Alan Watts Lost Interview (1973)

This is a lost interview of Alan Watts, broadcasted in 1973, in which he reads from his autobiography ( In My Own Way ), and talks about his life, zen, meditation, sexual abstination, krishnamurti …. and various other topics.

Video Text:

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tomorrow [Music] alan watts is here in the studio and will read from his autobiography in my own way just published by pantheon never for a moment have i regretted that i forgetfully reincarnated myself as the child of lawrence wilson watts and emily mary buckin at rowan tree cottage in holbrook lane in the village of chiselhurst kent england almost due south of greenwich on the morning of january the 6 1915 at about 20 minutes after six with the sun in capricorn conjuncted with mars and mercury and enthrined to a moon in virgo with sagittarius rising

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[Music] in going back over one’s past one remembers all too much foolishness yet how can i forgive anyone else if i don’t forgive myself and how can i believe that now as i have become and matured i’m no longer a fool basically my own laughter myself has something to do with the incongruity of such a clown being god in disguise of the big act called alan watts being a manifestation of the infinite energy of the universe as i witness the universe getting away with me i wonder what other uproarious deceptions that will perpetrate [Music] [Laughter]

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i’m a mystic in spite of myself remaining as much of an irreducible rascal as i am as a standing example of god’s continuing compassion for sinners [Music] or if you will of buddha nature in a dog or of light shining in darkness come to think of it and what else could it shine since the age of 42 i have been a freelance a rolling stone and a shaman as distinct from a priest for the shaman gets his magic alone in the mountains and forests whereas a priest gets his from being ordained by a guru or bishop the first the shaman that is goes with

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the culture of nomads and hunters and the second with cultures of agrarians or industrialists although i am unofficially and on the side an ordained priest of the anglican communion my genes must have come from the nomads of europe and my reincarnation from the taoist poets of china or the yamabushi or mountain hermits of japan i’m gregarious but i like to be left alone my existence is a coincidence of opposites on the one hand i’m a shameless egotist i like to talk entertain and hold the center of the stage on the other i realized quite clearly that the ego named alan watts is an illusion a social institution a fabrication of words and symbols without the slightest substantial reality

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nevertheless i know too that this temporary pattern this process is a function a doing a in just karma same way as the sun the galaxy or shall we be bold to say jesus christ or go to mother buddha [Music] how can i say this without offense without seeming proud or unpretentious i simply and even humbly know that i am the eternal yet the idea of my coming on as a messiah or great guru just breaks me up with laughter because at the same time i am an unrepentant sensualist i am a an immoderate lover of women and the delights of sexuality [Music]

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of the greatest french chinese and japanese cuisine of wines and spiritus drinks of smoking cigars and pipes of gardens forests and oceans of jewels and paintings of colorful clothes and of finely bound and printed books i have also an attraction to being a no strings attached taoist wanderer in the mountains cloud hidden whereabouts unknown and when the mood suits me i also like to practice buddhist meditation in the zen or tibetan sanctuary style which is simply sitting quietly or walking rhythmically without thoughts or verbalizations in your head walking meditation i have always preferred to long periods of sitting

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for one reason when walking there is no need for others to know that you are meditating and thus to feel guilty or embarrassed for not doing likewise for another the self-consciousness of sitting in a special way of having a special time or place for the practice does not intrude itself thus i could go out for a walk under the pretext of taking the air or pace the floor seeming to be thinking out a book and yet be absorbed in mystical silence of the mind and oddly enough at the same time it didn’t really occur to me that i was practicing meditation so that i’ve always considered myself rather lazy and haphazard in respect of this discipline i didn’t think of myself as doing an exercise but simply as exploring a state of

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consciousness out of sheer interest a christian writer has said that the monk prays best who does not know that he is praying [Music] i see religion as i see such other basic fascinations as art and science in which there is room for many different approaches styles techniques and opinions thus i am not formally a committed member of any creed or sect and hold no particular religious view or doctrine as absolute i deplore missionary zeal and consider exclusive dedication to and advocacy of any particular religion as either the best or the only true way [Music]

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and almost irreligious arrogance [Music] yet my work and my life are fully concerned with religion and the mystery of being is my supreme fascination [Music] if i’m asked to define my personal tastes in religion ah i must say that they lie between mahayana buddhism and taoism with a certain leaning towards vedanta and catholicism or rather the orthodox church of eastern europe the russian cathedral in paris is for me one of the most joyous shrines in the world but i’m still more at home in the serene and non-militant atmosphere of such buddhist sanctuaries as koyasan and cheonin where the deep and sonorous

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chant is measured by the easy pulse of a wooden drum where pines and maples stand beyond the open screens and the smoke of aloe’s wood incense hangs in the air when i was about 17 i was still reading suzuki on zen and trying to practice some form of buddhist yoga zazen or satyapatana i simply couldn’t make up my mind which specific method to follow or exactly what state of consciousness was satori samhadi muksha or true enlightenment i had no spiritual master i was a shaman on my own in a religious jungle when at canterbury in england i beca i

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become the head boy of my house i had the privilege of going off by myself to study and meditate in an ancient elizabethan room where one could light a fire and stay up until late at night it was in the autumn of 1932 windy with fallen leaves skittering along the roads and fields and i was trying desperately to work out this problem what is the experience which these oriental masters are talking about the different ideas of it which i had in mind seem to be approaching me like little dogs wanting to be petted and suddenly i shouted at all of them to go away i annihilated and bald out every theory and concept of what should be my properly spiritual state of mind or of what should be meant by me

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and instantly my weight vanished i owned nothing all hang-ups disappeared i walked on air and thereupon i composed a haiku all forgotten and set aside wind scattering leaves over the fields [Music] and one evening when eleanor my first wife and i were walking home from a meditation session at the buddhist society i began to discuss the method of concentration on the eternal present whereupon she said why try to concentrate on it what else is there to be aware of

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your memories are all in the present just as much as the trees over there your thoughts about the future also in the present the present is just a constant flow like the tao and there’s simply no way of getting out of it with that remark my whole sense of weight vanished you could have knocked me down with a feather i realized that when the hindus said tatwa masih you are that they meant just what they said for a whole week thereafter i simply floated remembering my friend professor spiegelberg’s telling me of the six precepts of the tibetan master tilopa no thought no reflection no analysis no cultivation no intention let it settle itself

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[Music] now this was doubtless a premature satori for i was unable to resist the temptation to write think and intellectualize about it yet whenever i’m in my right mind i still know that this is the true way of life at least for me [Music] conscious thought reflection analysis cultivation and intention are simply using the mind’s radar or scanning beam for purposes which the mind as a whole can do of itself and of its own with far more intelligence and less effort so from the beginning i was never interested in being good at zen in the sense of mastering a traditional

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discipline as for example in uh studying the piano with schnabel to the point where my recordings of the beethoven sonatas would be indistinguishable from his i had already done that kind of thing and the point here is not to boast but to explain the real nature of my interest [Music] for i had without any formal teacher unquestionably mastered the art of public speaking and in the church had become as expert a liturgist as anyone what i was after was therefore not so much discipline as understanding and so far as i was concerned the formal study of zen was a kind of busy behavior to sit hour after hour and day after day with aching legs

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to unravel hakuin’s tricky system of dealing with corn to subsist on tea pickles and brown rice or to master dogen’s ritual style of life was although as good in its own way as learning to sail not what i needed to know what i saw in zen was an intuitive way of understanding the sense of life by getting rid of silly quests and questions the archetypal situation was when hueker asked bodhidharma how to attain peace of mind bodhidharma said bring your mind out and i will pacified but when i look for it said quaker i can’t find it in that case the master concluded it’s pacified already

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it is thus that almost every morning when i first awaken i have a feeling of total clarity as to the sense of life a feeling of myself and the universe as a matter of the utmost simplicity [Music] i and that which is are the same always have been always will be there’s simply nothing special to be achieved realized or performed the sound of a frog jumping into an old pond is plop in japanese

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[Music] this plop isn’t physical material mental or spiritual for plop isn’t a philosophical category plop is just plop this is the simplest thing in the world but the hardest to explain if you understand it you can see that this plop is all of a piece with a thousand galaxies [Music] this is wbai in new york you’re listening to in the spirit and alan watts is with us and has been reading from his own autobiography in his own way he’s reading in his own way from his own which pantheon books has just published

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well alan what do you think about of your autobiography well it was a very difficult thing for me to write and i wrote it at the insistence of my editor paula mcguire at pantheon and my wife i said you know what should i be doing writing an autobiography i haven’t been a man of adventure i have achieved no great deeds in life i have not become extremely wealthy i have not been an explorer or a great warrior or an adventurer i’ve been rather sedentary character because i was brought up really to be a brahmin an intellectual and so i thought i can’t write a thing like that but they went on insisting and so i put myself to it it took me two years i wasn’t used to writing the narrative style i was used to writing philosophy and that’s as easy as falling off a log but writing narrative i always admired

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novelist you see because of their gift of the portrayal of human character and of um telling stories and i got sucked into it slowly slowly slowly it was very hard do you consider yourself an intellectual or yes so that so there’s nothing there’s nothing terrible about that term and you’re in your vocabulary no not at all i think that um although some people think that my position is anti-intellectual they don’t understand that to be effective intellectually you have to interpose thinking with intervals of mental silence when you stop thinking altogether because after all if i don’t stop talking i can’t hear what you have to say and then thinking in my definition is talking to oneself or figuring to oneself in one skull and if you don’t occasionally stop that activity you don’t have anything to think about except thoughts so you get unrelated to

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the real universe a couple of your of your students you might say began a thing called esslin which is familiar to a lot of us they were students not only of me this must be emphasized michael murphy and dick price who really started slim were also students of frederick spiegelberg and uh michael of sri aurobindo and the confluence of us all together inspired them to start this thing do you do you think that growth centers like eslin uh do you think that they may be truly anti-intellectual in a certain way and do you think they may be uh sensitivity training may be the training of the emotions and the and the openness of the emotions and and perhaps leave out no no the the thing is absolutely fascinating what’s happening uh eslin has very scrupulously avoided taking a partisan point of view to any

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one discipline although they’ve had very powerful people there like the late fritz pearls who could have dominated the whole scene but that never happened now uh they are equally interested in the strictly intellectual life for example next march the great british mathematician philosopher spencer brown author of laws of form is coming and he’s going to give a seminar there for 10 days for a select group of some of the finest intellects in the united states and uh they they support that as much as they do sensitivity training and so on so you think a you think a com they’re combining yes i mean these places are the new the new uh universities the university itself has become practically obsolete it’s a machine shop for turning out and they’re now hundreds of these growth centers there are over 100 in north america do you think they’ll replace the university or will there be a place for

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a straight university there will be a place for a straight university there has to be because people need certain kinds of technical training which they can only get there but uh i hate to say this in a democracy but the intellectual elite will eventually emerge from the growth centers hmm it’s not possible they could combine the two kinds of training well the universities are interested there’s no doubt i mean let’s not put them down too far life is not a black and white situation and we have some very great universities and great scholars what about the other great social institution at least used to be the church and well will these growth centers represent tricky i don’t know they are stimulating the church let’s put it that way see the problem with the church and the synagogue is that they’re too talkative you go to church on sunday and they lecture god

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on what he’s supposed to do as if he didn’t know then they lectured the people on what they should do as if they could or would and it’s incessant chatter and i’m trying to persuade the church to cultivate mental silence and i’m having some success funnily enough because the church is desperate uh not no other reason than it’s desperate financially well then really you mentioned what i consider the the uh the house number when you said silence yes uh and the cultivation of silence i you you’re you are an admirer of krishnamurti he’s one of the people you speak most highly of in your autobiography and uh he of course is an advocate of mental silence completely but he also says in many ways and in many places that one one shouldn’t cultivate it it can’t be cultivated it can’t be cultivated so how how are we to proceed from here

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first of all if you try to cultivate it and find out that you can’t you can’t stop the internal turbulence in your mind what is called in patanjali’s yoga sutra the chitta he defines yoga which means union or integration of yourself with the universe he says yogas that means yoga is the cessation of babble in the mind now you can’t stop it no matter what you do but if you realize that you can’t stop it you get the message which is that you don’t exist that’s why you can’t stop that your ego is nothing more than a concept it’s an abstraction like the equator and uh nobody will trip over the equator so your ego is your concept of yourself

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and so that concept cannot stop the babble in the mind now as soon as you realize that the babble stops of itself as when you simply listen to pure sound see that’s essentially the method of uh yoga it’s called mantra krishnamurti of course wouldn’t wouldn’t identify it yes but he always starts out every talk by saying it is extremely important to listen will you please listen and he’s trying to say listen to the sound of my voice rather than any instructions i have to give you please participate in the real world

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listen listen listen and you will discover if you truly listen that the listening the sound and the listener are the same process there isn’t a dichotomy of i listening on the one hand and the sound being listened to on the other the krishnamurti has a terrible time explaining what he means he’s worked at it for years and years and years and published volumes of talks and so on and i know what he’s talking about and i’ve tried i’m trying to say the same thing in a slightly different style see i think krishnamurti is too serious he doesn’t allow laughter at his lectures but i love him i think he’s a great man i always allow laughter if we get into an uproar because there’s a great zen master in this country by the name of joshua sasaki and he

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he recommends for a method of meditation that every morning you stand up put your hands on your hips with the wrists upwards and roar with laughter for five minutes and imagine if mr nixon did that imagine if the queen of england or mr heath did that or mr kosogen or the emperor of japan or mao zedong and then when you think about that you laugh all over again so so maybe you can’t talk right about directly about silence you have to do things like laugh or ride or yes you have to get into non-verbal experience because the real world is non-verbal but and do you still maintain that there’s there’s some some value in traditional religious forms and practices i mean christian murder throws them all out and said but i sense with you some sort of whether it’s nostalgia or what some sort of feeling

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i yes i wouldn’t throw them out i would understand them in a slightly different way though from the way in which they are generally understood in other words when i go to church i don’t expect by attending mass that i will get some advantage from the power of god that he will do something special for me like get me an increase in salary i don’t even listen to the prayers i listen to the sound of the priest’s voice uh that’s why the roman catholic church made a serious mistake in having the mass head in the vernacular they should have kept it in latin uh i was brought up in england as has been indicated and we boys were subjected to the most amazing religion of

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uh lecturing god almighty and most merciful god king of kings and lord of lords the only ruler of princes who dust from thy throne behold all dwellers upon earth most heartily we beseech thee from thy throne to behold our most gracious sovereign king george the king that’s good you’re human all the royal family do them relentlessly with heavenly gifts health and wealth long to live when all this is the language of court flattering [Music] because god was idolized conceived in the image of a cosmic monarch well why is it that you that you went into the church at a certain point in your life for five years as an absolutely knowing subversive [Laughter] but it it although it worked in a way

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but uh i couldn’t sustain the role of a clergyman in those days today it’s different but in those days i was much too much of a bohemian to wear the roman collar and the black suit and uh come on like i was holier than that it just didn’t work in the the zen the zen idea of uh nothing special you mentioned that suzuki sometimes would assign his letters no special person is seems to be the finest antidote to the holier than now oh yes do you feel that way about yourself do you feel that you’re that you’re nothing special oh i do it in a slightly different way than suzuki [Laughter] everybody knows it’s a matter of public knowledge that i’m a rascal that i drink too much that i sleep with too many women that uh i uh even people go so far as to say that i’m

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trying to commit suicide because americans are terribly serious they don’t understand certain things that are understood in europe and asia about the joyous life they are always wanting that everything you do is supposed to be good for you now life is bad for you as jung pointed out he was joking he said life is a disease with a very bad prognosis it lingers on for years and invariably ends with death and you know everybody mental health everybody is after you for your best interests and i’m sick of being pursued for my best interests there since there’s no you anyway to have these options right but everybody’s concerned everybody is worried about uh one’s health one’s uh mortality because you see the fallacy is

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this that you must understand if you want if you if you’re going to survive elegantly you must not feel a compulsion to survive the confucius put it very well a man who understands the dao that is the course of nature in the morning can die with contempt in the evening and so when anyone has a compulsion to survive we say well i’ve got to go on living because i’m responsible i have all these children to support and but thereby by taking that attitude i teach my children the same attitude and they go on compulsively surviving for their children and everybody lives life as a drag so if we would realize that we really don’t have to go on living there is actually no reason why we should continue

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we’re not under orders have you already gone away so to speak i mean presumably if if there’s no individual ego and one sees it clearly one has died well if you ask me have i gone away you see that’s a somewhat paradoxical question because then i would be claiming credit for being an egoistic non-ego [Music] you know once it’s hard it’s hard to yes it’s hard to use our language because we’ve got a language constructed in such a way that it’s a perpetual trap and you can’t say these things but presumably you can carry on a full articulated life without thinking that that it’s a you or yes of course and it’s much more fun than the other kind of life mm-hmm and uh it’s like sitting in

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a co sitting in on a course not not for credit that’s right that’s a very good comparison i feel very often i’m not taking life for credit that’s right that’s a very good comparison yes what about this california dreaming that you do i mean in your in your book california takes on proportions almost mythic proportions in a way big sur and the people there and and the fact that you somehow you find that you’ve in that geographical location you’ve found something right for you a kind of a final place yes because it’s an extremely dangerous place to live as a result of the combination of the san andreas fault and the governor reagan uh but it’s the most beautiful place in that it is the american version of the riviera i wouldn’t make my living if i lived in uh mentone

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or uh heirs because uh i couldn’t i can’t make a a living at my profession in any country except the united states [Music] and uh therefore california is the nearest thing to that south western sunlight landscape that i always sought from boyfriend and i’m from california myself and i feel kind of nostalgic but i wonder whether it’s just nostalgia sometimes or whether there’s some there’s something where there’s a kind of a holy land going on there somehow oh there is it’s one of the most stimulating spiritual and intellectual climates that there is i’d say equaled only by new york city yes i mean here naturally there is also a tremendous gathering

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of fascinating people but there there’s a there’s a nature seems to be in more nature it’s more benign new york city has a rather tough climate that’s why also it’s too industrialized i want to ask you a couple of things that that other that people might just want to ask because it’s up top most in their minds and in your book you said finally your final feeling about lsd roughly speaking is that when you get the message you hang up the phone um is that about is that where you stand yes i mean i would say that from my own personal point of view if all the sd and the lsd in the world were to vanish tomorrow i wouldn’t regret it because i think i’ve learned everything from that kind of experience that it has to teach [Music] do you think that that a whole generation of people now have done the learning for the society you suppose that is that uh certain people can compete

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completely bypass the lsd experience be building on the experience of others or do you think it’s good for everyone to have to get lost in that that’s a difficult person to answer i don’t really know the answer to that uh lsd was a valuable catalyst [Music] in showing people that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy uh dangerous and all the more dangerous when suppressed and uh when one couldn’t be sure that the lsd you were getting was the real thing prohibition is absolutely no good there’s no no it’s i i can’t understand american prohibitionism because it corrupts the police by asking them to be armed clergymen but it seems to me that as opposed to the early 60s and

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and 50s that there are a lot of people there are a lot of people in the society today who who are who are deeply into their consciousness through say through meditative techniques of one kind or yes and uh and there’s also there’s also a fashion tending in that direction in other words people are aware of it it does it’s not an outrageous thing don’t put it down by calling it a fashion no i wouldn’t yeah in fact could i ask you do you think there is some sort of new age of spirit dawning or do you think or whether it’s a new age may that may be too uh pompous phrase to use but there most decidedly is a colossal i would call it a spiritual uh awakening occurring in this country it’s as alive as all get out is it do you think it’s of indigenous i mean is it really indigenous or is it is it

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sustained by people coming from the east in japan it’s both it’s it’s a result of global intercommunication uh we’re in a situation now where by means of technological transportation and by telephonic and television and electronic communication we’ve got one world we can’t help it and therefore all the cultures of the world are merging and this stimulates every culture you you mentioned again i’m quoting you roughly you you feel that psychotherapy is largely a bore except for most jungians who you would accept them do you do you think that that spiritual life in the largest sense will begin to replace psychotherapy well the psychotherapists themselves

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are undergoing a great deal of evolution we have for example the journal of humanistic psychology the journal of transpersonal psychology

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in the terms of enormous audiences for lectures on the chinese theory of nature you know some very far out subject so it sounds like the structures of society uh are are hanging in there they’re gonna they’re going to persist and and uh and uh perhaps they’re

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okay and growing but what we’ve got going wrong is we’ve got a kind of bifurcation you take your classified telephone directory and open up churches and have a ruler in your hand and you will find that far the longest space is occupied by authoritarian bible banking churches and these people are barbarians uh who take the written word of the bible literally because they need terribly they have a personal need for something to depend on do you think the same kind of barbarianism of the spirit is represented in our government i mean do you think about the government yeah the group of things he realizes that there is a very large number of people like that and therefore to keep their votes they have to pander to those kind of

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people and these are the boys who never grew up they always need papa well what’s the ch what’s the uh possibility for what’s going to be the outcome of the these these two different trends this kind of in in the society do you do you think that uh well the trouble is that the boys who always need papa are violent they have the guns [Music] and uh they’re the uh types of people who like to be soldiers police from tough guys therefore they have a great deal of power although i must say recently i had a long talk with the general of the army who was a virginian gentleman who was extremely intelligent [Music]

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and i was quite shocked to find out how wise he was and i’ve even been invited by the air force to lecture at the uh great uh air force accountant i mean there’s a buddha nature in a general oh yes i’ve lectured at the air force academy in colorado springs and also at the air force weapons research institute in albuquerque and some of those officers are brilliant men but they somehow something’s wrong with their strategy they don’t know where they want to go i have to say this is wbai in new york and maybe that’s a good time to ask considering the listenership of bai and their own political standpoint do you think you’re cute would you be accused of being a counter revolutionary i’m a political actually although i’m tremendously interested in certain specific political problems i can’t

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buy any party or ideology [Music] i’m not sure whether the right wing or the left wing is a greater threat to my freedom [Music] can can a person practice non-ego and silence and still be engaged in political life oh yes definitely in other words you can’t be effectively engaged in political life unless you do practice mental silence gary snyder puts it very well he says you can’t work well for ecological causes unless you realize in the first place that it’s not necessary to do anything about it [Music] but if you realize that in the first place that in other words the universe is automatically harmonious if you understand that that gives you tremendous energy to do all sorts of things [Music] gary got highest praise in your book i

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mean yes you said that uh you wished you could claim him as a as as you’re a spiritual successor right yeah nonetheless he seems to be immersed in a more traditional zen and a more traditional practice than you is it ah not entirely no uh he he is he’s he’s done all that but he takes it with a light heart he doesn’t come on stuffy about it he didn’t take it for credit now he didn’t take it for credit exactly in your book and in general it seems that you you have a kind of non-interest in the occult and and the uh and the psychic phenomena yeah uh is that is that a zen background yes that that makes you that way you somewhat yes then people are not interested in that what about the idea that that various hindu practices take take the consciousness into a

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higher chakras whereas the zen practice keeps it in the horror and and and that might account to some extent for the difference because because indian spirituality is really very far out in comparison to uh well uh no i mean some of the people i know who are well into hindu practice formerly richard albert bhagavan das swami sachi dananda [Music] i find extremely companion and they don’t seem to be too too concerned with the uh [Music] so maybe being down to earth then is a characteristic of any sort of spiritual yes because you realize that what we call earth is not uh away from it you’re in

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right now earth is it and i find these people the contemporary bunch of what i’d call bhakti yogins very enjoyable [Music] but the only thing i’m critical of is their attitude about celibacy they don’t all have it because i think a person who goes for celibacy by not exercising his sexual functions tends to become cruel and that we need to exercise those functions just as we need vitamins and exercise breathing but sometimes exercising the sexual functions doesn’t guarantee that that that one will be compassionate no it doesn’t guarantee anything but i i do think that if you don’t do it uh you tend to become

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uh uptight um is it is that a generality would you make certain exceptions i mean for for instance uh you you mentioned a humorous episode with uh having tea with the swami prabhupananda in california [Music] well i i mean obviously he’s not cruel i mean um maybe they’re something some other effects have occurred through some lifelong celebrities i don’t want to speak with swami prabhupada no no absolutely uh but cases like that uh thomas merton or something like this i mean there have been so there have been some ah people i have several friends who [Music] don’t really seem to have any strong sexuality just like

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some people aren’t really interested in food [Music] these are very rare people but i only object when they try to impose their ideas on everybody else and if someone is interested in food why why why restrain it and torture it sure i see that i see that well suppose suppose you were to say that i was something i consider this sort of the two foci if you’re of your position that if it could be called a position that there is no ego [Music] therefore everything is attained i mean beatitude is now yes now can can someone hear that instantly and and and be enlightened sometimes yes i i i for most people you see it needs some explanation

0:51:00.6 –>
that what we call the ego is a combination of two factors on the one hand it’s your opinion of yourself your image of yourself your idea of yourself which has been brainwashed into you since you were a baby this corresponds on the other hand to a certain sensation and this sensation is one of chronic muscular strain which we were taught when in the beginning mama said darling try to go to sleep all the teachers said pay attention take a careful look at this now listen carefully and one does a muscular tension in order to achieve a neurological result and this tension is useless it’s like when you’re taking off on a jet plane and you think you’ve gone too far down the runway and the damn thing want to be up in the air you start pulling at your seatbelt now

0:52:00.9 –>
there’s a chronic strain in everybody’s muscles it may be sometimes located between the eyes sometimes in the heart center sometimes in the solar plexus and sometimes in the rectum and uh it’s holding together now say pull yourself together now that is a completely useless muscular effort to achieve to attain a neurological result but that is chronic and it becomes associated with the image of yourself and therefore corresponds to what you mean by i whereas in fact i is like e y e an aperture through which the universe is examining itself [Music] and it is always basically unconscious of itself for the same reason that you can’t bite your own

0:53:01.1 –>
teeth or kiss your own lips the universe really uh just as the edge of a sword doesn’t cut the edge of a sword the universe doesn’t need to know itself that is to say make itself an object because when you make anything an object it becomes objectionable this is a very curious aspect of modern history that the 19th century 18th century mythology which we call scientific naturalism made a great point of taking an objective attitude to everything finally taking an objective attitude to the human mind as in bf skinner see the mind is an object and thus there is no subject left

0:54:02.2 –>
[Music] well then everything becomes objectionable and we invent the hydrogen bomb to blow it all up suicide is the end of a purely objective world [Music] so you feel it now that silence or i can’t can you admit to it [Music] oh yes it’s a constant undercover is there is it can can one have seen this or felt the silence and then still have still have the babble go on yes so one doesn’t have to have a total silence to have to no no if if you can’t

0:55:02.5 –>
meditate in the boiler factory you can’t meditate what if the boiler factories is inside your skull even so it’s like space behind the stars you can’t have any stars without space and so there is always in the background of whatever goes on in my head let’s supposing i’m absolutely scared stiff that i’ve got cancer or the great siberian itch nevertheless far far in the back of my mind there is an incredible serenity of eternal silence but it isn’t [Music] it isn’t nothing it isn’t negative in the ordinary way in which western people

0:56:00.4 –>
think of [Music] we don’t understand in the west that you can’t have something without nothing nothing is tremendously important it’s the mother it’s the womb of the universe and it’s space it’s uh thomas aquinas put it the silent pause which gives sweetness to the chant did that serene space you you’re in touch with did you achieve that serenity through anything that you’ve done in your life one doesn’t achieve it you see that is sort of asking the wrong question there’s a famous story about an american visiting england who wanted to find the village of apatna and he asked a yokel welts away to apatnam do you know where it is and he scratched his head and said well sir i know where it is but if i

0:57:00.3 –>
were you i wouldn’t start from here [Music] so in the same way one doesn’t quite speak of achieving it because you have to understand first that there is no separate you to achieve it [Music] so it doesn’t matter what one does what one does is uh mostly empty emotions when you understand that however look this is the point that people need to understand when you understand that you can act creatively because you act with the whole energy of the universe behind you how do you respond when someone says says to you well you say that there is this this total serene space which underlines

0:58:01.1 –>
everything but that’s merely intellectual knowledge people say are saying that all the time but it isn’t intellectual knowledge i mean you can’t put it into words intellectual knowledge is what you can put into words this is a feeling it’s a it’s a it’s one might almost say a concrete sensation why is it talked about as insight then in the prajnaparamita uh if it’s a feeling because uh it is it’s well insight is an english word means uh intuitive wisdom [Music] uh the fundamental sense of life [Music] now we can’t talk about it because it’s ineffable that means in greek what cannot be spoken in the same way as

0:59:00. –>
mysticism comes from the greek verb muy which is the finger on the lips always we say mums the word there’s something that can’t be told and that’s what’s important move [Music] all about our wayward cobbled lanes enclosed by roofed walls with covered gates giving entrance to courtyards and gardens and interspersed with small shops and restaurants it was april and under such a gate we took refuge from a sutton shower the gate opened a few inches and out it came a hand proffering an umbrella

1:00:00.7 –>
and as soon as we took it the hand was withdrawn and the gate closed the umbrella was a casa made of oiled paper a wide circle spread out like a small roof supported on a cone of thin bamboo almost as cozy as carrying your own house with you in a quiet heavy rain gutters were bubbling and water was spilling from bronze dragon-mouthed gargoyles at roof corners everywhere the soft clattering of wooden sandals like small benches with legs on the soles to keep your feet above water courtyards with glistening evergreen bushes and floating branches of bright green maple the smell of japanese cooking soy sauce with hot sake mixed with damp earth and

1:01:00.7 –>
the faintest suggestion pleasant in that smaller dosage of the banjo or toilet which because of the diet smells quite different from ours [Music] the difficulty is that our waking and attentive consciousness scans the world myopic one thing one bit one fragment after another so that our impressions of life are strung out in a thin scrawny thread lining up small beads of information whereas nature itself is a stupendously complex pattern where everything is happening all together everywhere at once what we know of it [Music] is only what we can laboriously line up and review along the thread of this watchfulness

1:02:03.3 –>
better not to interfere with myself it could set off an earthquake perhaps there is an entirely different way of being responsible and compassionate [Music] the first step is to make tea for wakefulness and for this there is nothing better than matcha the finely powdered green tea used for ceremonial tea drinking a small amount is put in the bottom of a roughly glazed bowl covered with hot water and whirled into a jade green froth with a bamboo whisk although it tastes vaguely of guinness stout it smells of straw matting and freshly plained wood [Music] and then i begin to rub ink easily back

1:03:00 –>
and forth on a black stone cut like a small swimming pool with a short deep end and a long shallow end and filled with water it takes 15 minutes or more [Music] during which there is nothing in my consciousness except the increasingly oily texture of the liquid the mountain forest smell of the incense and the continuing sound of soft rain on the roof wide awake but with hardly a thought in my head i stroke and roll the brush in the black liquid and then with a certain unhurried sadness write 10 chinese characters on a long scroll of absorbent paper they say [Music] in the midst of the rain seeing the sun

1:04:01.6 –>
from the depths of the fire spooning clear water zen meditation is a trickily simple affair for it consists only in watching everything that is happening including your own thoughts and your breathing without comment after a while thinking or talking to yourself drops away and you find that there is no yourself other than everything which is going on both inside and outside the skin [Music] your consciousness your breathing and your feelings are all the same processes the wind the trees growing the insects buzzing the water flowing and the distant prattle of the city

1:05:01.1 –>
[Music] the trick which cannot be forced is to be in this state of consciousness all the time even when you are filling out tax forms or being angry as the zen poem says the bamboo shadows sweep the stairs but raise no dust [Music] the big realization for which all systems strive is not a future attainment but a present fact that this now moment is eternity and that one must see it now or never for right now our problematic ego cannot be found

1:06:00.9 –>
when buddhists look very deeply into themselves they ask but who is looking they come up with an answer which has been hard to understand essentially because of a language problem for the japanese word translating the sanskrit has the sense of sky space or emptiness but when it is used for the root of one’s own consciousness it means also finally mysterious and inconceivable not so much emptiness or darkness [Music] a coup is therefore clarity as our vision or hearing and nothing is so mysterious as clarity before exactly what is clarity itself

1:07:01.8 –>
could it be well defined form [Music] crystal clear form then as the heart sutra says ku is shiki transparency is form all of a sudden it will strike you that this nothingness is the most potent magical basic and reliable thing you ever thought of and that the reason you can’t form the slightest idea of it is that it’s yourself oh but not the self you thought you were well we should not risk untying our conceptual moorings unless we are prepared to weather considerable confusion and anxiety but once the critical point of the flip is passed and the identity of form and void is clear one’s consciousness of form is in

1:08:01.3 –>
the clear that’s to say when grounded on nothingness one zest for life is astonishing [Music]

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