matter of fact so it’s a formidable enterprise to get into the buddhist scriptures and what’s more most of them are unbelievably boring they were written by monks with plenty of time to pass on wet afternoons during the monsoon and uh they repeat and they elaborate and they are full of kind of preparatory you know how in the silly trick in radio they have of giving a fanfare to introduce the program so in the same way these scriptures have fanfares in which all sorts of buddhas are introduced and we beings and they’re all described and where they were assembled and how many of them there were and where they were sitting and what kind of bowels they made and all this jazz

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and then finally a few pearls of wisdom were dropped by the buddha or else they sometimes go on for pages and pages of actually very very subtle and very profound discourse that is not dull if you have a punishment for that kind of thing but uh i warn you don’t try too hard to read the buddhist scriptures it’s all right to read the dhammapada which are sayings of the buddha it’s all right to read the diamond sutra it’s all right even to read the surangama sutra or the lankavatara but when you get mixed up with the larger pragma parameter and all those things you’re in deep water so you see from time to time buddhists get tired of the scriptures actually they keep them in a revolving bookcase in some monasteries

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being about so high so wide it revolves and instead of reading all the stuff you’re supposed to be able to acquire as much merit as you would from reading it all by twirling the bookcase around once in uh zen monasteries they have an annual ceremony for reading the scriptures but they are printed like an uh accordion in other words the pages are connected to each other zigzag and then they have board on the back of the front so that you can pick one up and go like that you know like a slinky uh moves and so they each monk is assigned a pile of the volume this happens once a year and they all chant sections of the scripture but very often each monk chants a different one

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and while they’re doing this they pick up a volume and go click and put it down on the other side pick up the crown click and this is the annual reading of the scriptures there’s a wonderful picture of this being done in suzuki’s book the training of the zen buddhist monk so you see buddhists are funny about scriptures they don’t treat them the way christians treat the bible they respect them they occasionally read them but they feel that’s the writing the written word is purely incidental it is not the point and indeed it can be a very serious obstacle drunks a taoist sage once said just as a dog is not considered a good dog just for being a good barker a man is not considered a good man just for being a good talker

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so uh we have to watch out for the traps of words you must understand as one of the fundamental points of buddhism the idea of the world as being in flux i gave you the sanskrit word anitya as one of the characteristics of being emphasized by the buddha along with anatman the unreality of a permanent self and dukkha the sense of frustration luka really arises from a person’s failure to accept the other two characteristics lack of permanent self and change you see in buddhism the feeling that we have of an enduring

0:55:00.4 –>
organism i meet you today and i see you and then tomorrow i meet you again and you look pretty much as you look yesterday and so i consider that you’re the same person but you aren’t not really when i watch a whirlpool in a stream here’s the stream flowing along and there’s always a whirlpool like the one at niagara but that whirlpool never never really holds any water the water is all the time rushing through it in the same way a university the university of california what is it the students change at least every four years the faculty changes at a somewhat slower rate the building changes they knock them down put up new ones the administration changes so what is the university of california

0:56:03.4 –>
it’s a pattern a doing of a particular kind and so in just precisely that way every one of us is a whirlpool in the tide of existence and we are in every cell in our body every molecule every atom is in constant flux and nothing can be pinned down you know you can put bands on pigeons or migrating birds and identify them and follow them and find out where they go but you can’t tag atoms much less electrons they have a curious way of uh appearing and disappearing and one of the great puzzles is in physics what are electrons doing when we’re not

0:57:00.4 –>
looking at them because our observation of them has to modify their behavior we can’t see an electron without putting it in an experimental situation where our examination of it in some way changes it what we would like to know is what it’s doing when we’re not looking at it does the light in the refrigerator really go off when we close the door [Laughter] but this is fundamental you see to buddhistic philosophy the philosophy of change from one point of view change is just too bad everything flows away and there’s a kind of sadness in that a kind of nostalgia and there may be even a rage

0:58:01.2 –>
go not gently into that good night but rage rage at the dying of the light but there’s something curious there can be a very fundamental change in one’s attitude to the question of the world as fading on the one hand resentment and on the other delight if you resist change of course you must to some extent when you meet another person you don’t want to be thoroughly rejected but you love to feel a little resistance don’t you you know you have a beautiful girl

0:59:00.2 –>
and you touch her you don’t want her to go blah but so round so firm so fully packed a little bit of resistance you see is is great so there must always be resistance in change otherwise there couldn’t be even change there’d just be a the world would go and that be that’ll be the end of it but because there’s always some resistance to change there is a wonderful manifestation of form there is a dance of life but the human mind as distinct from most animal minds is terribly aware of time and so we think a great deal about the future and we know that every visible form

1:00:02.7 –>
is going to disappear and be replaced by so-called others are these others others or are they the same forms returning of course that’s a great puzzle our next year’s leaves that come from a tree going to be the same as this year’s leaves what do you mean by the same they’ll be the same shape they’ll have the same botanical characteristics but you’ll be able to pick up a shriveled leaf from last autumn and say look at the difference this is last year’s leaf this is this year’s leaf in that sense they’re not the same what happens when uh any great musician

1:01:00.7 –>
plays a certain piece of music he plays it today and then he plays it again tomorrow is it the same piece of music or is it another in the pali language they say which means not the same and yet not another so in this way the buddhist is able to speak of reincarnation of beings without having to believe in a some kind of soul entity that is reincarnated some kind of atman some kind of fixed self ego principle soul principle that moves from one life to another

1:02:00.3 –>
and this is as true in our lives as they go on now from moment to moment as it would be true of our lives as they appear and reappear again over millions of years it doesn’t make the slightest difference except that there are long intervals and short intervals high vibrations and low vibrations when you hear a high sound high note in the musical scale you can’t see any holes in it it’s going too fast and it sounds completely continuous but when you get the lowest audible notes that one can hear on an organ you feel the shaking you feel the vibration you hear that music so in the same way as we live now from

1:03:01.1 –>
day to day we experience ourselves living at a high rate of vibration and we appear to be continuous although there is the rhythm of waking and sleeping [Music] but the rhythm that runs from generation to generation and from life to life is much slower and so we notice the gaps we don’t notice the gaps when the rhythm is fast so we are living as it were on many many levels of rhythm this is the nature of change if you resist it you have dukha you have frustration and suffering but on the other hand if you understand change

1:04:01.9 –>
you don’t cling to it and you let it flow then it’s no problem it becomes positively beautiful which is why in poetry the theme of the evanescence of the world is beautiful when shelley says the one remains the many change and pass heaven’s light forever shines earth’s shadows fly life like a dome of many colored glass stains the white radiance of eternity until death shatters it to fragments now what’s beautiful in that is it heaven’s light that shines forever or is it rather the dome of many colored glass that shatters see it’s always the image of change that really makes the poem

1:05:02.6 –>
tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps on life’s petty pace from day to day somehow you know the poet has got the intuition the fact that things are always running out the things are always disappearing has some hidden marvel in it the japanese have a word nugen y-u-g-e-n which has no english equivalent whatsoever and you again is in a way digging change it’s described poetically you have the feeling of yugan when you see out in the distant water some ships

1:06:00.3 –>
hidden behind a far-off island you have the feeling of you again when you watch wild geese suddenly seen and then lost in the clouds you have the feeling of you again when you look across mount tamilpais and you’ve never been to the other side and you see the the sky beyond you don’t go over there to look and see what’s on the other side that wouldn’t be you again you let the other side be the other side and it evokes something in your imagination but you don’t attempt to define it to pin it down you can so in the same way the coming and going of things in the world is marvelous they go where do they go don’t answer because that would spoil the mystery

1:07:02. –>
they vanish into the mystery but if you try to pursue them you’ve destroyed eugene that’s a very curious thing but that idea of yugan which in chinese characters means as it were a kind of the deep mystery of the valley there’s a poem in chinese which says the wind drops but the petals keep falling the bird calls and the mountain becomes more mysterious isn’t that strange there’s no wind anymore and yet petals are dropping and a bird in the canyon cries

1:08:01.4 –>
and that one sound in the mountains brings out the silence with a wallop like i remember in the when i was at almost a child in the pyrenees in the southwest of france we went way up in this gorgeous silence of the mountains but in the distance we could hear the bells on the cows clanking and somehow those tiny sounds brought out the silence and so in the same way slight permanences bring out change and they give you this very strange sense you again the mystery of change

1:09:01.3 –>
you know in elliot’s poem the four quartets where he says the dark dark dark they all go into the dark distinguished families members of the book of the director of directors everybody they all go into the dark life is life you see because just because it’s always disappearing supposing suddenly by some kind of diabolical magic i could say and every one of you would stay the same age forever you’ll be like madame tussauds waxworks you would be awful in a thousand years from now what

1:10:00.8 –>
beautiful hags it would be [Laughter] so the trouble is that we have one-sided minds and we notice the wave of life when it is at its peak or crest we don’t notice it when it’s at the trough not in the ordinary way it’s the peaks that count take a buzzsaw what seems important to us is the tips of the teeth they seem to do the cutting not the valleys between the teeth but do you see you couldn’t have tips of teeth without valleys between them

1:11:00. –>
therefore the saw wouldn’t cut without both tips and v-shaped valleys but we ignore that we don’t notice the valleys so much as we notice the mountains valleys point down mountains point up and we prefer things that point up because up is good and down is bad but seriously we don’t praise the peaks of being high and blame the valleys for being low but it is so you see that we ignore the valley aspect of things and so all wisdom begins by emphasizing the valley aspect as distinct from the peak aspect we pay plenty of attention to the peak aspect that’s what captures our

1:12:00 –>
attention but we somehow screen out the valley aspect but that makes us very uncomfortable it seems that we want and get pleasure from looking at the peaks but actually this denies our pleasure because secretly we know that every peak is followed by a valley the valley of the shadow of death and we are always afraid because we are not used to looking at valleys because we are not used to living with them they represent to us a strange and threatening unknown maybe we are afraid the principle of the valley will conquer and the peaks will be overwhelmed maybe death is stronger than life because life always seems to require an effort death is something into which you slide effortlessly

1:13:01.1 –>
maybe nothing will overcome something in the end wouldn’t that be awful and so we resist change ignorant of the fact that change is life [Music] and that nothing [Music] is invariably the obverse face of something most people are afraid of space they ignore it and they think space is nothing space and solid are two ways of talking about the same thing space solid you don’t find space without solid you don’t find solids without space if i say there’s a universe in which

1:14:00.2 –>
there isn’t anything but space you almost have space between what space is relationship and it’s it always goes together with solid like that goes with front but the divisive mind ignores space and it thinks that it’s the solids that do the whole job but they’re the only thing that’s real that is to put it in other words conscious attention ignores intervals because it thinks they’re unimportant it’s considered music when you hear music what you really hear when you hear melody is the interval between one tone and another the steps as it were on the scale

1:15:02.5 –>
it’s the interval that is the important thing so in the same way in the intervals between this year’s leaves last year’s leaves this generation of people and that generation the interval is in some ways just as important some ways more important than what it’s between actually they go together but i say the interval is sometimes more important because we under emphasize it so i’m going to over emphasize it as a correction so space night death darkness not being there is an essential component of being there you don’t have the one without the other just as you your buzzsaw has no teeth without having valleys between the tips

1:16:00.8 –>
of them that’s the way being is made up this concludes session 11 of out of your mind essential listening from the alan watts audio archives our program continues with session 12. [Music] in buddhism change is emphasized first to unsettle people who think that they can achieve permanence by hanging on to life and it seems that the preacher is wagging his finger at them and saying you know like the scotch preacher one day saying to sunday congregation preaching on the text the vanity of vanities all his vanity and what about the rich food you put

1:17:00.4 –>
into your mouths it is vanity and the fine arrangement you put on your box it is vanity and all you are playing around going to golf instead of coming to the cure for the sabbath with his vanity and you’ll be spending earlier alive devoted to vanity and the last day will come the day of your death and because you’ve devoted your life to vanity you’ll go down to the burning fiery brimstone pits of hell and there you’ll look up and say unto the lord oh lord i didn’t know it oh lord i would not devoted my life to vanity fat no oh lord and the lord he’ll look down and he’ll say unto you out of his infinite mercy well you know it now [Music] [Laughter] so all the preachers together

1:18:00.4 –>
don’t think of this thing so then as a result of that and i’m going to speak in strictly buddhist terms the follower of the way of buddha seeks deliverance from attachment to the world of change he seeks nirvana the state beyond change which the buddha called the unborn the unoriginated the uncreated and the unformed but then you see what he finds out is that in seeking a state beyond change seeking nirvana as something away from samsara which is the name for the wheel he is still seeking something permanent and so there are in in as buddhism went

1:19:00. –>
on they thought about this a great deal and this very point was the point of division between the two great schools of buddhism which in the south were theravada the doctrine of the thera the elders sometimes known disrespectfully as the hinayana jana means a vehicle a conveyance a diligence a uh or a ferry boat this is a ghana and i live on a ferry boat because um that’s my job then there is the other school of buddhism called the mahayana maha means great

1:20:00.3 –>
hina little the great vehicle and the little vehicle now what is this the mahayanas say your little vehicle just gets a few people who are very very tough ascetics and takes them across the other shore to nirvana but the great vehicle shows people that nirvana is not different from ordinary life so that when you have reached nirvana if you think now i have attained it now i have succeeded

1:21:00.8 –>
now i have caught the secret of the universe and i am at peace you have only a false peace you have become a stone buddha you have a new illusion of the changeless so it is said that such a person is a pratyaka buddha that means private buddha i’ve got it all for myself and in contrast with this kind of pratyaka buddha who gains nirvana and stays there the mahayanist used the word bodhisattva satwa means essential principle bodhi awakening a person whose

1:22:01.8 –>
essential being is awakened the word used to mean junior buddha someone on the way to becoming a buddha but in the course of time it came to mean someone who had attained buddhahood who had reached nirvana but who returns into everyday life to deliver all other beings this is the popular idea of a bodhisattva a savior and so in the popular buddhism of tibet and china and japan people worship the bodhisattvas the great bodhisattvas as saviors say the hermaphroditic quan yin people love kuan yin because she he she he could be a buddha

1:23:00. –>
but has come back into the world to save all beings the japanese call and they have in kyoto an image of cannon with one thousand arms radiating like a great oriole all around this great golden figure and these one thousand arms are one thousand different ways of rescuing beings from ignorance i remember one night when i suddenly realized that kanon was incarnate in the whole city of kyoto that this whole city was come on that the police department the taxi drivers the fire department the mayor and corporation the shopkeepers in so far as this whole city was a collaborative effort to sustain human

1:24:02.3 –>
life however bumbling however inefficient however corrupt it was still a manifestation of come on with its thousand arms all working independently and yet one so they revere those bodhisattvas as the saviors who come back into the world to deliver all beings but there is a more esoteric interpretation of this the bodhisattva returns into the world that means he has discovered that you don’t have to go anywhere to find nirvana nirvana is where you are provided you don’t object to it change and everything is changed nothing can be held on to to the degree that you go with a stream

1:25:02.2 –>
you see you are still you’re flowing with it but to the degree you resist the stream then you notice that the current is rushing past you and fighting with you so swim with it go with it and you’re there you’re at rest and this is of course particularly true when it comes to those moments when life really seems to be going to take us away and the stream of change is going to swallow us completely the moment of death and we think oh oh this is it this is the end and so at death we withdraw say no no no no not that not not not yet please but actually

1:26:00.3 –>
the whole problem is uh that it really is no other problem for human beings than to go over that waterfall when it comes just as you go over any other waterfall just as you go on from day to day just as you go to sleep at night be absolutely willing to die now i’m not preaching i’m not saying you ought to be willing to die and that you should um muscle up your courage and somehow put on a good front when the terrible thing comes that’s not the idea at all the point is that you can only die well if you understand the system of waves if you understand that your disappearance as the form in

1:27:03. –>
which you think you are you your disappearance as this particular organism is simply seasonal that uh you are just as much the dark space beyond death as you are the light interval called life these are just two sides of you because you is the total wave see you can’t have half a wave nobody ever saw waves which just had crests no troughs so you can’t have half a human being who is born but doesn’t die

1:28:01.2 –>
half a thing that would be only half a thing but the propagation of vibrations and life is vibration it simply goes on and on but it cycles are long cycles and short cycles space you see is not just nothing if i could magnify my hand to an enormous degree so that you could see all the molecules in it i don’t know how far apart they would be but it seems to me they would be something like tennis balls uh in a very very large space and you look when i move my hand like this and say for god’s sake look at all those tennis balls they’re all going together crazy and the no strings tying them together isn’t that clear

1:29:02. –>
no but the space going with them and space is a function of or it’s an inseparable aspect of whatever solids are in the space that is the clue probably to what we mean by gravity we don’t know yet so in the same way when those marvelous sandpipers come around here the little ones while they’re in the air flying they have one mind they move all together when they are light on the mud they become individuals and they go picking around for worms or something but one click of the fingers and all those things are going ripped into the air they don’t seem to have a leader because they don’t follow when they turn they all turn together and go off in another direction amazing but they’re like the molecules in my hand so then you see here’s the principle

1:30:02.8 –>
when you don’t resist change i mean over resist i don’t mean being flabby when you don’t resist change you see that the changing world which disappears like smoke is no different from the nirvana world nirvana as i said means breathe out let go of the breath so in the same way don’t resist change it’s all the same principle so the bodhisattva saves all beings not by preaching sermons to them but by showing them that they are delivered they are liberated by the very fact of not being able to stop changing you can’t hang on to yourself you don’t have to try not to hang on to

1:31:02.2 –>
yourself it can’t be done and that is salvation memento mori be mindful of death gurjar says in uh one of his books that the most important thing for anyone to realize is that you and all you every person you see will soon be dead see it sounds so gloomy to us because we have devised the culture fundamentally resisting death i love the story of a conversation at an english country house at a dinner party where the hostess started up the question of death and asked the various guests what they thought was going to happen to them when they die some thought about reincarnation and

1:32:00 –>
others thought about various kinds of uh different planes of being and others thought they were going to be annihilated but all none of the guests had answered except sir roderick who was a kind of a military type but a very devout pillar of the church of england he was the church warden chief of the vestry in the local country parish and the ladies said sir roderick you haven’t said a word what do you think is going to happen to you when you die oh he said i am perfectly certain that i shall go to heaven and enjoy everlasting bliss but i wish you wouldn’t indulge in such a depressing conversation [Music] that’s true isn’t it uh

1:33:00.3 –>
death in the western world is a real problem we hush it up we pretend it hasn’t happened our morticians who are very smart commercial operators know exactly what’s expected of them and they make death just awful by pretending it doesn’t happen see what happens you go to a hospital and you’re at the end you’ve got terminal cancer and all your friends come around and they wear full smiles and they say cheer up you’ll be all right right in a few days from now we’ll be back home and we’ll we’ll go out for a picnic again the doctors have their bedside manager doctor is

1:34:01.3 –>
absolutely helpless with the terminal case because he’s a doctor’s divide the social definition a healer and he’s not allowed to help you die he’s out of role even though i mean he may sneak behind the rules and do it but but he’s definitely he’s got to heal you so you’re going to keep you indefinitely on the end of tubes and all kinds of things while there’s a certain grave demeanor to all this and all the nurses are so pleasant and so totally distant because they know this is death and they may be frank with you that’s why they feel distant it’s not that they’re not concerned it’s not that they’re heartless people but that they just don’t know how to be frank like lots of people when they meet a drunk they don’t know what to do with a drunk because he’s not doing he’s not behaving or not behaving right so [Laughter] when you’re dying you’re not behaving right you’re supposed to live see so we don’t know what to do with a dying person we don’t get around that person and say

1:35:01.3 –>
listen now listen man listen i’ve got the news for you you’re going to die and this is going to be great [Laughter] look no more responsibilities don’t have to pay those bills anymore not to worry about anything you’re going to just die and let’s go out with a ban let’s have a party see we’ll we’ll we’ll put some uh somehow that morphine in you so you won’t hurt too much but we were going to prop you up in bed and we’re going to bring all our friends around and we’re going to have champagne and they’re going you’re going to die at the end of it see and it’s going to be just marvellous just like being born see when we had birth problems see all women used to think that birth had to be painful it was good for them it was one of the things you had to suffer because you’d been you’d been screwing around with people in there for you you had to have a child and it’s gonna

1:36:00.1 –>
hurt and uh then the doctors got together and they scratched their heads and the man called granted dick reed said no birth doesn’t hurt it’s natural you know all you’ve got to do is to talk these women into the idea that it doesn’t hurt that all these so-called pains are just tensions and that uh birth is great it’s not a disease it’s not really something you ought to go to hospital for because you associate hospitals with diseases and sickness birth isn’t sickness all right now let’s do some new thinking what about death is death sickness or is it a healthy natural event like being born because it is so i mean a little change in social attitude about this will fortify everybody else i mean i’m if i’m alone and all my relatives pretending to me it’s going to be hard for me i’ve got to challenge the whole bunch of them and get my dander up and say listen damn you i don’t want all this thing around here

1:37:00.2 –>
you’ve got to take a different attitude about my death well that’s hard but if everybody helps me and we do we’re all one body if they all come around and say congratulations you’re going to die [Laughter] liberation liberation now you see because just before you die i mean look i know very well a skillful priest handling a person dying can do this for them but he has to talk very very very straight and he has to say listen these doctors you don’t don’t you pay any attention to them they’re trying to amuse you and deceive you you’re gonna die this isn’t terrible but it’s just gonna be the end of you as a system of memories and so you’ve got a great chance right now before it happens to let go of everything because you know it’s going to go and it is going to help you it’s going to help you let go of everything

1:38:01.1 –>
so if you have any possessions left give them away give everything away and uh if you have anything to say that is you felt that you ought to say before you die and that you’re kind of hanging on to and it’s bothering you say it i mean i don’t mean necessarily a last confession but say it said that adlai stevenson shortly before he died said that uh he had been making a monkey of himself because he didn’t agree with the government’s policy about something or other you know he had to get that off his chest because he had a little thought in the back of his mind that things were catching up with him you see so the moment comes when this thing called death has to be taken completely not as some ghastly accident something that uh all the friends are going to stay away because you’re awful i mean sometimes people when they die are in a very unpleasant physical condition they don’t smell good they don’t look good and so on but an enormous amount can be done with scientific methods to

1:39:03.6 –>
make things reasonably tidy from a purely sensory point of view but the main thing is the attitude that death is as positive as birth and should be a matter for rejoicing because death is the symbol of the liberation there is a wonderful saying that ananda kumar swami used to quote i pray that death will not come and find me still unannihilated in other words that man dies happy if there is no one to die in other words if the ego has disappeared before death caught up with it but you see the knowledge of death helps the ego to disappear

1:40:00.8 –>
because it tells you you can’t hang on so what we need if we’re going to have a good religion around that’s one of the places where it can start having i don’t know what nowadays i suppose they’d call it the institution for creative dying but something like that and uh you can have you can have uh one department where you can have champagne cocktail party to die with another department where you can have glorious religious rituals and priests and things like that another department where you can have psychedelic drugs another department where you can have special kinds of music uh anything you know all these arrangements will be provided for in a hospital for delightful dying

1:41:03.6 –>
but that’s the thing to go out with a bang instead of a whimper i was talking a great deal yesterday afternoon about the buddhist attitude to change to death to the transients of the world and we’re showing that preachers of all kinds stir people up in the beginning by alarming them about change that’s like somebody you know actually raising an alarm uh just in the same way as if i want to pay you a visit i ring the doorbell and then we can come in and i don’t need to raise an alarm anymore so uh in the same way it sounds terrible you see that everything is going to die and pass away and here you are thinking that happiness sanity

1:42:01.8 –>
and security consist in clinging on to things which can’t be clung to and in any case there isn’t anybody to cling to them the whole thing is a weaving of smoke so that’s the initial standpoint but as soon as you really discover this and you stop clinging to change then everything is quite different it becomes amazing and not only do all your senses become more wide awake not only do you feel almost that you’re walking on air but you see finally that there is no duality no difference between

1:43:02.2 –>
the ordinary world and the nirvana world they are the same world but what makes the difference is the point of view and of course if you keep identifying yourself with some sort of stable entity that sits and watches the world go by you don’t acknowledge your union your inseparability from everything else that there is you go by with all the rest of the things but if you insist on trying to take a permanent stand on trying to be a permanent witness of the flux then it grates against you and you feel very uncomfortable but it is a fundamental feeling in most of us that we are such witnesses

1:44:04.1 –>
we feel that behind the stream of our thoughts of our feelings and our experiences there is something which is the thinker the feeler and the experiencer not recognizing that that is itself a thought feeling or experience and it belongs within and not outside the changing panorama of experience it’s what you call a cue signal in other words when you telephone and your telephone conversation is being tape recorded it’s uh the law that there shall be a beep every 70 seconds and that beep cues you in to the fact that this conversation is recorded so in a very similar way in our everyday experience there’s a beep which

1:45:02.1 –>
tells us this is a continuous experience which is mine beep [Laughter] in the same way for example it is a cue signal when a composer arranges some music and he keeps in it a recurrent theme but he makes many variations on it or more subtle still he keeps within it a consistent style so you know that it’s mozart all the way along because it sounds like mozart but there isn’t as it were a constant noise going all the way through to tell you it’s continuous although in hindu music they do have something called the drone there is uh behind all the drums and

1:46:00.1 –>
every kind of singing something that goes [Music] and it always sounds the note which is the tonic of the scale being used uh but in hindu music that drone represents the eternal self the brahman behind all the changing forms of nature but that’s only a symbol and to find out what is eternal uh you can’t make an image of it you can’t hold on to it and so it’s psychologically more conducive to liberation to remember that the thinker or the feeler or the experiencer and the experiences

1:47:01.3 –>
are all together they’re all one but if out of anxiety uh you try to stabilize keep permanent the separate observer you are in for conflict of course the separate observer the thinker of the thoughts is an abstraction which we create out of memory we think of the self the ego rather as a repository of memories a kind of safety deposit box or record or filing cabinet place where all our experiences are stored

1:48:00.7 –>
now that’s not a very good idea it’s more that memory is a dynamic system not a storage system it’s a repetition of rhythms and these rhythms are all part and parcel of the ongoing flow of present experience in other words first of all how do you distinguish between something known now and a memory actually you don’t know anything at all until you remember it because if something happens that is purely instantaneous if a light flashes or to be more accurate if there is a flash lasting only one millionth of a second you probably

1:49:00.9 –>
wouldn’t really experience it because it wouldn’t give you enough time to remember it we say in customary speech well it has to make an impression so in a way all present knowledge is memory because you look at something and uh for a while the rods and cones in your retina respond to that and they go they do their stuff jiggle jiggle jiggle it’s all vibration and so as as you look at things they set up a series of echoes in your brain and these echoes keep reverberating because the brain is very complicated first of all everything you know is remembered but there is a way in which we distinguish between seeing somebody here now

1:50:00.1 –>
and the memory of having seen somebody else who is not here now but whom you did see in the past and you know perfectly well when you remember that other person’s face it’s not an experience of the person being here how is this because memory signals have a different cue attached to them than present time signals they come on a different kind of vibration sometimes however the wiring gets mixed up and present experiences come to us with a memory cue attached to them and then we have what is called a deja vu experience we are quite sure we’ve experienced this thing before but the problem is that we don’t see and don’t ordinarily recognize is that although memory is a series of signals with a special kind of cue attached to

1:51:01.2 –>
them so that we don’t confuse them with present experience they are actually all part of the same thing as present experience they are all part of this constantly flowing life process and there is no separate witness standing aside from the process watching it go by you’re all involved in it now accepting that you see going with that although at first it sounds like the nail of doom is if you don’t clutch it anymore splendid that’s why i said the death should be an occasion for a great celebration that people should say happy death to you uh and always surround death with joyous rights because this is the opportunity for the greatest of all experiences when you can finally let go because you know there’s

1:52:01.4 –>
nothing else to do there was a kamikaze pilot who escaped because uh his his plane that he was flying at an american aircraft carrier went wrong and he landed in the water instead of hitting the plane so he survived but he said afterwards that he had the most extraordinary state of exaltation it wasn’t a kind of patriotic ecstasy but the very thought that in a moment he would cease to exist he would just be gone for some mysterious reason that he couldn’t understand made him feel absolutely like a god well then in buddhist philosophy this a sort of annihilation of oneself this acceptance of change

1:53:03.6 –>
is the doctrine of the world as the void this doctrine did not emerge very clearly very prominently in buddhism until quite a while after gotama the buddha had lived we begin to find this though becoming prominent about the year 100 bc and by 200 a.d it had reached its peak and it was developed by the mahayana buddhists and it is the doctrine of a whole class of literature which goes by this complex name pragma paramita now pragma means wisdom parameter

1:54:00.1 –>
for crossing over for going beyond there is a small pragma parameter sutra a big pragma parameter sutra and then there’s a little short summary of the whole thing called the kridaya for heart sutra and that is recited by buddhists all over northern asia tibet china and japan and uh it contains the saying that which is void is precisely the world of form that which is form is precisely the void form is emptiness emptiness is form so on um and it elaborates on this theme it’s very short but it’s always chanted at important buddhist ceremonies and so it is supposed by scholars of all kinds who have a missionary background that the

1:55:00.8 –>
buddhists are nihilists that they teach that the world is really nothing there isn’t anything and that there seems to be something is purely an illusion but of course this philosophy is much more subtle than that the main person who was responsible for developing and maturing this philosophy was nagarjuna and he lived about 200 a.d one of the most astonishing minds that the human race has ever produced and the name of nagarjuna’s school of thought is madhyamika which means that really the doctrine of the of the middle way but it’s sometimes also called the doctrine of emptiness or shunya vada from the basic word or sometimes shunya has ta added on the

1:56:03.1 –>
end and that ta means emptiness well then emptiness means essentially transience that’s the first thing it means nothing to grasp nothing permanent nothing to hold on to but it means this with special reference to ideas of reality ideas of god ideas of the self the brahman anything you like what it means is that reality escapes all concepts if you say there is a god that’s a concept if you say there is no god that’s a concept

1:57:02.2 –>
and nagarjuna is saying that always your concepts will prove to be attempts to catch water in a sieve or wrap it up in a parcel so he invented a method of teaching buddhism which was an extension of the dialectic method that the buddha himself first used and this became uh the great way of studying especially at the university of nalanda which has been reestablished in modern times but of course it was destroyed by the muslims when they invaded india the university of nalanda where the dialectic method of enlightenment was taught the dialectic method is perfectly simple uh it can be done

1:58:00.9 –>
with a individual student and a teacher or with a group of students and a teacher and you would be amazed how effective it is when it involves precious little more than discussion some of you no doubt have attended t groups blab labs in which people are there and they don’t know quite why they’re there and the some sort of a so-called resource person to disturb them and after a while they get the most incredible emotions and uh somebody tries to to dominate the discussion of the group say and uh then the group kind of goes into the question of why he’s trying to dominate it and so on and so forth well these were the original blab labs and they have been repeated in modern times with the most startling effects that is to say

1:59:01.4 –>
the teacher gradually elicits from his participants students what are their basic premises of life what is your metaphysic in the sense i’m not using metaphysic in a kind of a spiritual sense but what are your basic assumptions what real ideas do you operate on as to what is right and what is wrong what is the good life and what is not what arguments are you going to argue strongest where do you take your stand the teacher soon finds this out for each individual concerned and then he demolishes it he absolutely takes away that person’s compass and so they start getting very frightened and say to the teacher all right i see now of course i i can’t depend on this

2:00:01.9 –>
but what should i depend on and unfortunately the teacher doesn’t offer any alternative suggestions but simply goes on to examine the question why do you think you have to have something to depend on now this is kept up over quite a period and the only thing that keeps the students from going insane is the presence of a teacher who seems to be perfectly happy but is not proposing any ideas he’s only demolishing them so we get finally not quite finally to the void the shunya and what then when you get to the void there is an enormous and unbelievable sense of relief that’s nirvana

2:01:00.8 –>
phew as i gave a proper english translation of nirvana great so they are liberated and yet they can’t quite say why or what it is that they found out so they call it the void but nagarjuna went on to say you mustn’t cling to the void you have to void the void and so the void of non-void is the great state as it were of nagarjuna’s buddhism but you must remember that all that has been voided all that has been denied

2:02:00.8 –>
are those concepts in which one has hitherto attempted to pin down what is real in zen buddhist text they say you cannot nail a peg into the sky and so to be a man of the sky a man of the void is also called a man not depending on anything and when you’re not hung on anything you are the only thing that isn’t hung on anything which is the universe which doesn’t hang you see where would it hang it has no no place to fall on even though it may be dropping there will never be the crash of it landing on concrete floor somewhere

2:03:04.7 –>
but the reason for that is that it won’t crash below because it doesn’t hang above and so there is a poem in chinese which speaks of such a person as having above not a tile to cover the head below not an inch of ground on which to stand and you see this which two people like us who are accustomed to rich imageries of the divine the loving father in heaven who has laid down the eternal laws a word of god incarnate a wisdom from above o truth unchanged unchanging o light of life and love the wisdom which from the hallowed page a lantern for our footsteps shines out from age to age

2:04:00.9 –>
see so that’s very nice we feel we know where we are and that it’s all been written down and that in heaven the lord god is resplendent with glory with all the colors of the rainbow with all the saints and angels around and everything like that so we we feel that it’s positive that we’ve got a real rip roaring gutsy religion full of color and so on but it doesn’t work that way the more clear your image of god the less powerful it is because you’re clinging to it the more it’s an idol but voiding it completely isn’t going to turn it into what you think of as void what would you think of as void

2:05:00.3 –>
being lost in a fog so that it’s white all around and you can’t see in any direction being in the darkness or the color of your head is perceived by your eyes that’s probably the best illustration that we would think of as the void because it isn’t black and it doesn’t white it isn’t anything but that’s still not the void take the lesson from the head how does your head look to your eyes well i tell you it looks like what you see out in front of you because all that you see out in front of you is how you feel inside your head so it’s the same with this and so for this reason the great sixth patriarch huaynang

2:06:00.9 –>
in china said that it was a great mistake for those who were practicing buddhist meditation to try to make their minds empty and a lot of people tried to do that they sat down and tried to have no thoughts whatever in their minds and not only no thoughts but no sense experiences so they’d close their eyes they’d plug up their ears and uh generally go in for sensory deprivation well sensory deprivation if you know how to handle it can be quite interesting it’ll have the same sort of results as uh taking lsd or something like that and there are special labs made nowadays where you can be sensorially deprived to an amazing degree but if you’re a sort of a good yogi this doesn’t bother you at all send some people crazy but if you

2:07:01.1 –>
dig this world you can have a marvelous time in a sensory deprivation scene also especially if they get you into a condition of weightlessness divers going down below a certain number of feet i don’t know exactly how far it is but get a sense of weightlessness and at the same time this deprives them of every sense of responsibility they become alarmingly happy and they have been known to simply take off their masks and offer them to a fish and of course they then drown so if you skin dive and you keep you have to keep your eye on the time you have to have a water watch or a friend who’s got a string attached to you if you go down that far and at a certain specific time you know you have got to get back however happy you feel and however much inclined to say survival survival what the hell’s the point of that

2:08:02 –>
and this is happening to the men who go out into space they will increasingly find that they have to have automatic controls to bring them back quite a sign that they can’t change in any way from the spaceship now isn’t that interesting can you become weightless here i said a little while ago that the person who really accepts transients begins to feel weightless when suzuki was asked what is it like to have experienced satori enlightenment he said it’s just like ordinary everyday experience but about two inches off the ground juan sir the taoist said it is easy enough to stand still the difficulty is to walk without touching the ground why do you feel so heavy it isn’t just a matter of gravitation

2:09:01.3 –>
and weight it is that you are feel that you are carrying your body around so there is a koan in zen buddhism who is it that carries this corpse around and so when you feel we common speech expresses this all the time life is a drag i feel i’m just dragging myself around my body is a burden to me to whom to whom that’s the question you see and when there is nobody left for whom the body can be a burden the body isn’t a burden but so long as you fight it it is so then when there is nobody left to resist the

2:10:00.9 –>
thing that we call change which is simply another word for life and when we dispel the illusion that we think our thoughts instead of being just a stream of thoughts and that we feel our feelings instead of being just feelings it’s like saying you know to feel the feelings is a redundant expression it’s like saying actually i hear sounds for there are no sounds which are not heard hearing is sound seeing is sight you don’t see sights sightseeing is a ridiculous word you could just say either sighting or seeing one or the other but sightseeing is nonsense so we keep those doubling our words and

2:11:01.1 –>
this doubling is comparable to oscillation in an electrical system where there’s too much feedback where you remember in the old-fashioned telephone where the receiver was separate from this from the mouthpiece the transmitter if you wanted to annoy someone who was abusing you on the telephone you could make them listen to themselves by putting the receiver to the mouthpiece but it actually didn’t have that effect it set up oscillation it started to howl it could be very very hard on the ears the same way if you turn a television camera at the monitor that is to say the television set in the studio the whole thing will start to jiggle the visual picture will be of oscillation like that

2:12:00 –>
and the same thing happens here when you get to think that you think your thoughts the you standing aside the thoughts has the same sort of consequence as seeing double and then you think can i observe the thinker thinking the thoughts or i am worried and i ought not to worry but because i can’t stop worrying i’m worried because i worry and you see where that could lead to it leads to exactly the same situation that happens in the telephone and that is what we call anxiety trembling

2:13:00.7 –>
but this discipline that we’re talking about of nagarjuna’s abolishes anxiety because you discover that no amount of anxiety makes any difference to anything that’s going to happen in other words from the first standpoint the worst is going to happen you’re all going to die and don’t just put it off in the back of your mind and say i’ll consider that later it’s the most important thing to consider now because it enables you it is the mercy of nature because it’s going to enable you to let go and not defend yourself all the time waste all energies in self-defense so

2:14:01.6 –>
this doctrine of the void is really the basis of the whole mahayana movement in buddhism it’s marvelous the void of course is in buddhist imagery symbolized by mirror because the mirror has no color and yet reflects all colors when this man i talked you of huinang said that you shouldn’t just try to cultivate a blank mind what he said was this the void is like space now space contains everything the mountains the oceans the stars the good people and the bad people the plants the animals everything now the the mind

2:15:02.3 –>
in us the true mind is like that you will find that when buddhists use the word mind they have several words for mine but i’m not going into the technicality at the moment they mean space see space is your mind it’s very difficult for us to see that because we think we’re in space and look out at it there are various kinds of space there’s visual space distance there is audible space silence there is temporal space as we say between times there is musical space so-called distance between intervals or

2:16:01.1 –>
the intervals between tones rather it’s quite a different kind of space than temporal or visual space this tangible space but all these spaces you see are the mind they are the dimensions of consciousness and so this great space which every one of us apprehends from a slightly different point of view in which the universe moves this is the mind so it’s represented by a mirror because although the mirror has no color it is for that reason able to receive all the different colors meister eckhart said

2:17:00.9 –>
in order to see color my eye has to be free from color so in the same way in order not only to see but also to hear to think to feel you have to have an empty head and the reason why you are not aware of your brain cells unless you’re only aware of your brain cells if you get a tumor or something in the brain when it gets sick but in the ordinary way you’re totally unconscious of your brain cells they avoid and for that reason you see everything else so that’s the central principle of the mahayana

2:18:01.4 –>
and it works in such a way you see that it releases people from the notion that buddhism is clinging to the void this was very important when buddhism went into china the chinese really dug this because chinese are a very practical people and when they found these hindu buddhist monks trying to empty their minds and to sit perfectly still and not to engage in any family activities they were celibates chinese thought they were crazy why do that and so the chinese reformed buddhism and they allowed buddhist priests to marry and in fact what they especially enjoyed was a sutra that came from india in which a layman

2:19:00.6 –>
was a wealthy merchant called vimala kirti out argued all the other disciples of buddha and of course you know if in these these are these dialectic arguments that are very very intense things if you win the argument everybody else has to be your disciple [Laughter] so vimala kitty the layman won the debate even with manjusri who is the bodhisattva of supreme wisdom they all had to see a contest to define the void and all of them gave their definitions finally manjusri gave his and vimala kirti was asked then for his definition and he said nothing and so he won the whole argument the thunder of silence

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