Philosophies of Asia is part of the Essential Lectures Collection. Philosophies of Asia was one of the first Essential Lecture series compiled in 1972 after Alan’s son Mark began to assemble a collection of core talks. The series serves an inspired introduction to Far Eastern ways of liberation, including Hinduism, Taoism, and Zen Buddhism.
Originally mastered for cassette the series was updated and remastered for CD in the mid-90’s and was also released to public radio as part of the Love is Wisdom program.
Relevance of Oriental Philosophy (1-2)
Relevance of Oriental Philosophy Transcript Part 1: (jump to Part 2)
Theology has not, as a matter of fact, had a very distinguished record in promoting the study of other than the Christian religion. And this is rather puzzling. Most study of comparative religions that goes on in theological schools has historically been missionary oriented. To find out the weird ideas of the prospects so as to be able to undermine them. Because you see, if you know in the first place that you have the true religion, there really is no point in studying any other one and you can very quickly find reasons for showing them to be inferior, because that was a foregone conclusion. They had to be. And therefore, all arguments about the respective merits of various religions, especially where Christianity is involved, and often where Judaism is involved, and sometimes Islam too, all of which are essentially imperialistic religions. In all such discussions the judge and the advocate are usually the same person, because if for example you get into discussions as to whether Buddha was a more profound and spiritual character than Jesus Christ, you arrive at your decision on the basis of a scale of values which is of course Christian. And in this sense the judge and the advocate of the same.
And I really do marvel at this Christian Imperialism because it prevails even among theological liberals. And it reaches its final absurdity in religion-less Christianity, the doctrine that there is no God and Jesus Christ is His only Son. Because you see, there’s some anxiety here that even though we don’t believe in God anymore, somehow we’ve still got to be Christians and obviously because we have a very curious organization which must be understood. The inner meaning of the church as it works in fact. A society of the saved, you see, necessarily requires outside it a society of the not saved because if there is not that contrast, you don’t know that you belong to the in-group. And in this way all social groups with claims to some kind of special status must necessarily create aliens and foreigners. And Sir Thomas Aquinas let the cat out of the bag one day when he said that the Saints in Heaven would occasionally appear over the battlements into Hell and praise God for the just punishment visited upon the evil-doers.
Now, as you know I’m not being very fair and very kind to Modern Theology, but there is this strange persistence of insisting that our group is the best group. And I feel that there is in this something peculiarly irreligious, and furthermore it exhibits a very strange lack of faith. Because I believe that there is a strong distinction between faith on the one hand, and belief on the other. Because belief is as a matter of fact, quite contrary to faith. Because belief is really wishing. It’s from the Anglo-Saxon root belief, “to wish”, and belief stated say in the creed is a fervent hope that the universe will turn out to be thus and so. And in this sense therefore belief precludes the possibility of faith because faith is openness to truth to reality whatever it may turn out to be. I want to know the truth. That is the attitude of faith. And therefore to use ideas about the universe and about God as something to hang onto, in the spirit of Rock of Ages cleft for me, you know, hymnal imagery is full of rocks and mighty fortresses are God. “In vain the surges anguish shock, in vain the drifting sand, unharmed upon the eternal rock the eternal city stands.”. And there’s something very rigid about this rock. And we are finding our rock getting rather worn out in an age where it becomes more and more obvious that our world is a floating world. It’s a world floating in space where all positions are relative and any point may be regarded as the center. A world, which doesn’t float on anything, and therefore the religious attitude appropriate to our time is not one of clinging to rocks but of learning to swim. And you know that if you get in the water and you have nothing to hold on to and you try to behave as you would on dry land you will drown. But if on the other hand you trust yourself to the water and let go you will float.
And this is exactly the situation of faith. This is surely all implied in the New Testament. When for example, Jesus began to foretell his own death, his disciples were very disturbed because it is written in our law that the Messiah does not die, and he replied “Unless a grain of corn fall into the ground and die, it remains isolated and brings forth no fruit. Or rather, if it die, it brings forth much fruit.” And on another occasion he said to the disciples “It is expedient for you that I go away, but if I go not away from the paraclete, the Holy Spirit cannot come to you.” But we have reversed all this. Jesus with me it was one of those rare and remarkable individuals who had a particular kind of spiritual experience which in terms of Hebrew theology he found most difficult to express without blasphemy. I am the Father are one. In other words I am God. And that is something of course if you are a Hindu. That is a rather natural statement to make. You see in our culture which has Hebrew theology in its background anyone who says I am God is either blasphemous or insane because our image of God and the image, don’t forget, has far more emotional power than any amount of theology and abstraction. It is our Father which really influences us as a conception of God, not necessarily being ought to Luke’s decontaminated name for God the ground of being. Or Professor Northrop’s undifferentiated aesthetic continuum. These aren’t very moving, even though subtle theologians prefer this kind of thing and will tell us that when we call God the Father, we don’t have to believe literally that there is a cosmic male parent and still less that he has a white beard and sits on a golden throne above the stars. Nobody, no serious theologian ever believed in such a God.
But nevertheless, the imagery affects us, because the image of the monotheistic god of the West is political. The title King of Kings and a Lord of Lords is the title of the Emperors of ancient Persia. The image of God is based on the Pharaohs, the great rulers of the Chaldeans, and the kings of Persia. And so this is the political government and Lord of the universe who keeps order and who rules it from, metaphorically speaking, above. So anyone who would say I am God is therefore implying that he’s in charge of everything that he knows all about it and therefore everybody else ought to bow down and worship him. But in India if you say I am God they say “Congratulations, at last you found out.” Because the image is quite different. See our image of the world is that the world is a construct and it’s very natural for a child to say to its mother how was I made. As if you know you are somehow put together but that goes back to the imagery of Genesis where God creates Adam and makes a clay figurine and then he breathes the breath of life into this to the nostrils of this figurine and it comes to life. So that is the fundamental supposition which even underlies the development of Western science. That everything has been made and then someone knows how it was made. And you can find out the cause behind the universe there is an architect. This could be called the ceramic model of the universe. Because there is a basic feeling that there are two things in existence one is stuff material and the other is form. Now material like clay by itself is stupid it has no life. It has no intelligence and therefore for matter to assume orderly forms it requires that the next turn all intelligence be introduced to shape it. And therefore with that deeply embedded in our common sense it’s very difficult for people to realize that this image is not necessarily for description of the world at all. Indeed the whole idea of stuff is completely absent from modern physics which studies the physical universe purely in terms of pattern and structure. But the Hindu model of the world and I’m speaking of Hindu mythology, the popular imagery I’m talking about, the popular imagery on both sides I’m not at the moment getting into theological technicalities. The Hindu model of the universe is a drama. The world is not made it has acted. And so behind every face human animal plant mineral there is the face on face of the central self the up man. Which is Brahman, the final reality which is not defined. Because obviously that which is the center cannot be made an object of knowledge anymore than you bite your own teeth. Or lift itself up by own bootstraps. It’s what there is it’s the basis and you are it, which is a colloquial translation of the Sanskrit adage tat tvam asi, that art thou. The idea being you see that the nature of reality is a game of hide and seek. Because that’s really the only game there is now you see it now you don’t all nature is vibrating it’s a wave like motion of Crest and trough. Pulse and interval pulse and interval. Only we don’t always notice that because our senses respond slowly say to light and light appears to be a continuous energy without interval.
So there’s the idea, goes like this that for endless cycles of time this is a premier reality the self plays hide and seek with itself. That for a period of a Kalpa, which is four million, three hundred twenty thousand years, the Self is awake to Itself. And knows that it’s it but for another Kalpa it gets lost it says to itself man get lost and pretends. That it is a vast multiplicity. That’s exactly what you would do if you had the privilege of dreaming any dream you wanted when you went to bed at night. This would enable you of course in one night to dream seventy-five years of clock time. And what you would do first of all, you would have marvelous adventures you would have every conceivable delight and satisfy every wish. And then as time went on that would get a little boring and you would get more daring. You would have adventures, you would rescue princesses from dragons, and then you would get even more daring, then you would dream that you weren’t dreaming. And then you’d get into really serious messes, because wouldn’t it be a surprise when you woke up. And eventually you would be dreaming that you were sitting here in this auditorium listening to me. You would eventually get around to that, for your sins. Well maybe that’s what’s happening anyhow, you see. And in Sanskrit this dream is called Maya, but it’s a word that means more than dream or illusion, it means creative power magic. Skill, art, and measurement. Laying down the foundations is making a minor. So then the world is a big act. It’s play not in the sense of something trivial but in the sense of a stage play. Hamlet is a play. You play the organ in church. That’s not trivial. And so the actor of this play being the best of all possible actors takes himself in totally. Almost but everybody knows in the back of their mind that the something funny about being itself. So you see when you go to the theater you know of course that the proceeding arch tells you that what’s going on behind this arch is not for real. But somehow the actor almost persuades you that it is real. He wants to get you sitting on the edge of your chair, he wants you laughing crying, he wants you in a state of anxiety so that he almost persuades you. But you see if the actor is as good as the supreme Self. The audience is taken in that really and they believe the play is really, what skill, how marvelous. But you see in all acting. It’s there is behind the stage a green room. Out on the stage with a law does not come on as the Lord. Becomes on as you and I. Heroes and Villains. But off-scene, he assumes his true nature and duffs his mask, which in Latin is his persona. In classical drama the persona was the megaphone mouth masked one for the open air theater and by a curious degradation of words the word person has come to mean the real individual and when Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote How to Be a Real Person, the real title of his book should have been How to Be a Genuine Fake. Well now this image this model of the universe is disturbing to Christians, what is particularly disturbing is the element in it of what’s the very special theological chaos work, or pantheism. The feeling that if every part is being played by the supreme law then all the real distinctions between good and evil are obliterated. Now that is the biggest nonsense ever uttered. Distinctions between good and evil do not have to be eternal distinctions to be real distinctions. It is really to say that a distinction which is not eternal is not real is a highly un-Christian thing to say and certainly a very u- Jewish thing because one of the fundamental principles of the Hebrew attitude is that all finite things that have been created by God are good. And therefore a thing that doesn’t have to be infinite to be good or finite things come to an end. Furthermore to invoke the author already of heaven in matters of moral regulation is like putting a two million current through our electric shaver. It ended in the final asininity of the notion that if you went against the will of God, since evil is eternal, you would fry in hell forever and ever and ever and as the Chinese say, do not swat a fly on a friend’s head with a hatchet. Like all kinds of judicial torture and harsh justice such ideas bring law into disrespect. And such a fierce God and such an unbending attitude resulted in the fact of people disbelieving in God altogether and shall we say throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
So this is among many reasons why people are saying God is dead it’s very inconvenient to have the kind of god. Who is this authoritarian boss of the world, prying down over your shoulder all the time and knowing your inmost thoughts and judging you. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling and everybody’s happy to be rid of it. It has never significantly improved anybody’s behavior in the so-called ages of faith. People were just as immoral, if not more so than they are today. Because you see all this fixed notion of god is idolatry. If thou shalt not make to die self any graven image of anything that is in the heaven above etc. The most dangerous and pernicious images are not those that made of wood or stone, nobody takes those seriously. They are the images made of imagination and conception and thought. And that is why in the fundamental approach to the Godhead, both the Christian, I mean both the Hindu and the Buddhist and for that matter the Taoist take what is called the negative approach which used to be known long ago in the Middle Ages as Apophatic theology. As and Thomas Aquinas said “To proceed to the knowledge of God, It is necessary to go by the way of remotion. Of saying what God is not, since God by his immensity exceeds every conception to which our intellect can attain.”
So then when of the Godhead the Hindu says all that can truly be said is neti neti, “not this, not this,” and when the Buddhist uses such a term for the final reality as Sunyata, which means voidness, or emptiness. Then textbook after textbook on comparative religion that I read by various theologians say this is terrible negativism this is nihilism. But he doesn’t realize that it’s nothing of the kind. If for example, you have a window on which there’s a fine painting of the sun, your act of faith in the real sun will be to scrape that off so that you can let the real sunlight in.
And so in the same way pictures of God on the window of the mind need scraping up, because otherwise they become idolatrous they become substitutes for the reality. Now I’m hoping that this sort of understanding will issue from God is a dead theology. I’m not quite sure whether it’s going to. Because as a matter of fact there are precedents within the Christian tradition for an intelligent God is dead theology for what I would call atheism in the name of God. Or agnosticism in the name of God The word agnostic has a curious history. It’s based on the Greek word agnosia. Which we used to translate into English as ‘unknowing’. And there’s a very interesting mystical treatise of the fourteenth century called the Cloud of Unknowing, showing how the highest form of prayer, contemplative prayer, as that in which all concept of God had been left behind. Where in other words, one completely lets go of clinging to God and this was the supreme act of faith. So that you don’t any longer need an image. Because this gets in the way of the reality. But the moment you insist on an image then you have the church as a huge imperialistic vested interest organization.After all if the charge is the Body of Christ isn’t it through the breaking of the Body of Christ that life is given to the world. But the church doesn’t want to be broken up by Jove no, it goes around canvassing for new members see the difference between a physician and a clergyman is that. The physician wants to get rid of his patients and he gives them medicine and he hopes they won’t get hooked on the medicine. Whereas the clergyman is usually forced to make his patients become addicts. So that they’ll pay their dues. The doctor has faith in turnover. He knows that there’ll always be sick people, and the clergy also need faith in turnover get rid of your congregations say now you’ve heard all I’ve got to tell you go away. If you want to get together for making celestial whoopee, which is worship, All right. But I don’t I used to when I was a chaplain in the university, I used to tell the students that if they came to church out of a sense of duty they weren’t wanted. They would be skeletons at the feast.It would be much better if they went swimming or stayed in bed. Because they were going to celebrate the Holy Communion and I meant celebrate. But somehow or other you see we take religion in a kind of dead earnest. I remember when I was a boy at school how wicked it was to laugh in church. We don’t realise, it’s G.K. Chesterton said that the angels fly because they take themselves lightly. And asked Dante said in the parody, so when he heard the song of the angels, It sounded like the laughter of the universe. Why what are those angels doing? They’re saying I don’t know you Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, which doesn’t really mean anything. It’s sublime nonsense. And so in the same way there are Buddhist texts and Hindu texts which are the chants of the Buddhas or Divine Beings which don’t mean anything at all and never did mean anything they are just glorious lolling, glossolalia. So the point that I wish to make most strong is that behind a vital religious life for the West there has to be faith which is not expressed in things to which you cling. In ideas, opinions to which you cling in a kind of desperation. Faith is the act of letting go, and that must begin with Letting Go of God. Let God Go.
The point that I wish to make most strongly, is that behind a vital religious life, for the West, there has to be faith which is not expressed in things to which you cling. In ideas, opinions, to which you cling in a kind of desperation. Faith is the act of letting go, and that must begin with Letting Go of God. Let God go.
But you see, this is not atheism in the ordinary sense. Atheism in the ordinary sense is further hoping that there isn’t a god. It has become extremely plausible that this trip between the maternity ward and the crematorium is what there is to life. And we still have going into our common sense the nineteenth century myth which succeeded the ceramic myth in Western history, I call it the myth of the fully automatic model of the universe. Namely, that it’s stupid. It’s blind force. Hekels. Gyration. Fortuitous Congress of Atoms, is of the same vintage as Freud’s libido. The blind surge of lust at the basis of human psychology.
But when you consider this attitude, you know, what is the poetic counterpart of it? Man is a little germ that lives on an unimportant rock ball that revolves about an insignificant star on the outer edges of one of the smaller galaxies. What a put down that was. But on the other hand, if you think about that for a few minutes, I am absolutely amazed to discover myself on this rock ball rotating around us of the spherical file. It’s a very odd situation. And the more I look at things I cannot get it rid of the feeling that existence is quite weird. A philosopher is a sort of intellectual Yokel who gawks at things that sensible people take for granted. And sensible people who claim that existence is nothing at all I mean just basic and go on and do something. This is the kind of movement in philosophy logical analysis says you mustn’t think about existence. It’s a meaningless concept,and therefore philosophy has become a discussion of trivia and philosophical journals is now satisfactorily dull as any other kind of purely technical inquiry. No good philosopher lies awake nights worrying about the destiny of man and the nature of God and all that sort of thing because a philosopher of today is a practical fellow who comes to the university with a briefcase at nine and leaves at five. He does philosophy during the day, which is discussing whether certain sentences have meaning and if so what and then he would as William Earl said in a very funny essay, he would come to work in a white coat if he thought he could get away with it. The problem is he’s lost his sense of wonder.
Wonder is like a in modern philosophy something you mustn’t have. It’s like enthusiasm in eighteenth century England,it’s very bad form. But you see I don’t know what question to ask when I wonder about the universe. It isn’t a question that I’m wondering about it’s a feeling that I have. Imagine if you had an interview with God, everybody was going to have an interview with God, and you were allowed to ask one question what would you ask. And don’t don’t rush into it. You will soon find that you have no idea what to ask. Because I cannot formulate the question that is my wonder the moment my mouth opens to utter it I suddenly find I’m talking nonsense. But that should not prevent wonder from being the foundation of philosophy. Well, as Aristotle said wonder is the beginning of philosophy. Because it strikes you that existence is very very strange. And then moreso when this so-called insignificant little creature has inside his skull a neurological contraption that is able to center itself in the midst of theseincredible expanse of galaxies and start measuring the whole thing. That is quite extraordinary. And then furthermore when you realize, that in a world where there are no eyes the sun would not be light. And that in a world where there were no soft skins rocks would not be hard, nor in a world where there were no muscles would they be heavy. Existence is relationship and you are smack in the middle of it.
So there is obviously a place in life for a religious attitude in the sense of awe. Astonishment at existence. And that is also a basis of respect for existence. We don’t have very much of it in this culture even though we call it materialistic. A materialist as a person who loves material. And I suppose in the Christian tradition and in the Jewish one would say that the lord God is the greatest materialist because you know as William Temple once said “God is interested in many other things than religion”. Well God only interested in religion the world would consist of nothing but church buildings and Bibles and clergyman. And that would be pretty boring.
So in the culture that we call materialistic today we are of course bent on the total destruction of material and it’s going to version into junk and poisonous gas as quickly as possible. This is not a materialistic culture because it has no respect for material. And respect is in turn based on Wonder, on feeling the marble of just an ordinary pebble in your fingers. So I’m afraid you see for the God is dead theology, that it will sort of drift off into secular do-goodery in the name of Jesus. And this is I think where we can be strongly religious side and stimulated by the introduction into our spiritual life of certain things that are Oriental.
Now you see, it must be understood that the crux of the Hindu and Buddhist disciplines is an experience not a theory. Not a belief. If we say that religion is a combination of creed, code, and cult, in other words, this is true of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity and if they are religions, Buddhism is not. Because the creed is a revelation they revealed the symbolism of, what the universe is about, and you are commanded to believe in it on the divine authority. The code is the revealed will of God for man which you are commanded to obey, and the cult is the divinely revealed form of worship which you must practice commandment because God is boss. He’s ruler. King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
But the disciplines say of yoga in Hinduism or of the various forms of Buddhist meditation do not require you to believe anything. And they have no commandments in them, they do indeed have precepts, but they are really vows which you undertake on your own responsibility, not in obedience to anybody. They are experimental techniques for changing consciousness. And the thing they are mainly concerned with is helping human beings to get rid of the hallucination that each one of us is a skin encapsulated ego. You know, a little source, a little man inside your head, located between the ears and behind the eyes who is the source of conscious attention and voluntary behavior.
Most people, you know, don’t think, don’t really think that they are anything but that and that the body is a thing you have. Mummy, who would have been if my father had been someone else? See the parents give you the body and you pop the soul into it at some period, conception or partition nobody could ever decide,and this attitude stays with us, that we are something in a body, that we have a body, and we are not it, so we experience the beating of the heart as something that happens to me, when I was talking or walking, is something that I do, don’t you be charged for language won’t allow you to think that it’s not customary to say so. How do you think? How do you manage to be conscious? You don’t know. How do you open and close your hand? Do you know? If you’re a physiologist, you may be able to say, but that doesn’t help you to open and close your hand any better than I do.
So, you know how to do it but I can’t put it into words in the same way the Hindu god knows how he creates this whole universe because he does it but he wouldn’t explain it that would be stupid you might as well try to drink the Pacific Ocean with a fork. So when a Hindu gets enlightened and he recovers from the hallucination of being a skin encapsulated ego and finds out that central to his own self is the eternal Self of the universe. And you go up to him and say “Well how do you do all this? he says “Well, just like you open and close your hand.” And because we are all it. Whenever a questioner used to come to Sri Ramana, the great Hindu sage who died a few years ago, they said to him Master. What was I living before in a previous incarnation and if so who was I? And he would say who is asking the question? Who are you? And a spiritual teacher in both Hinduism and Buddhism is a kind of, well, what he does to awaken you, to get you over the hallucination of being the skin encapsulated ego, he bugs you in a certain way. He has a funny look in his eyes as if to say “Come off it Shiva. I know what you are doing.” And you say “What, me?” Here he looks at you in a funny way. And there, finally you get the feeling that he sees all the way through you, and therefore that all your selfish and evil thoughts and nastiness is transparent to this gaze and then you have to try and alter them he suggests, you see, that you practice the control of the mind. That you become desireless. You give up selfish desires so as to cease to be a skin encapsulated self. And then you may have some success in quieting your mind, in concentrating, but then after that you throw a curve at you. Which is, but aren’t you still desiring not to desire? Why are you trying to be unselfish?
Well the answer is I want to be on the side of the Big Battalions.. I think it’s going to pay better to be unselfish than to be selfish. Well Luther saw that. Augustan saw that. But there it is. Because what he’s done, you see, he’s beginning to make you see the unreality, the hallucinatory quality of a separate self. This has merely conventional reality in the same sense as lines of latitude and longitude, the measurements of the clock, that’s why one of the meanings of Maya, illusion, is measurement. Things for example, are measurements, they are units of thought, like inches are units of measurement. There are no things in physical nature. How many things are a thing? It is any number you want. Because a thing is a think or unit of thought as much of reality as you can catch hold of in one idea.
So when this realisation of the hallucination of a separate self comes about it comes about through discovering that your alleged separate self can’t do anything. It can’t improve itself either by doing something about it all by doing nothing about it. Both ways are based on illusion. You see this is what you have to do to get people out of hallucinations you make them act consistently on the suppositions of the hallucination. People who believe that the earth is flat cannot possibly be talked into seeing that it’s round because they know it’s flat. Because can’t you see? So what you do is this you say let’s go and look over the edge, wouldn’t that be fun? But you see to be sure that we do get to the edge we must be very careful not to walk in circles. So you perform a discipline, you go steadily and rigorously westwards along latitude forty or something and then when you get back to the place where you started. He is convinced that the world is at least cylindrical. By experiment. By reductio ad absurdum of his premises and so in the same way, the guru whether Hindu or Buddhist performs a reductio ad absurdum on the premise of the skin encapsulated ego. Well what happens then? You might imagine from garbled accounts of eastern mysticism that one thereupon disappears forever into an infinite see a faint glimmer of Jello and become so lost to the world in entranced that you forget your name address, telephone number, and function in life and nothing of the kind happens. In the state of mystical illumination, although it may in its sudden onset be accompanied by a sensation tremendous luminescence and transparency and as you get used to it it’s just like everyday life. Here are the things that you formerly thought were separate individuals and the Here it is you who you formerly thought was merely confronting these other people. When the great Dr D.T. Suzuki was asked what is it like to be enlightened he said “It’s just like ordinary everyday experience except about two inches off the ground.” Because what is altered is not the way your senses perceive. What is altered Is that what you think about. Your definitions of what you see your evaluation of it. So when you don’t cling to it when you have no longer a hostile attitude to the world because you know the world is you it is mean to take it from the point of view of biology if I describe the behavior of a living organism I cannot possibly describe that behavior without simultaneously describing the behavior of the environment. So that I discover that I don’t describe organisms in environments, I describe a unified field of behavior called an organism-environment. It’s an awkward word. But there it is. The environment doesn’t push the organism around the organism doesn’t push the environment around. They are two aspects, or poles of the same process.
And so you have to understand that this attitude towards nature, seeing the fundamental unity of the self which manifests it all, is not an attitude as the missionaries are apt to suppose which denies the value of differentiation. You must understand the principle of what are called Identical differences. Take a coin, the head side is a different side from the tail side, and yet the two are inseparable. Take the operation of buying and selling, selling is a different operation from buying but you can’t buy unless somebody sells at the same time and vice versa. This is what is meant by the underlying unity of opposites what is called in Hinduism Vita, or non-duality. Or when the Chinese use the word Tao to designate The Way of operation of the positive and negative principles the yang and yin. It is not a unity that annihilates differences, but a unity which is manifested by the very differentiations that we perceive. Just as it’s all polar. It’s like the two poles of a magnet are different but yet one magnet. So when we say oriental monism is a point of view towards life which merges everything into a kind of sickening goo. This is terribly unfair. It just isn’t so. If you argue that the sort of doctrine that everybody is really the Godhead destroys the possibility of real love between individuals because you have to be definitively other than I am to love you, otherwise it’s all self-love. Well that argument collapses in view of the doctrine of the Trinity. If the three persons are one God then they can’t love each other by the same argument. Hinduism simply uses the idea which is in the Christian Trinity only it makes it a multi-Trinity instead of the three one. That’s all. Of course the thorn in the flesh is always in approaching a doctrine which seems to be monistic pantheistic. What about evil? Are we to make the ground of being responsible for evil. And we don’t want to do that because we want to keep God skirts clean. In spite of the fact that our own Hebrew Bible says I am the Lord, there is none else. I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil I the law do all these things. And haven’t you heard the story about the yetzer hara? That according to Jewish theology the law of God implanted in Adam at the beginning of time I think all the yetzer hara it means the wayward spirit. I call it the element of irreducible rascality. And it’s very necessary to have this in order to be human. You see how it was done was this prohibition not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. That was the one sure way of being a being, of getting it eaten. But of course when the Lord God accused out and said you have been eating of that tree, I told you not to eat. And he passed the buck to Eve said this woman that I gave is me she tempted me and I did eat. He looked at Eve, “Now what about it?” She said “Well it was the serpent.” He looked at the serpent, and the serpent didn’t say anything. Because he knew too much and he wasn’t going to give away the show. Who is it that sits at the left hand of God? We know who sits at the right hand. But it’s hushed up, because that’s the side where the district attorney sits. And in the Book of Job, of course you know, Satan is the district attorney at the court of heaven, he’s the prosecutor, he’s a faithful servant of the court.
Because you see, the whole problem is, it would be very bad indeed if God were the author of evil and we were his victims. That is to say, if we keep the model of the King of the universe and the creatures are all subjects of the king, then a God who is responsible for evil is being very unkind to other people. But in this theory God is not another person. There are no victims of God. He’s never anything but his own victim. You are responsible. And if you want to stay in the state of illusion, stay in it. But you can always wake up.
Mythology of Hinduism (1-2)
Mythology of Hinduism Transcript Part 1: (or jump to Part 2)
I wonder, I wonder, what you would do if you had the power to dream at night, any dream you wanted to dream. And you would of course be able to alter your time-sense and slip, say seventy-five years of subjective time into eight hours of sleep.
You would, I suppose, start out by fulfilling all your wishes. You could design for yourself what would be the most ectatic life. Love affairs, banquets, dancing girls, wonderful journeys. Gardens, music beyond belief. And then, after a couple of months of this sort of thing at seventy five years a night you’ll be getting a little taste for something different and you would move over to an adventurous dimension where there were certain dangers involved and the thrill of dealing with dangers. And you could rescue princesses from dragons. And go on dangerous journeys. Make wonderful explosions and blow them up. And eventually get into contest with enemies. And after you’ve done that for some time you’d think up a new wrinkle. To forget that you were dreaming so that you would think it was all for real. And to be anxious about it. Because it’d be so great when you wake up. And then you say well like children who dare each other on things, how far out could you get? Or could you take what dimension of being lost, of abandonment, of your power, what dimension of that could you stand you could ask yourself this because you know you would eventually wake up. And I feel gone on doing this you see for some time you would suddenly find yourselves. Sitting around in this room. With all your personal involvements problems that. Talking with me. How do you know that that’s not what you’re doing? Could be.
Because after all what would you do if you were God. If you were what there is. The Self. In the Upanishads, as the basic text of Hinduism one of them starts out saying in the beginning was the self. And looking around it said “I am.” And thus it is that everyone to this day when asked who is there, says it is I, and they are to give whatever particular name you may have. For if you were God and in the sense that you knew everything and you were completely transparent to yourself through and through. You would be bored. Because, if looking at it from another way, we push technology to its furthest possible development, and we had instead of a dial telephone on one’s desk a more complex system of buttons. And one touch beep, would give you anything you wanted. Aladdin’s lamp. You would eventually have to introduce a button labeled surprise.
Because all perfectly known futures as I pointed out are past. They have happened, virtually. It is only the true future is a surprise. So if you were God. You would say to yourself Man get lost. And it strange that this idea is obscurely embedded in the Christian tradition when in the epistle to the Philippians, Sir Paul speaks of God the Son the last the Word of God who is incarnate in Christ and says “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God thought not equality with God a thing to be clung to, but made himself of no reputation, and humbled himself and was found in fashion as a man and became obedient to death.” Same idea. Same idea as the idea of the dream. And yet that very far out dream of getting as extreme as you can get.
And so this then is the basis of the Hindu view of the universe and of man. The Hindu looks upon the universe as a drama. The Westerner of course looks upon the universe as a construct, as something made. And it is not therefore insignificant that Jesus was the son of a carpenter. The Chinese looks upon the universe as an organism, as we shall subsequently see. But the dramatic idea is basic to Hinduism. Now you can speak about Hinduism on two levels at least. One I will call the metaphysical level, and the other the mythological level. If you speak on the metaphysical level, you can speak only in negative language. You can say what the Divine, the ultimate reality, is not. If you speak on the mythological level, you may speak of what the Divine is like because myth is not a falsehood as one uses the word in a sophisticated way. A myth is an image, a concrete image in terms of which man makes sense of the world. And thus the idea of God the Father or God the maker is a myth because it’s an image. And Christian theologians distinguish equally between two kinds of theological language which are respectively called cataphatic and apophatic. Apophatic language is negative, as when we say God is infinite and eternal. Cataphatic language is mythological, as when we say God the Father, God is love and all the positive designations. We are not saying God is a cosmic male parent, but is analogous with the Father. So is Hinduism. But what I’m going to speak to you and first of all is the mythological language of Hinduism. The idea of the universe as the big act. The universe is God playing hide and seek. With himself. For God is thought of fundamentally to the Hindu as the self. The Self. The cosmic I. And it is a basic proposition for the Hindu, that only the Self, the Godhead is real. There is nothing other than the Godhead.
So that the appearance, of the feeling that there are other things than the Godhead, is called Maya. Maya. We ordinarily translate that word illusion. But you must be careful about the word illusion. Illusion is related to the Latin ludere. And that means play. And this is why the analogy of the world is dramatic. It’s a play-in the sense of a stage play. Now when you go to the theater, you know what you’re going to see is not for real. Because what proscenium arch tells you that everything that happens on the far side of that arch is only in play. Not serious. But the actor and you will hope that he will be good at it is going to try and persuade you that it’s for real. So that he will so move you that you are crying or sitting in anxiety upon the edge of your chair. And so the audience is almost persuaded to be taken in.
Now what about if this would happen with the very best actor of all. The great actor. The audience would have cost be completely taken in. But in this case of course the actor and the audience are the same. The Self. The Self has thus the capacity to abandon itself, to forget itself, to hide from itself, and thus to make the most completely convincing illusion but in play and so the activity of the creative activity of the Godhead in India is and is called Lila, which means play. Our word lilt is related to it I think. But so also in the Book of Proverbs. You will find a discourse being given by the Divine Wisdom “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways before his works of Old. I think it’s the twenty second chapter of Proverbs in the course of wish. The wisdom says that. Its delight was to rejoice the King James Bible says in the presence of God and with the sons of men. But the Hebrew translated rejoice says play. Rejoice is a sort of dignified Elizabethen. But it says play. And Sir Thomas, aware of this, said that the divine wisdom was above all to be compared with games because games are played for their own sake. And not for any sort of ulterior motive. So also music is a kind of non-purposeful thing because you don’t either play music to reach a destination, nor do you dance to reach a particular place on the floor. It is the doing of it itself that is important because after all if the object of music were to gain a certain destination those orchestras that played fastest would be considered the best.
So the idea is that the that dancing and music more than other arts represent the nature of this world. That it is playful. That it is sport. That is maybe sincere but is definitely not serious. And as G.K. Chesterton well put it once “The angels fly because they take themselves lightly.” How much more so a lot of the angels. So if a beautiful lady should say to me “I love you.” And I were to reply, “Are you serious, or are you just playing with me?” that would be quite the wrong response, because I hope she is not serious and that she will play with me. I should say are you sincere or are you just toying with me because you see the word play has many different senses. A person who is playing the organ in church is certainly not doing something trivial. When you go to see a play called Hamlet you are not saying something trivial. When the concert artists plays Mozart he is suddenly entertaining you but it’s not a trivial entertainment. But on the other hand we would use play in a did it quite a different sense when we mean just fooling around. Doing it for kicks.
So it is fundamental, as a matter of fact, to both the Hindu and the Christian traditions that the universe is the play of God. But the Christian thinks of it in the terms of construction play. Like building with blocks. And the Hindu thinks of it as dramatic play of the actual participation of the Godhead in the creation so that every being whatsoever is God in disguise. Hinduism speaks of the Godhead as you use is the word Brahman. This is neuter form in Sanskrit from the root “Bri”. Which means to grow. To expand. To swell. The neuter form “Brahman,” does not have quite the connotation then you see of kingship that we will find attached to the Western idea of God, but is also referred to as Atman. And this word we translate ordinarily the self so you can have the power are. You put the M. in to connect the particle, Param Atman, which means a part of the supreme self. Or sometimes just the Atman alone, and that means the Self in you.
But the fundamental principle of Indian philosophy is Atman as Brahman and your self is the Supreme Self. Or it is expressed also in the formula tat tvam asi, colloquially translated “you’re IT. Or tat, that, tvam, latin to arm, asi, you are that, that thou art. Tat, of course is the first word uttered by a baby. Da da da da da da. And fathers flatter themselves that it’s saying da-da. It’s not. It’s saying “that,” and so is pointing to that-ness in everything. It’s so important to see this. Because everything is just that. I could say it in a negative way which you won’t appreciate it first perhaps. Everything is meaningless. Only words have meaning. Because they point to something other than themselves. The sound water is undrinkable. But it points to the drink of all reality. But you say though what is that pointing at the water and somebody says water is not being correct because what you are pointing at is not the noise water so it’s not water. It’s that. Does. And what is a kind of jazz, bloop bloop bloop bloop bloop bloop, and it’s just doing that. And you can get to see two people or a kind of jazz. They talk and communicate with each other but what does that mean? Well they get together and they make more people and they do this and they do that and they eat and they go on doing this but it’s just jazz. And you begin to see as you do that, everything is like music you see it’s all these complicated vibrations could get do on all kinds of ways that’s that or that in this that are also called in Sanskrit.
So anyway this is the fundamental notion that you are really what there is. The works. Only you’re playing hide and seek with yourself. And on a stupendous scale. Hindus measure time in units which in Sanskrit are called Kalpa. And a Kalpa is a period of four million three hundred twenty thousand years. And there are two kinds of Kalpa. One is called Manvantara, and the other is called Pralaya. Manvantara is the Kalpa in which the universe is manifested. In other words, in which God puts on his big act. And Pralaya is the Kalpa succeeding Kalpa in which the universe is unmanifested And the Godhead does not dream but is awake to its own nature. So that for these, are called respectively the days and the nights of the Brahman. And this goes on for ever and ever and ever and ever the days, the days and nights adding up into years and centuries and aeons. They speak of Crore, a Sanskrit measure. Crore sort of a word that really I think means umpteen. Crores of kalpas. And this is the in breathing and the out-breathing. As this is the word hangsah. In this word in Sanskrit hangsah, means a swan or a big water bird like a gander. And there’s a myth that there is in the beginning the divine bird which lays the egg of the world and the egg splits and the upper is the heavens and the lower is the earth. Now so when the worlds are manifested, the Lord breathing out says “hung,” and when the worlds are withdrawn the breath comes back. But if you say hung. Hungsah becomes a hungsah. That means, sah means that, the truth. I am, I am that. It’s like imagine when we get to the final moment in which the world is blown up. You know, imagine the countdown. This is the end. Somebody has pushed the button. Eight,seven, six,five four three two one.
What are you listening to? The sound of the waves. And you can sit and listen to the little waves on the seashore. You get back here into this kind of thinking and you’re hearing the ocean of the universe going. And that’s your breathing too it’s all one rhythm. So it may be that every star was once a planet populated by intelligent people who found out about the fundamental energy of the universe and blew themselves up. And as they blew up, they scattered all kinds of stuff out which became little planets, and in a long time life started all over again. Because the Hindu theory is very odd. Every cow but in a Manvantara period whether the manifested world is divided into four subdivisions of time, each one of which is called a Yugo. That means roughly an epoch or an era. And there are four Yugo’s, and they are named after the different throws in the Indian game of dice. That for such throws in the first is called critter. That means. Creta means to do this when we say something is done truly done. It’s the perfect throw of four. second is called Threta or which is the throw three. The next is called Vapira which is the throw of two. And the final one is called Kali which means the worst throw which is the throw of one. Now each of these periods of the Kalpa. Are of different lengths creator is the longest and Carly is the shortest and so arranged. So that when the world is first manifested as in those dreams that I were mentioning to you the world is in a golden age to begin with is perfect. And that is the longest period of time. Then when we get a little bit more adventurous you see, treta means that in this era a kind of disharmonious element enters into things it’s like a three legged chair isn’t so secure as a four legged chair it’s just a bit inclined to tip. And as it were there’s a fly in the ointment. The snake in the garden. Then comes Vapara in which the forces of Good and Evil are equally balanced. And finally Kali which is the shortest period where the forces of evil the triumphant, and the world is destroyed at the end of it. For then the Godhead appears in the form of Shiva who represents the destructive aspect of the divine energy. And is the creative Vishnu, the Preserver, Shiva the Destroyer. But Shiva is always the destroyer in the sense of the liberator, the guy who breaks up the ruts. And he comes on with a blue body and ten arms and a necklace of skulls. Indian gods have many arms because they are cosmic centipedes. They do all things without having to think about it, like the centipede doesn’t have to think about how to manipulate its legs. Like you don’t have to think how to grow your hair. And as Shiva dances what is called the Tandava, which is the dance of destruction at the end of the cycle, at the end of the Kalpa. You will see that his hands contain clubs and knives and bells but one hand is like that, and that gesture means, don’t be afraid, it’s a big act. It is all as it were the outflowing of your own consciousness, of your own mind.
Now then, the Hindu life is related to this cosmology. And they object of life is of course in the end to wake up from the dream. When you’ve had enough. And so the dreaming process is called sometimes Samsara. Samsara is the round. The rat race. And Samsara is divided into six divisions. But I’d better draw a map, I think. This is commoncosmology to both the Hindus and the Buddhists.
This is the world of the Deva. And this is the same root from which we get both divine and devil, but Deva means angel. The highest and most successful beings in the universe, and so opposite this is the world of narac, naraka, who are the most unsuccessful .These are the purgatorial worlds of extreme suffering. This is the world of Assura. They are also angels, but they’re angry angels representing the wrath potential of energy. This is the world of animals. This is the world of Preta, for which we have no English equivalent,hungry or frustrated spirits who have enormous stomachs but mouths only the size of needles a vast appetite and no means of fulfillment. And this is the manu, the world, that is to say the world of man. You don’t have to take this literally. You could say when you are extremely happy or ecstatic you are here. When you are miserable, you are here. When you are dumb, you’re here, when you’re mad you’re here. When you’re frustrated you’re here, but when you’re more or less your normal rational self you are. Now or so you are all life through the period of the Kalpas goes grinding around this wheel. And if you go up and you succeed and you get to the top you have to come down. They don’t look they don’t see success in other words in the world as a method of liberation because it implies failure.
So the idea of liberation which is called Moksha. Is the ideal of Hindu life. Wake up, it’s a dream. And in time, there is no hope in time. Everything is going to get worse in time, because as you know it does we all fall apart in the end. Everything falls apart, institutions buildings and nations, it all crumbles. And people say well that’s an awfully pessimistic philosophy. Well is it? I would rather say that the people who have hope in the future are the miserable people. because they are like donkeys chasing carrots that are dangled before their noses from sticks attached to their collars. And they pursue and they pursue in vain, always hoping that tomorrow will be the great thing and therefore incapable of enjoying themselves today.
People who live for the future never get there. Because when their plans mature they are not there to enjoy them. They’re the sort of people who spend their lives saving for their old age. And trying to teach their children to do the same thing. So that when they retire at sixty five, you know there have false teeth and wrinkles and prostate trouble and all that sort of thing. Where were you going what did you think it was all about? Furthermore, the fact that life is transient, is part of its liveliness. The poets, in speaking of the transience of the world, always tell their best poetry. You know, our revels now are ended, and these are actors as I foretold you are all spirits and are melted into air into thin air. And like the baseless fabric of this vision, the Cloud-Cap towers, the goddess palaces, the solemn temples, the great earth itself I always did inherit shall dissolve. And like this insubstantial pageant faded, leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff as dreams are made up, and our little life is rounded with a sleep. And said so well it doesn’t seem so bad after all does it. You see there’s always in the poetry of Evanescence a kind of funny nostalgia. Moralists will say all those lovely lips which you so delight to kiss today will in a few years of rot and disclose the grinning teeth of the skull.
So what?The skull says lying in the grass chattering Finch in water fly are not merrier than I here among the flowers I lie laughing everlastingly. No, I may not tell the best, surely friends I could have guessed, death was but the good kings jest, it was hid so carefully. And monks used to keep skulls on their desks. And people nowadays think that was very morbid. But it’s only I went and visited the chapel in the Via Vinetto in Rome where there’s a crypt bones, where all the altar furnishings are made out of human bones. The altars of piles of skulls there are rib bones arranged across the ceiling like floral patterns with vertebrae representing flowers. And they’re all dead cap which in monks. And there’s a funny little monk collecting the admissions up at the top and he has one of the funniest grins on his face I see a long time. I said to him you know the Day of Resurrection is going to be an awful lot of scuttling up this narrow staircase, of people trying to reassemble their bones. Father isn’t that my fifth metatarsal? So the whole idea you see is that everything’s falling apart. So don’t try to stop it! When you’re falling off a precipice it doesn’t do you any good to hang on hang on to rock that’s falling with you. But everything is doing that and so again this is another case of a completely wasting our energy in trying to prevent the world from falling apart don’t do it. And then you’ll be able to do something interesting with the free energy.
So that’s Moksha. Because when the Hindu says everything is unreal, the Western reacts and says, “No no you can treat life as a dream. It’s serious, it’s real, it’s for real!” And what do you mean by? OK how really wanted to be. This is in other words. Everything in so far as it’s falling apart, if one thing is changing, it is like smoke, and we all feel that smoke has a lesser degree of reality than would. It’s is the image of the evanescent, of the ghostly. There’s this idea the whole world is this mirage. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing it’s only bad if you cling to it if you try to lean on it. But if you don’t lean on it it’s a grand illusion so the word Maya not means not only illusion but it means art. It means magic and it means creative power. So this is the big act. And it’s perhaps easier to feel the world in that way in a tropical country where death is very common and where you just watch things dissolve before your eyes ad yet burst out and grow again. The whole world is changing. Maybe easier to think that way than in our environment although when you’re out in California, the human landscape changes so fast, that no town is the same for two years. Any mailing list that you have change one third addresses per annum. Nothing stays put. The hills are shadows and they flow from form to form and nothing stands.
Now this you see is not a pessimistic attitude, therefore, at all, to be able to realize that this world is simply a dream. A dancing play of smoke, fascinating yes, but don’t lean on it. Life is a bridge, says one of the Hindu sayings, “Pass over it but build no house upon it.” And so immediately you see that this is responsible for the enormous gaiety of certain Hindu sages. This is a thing that often puzzles Westerners. The element of they expected anybody who’s an ascetic or a sage or something to be rather miserable with a glum face, but on the contrary. You take this character who’s going around these days that Mahashi Mahesh, he’s always laughing. Because he sees through it he looks on every side, and there is the face of the beloved of the divinity in everybody in every direction in everything playing at being you. And you can look down into a person’s eyes way way in and you see the Self, the Eternal Divine, and what is so funny when it puts on an expression saying “What me?” And the guru, the teacher. When people go to a guru, they get all sorts of funny ideas, they think he’s looking right through me. He sees me through and through he knows how awful I am, reads my most secret thoughts because he has a funny look at things. He isn’t even interested in your secret thoughts he is looking straight at the god it in you with a funny expression on his face which is saying “Why are you trying to kid me? You can have it Shiva, I know you are.” But and therefore you see his his role is to gently humor you into waking up as to your true nature. Now of course as I intimated earlier. The Hindu is therefore saying everybody is God. And this is why when a Hindu greets you he does this. That is the word the act of puja or worship to the Godhead in you. And our theologians get rather worried about that. Because you see the two conceptions of God are different. Our conception is of the boss man the king. Theirs is of the cosmic centipede with the many arms. Who does not have to think, how to make the world or other, to act the world. That would be an insufferable nuisance. You may think it rather wonderful when some Thomas tries to explain that God is fully aware of everything that happens and in every detail is willing each single vibration of any mosquitoes wing.
But when you really begin to think about it, that approach is intellectual elephantitis. Imagine the Lord being aware of all the prayers, and having to listen to the sort of prayers that go on every night. God heard the embattled nation shout. Got star for England, then God Save the King, God this, God that, of God The other thing good God said God I’ve got my work cut out.
But so therefore when somebody in India suddenly announces that he’s God, nobody accuses him of blasphemy or of being insane. They say simply congratulations, at last you found out. And they don’t immediately request a miracle. As you see, if we get across someone who says “I’m God” or “I’m a Jesus Christ,” they say what they said to Jesus Christ in the first place. Command that this bread, these stones be made bread. And you know, he used to wangle out of it and go out of it by saying “You’re wicked and deceitful generation seek it after a sign, in the show no sign be given.” The Hindu would say, but there is no point in changing it. It’s going the way I want it to anyhow. Only really and truly. There is not this idea of God the technician, but rather the power of omnipotence is not to be able to do anything, but to be doing all things, whatever it is that’s going on. And spontaneously without having to think about it which is very clumsy.
Now then, I must say something about how then this relates to the life of the Hindu. Hindus divide life into certain stages what I call the Asharmas. The first is called Brahma Charia. The second Gri Hasta. And the third Vannaprasta. Brahma Charia, means the stage of the student, the apprenticeship. Gri Hasta, to the stage of the householder. And Vanaprasta, the stage of the forest. This is really related to the cultural history of early India. Before we have agrarian communities, we have a hunting culture, which is on the move. In a hunting culture, every male knows the whole culture, there is no division of labor. And the holy man of the hunting culture is of course called a shaman. A shaman is a realized man, a man who knows the in a secret. He’s seen through the game and he finds it by going away alone into the forest. And cutting himself off from the tribe. That is to say, from social conditioning. And he goes maybe for a long period into the forest and comes back. He’s found out who he is, and he sure isn’t who he was told he was. But as hunting culture settle into agrarian patterns of life, what do they do? They build a village. And around the village they set up a stockade, which is known as the pail. And the village is always of course standing at a crossroads. And there you get in an agrarian society a division of labor. And the division of labor comprises four. In medieval Europe we call them lords spiritual. Lords temporal. Commons and serfs. In India they are Brahmins. Chatrya that means fighters. Vichya, merchants or traders. Shudra, laborers. So you’ve got the priests, the Warriors, the merchants, and the laborers. Division of labor. The four sections of town. So the four basic costs. So when you are born you are born into a caste. And your duty as a Gri Hasta, to our householder, is to fulfil your cost function, and to bring up a family. When you’ve done that. You go back to the forest, back to the hunting culture. And you drop your role. And you become nobody. A shaman again. So Hindu calls one who does this, which is of course the same word as Sharman. And the Chinese call him a Shaman. Shaman is an immortal. Why immortal? Because it’s only the role that’s mortal. The big front, the persona. The one who you really are. The common man, that is to say the man, who is common to us all which you could call the Son of Man. That’s the real self that’s the guy who’s putting on the big act. And of course he has no name. Nobody can put the finger on him. Because you can’t touch the tip of the finger with the tip of the finger.
So that means in practice then, that when you hand over your vocation in life which is called Svadarma, that means that’s the same as the Latin, one’s own karma means function your own function or we would call your vocation. When you’ve completed it, you drop out and become a nobody. Because you’re going to find out now who you really are. You’re no longer. Mr. Who is. Trust salesman. You drop that name. And you take on one of the names of God Swami Brahmananda Swami bliss of Brahma. And you’re. You may go quite naked like the Shiite holy man. No clothes and they just go out and wander and don’t make any provisions or anything they in literally take no thought for the morrow, what you shall eat, what you shall drink or where with all those will be clothed. But you seem people respect them. They say are we going to have those people up there because they are doing what human being is ultimately supposed to do, and we should do it in our turn and so give them some food. Now naturally caste holy men and all that kind of thing can be exploited. Anything can be exploited and abused. And we can look at it all and say. What a mess, why don’t you do something for yourselves? Why don’t you kill the sacred cows and eat them? Why don’t you clean up why do you permit all this disease? Just try and see something from another point of view for a change. I’m not saying that we should do what the Hindus do, but just look at it from another point of view. And they would smile at us and say. “You really think it’s as real as all that?” Have you never experienced what’s on the inside of this game.
So the trouble with you Westerners is you never experienced bliss. You never got down to the root of reality. You don’t know that state of consciousness. And so you’re frantically trying to patch everything up and pin it all together and screw the universe up so it’s fixed you can never do it or it is going to wildly rushing around and creating trouble. Cos Western educated induce think the same way. They are now rushing around and patching India up. And what’s going to happen is they’re going to arm all the millions of people in India and they’re going to create a lot of trouble in Asia one of these days when they become powerful society. We’re here of course.
Yeah that’s true you know. Because of the big fight with the devil you see. The war in heaven, you see now the funny thing about that is, when you read Milton’s Paradise Lost, long before Lucifer decided to rebel, the whole of Heaven was armed. And he describes the legions of angels with their discussions and gone for lungs and military department, who was looking for trouble? You know there Lucifer was a good guy back there,you see, the bearer of light. So the Hindu looks at our Christianity and sort of thinks, my goodness. Here is the eternal Self, but in the idea of Christianity, the God-head is having a real far one. Because not only is he incarnating himself, say as some wretched beggar, but he’s incarnated himself as a Christian soul who believes that in this one short life he will decide his eternal destiny and the possibilities of making a mistake are far greater than the being a lousy beggar. The possibility involved in the Christian gamble is to fry in hell forever and ever and ever and ever. Even the Avici hell at the bottom of the Naraka only goes on for about one Kalpa. But the everlasting damnation. What an idea. So the Hindu says Bravo, you know. God has really done a dare on himself this time to be a Christian soul.
Introduction to Buddhism (1-2)
Introduction to Buddhism Transcript Part 1: (jump to Part 2)
The idea of a Yana, of vehicle, comes from the basic notion or image of Buddhism as a raft for crossing a river. This shaw is ordinary everyday consciousness, such as we have, mainly the consciousness of being an ego or a sensitive mind locked up inside a mortal body. A consciousness of being you in particular and nobody else. The other Shaw is release or Nirvana. A word which means literally blow out. As one says when heaving a sigh of relief. Nirvana is a never, never, never to be interpreted as a state of extinction or a kind of consciousness in which you are absorbed into an infinitely formless luminous ocean which could best be described as purple jello. But luminous, you know, kind of spiritual. It isn’t meant to be that at all. Nirvana has certain many senses, but the primary meaning of it is that this everyday life just as we have it now, but seen and understood and felt in a very very different way. Buddhism is called in, general a Dharma, and this word is often mistranslated as the law. It’s better translated as the doctrine. And still better translated as the method. And the dharma is formulated originally by the Buddha, who was the son of a north Indian Raja living very close to Nepal who was thriving shortly after six hundred B.C. The word buddha is a title. The proper name of this individual was Guatama Siddhartha. The word Buddha means the Awakened One. From the Sanskrit root Budh, which means to wake. Or to know.
So we could say Buddha means the man who woke up, and the Buddha was a very very skilful psychologist. He is in a way the first psycho-therapist in history. A man of tremendous understanding of the wiles and deviousness of a human mind. What ism it is made to be easily understood. Everything is numbered so you can remember it. And the basis of it is and I want to call the four noble truths. The first one is the truth about suffering. The second the truth about the cause of suffering the third the truth about the ceasing of suffering. And the fourth, the truth about the way of ceasing the suffering. Then let’s go back to the beginning: suffering. The Sanskrit word as Dukha D. U. K. H. A. Dukha. In means suffering in the widest possible sense but chronic suffering chronic trust ration is probably as good a translation as any chronic frustration and the blood it does and says the life of mankind and of animals indeed also of angels. If you believe in angels is characterized by chronic frustration. And so that constitutes the problem if if anyone if anyone of you says I have a problem I don’t suppose you would be here if you didn’t in some way have a problem. Well that’s dukha.
Now the next thing is the cause of it., which is called Trishna T R I S H N A, is a Sanskrit word that is the root of our word thirst. Thirst. But more exactly craving or clutching or desiring. Because of craving or of clutching in us, we create suffering, but in turn this second truth includes that behind Trishna there lies another thing called ignorance. Avidya. Non Vision. And you see video. Vid in Sanskrit is the root of the Latin v Dale and of vision. And in front of the word is none as we say atheist is a non theist so I Vidia is not seeing ignorance or better ignoring because our mind as it functions consciously is a method of attending to different and particular areas of experience, one after another one of time. When you focus your consciousness on a particular area, you ignore everything else. That is why to know is at the same time to ignore. And because of that there arises Trishna craving. Why? Because if you ignore what you really know you come to imagine that you are separate from the rest of the universe. And that you are alone. And therefore you begin to crave. To thirst. You but you develop an anxiety to survive. Because you think if you’re separate if you’re not the whole works you’re going to die actually you’re not going to die at all you’re simply going to stop doing one thing and start doing something else you know when you die in the ordinary way you just stop doing this thing called Alan Watts. But you do something else, later, later man and I’m like that and you and it is nothing to worry about at all. Only if you are going tally law up in the illusion that you’re only this then you begin to be frightened and anxious and that creates thirst. So if you can get rid of ignorance, ignore-ance, and widen your mind out so as to see the other side of the picture, then you can stop craving. That doesn’t mean to say you won’t enjoy your dinner. And that it won’t be nice to make love to girls or anything like that. It doesn’t mean that at all it means you enjoying your dinner and making love and generally. Enjoying the senses and all the experience that only becomes an obstacle to you if you cling to that in order to save yourself.
But if you don’t need to save yourself you can enjoy life just as much as ever. You don’t have to be a Puritan.
So then, that state of letting go instead of clinging to everything. Supposing you’re in business, and you have to make money and keep up this family support or something like that you know the thing is do that but don’t don’t let it get you down. Do it what the Hindus call Nishkama Karma. Karma, Nishkama means passionless karma activity. And that means doing all the things that one would do in life one’s business one’s occupation and cetera et cetera but doing it without taking it seriously. Do it as a game. And then everybody who depends on you will like it much better, because if you take it seriously, they’ll be feeling guilty because they’ll say “Oh dear papa absolutely knocks himself out to work for us,” you see, and they all get miserable and they go on. They live their lives out of a sense of duty which is a dreadful thing to do.
So that’s Nirvana, to live in a let-go way. Then the Four Noble Truths describes the way the method of realising Nirvana, and that’s called the Noble Eightfold Path. And the eightfold path is a series of eight human activities such as understanding of your effort, vocation or occupation, speaking, conduct, etc., and they’re all prefaced by the Sanskrit word Samyak, which is very difficult to translate. Most people translate it right, in the sense of correct. But this is an incomplete translation. The word sum, the root sam in Sanskrit is the same as our word sum, through the Latin suma. And of course the sum of things means completion. But it also has the sense of balanced, or middle wayed. Not W E I G H E D, but W A Y as in the middle way, and Buddhism is called the middle way. And we will find out a great deal about that later.
But the thing that you must recognize is this. Buddhism, although when you say right speech in other words, don’t tell lies. Well let me put it this way, everybody who belongs to the Theravada school in the south expresses the fact that he is a Buddhist by reciting a certain formula. And it’s called Kisarana, and Panchasila. This is I’m talking Pali now, not Sanskrit. And I means the three refuges punch a seal on the five precepts. And they put their hands together like this and say “But the hung on them be done hung on Tom the sun Hung’s on me” [sic], that means I take refuge in Buddha, I take refuge in the method, the Dharma, I take refuge in the Sangha, which means the fraternity of the followers of Buddha, and then he goes on and he takes the five precepts [chants]. And this precepts one after another I have promised to abstain from taking from life. Taking life. I do not die now, that I many I have promised to abstain from taking what is not given Kama Summa. God, I promise to abstain from exploiting my passions. Most of out of out on me, I promise to abstain from false speech [chants]. I promise to abstain from getting intoxicated by a list of various boozes. [laughs] Now that this, everybody, Buddhists in the southern school says this.
Mahayanas have a different formula. All this is the method and the method, the dharma, is there for a moral law. Just like the Ten Commandments but it isn’t. There’s nothing. It’s quite different. You see, you don’t take the five precepts in obedience to a royal edict. You take them upon yourself. And there is a very special reason for doing so. How can you call fill the precept not to take life? Every day you eat, even if you’re a vegetarian, you must take life. And so on.
Now therefore, understand this, and this is absolutely fundamental to an understanding of Buddhism. Buddhism is a method. It is not a doctrine. Buddhism is a dialogue. And what it states at the beginning is not necessarily what it would state at the end. The method of Buddhism is first of all a relationship between a teacher and a student. The student creates the teacher by raising a problem and going to someone about it. Now if he chooses wisely, you see, he’ll find that if there’s a Buddha around to use as the teacher. And then he says to the Buddha, “My problem is that I suffer, and I want to escape from suffering.” So the Buddha replies. “Suffering is caused by desire. By Trishna, by craving. If you can stop desiring, then you will solve your problem. Go away and try to stop desire.” And he gives him some methods. How to practice meditation, and to make his mind calm and still to see if he can stop desire. The student goes away and practices this. Then he comes back to the teacher and says, “But I can’t stop desiring not to desire. What am I to do about that?” So the teacher says. “Try then to stop desiring not to desire.” And now you can see where this is going to land up. Or he might put it in this way. “All right if you can’t completely stop desiring, do a middle way.” That is to say, stop desiring as much as you can stop desire. And don’t desire to stop any more desire than you can stop. See where that’s going to go.
Because he keeps coming back. Because what the teacher has done in saying stop desiring he has given his student what in Zen Buddhism is called a koan. This is a Japanese word that means a meditation problem, or more strictly it means the same thing as case means in law. Because koans are usually based on anecdotes and incidents of the old masters, cases, precedents. But a koan, the function of the koan is a challenge for meditation. Well who is it that desires not to desire? Who is it that wants to escape from suffering? And here we get to a methodological difference between Hindus and Buddhism on the question of who are you. The Hindu says you, yourself, he calls Atman, the self. And he says now strive to know the self. Realize I am not my body because I can be aware of my body. I am not my thoughts because I can be aware of my thoughts, and not my feelings, for the same reason I am not my mind, etc., because I can be aware of it. Therefore I really am other than, above, transcending, all these finite aspects of me. Now that the Buddhist has a critique of that. He says “Why do you try to escape from yourself as a body?” The reason is your body falls apart and you want to escape from it. Why do you want to decide then to fight yourself from your emotion. The reason is your emotions are uncomfortable and you want to escape from. You don’t want to have to be afraid. You don’t want to have to be in grief or anger. And love even is too much, you see, it involves you and suffering because if you love someone you have a hostage to fortune.
So the Buddha says the reason why you believe you are the Atman, the eternal Self, which in turn is the Brahman, the self and the whole universe, is that you don’t want to lose your damn ego. And if you can fix your ego and put it in the safe deposit box of the lot. You’ve still got yourself, you haven’t really let it go. So the Buddha said there isn’t Atman. He taught the doctrine of an non-Atman, non-self. Your ego is unreal. And as a matter of fact, there’s nothing you can cling to. No refuge really. Just let go, man. There’s no salvation, no safety, nothing anywhere, you see how clever that cross. Because he what he was really saying is any Atman, that you could cling to or think about or believe in wouldn’t be the real one. This is the accurate sense of the original documents of the Buddha’s teachings, if you carefully go through it that’s what he’s saying he’s not saying that there isn’t the outline of a Brahman is anyone you could conceive wouldn’t be it. Anyone you believed in would be the wrong one. Because believing is clinging still. There’s no salvation through believing. There’s only salvation through knowledge.
And even then. The highest knowledge is to know is non-knowledge. And he agrees with the Hindus, who say in the opening Upanishads, if you think that you know Brahman, you do not know him. But if you know, that you do not know the Brahman, you truly know. Why? Well that’s very simple. If you really are it, you don’t need to believe in it. And you don’t need to know it, just as your eyes don’t need to look at themselves and see. So that’s the the difference of method in Buddhism. Now understand method here. Method as that dialogue. And the so-called teachings of Buddhism are the first opening gambit in the dialogue. And when they say you cannot understand what is an out of books the reason is that the books only give you the opening gambits. Then having read the book you have to go on with the method. Now you can go on with the method without a former teacher, that is to say you can conduct a dialogue with yourself. Or with life. You have to explore and experiment on such things as, could one possibly not desire? Could one possibly concentrate the mind perfectly? Could one possibly do this that and the other and you have to work with it you see so that you understand the later things that come after trying these experiments. These later things are the heart of Buddhism.
So then shortly after the Buddha’s time. the practice of Buddhism continued as a tremendous ongoing dialogue among little various followers, and eventually they established the great universities. Such as there was at a place called Nalanda in northern India. This discourse was going on, and if you looked at it superficially, you might think it was nothing but an extremely intellectual bull session where philosophers were outwitting each other. Actually, the process that was going on was this. That the teacher or guru in every case was examining students as to their beliefs and theories, and destroying their beliefs showing that any belief that you would propose any idea about yourself or about the universe which you want to cling to and make something of use for. A crutch, a problem, the security, the teacher demolishes that. This is how the dialogue works, until you are left with not a thing to hang on to. Any religion you might propose, even atheism, they’ll tear up. Agnosticism they’ll destroy. Any kind of belief. They’re experts in demolition, so that they finally get you to the point where you’ve got nothing left to hang on to. Well then you’re free, cause you’re it, you see? Once you’re hanging on to things, you put it, somewhere else and see, something I can grab. And even when you think that “I’m it,” you’re still hanging on to, then they’re going to knock that one down.
So when you are left without anything at all, you have seen the point. Now that the method of the dialogue essentially. That is the dharma. And all but it’s make jokes about. Buddha says in the Diamond Sutra “When I attained complete perfect unsurpassed awakening I didn’t attain anything.” Because it’s like, to use a metaphor that is used in the scriptures, it’s like using an empty fist to deceive a child. So you know, you say to a child, “What have I got here?” The child gets interested immediately, and wants to find out, so you hide it, and the child climbs all over you can’t get a give and finally you do let him get it and there’s nothing in it.
Many of the problems that are now being discussed by modern logicians are unbeknownst to them already in the ancient Indian books. Problems of semantics, problems of meaning, problems of the nature of time and of memory. All these were discussed with very very meticulous, scholarly sophistication. So that it is my opinion that this was a very very fertile period of human history. And that the philosophy in which it eventually emerged, the philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism is as yet the most mature and really intelligent theory of human life and of the cosmos that man has ever devised. It is characteristic of this point of view. That it adheres to the Middle Way. And the Middle Way doesn’t mean moderation, it means the bringing together of opposites. Of what we might call in our world spirit and matter, mind and body. Mysticism and sensuality. Unity and multiplicity. Conformity and individualism. All these things marvelously wedded together in the worldview of Mahayana. And fundamental to Mahayana Buddhism is the idea of what is called the bodhisattva. Bodhisattva means a person who has as his essence Satva, Bodhi, awakening. And it’s usually used to mean a potential Buddha. Someone who is as it were, just about to become a Buddha. That was the original sense and so part of the Pali Canon is a book called The Jatam Kamala [sic[, the tales of the Buddha’s previous lives. How he behaved when he was an animal. How he behaved when he was a man, long before he became Buddha. And in all these stories, he is represented as sacrificing himself for the benefit of other beings. But since he had not yet become a fully fledged Buddha he’s called in these stories a bodhisattva. That really means a potential Buddha.
But the point is that as a potential Buddha as a Boddhisatva, he is always involved in situations where he is feeding himself for the hungry tigers and so on. Now in the course of time, the term Bodhisattva underwent a transformation. A bodhisattva matures and becomes a Buddha. And what does that mean popularly? It means that whoever is fully awakened to the way things are is delivered from any necessity to be involved in the world any more. In other words, you can go on to a transcendent level of being, where time is abolished. Where all times are now. Where there are no problems. Where there is perpetual eternal peace. Nirvana, in the sense of the word Pari-Nirvana means beyond Nirvana, super Nirvana. So that, if you are fed up with this thing and you don’t want to play the game of hide and seek anymore you can go in the Pari-Nirvana and be in total serenity. However, and again I’m talking the language of popular Buddhism, aperson who stands on the threshold of that peace can turn back. And say I won’t be a Buddha. I’ll be a Boddhisatva. I won’t make the final attainment, because I would like to go back into the world of manifestation they call Samsara. Go back into that world and work for their liberation.
So then, when a Mahayana Buddhist does his formula. For Puja. He says, sentient beings are numberless, I take a vow to save them. Diluting passions are inexhaustible, I take a vow to destroy them. The gates of the method of the method, the Dharma, are manifold, I take a vow to enter them. The Buddha Way is supreme, I take a vow to complete it. All this is impossible. And see numberless sent in beings because their numbers can never be delivered. Diluting passions which are inexhaustible can never be eliminated. So the Mahayana say [chants]. That’s their formula theBoddhisatva, who returns into the world and becomes involved again is in fact regarded as a superior kind of being to the one who gets out of it. And the person who gets out of the rat race and enters into eternal peace is called Pratyekabuddha, which means private Buddha, a Buddha who does not teach. Who does not help others, and in Mahayana literature that is almost a term of abuse. Pratyekabuddha is a class with unbelievers and heretics and infidels and fools. But the great thing is that Bodhisattva. All beings are thought of in popular Buddhism as constantly reincarnating AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN And AGAIN into the round of existence, helplessly, because they still desire. They’re therefore drawn back into the cycle. The Bodhisattva goes back into the cycle with his eyes wide open voluntarily. And allows himself to be sucked in, and this is normally interpreted as an act of Supreme compassion and bodhisattvas can assume any guise. They can get furiously angry, if necessary, in order to discourage evil beings. Even could assume the role of a prostitute and live that way so as to deliver beings at that level of life. Could become an animal, become an insect, become a maggot, anything you know. All deliberately and in full consciousness, to carry on the work of the deliverance of all beings. Now that’s the way the popular mind understands it, and therefore the bodhisattvas are all revered and respected and worshiped and looked upon as gods as we look upon God in the West and as saviors as the Christian looked upon Jesus. But underneath this myth there is a profound philosophical idea. And that is this it goes back to the Hindu philosophy of advice and non-duality. Namely, there the apparent dualism of I and thoue. Of the knower and the known, the subject and the object is unreal. And so also the apparent duality between. Maya the world illusion and reality is unreal. The apparent deluded duality or difference between the enlightened and the ignorant person is unreal.
So the apparent duality of bondage and deliverance, all liberation is unreal. The wise, the perfectly wise man, is the one who realizes vividly that the ideal place, is the place where you are. This is an impossible thing to put in words. The nearest I could get to it would be to say that if you could see this moment. That you need nothing beyond this moment, now, sitting here, irrespective of anything I might be saying to you, of any ideas you might have rattling around in your brains. That here and now is the absolute, which than which there is no whicher. Only, we prevent ourselves from seeing this, because we are always saying there ought to be something more on, I’m missing it something somehow. And nobody sees it. Now. Then also the most far out form of my own of Buddhism is in is called the Pure Land school Jodo Shinju. Jodo means pure land since you true sect. And. This is based on the. Idea that there was an immeasurably past ages a Great Bodhisattva called Amitava and he made a vow that he would never never become a Buddha unless any being who repeated his name would automatically, at death be born into the pure land over which he presides, over this kind of paradise. He did become a Buddha, and so the vow works. All you have to do is to repeat the name of Amitaba, and this will assure the fact that without any further effort on your part you will be reborn in his paradise when you die and in that Paradise becoming a Buddha is a cinch. There are no problems there. There Western paradise, you see, is a some kind of a level of consciousness, but it’s represented as fact as a glorious place and see the pictures of it in. A sound wonderful pictures where the Buddha Amitaba who is actually a Persian figure. Related to a whole a Mazda. And he means boundless light. And that diverts at Kamakura that enormous bronze Buddha in the open air is Amitabha. So there he sits surrounded with his court and this court is full of ups silence and absoluteness beautiful girls playing lutes and as you are born into the Paradise what happens when you die because you discover yourself inside a lotus. And the Lotus goes up and there you find yourself sitting coming out. Of the water. And here on the clouds in front of you are the Absaroke sitting striving their Lutes with the most sensitive Puritan faith. And. To get this all you have to do is say the name of a meta. Formula is nominal I mean them but.
Now I want to know what’s and you get this fast man know what I mean everything I mean about them and I want a man on the man on the moon on the man on the moon on the moon on the moon on the moon I’m set any minute time to see you so you’re quite sure it’s going to happen. But actually only have to say it once. And you mustn’t make any effort to gain this reward because that would be spiritual pride. Your karma you see your bad deeds your awful past is so bad that anything good you try to do is done with a selfish motive and therefore doesn’t effect your deliverance. Therefore the only way to get deliverance is to put faith in the power of this I mean the border. And to accept it as a free gift and to take it by doing the most absurd things saying no more I mean the books. Don’t even worry whether you have to have faith in it’s because trying to have faith is also spiritual pride it doesn’t matter whether you have faith or whether you don’t the thing works anyway so to say now I mean the books and that’s the most popular form of Buddhism in Asia. The two most vast temples in Kyoto the initiate he got Gandhi temples represent the sect. And everybody loves Army Tarver I’m either they call him in Japan boundless light infinite but of compassion. Sitting there with us and jelly expression on his face it’s all right by the same man. And it’s all you have to do. So when we add together try our wheels number I mean what they call it Nembutsu that’s the means of remembering but are. Bookcases and all these things where you just have to put it up and the the work is done for you. Then wouldn’t we Westerners say especially if we are Protestants. Oh what a scoundrelly thing that is what an awful degradation of religion what violence of them are all challenge and effort and everything that is or. Is this what the Bodhisattva doctrine of infinite compassion deteriorates into.
Now you see. There is a profound aspect to all that. Just as the. There is the diamond in the ice. As we were talking about this morning. Just as there is desperation and despair. Nirvana. Desperation and despair. Of the horrors. So there are two ways of looking at this. Nothing to do no effort to make idea. Depending completely on the Savior. For who is I mean Taba. Popularly Amitava is somebody else he has some great. Compassionate being who looks after you. He said Terry Klee I mean is your own nature. I mean. Harbor is your real self the inmost boundless light that is the root and ground of your own consciousness. You don’t need to do anything to be that. You are that. And saying Nembutsu is simply a symbolical way of pointing out. That you don’t have to become this you are it. And Nembutsu therefore and its deeper side builds up. A special kind of sage which they call mere CONAN. Milk on in Japanese means a marvelous fine man. But the mere con in is a special type of personality. Who corresponds in the West to the holy full in Russian spirituality or to something like the Franciscan in Catholic spirituality. And you know Conan. Well I tell you some Neal Conan stories that the best way to indicate their character. One day I’m Neal Conan was traveling and stopped in a Buddhist temple overnight. And he went up to the sanctuary where they have all these big questions like you know for the priest to sit down and he arranged the questions in a pile on the floor and went to sleep on. In the morning the priest came in. And saw this tramp sleeping. Then what are you doing here desecrating the sanctuary by sleeping on the cushions and so on right in front of your order. And the mirror can look at him in astonishment and said. Safire you must be a stranger here you can’t belong to the family. In Japanese when you want to say. That a thing is just the way it is you call it son or mama. So as a Haiku poem which says. We needs in the rice field cut them down so no mama fertilizer. Cut the weeds leave them exactly where they are and they become fertilizer so on Auma. And so on mama means reality just the way it is just like that now there’s an expression of parallel expression comma comma means I just as I am. Just little me and I like that with no frills no pretense except that I naturally have some pretense. That’s part of Connemara. And the mirror Conan is the man you see who realizes that he can i just as I am and butter. And delivered by I mean Tom or because I mean it is my real nature. If you if you really know that you see. That makes you in your can. But but be aware of the fact. That you could entirely miss the point. And become a monkey instead. By saying I am all right just as I am and therefore I’m going to rub it in. And I’m going to be. Going around. Parading my unregenerate nature because this is Buddha too you see. The fellow who does that doesn’t really know that it’s OK. He’s doing too much he’s coming on too strong. The other people who are. Always. Beating themselves they’re doing the opposite error you see the middle way right down the center. Is where you don’t have to do a thing to justify yourself. And you don’t have to justify not justifying itself which is the mistake that most beatniks make. They justify not justifying themselves. And go too far.
So you see there’s something quite fascinating and tricky in this doctrine that of the Great Bodhisattva I mean. Who saves you just as you are who delivers you from bondage just as you are and you only have to say no more I mean of. Fastening. But that is the principle. And that is you see your acceptance of yourself as you are. Is the same thing as coming to live now as you are you see now is as you are in the moment. But you can’t come to now and you can’t accept yourself. On purpose. Because the moment you do that you’re doing something unnecessary. You’re doing a little bit more that’s what they call in Zen legs on a snake. Or a beard on a eunuch. You’ve overdone it you see. How can you. Neither do something about it. Nor do nothing about it as if that was something you had to do. You think. This is the same problem as originally posed in Buddhism. How do you cease from desiring. Because when I’s try to seize from designing I am desiring not to design. Infancy and. All of this is a what is called group. Or skillful device. To slow you down. So that. You can really be here. By seeing that there is nowhere else you can be. You don’t have to come to now where else can you be. It isn’t. A task it isn’t a contests the Greeks called are gone agony. A contest. There’s nowhere else to be so they say Nirvana is no other than some saga This shore is really the same as the other shock. It’s not a year so if you look far in this long of a tower Sutra says if you look to try and get Nirvana in order to escape suffering and being reborn that’s not nirvana at all.
I suppose most of you have heard of Zen. But before going on to explain any details about it I want to make one thing absolutely clear. I am not a Zen Buddhist. I am not advocating Zen Buddhism. I’m not trying to convert anyone to it. I have nothing to sell. I am an entertainer. That is to say, in the same sense that when you go to a concert and you listen to someone play Mozart ,he has nothing to sell except the sound of the music. He doesn’t want to convert you to anything. He doesn’t want you to join an organization in favor of Mozart’s music as opposed to say Beethoven’s. And I approach you in the same spirit as a musician with his piano or violinist with his violin. I just want you to enjoy a point of view which I enjoy.
Now then, having then…when that’s been said and I hope it’s put your minds at rest. Let me give you first of all some simple historical information. Zen is a form of Buddhism. It originated in Chinaa bout five hundred A.D.. and about twelve hundred A.D. it migrated to Japan where it exists today. And it is a form. It’s a way of life that has had an immense influence on the arts, and on the culture, the poetry and architecture of the Far East. It has lately become of enormous interest to many people in other parts of the world. Now, normally when one talks about Buddhism and Zen is a form of Buddhism, it is supposed that you’re talking about a religion, and people are apt to classify themselves as Buddhists as they might say I am a Catholic, or a Methodist, or a Baptist, or an Episcopalian, or a Jew. But that is rather misleading. Buddhism is not a religion in that sense.
If we want to find an equivalent to Buddhism in our society today in the West, probably the nearest thing to it is psychotherapy. When a person goes to a psychiatry store psychoanalyst to work out a serious personal problem, not because he’s just nutty. I mean not necessarily because he has hallucination or excessive singing in the ears with no clear physical origin but when a person feels that his whole life is somehow disoriented and wrong, and he doesn’t go to the preacher, because the preacher only moralizers to him and says, My man you should have more faith in God or something. So he goes instead to a doctor because in our day is a man with a tag of science on him has more prestige than a man who has the tag of religion. And so when psychiatrist goes to work on you, his objective is more or less to change your state of consciousness. That is to say, if your state of consciousness, your state of mind is one of being day after day constantly depressed, the objective of going to a psychiatrist, or a psychotherapist is to have your state of consciousness changed to one of happiness.
Now in a somewhat similar way, the object of Buddhism in all its forms, is to bring about a fundamental change in a human being’s everyday state of consciousness. If I make it yet more specific, it’s to bring about a change in your sense of personal identity, that is to say in your sensation of who and what you are. And in this way, Buddhism which I suppose you know, is a method of changing consciousness that was discovered or invented by a man called Guatama, who lived in India shortly after six hundred B.C.. Who was given the title Buddha because the word means the awakened one the man who woke up. And therefore that very title suggests that ordinary people are asleep. I remember a very wise man who used to give lectures like this and when he came in he used to be silent and he’d look at the audience and he had gaze at everybody in the audience particularly, for a long time, and everybody would begin feeling they get embarrassed, and when he gazed at them for a long time he’d say, “Wake up! You’re all asleep. And if you don’t wake up I won’t give any lecture.” Now in what sense are we asleep? The Buddhist would say that almost all human beings have a phony sense of identity. A delusion a hallucination as to who they are. I’m terribly interested in this problem of identity and I try and find out what people mean when they say the word I. I think this is one of the most fascinating questions. Who do you think you are? Now what seems to develop is this. Most people think that I is a center of sensitivity somewhere inside their skin. And the majority of people feel that it’s in their heads. Civilizations in different periods of history of differed about this. Some people feel that they exist in the solar plexus; other people feel that they exist about here, but in American culture today or in the Western culture in general most people feel that they exist in here [forehad]. And there is as it were a little man sitting inside the center of the skull. And he has a television screen in front of him which gives him all messages from the eyeballs. He has earphones on and that gives him all messages from the ears, and he has in front of him a control panel with various dials and buttons and things which enable him to influence the arms and legs and to get all sorts of information from the nerve ends and that’s you.
So we say in popular speech, I have a body. Not, I am a body, but I have one because I am the owner of the body in the same way as I own an automobile. And I can take the automobile to the mechanic and occasionally in the same way, I have to take my body to the mechanic the surgeon the dentist the doctor and have it repaired. But it belongs to me. It goes along with me, I mean it a child for example can ask mother mom who would I have been if my father had been someone else? And that seems a perfectly simple and logical question to a child asked because of the presumption that your parents gave you your body, and you were popped into it, maybe at the moment of conception or maybe at the moment of birth, from a repository of souls in heaven and your parents simply provided the physical vehicle.
So that age long idea that is indigenous, especially to the Western world, is that I am something inside a body. And I am not quite sure whether I am or am not my body. Some doubt about it. I say, I think. I walk, I talk, but I don’t say I beat my heart. I don’t say, I shake my bones, I don’t say I grow my hair. I feel that my heart beating, my hair growing, my bone shaping, is something that happens to me. And I don’t know how it’s done. But other things I do. And next, I feel quite sure that everything outside my body is quite definitely not me. There are two kinds of things outside my body. Number one is other people. And they’re the same sort of thing as I am. But also they are all little men locked up inside their skins. And they’re intelligent, they have feelings, and values and are capable of love and virtue. But number two is the world that’s non-human that we call nature. And that stupid. It has no mind. It has emotions maybe, and animals. But on the whole it’s a pretty grim business, dog eat dog. And when it gets to the geological level it’s as dumb as dumb can be. It’s a mechanism and there’s an awful lot of it. And that’s what we live in the middle of and the purpose of being human is, we feel, to subjugate nature. To make it obey our will and we arrived here, we don’t feel that we belong in this world. It’s foreign to us. In the words of the poet Housman.” I a stranger and afraid in a world I never made.”
And so all around us today we see the signs of man’s battle with nature. I’m living in the moment in a marvelous house in the Hollywood Hills. And we’re overlooking a lake. And on the other side of the lake the whole hill has suddenly been interrupted with a ghastly gash where they have made level lots for building tract homes of the kind you would build on a flat plane. This is called the conquest of nature. These houses will eventually fall down the hill. Because they are causing soil erosion and they’re being maximally stupid. The proper way to build a house on a hillside, is to do it in such a way as to effect the minimum interference with the nature of the hill. After all, the whole point of living in the hills is to live in the hills. There’s no point in converting the hills into something flat and then going and living there. You can do that already on the ground. So people the more people live in the hills the more they spoil the hills and they’re just the same as people living on the flat ground. How stupid can you get? Well anyway that this is one of the symptoms of a phoney sense of identity. Of our phony feeling, that we are something lonely locked up in a bag of skin and confronted with the world and external, alien, foreign world that is not me. Now according to certain of these great ancient philosophy is like Buddhism, this sensation of being a separate lonely individual is a hallucination. It’s a hallucination brought about by various causes the way we are brought up, being the chief of them of course. I remember as a child, and you probably have very similar memories to mine that all our parents were desperately interested in identifying us. Don’t you remember that sometimes you went out and played with other children and there was someone in the group of other children you admired and look up to and you came home imitating the mannerisms of that other child. And your mother said to you Johnny, that’s not you, that’s Peter. And you felt a little bit ashamed, because somehow you let her down. She wanted you to be you her child and not Mrs Jones’s child Peter. And so in many ways we are all taught this. For example, the main thing that we’re all taught in childhood is that you must do that which will only be appreciated if you do it voluntarily. Now darling, a dutiful child must love its mother, but now I don’t want you to do it because I say so but because you really want to. Or, you must be free. See, this comes into politics. Everybody must vote. You see, imagine. You are members of a democracy. And you must be members of a democracy, you’re ordered to. Crazy. Also, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God. Is that a commandment or a joke? You know, if you suggest that the Lord is joking, most people in our culture are offended, because they have a very moronically conception of God as a person totally devoid of humor. But the Lord is highly capable of joking because joking is one of the most constructive things you can do.
So when you are told who you are and that you must be free; furthermore, that you must survive, and you must go on living, and that becomes a kind of compulsion, you get mixed up. It’s very simple, of course you get mixed up if you think you must do something which will only be the thing required of you if you do it freely. These are the sort of influences then that cause human beings all over the world to feel isolated. To feel that they are centers of awareness locked up in bags of skin.
Now this sensation of our identity can be shown and demonstrated to be false by some of the disciplines of our own science. When we describe a human being or any other living organism from a scientific point of view, all that means is that we’re describing it carefully. We’re going to describe very carefully what a human being is and what a human being does. All right. And we find that as we go on with that description, we can’t describe the human being without describing the environment. We can’t say what a human being is doing without also saying what the world around him is doing. Just imagine for a moment that you couldn’t see anything up here except me. You couldn’t see behind me, you couldn’t see the stage you couldn’t see the microphone, you could only see me. That was all you could see. What would you be looking at? You wouldn’t see me at all. Because you wouldn’t see my edges, and my edges are rather important for seeing me. My edges would be identical with the edge of your eyesight, with that vague oval curve which is the field of vision, and what you would be looking at would be my necktie, my nose, my eyes and so on but you wouldn’t see my edges. So you’d be confronted with a very strange monster. And you wouldn’t know it was a human being. Because to see me you need to see my background. And therein lies a clue of which we are mostly ignorant. In Buddhist theory, because of our phony sense of identity is called Avidya, and that means ignorance, although it’s better to pronounce it ignore-ance. Having a deluded sense of identity is the result of ignoring certain things.
So when you look at me and I manage by behaving up here in a kind of a more or less interesting way, I cause you to ignore my background because I concentrate attention on me. Just like a conjurer stage magician in order to perform his tricks misdirects your attention. He talks to you about something he’s doing here, and he talks to you about his fingers and how empty they are and he can pulls something out of his pocket in plain sight and you don’t notice it. And so a magic happens. That’s ignoring. Selective attention focusing your consciousness on one thing to the exclusion of many other things. So in this way we concentrate on the things the figures. And we ignore what we don’t concentrate on the background and so we come to think that the figure exists independently of the background. But actually they go together, and they go together just as inseparably as backs go with fronts, as positives go with negatives, as ups go with downs. And as life goes with death. You can’t separate it. So there’s a sort of secret conspiracy between the figure and the background. They are really one, but they looked different. They need each other. Just as male needs female. And vice versa. But we are ordinarily completely unaware of this. So then when the scientist starts paying attention to behavior of people and things carefully, he discovers that they go together. That the behavior of the organism is inseparable from the behavior of its environment.
So you see if I am to describe what I am doing what am I doing. Am I just waving my legs back and forth? No. I’m walking. And in order to speak about walking you have to speak about the space in which I am walking about the floor. About the direction left or right in relation to what kind of room, what kind of stage, what kind of situation. Because if obviously if there isn’t a ground underneath me I can’t very well walk. So the description of what I am doing involves the description of the world. And so, the biologist comes to say that what he is describing is no longer merely the organism and its behavior. He is describing a field which he now calls the organism hyphen environment. And that field is what the individual actually is. Now this is very clearly recognised in all sorts of sciences, but the average individual and indeed the average scientist does not feel in a way that corresponds to his theory. He still feels as if he were a center of sensitivity locked up inside a bag of skin. The object of Buddhist discipline or methods of psychological training is as it were, to turn that feeling inside out. To bring about a state of affairs in which the individual feels himself to be everything that there is. The whole cosmos. Focused, expressing itself here. And you as the whole cosmos expressing itself there and there and there. And so on. That what, in other words, the reality of myself fundamentally is, not something inside my skin but everything, and I mean everything outside my skin, but doing what is my skin and inside. I mean, imagine that every one of us…look, in the same way that the sea when the ocean has a wave on it. The wave is not separate from the ocean is it. Every wave on the ocean is the whole ocean wave in the ocean waves and it says you I’m here. But I do I can wave all over the place I can wave in many different ways I can wave this way or that way. So the Ocean of being waves every one of us. And we are its waves, but the wave is fundamentally the ocean.
Now in that way, your sense of identity would be turned inside out. You wouldn’t forget who you were, you wouldn’t forget your name and address, your telephone number, your social security number and what sort of role you are supposed to occupy in society. But you would know, that this particular role that you play, this particular personality that you are, is superficial and the real you, is all that there is.
The object of Buddhist discipline or methods of psychological training is as it were, to bring about a state of affairs in which the individual feels himself to be everything that there is. The whole cosmos, focused, expressing itself here. Now, in that way, your sense of identity would be turned inside out. You wouldn’t forget who you were. You wouldn’t forget your name and address, your telephone number, your social security number and what sort of role you are supposed to occupy in society. But you would know that this particular role that you play. This particular personality that you are, is superficial and the real you is all that there is.
And that inversion, turning upside down of the sense of identity, of the state of consciousness which the average person has, is the objective of Buddhistic disciplines. The method of teaching something in Buddhism is rather different from methods of teaching which we use in the Western world. In the Western world, a good teacher is regarded as someone who makes the subject matter easy for the student. A person who explains things cleverly and clearly so you can take a course in mathematics without tears.
In the Oriental world, they have an almost exactly opposite conception, and that is that a good teacher is a person who makes you find out something for yourself. In other words, learn to swim by throwing the baby into the water. There’s a story used in Zen about how a burglar taught his child to burgle. He took him one night on a burgling expedition and locked him up in a chest in the house that he was burgling and left him. And the poor little boy was all alone locked up in the chest and he began to think, how on earth am I going to get out? So he suddenly called out fire, fire, and everybody began running all over the place and they heard the shriek coming from inside the chest and they unlocked it and he rushed out and shot out into the garden. And just then, everybody was in hot pursuit calling out thief thief and he went by a well he picked up a rock and dropped it in the well. And everybody thought the poor fellow has jumped into the well and committed suicide. And he got away. And got home and his father said Congratulations you have learned the art. So do you see? William Blake once said a fool who persists in his folly will become wise.
And so, the method of teaching used by these great eastern teachers is to make fools persist in their folly, but very rigorously and very consistently and very hard. So then, if I may now having given you the analogy, the image let’s go to the specific situation. Supposing you want to study Buddhism under a Zen master, what will happen to you. Well first of all, let’s ask the question why would you want to do this anyway? I mean I can make the situation fairly universal it might not be as an master that you go to it might be a Methodist minister. It might be a Catholic priest it might be a psychoanalyst but what’s the matter with you. Why do you go? And surely the reason that we all would be seekers is that we feel some disquiet about ourselves. Many of us want to get rid of ourselves. We can’t stand ourselves and so we watch television and go to the movies and read mystery stories and join churches in order to forget ourselves. In order to merge with something greater than ourselves. We want to get away from this ridiculous thing locked up in a bag of skin. So I have a problem. I hurt. I suffer. I’m neurotic, or whatever it is, and one goes to the teacher and say my problem’s me, change me. Now if you go to a zen teacher. He’ll say. Well I have nothing to teach. There is no problem, everything’s perfectly clear. And you think that one over. And you say he’s probably being cagey. But he’s testing me out to see if I really want to be a student. So I know, according to everybody else who’s been through this, that in order to get this man to take me on I must persist. Do you know our saying, anybody who goes to a psychologist ought to have his head examined. That’s a very there’s a double take in that saying. So in the same way anybody who goes with a spiritual problem to a zen master defines himself as a nut, and the teacher does everything possible to make him as nutty as possible. But the teacher says quite honestly I haven’t anything to tell you. I don’t teach anything. I have no doctrine as I said to you in the beginning of this talk, I have nothing whatsoever to sell you. So the student thinks, this is very deep, because this nothing that he’s talking about this nothing that he teaches, is what they call in Buddhism Sunyata, is Sanskrit for nothingness. But, and it’s supposed to be the ultimate reality but as you know if you know anything about these doctrines This doesn’t mean real no-thing-ness,not kind of just nothing there at all not just blank but it means no thing. It’s the transcendental reality behind all separate and individual things and that’s something very deep and profound so he knows that when the teacher said I have nothing to teach he meant this very esoteric no thing. Well he might also say then if you have nothing to teach what are all these students doing around here? And the teacher says they are not doing anything they’re just, they’re just a lot of stupid people who live here. And he knows again you see, this stupid doesn’t mean just straight stupid but the higher stupidity of being, people who are humble and don’t have intellectual pride.
So finally the student having gone out of his way to define himself as a damn fool in need of help has absolutely worked himself into the situation. He’s defined himself as a nut and then the teacher accepts him, and the teacher says now, Im going to ask you a question. I want to know who you are before your father and mother conceived you. That is to say, you come to me with a problem and you said I have a problem I want to get one up on this universe. Who is it that wants to get one up? Who are you who is this thing called your ego your soul, your eye, or identity for whom your parents provided the body? Show me that and, he says Father I’m from Missouri and I don’t want any words I want to be shown. So the student may open his mouth to make an answer but the teacher says. You’re not ready. And he takes him back and introduces him to the chief student, all those so-called Zen monks who live together. And the chief student says now what we do here is so and so, we have this discipline, but the main part of the discipline is meditation. And we all sit crosslegged in a row and then we do that, and you sit cross-legged and you learn how to breathe and be still. In other words to do nothing. But you mustn’t go to sleep, and you mustn’t get into a trance. You have to stay wide awake, not thinking anything, but perfectly doing nothing. And there’s a monk walking down all the time with a flat stick rather long about so long and if you go to sleep or if you get into a trance or if you get dreamy he hits you on the back. So that you’ll stay quite clear and wide awake but still doing nothing. And the idea is that out of the state of profoundly doing nothing you will be able to tell the teacher who you really are. And in other words, the question Who are you before your father and mother conceived you is a request for an act of perfect sincerity and spontaneity, as if I were to say to you, will you be absolutely genuine with me? No deception please, I want you to do something that expresses you without the slightest deception no more role acting, no more playing games with me I want to see you.
Now imagine. Could you really be that honest with somebody else? Especially a spiritual teacher. And you know, he looks right through you. He sees all your secret thoughts. And he knows the very second when you’ve been a little bit phony. And that bugs you. Just like a psychiatrist. You’re sitting in there discussing your problems with him and you start picking your nose. And the psychiatry suddenly says to you is your finger comfortable there, do you like that? And you know you know your Freudian slip is showing. What do fingers symbolize, what do nostrils symbolize? And then use it quickly to put your hand sort of. And you say, oh no it’s nothing it’s nothing I was just picking my nose. And the analyst says Oh really? Then why are you justifying it? Why are you trying to explain it away? He has you everywhere you turn. But that’s the whole art of psychoanalysis and it’s then it’s the same thing.
In other words, when you are challenged to be perfectly genuine. It’s like saying to a child, now darling come out here and play, don’t be self-conscious. Or it’s like I would say to you now look if you come here tonight at exactly midnight and put your hands on the stage you can wish and have granted any wish you want provided you don’t think of a green elephant. So everybody will come there put their hands here and they will be very careful not to think about a green elephant. Well now do you see the point, that everybody if we transfer this to the dimension of spirituality where the highest ideal is to be unselfish, to let go of oneself. When you are trying to be unselfish, you are doing it for selfish reasons. You can’t be unselfish by a decision of the will, any more than you can decide not to think of a green elephant. There is a story about Confucius, who one day met Lao Tzu, who was a great Chinese philosopher. And Lao Tzu said so what is your system and Confucius said it is charity and love of one’s neighbor and elimination of self interest. Lao Tzu said, [that’s] stuff and nonsense. Your elimination of self is a positive manifestation of self. Look at the universe. The stars keep their order. The trees and plants grow up words without exception the waters flow. Be like this. All your nonsense about elimination of self is like beating a drum in search of a fugitive. So in this way these are all examples of the thing, that trickery the master is playing on you. You came to him with the idea in your mind that you are a separate, independent, isolated individual, and what he is simply saying to you is show me this individual. I had a friend who was studying Zen in Japan and he got pretty desperate to produce the answer of who he really is and on his way to an interview with the master to give an answer to the problem he noticed a very common sight in Japan, a big bullfrog sitting around in the garden, and he swooped this bull frog up in his hand dropped it in the sleeve of his. And then he went into the master. And to give the answer of who he was, he suddenly produced the bull frog. And the Master said, too intellectual. In other words, this answer is too contrived. It’s too much like Zen. You’ve been reading too many books. It’s not the genuine thing.
So after a while what happens is this. When the student finds that there is absolutely no way of being his true self. Not only is there no way of doing it, there is also no way of doing it by not doing it. You can’t do it by doing something you can’t do it by not doing something. Let me make this clear or put it into Christian terms. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God. Now what are you going to do about that? If you try very hard to love God and you ask yourself Why am I doing this? You find out you’re doing it because you want to be on the side of the big battalions. You want to be right. After all the Lord is the master of the universe isn’t he? And if you don’t love him you’re going to be in a pretty sad state. So you realize I’m loving him just because I’m afraid of what will happen to me if I don’t, then you think that’s pretty lousy love isn’t it. And you think I am that’s a bad motivation. I wish I could change that I wish I could love the Lord. Out of a genuine heart. But why do you want to change? I realize that the reason I want to have a different kind of motive is that I’ve got the same mode. So I say, oh heaven sakes God I’m a mess. Will you help me out? And then he reminds you, why are you doing that? Now you’re you’re just giving up, aren’t you, you’re asking someone else to take over your problem.
So you suddenly find you see you’re stuck. So in this way, what is called the Zen problemor koan is likened to a person who swallowed a ball of red iron. He can’t gulp it down and he can’t spit it out. Or it’s like a mosquito biting an iron bull. It’s the nature of a mosquito to bite and it’s the nature of an eye and the bull to be unbiteable and both go on doing their thing that is their nature. And so nothing can happen. You are absolutely are up against it. Absolutely no answer to this problem. No way out.
Now what does that mean? If I can’t do the right thing by doing and if I can’t do the right thing by not doing what does it mean it means of course. That I do is say to do all this am a hallucination. There is no independent self to be produced. There is no way at all of showing it because it isn’t there. So you recover from the illusion and you suddenly wake up and think what a relief. And they call that Satori, that’s awakening, the first step in awakening. Let me try and translate this. When this kind of experience happens you discover that what you are is no longer this sort of isolated center of action and experience locked up in your skin. That by being, the teacher has asked you to produce that thing. To show it to him genuine and naked and you couldn’t find it. So it isn’t there. And when you see clearly that it isn’t there, you have a new sense of identity. And you realize that what you are is as I said the whole world of nature doing this.
Now that’s a difficult thing for many Western people, because it suggests to them a kind of fatalism. It suggests that the individual is nothing more than the puppet of cosmic forces. So in the same way, when your own inner sense of identity changes, from being the separate individual to being what the entire cosmos is doing at this place, you become not a puppet, but more truly and more expressively an individual than ever. This is the same paradox which the Christian knows in the form whosoever would save his soul shall lose it. Now I think that this is something of very great importance to the western world today, because we have developed an immensely powerful technology. We have stronger means of changing the physical universe than has ever existed before. How are we going to use it? There is a Chinese proverb that if the wrong man uses the right means, the right means work in the wrong way. Let us assume that our technological knowledge is the right means. What kind of people are going to use this knowledge? Are they going to be people who hate nature and feel alienated from it or people who love the physical world and feel that the physical world is their own personal body? And extension the whole physical universe right out of the galaxies is simply one’s extended body. Now at the moment, the general attitude of our technologists who are exploring space is represented in the term “the conquest of space”. And they are building enormous shell like phallic objects to go into the sky. And this is downright ridiculous because who is going to get anywhere in a rocket. You know it takes a terrible long time even to get to the moon, and it’s going to take longer than anybody can live to get outside the solar system just to begin with. The proper way to study space is not with rockets, but with radio astronomy. Instead of going bang, you know, the toughest the sky. Become more sensitive. Develop subtler senses that’s radio astronomy and everything will come to you be more open be more receptive and eventually you will develop an instrument that will examine a piece of rock on Mars with greater care than you could if you were holding it in your own hand. Let it come to you. But you see this whole attitude of using technology as a method of fighting the world. Will succeed only in destroying the world. As we are doing with. Uninformed and shortsighted methods of getting rid of insect pests of forcing our fruit and tomatoes to grow of stripping our hills of trees and so on and so on thinking with all this is some kind of progress when actually it is turning everything into a junk heap. It is said you know that Americans who are in the forefront of technological progress are materialists nothing is further from the truth. American culture is dedicated to the hatred of material and to its transformation into John. Look at Los Angeles. Does it look as if it was made by people who love the material it’s all made out of take it back which is a combination of plaster of Paris paper maché and plastic glue and comes in any for. The important lesson in other words is technology and its power. Must be handled by true materialists and true materialists are people who love material. Who cherish wood and stone and wheat and eggs and animals. And above all they. Treat it with a reference that is due to one’s own body.
Taoist Way (1-3)
The philosophy of the Tao is one of the two great principal components of Chinese thought. There are of course quite a number of forms of Chinese philosophy, but there are two great currents which have fairly molded the culture of China and they are Taoism and Confucianism. And they play a curious game with each other. Let me start by saying something about Confucianism originating with confluence of Confucius who lived approximately a little after six hundred thirty B.C.. He’s often supposed to have been a contemporary of Lao Tzu, who is the supposed founder of the Taoist way, but it seems more likely that Lao Tzu lived later than four hundred, according to most modern scholars. Confucianism is not a religion. It’s a social ritual. And a way of ordering society. So much so that the first great Catholic missionary to China Matteo Ricci was a Jesuit found it perfectly consistent with his Catholicism to participate in Confucian rituals because he saw them as something of a kind of national character as one might pay respect to the flag or something of that kind in our own times. But he found that Confucianism involved no conflict with Catholicism no commitment to any belief or dogma that would be at variance with the Catholic faith.
So Confucianism is an order of society and involves ideas of human relations including the government and the family based on the principle of what is called in Chinese rin, although Joshua will notice that I never get my tones right. Which is an extraordinarily interesting word. I’m going to put some of these things on the whiteboard. This is the word rin in Chinese, and it’s often translated benevolence, but that’s not a good translation at all. This word means human heartedness. That’s the nearest we can get to it in English. And it was regarded by Confucius as the highest of all virtues but one that he always refused to define. It’s above righteousness and justice and propriety and other great confusion virtues and it involves the principle that human nature is a fundamentally good arrangement. Including not only our virtuous side, but also our passionate side also our appetites in our way witness. The Hebrews have over a term which they call the yetzer hara Y E T Z E R H A R A. Which means the wayward inclination, or what I like to call the element of irreducible rascality, that God put into all human beings. And put it there because it was a good thing it was good for humans to have these two elements in them and so a truly human hearted person is a gentleman with a slight touch of rascality just as one has to have salt in a stew. Confucius said the goody good is other thieves of virtue. And Meaning that to try to be wholly righteous is to go beyond humanity. To try to be something that isn’t human. So this gives Confucian approach to life and justice and all those sort of things a kind of queer humor. Sort of boys will be boys attitude which is nevertheless a very mature way of handling human problems. It was of course for this reason that the Japanese Buddhist priests who visited China to study Buddhism especially as zen priests, introduced Confucianism into Japan, because despite certain limitations that Confucianism as and it needs it always needs the Tao philosophy as a counterbalance. Confucianism has been one of the most successful philosophers in all history for the regulation of governmental and family relationships. But of course it is concerned with formality. Confucianism prescribes all kinds of formal relationships; linguistic,ceremonial,musical, in education, in all the spheres of morals, and for this reason has always been treated by the Tao for being unnatural. You need these two components, you see and they play against each other beautifully in Chinese society. Roughly speaking mostly they confusion in the way of life is for people involved in the world. The Taoist way is to a of life is for people who get disentangled.
Now as we know in our own modern times there are various ways of getting disentangled from the regular lifestyle say of the United States. If you want to go through the regular lifestyle of the United States you go to high school and college and then you go into a profession or a business and you own a standard house and you raise a family and you have a car or two cars and do all that jazz. But a lot of people don’t want to live that way and there are lots of other ways of living besides that. So you could say that those of us who go along with the pattern correspond to the Confucians, and those who are Bohemians or bums or beatniks or whatever and don’t correspond with the pattern they are more like the Taoists. Because the Tao is really, actually in Chinese history,Taoism is a way of life for older people in. Lao Tzu, the name given to the founder of the Tao and means the old boy, and the legend is that he when he was born he was already had a white beard.
So, it’s sort of like this that when you have contributed to society when you’ve contributed children and brought them up, and you have assumed a certain role in social life. You then say Now it’s time for me to find out what it’s all about, who am I ultimately behind my outward personality. What is the secret source of things? And the latter half of life is the preeminently excellent time to find this out it’s something to do when you are finished with the family business. I am not saying that that is sort of unavoidable strict rule of course one can study the Tao when very young. Because it contains all kinds of secrets in it as to the performance of every kind of art or craft or business or any occupation whatsoever. But it does in in in China in a way it plays that role of a kind of safety valve. For the more restricted way of life that Confucianism prescribes. And the there is a sort of type in China who is known as the old rogue. He’s a sort of intellectual bum, often found among scholars who is admired very much and who had a type of character which had an influence on the development of the ideals of Zen Buddhist life. He is one who goes with nature rather than against nature.
Well now, first of all I’m going to talk about ideas which come strictly out of Lao Tzu’s book the Tao Te Ching And of course the basic thing in the whole philosophy is the conception of Tao. This word has many meanings and the book of Lao Tzu starts out by saying that the Tao which can be spoken is not the eternal Tao. Or you can, there’s a pun in there, but you can’t quite put into English. You can’t give all the meanings because the word Tao means both. The way for course of nature. Or of everything. It also means to speak.
So the actual opening phrase of the book. Following this word Tao is this. And the character is repeated again. You see and this this character means can be or can, able, something like that. So the way which can be then give it its second meaning spoken. Described out of. But it also means the way that can be weighed not W E I G H But W A Y E D. You know, you’d have to invent that word. The way that can be traveled perhaps is not the eternal way. In other words there is no. Way in which the Tao or following the Tao, there’s no recipe for it. I can’t give you any do it yourself instructions A.B.C. D. as to how it’s done. It is like when Louis Armstrong was asked What is jazz? he said “If you have to ask you don’t know.” Now that’s awkward, isn’t it. But we can gather what it is by absorbing sudden atmospheres and attitudes connected with those who follow it and from the art and the poetry and all the expressions and the anecdotes and stories. That illustrate the philosophy of the way. So this word, then, the way or the course of things is not you must understand there’s some Christian missionaries translate as the logos. Taking as their point of departure the opening passage of some John’s Gospel in the beginning was the word. Now if you look up the Chinese translation of the Bible it says in the beginning was the Tao. And the Tao was with God and the Tao was God. The same as in the beginning with God all things were made by it and without it was not anything made that was made.
So they have substituted Tao there, now that mimic a very funny effect on a Chinese philosopher, because the idea of things being made by the Tao is absurd but the Tao is not a manufacturer and it’s not a governor. It doesn’t rule as it were in the position of a king. Although the book without it being is written for many purposes, but one of its important purposes is as a manual of guidance for a ruler. And what it tells him is essentially ruled by not ruling. Don’t lauded over the people and so he says the great Tao flows everywhere both to the left and to the right. It loves and nourishes all things but does not lord it over them. And when good things are accomplished. It lays no claim to them. In other words, the Tao doesn’t stand up and say I have made all of you, I have filled this earth with its beauty and glory, fall down before me and worship. The Tao, having done anything you know always escapes. And is not around to receive any thanks or acknowledgement. Because it loves obscurity. And Lao Tzu said the Tao is like water. It’s always seeks the low level which human beings abhor. So it’s a very mysterious idea. Tao then is not really equivalent with any Western or Hindu idea of God because God is always associated with being the Lord. Even in India, the Brahman is often called the supreme lord although that with the term are strictly applicable to ishtar, the manifestation of Brahman in the form of a personal god. But rather than the Lord Krishna as his his son is the Bhagavad-Gita the song of the Lord of there’s always the idea of the king and the ruler attached but not in the Chinese Tao philosophy.
The Tao is not something different from nature, from ourselves, from our surrounding trees and waters and air. The Tao is the way all that behaves. And so the Chinese, the basic Chinese idea of the universe is really that it’s an organism. And as we shall see when we get on to Huang Tzu, or who is the sort of elaborator on Lao Tzu. He sees everything operating together. So that nowhere can you find the controlling center there isn’t any. The world is a system of interrelated components none of which can survive without each other. Just as in the case of bees and flowers. You will never find. These around in a place where there aren’t flowers and you will never find flowers around in a place where there aren’t bees or insects that do the equivalent job. And what that tells us secretly is that although bees and flowers look different from each other they’re inseparable. They, to use a very important Taoist expression, they arise mutually. This is one of the great phrases from the second chapter of Lao Tzu’s book where, he says this this character means to have or to be, and this next one is a very important character in Taoist philosophy it means no negative will in Chinese not to be, and then this curious expression for which we don’t have a really good corresponding idea in traditional Western thought. So, to be and not to be, mutually arise. This character is based on the picture of a plant. Something that grows out of the ground. So you could say, positive and negative, to be and not to be, yes and no. Light and dark arise mutually come into being. There’s no cause and effect, it’s not that relationship at all, it’s like the egg and the hen. So as the bees and the flowers co-exist, in the same way as high and low back and front and long and short, loud and soft. All those experiences are experience of all only in terms of their polar experience. So the Chinese idea of nature is that all of areas species arise mutually because they into depend and this total system of interdependence is the Tao. It involves certain other things that go along with Tao but this is this is this mutual arising is the key idea toe whole thing and it is, if you want to understand Chinese and Oriental thought in general it is the most important thing. To grasp. Because you see we think so much in terms of. Cause and effect we think of the universe today. In Aristotelian and Newtonian ways, and in that philosophy the world is all separated. It’s like a huge amount of nation of billiard balls. And they don’t move until struck by another or by a cue. And so everything is going to talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk all over the place one thing starting up another in a mechanical way. But of course from the standpoint of twentieth century science we know perfectly well now that that’s not the way it works. We know enough about relationships to see that that mechanical model which Newton devised was all right for certain purposes. But it breaks down now because we understand relativity, and we see how things go together in a kind of connected net, rather than in a chain of billiard balls banging each other around.
So, in in the philosophy of the Tao, it is said, it’s always being said this is, you read this in every art book about Chinese art, that in Chinese painting, man is always seen as in nature, rather than dominating it. You’ll get a painting entitled, poet drinking by moonlight. And you see a great landscape and after some search with a magnifying glass at last you see the poet, stuck in a corner somewhere drinking wine. Whereas if we painted the subject poet drinking by moonlight the poet would be the most obvious thing in the picture there he would be dominating the whole thing the landscape of somewhere behind it, but of all the Chinese painters put man, I mean the painters of the great classical tradition. There are Chinese painters who specialize in family portraits and do these very formal paintings of someone’s ancestor sitting on a throne it’s quite a different category but the Taoist inspired painters, Zen inspired painters, have this view of man as an integral part of nature. Something in it just as everything else is in it flowers and birds. And not they’re sent into this world commissioned by some sort of supernatural being to come into this world and find it dominated it.
So then, the whole conception of nature is as a self regulating, self-governing, indeed democratic organism. But it has a totality, it all goes together and this totality is the Tao. So then we move to a second term that is extremely important. That the, expression. Tsu-ran, is the Bickley the term that we translate nature. When we translate Chinese. But this term expresses this whole point of view it doesn’t say nature, natura, which means in a way, class of things. It means literally self-so. What is so obvious itself what happens of itself and the spontaneity. And in the doubt edging early on Lao Tzu says the Taoist method is to be so of itself. Now we might translate that automatic where it not that the word automatic has a mechanical flavor. Tsu-ran, or [shizen?]as is called or she’s an in Japanese means spontaneous. Yes, i happens as your heart beats, you don’t do anything about it you don’t force your heart to beat you don’t make it beat it does it by itself. Now figure out a world in which everything happens by itself it doesn’t have to be controlled it’s allowed. The whereas you might say the idea of God involves the control of everything going on. The idea of the Taoist, is the ruler who abdicates and lets all the people trust all the people to conduct their own affairs to let it all happen. So this doesn’t mean you see that there isn’t a unified organism and everything is in chaos it means that the more liberty you give the more love you give the more you allow things in yourself and in your surroundings to take place, the more order you will have.
It is believed generally in India that when a person sets out on the way of liberation, his first problem, is to become free from his past karma. The popular theory of Karma, of the word that literally means action or doing in Sanskrit, so that when we say that something that happens to you is your karma It’s like saying in English it’s your own doing. But in popular Indian belief, karma is a sort of built in moral law or a law of retribution. Such that all the bad things you do and all the good things you do have consequences which you have to inherit and so long as karmic energy remains stored up you have to work it out. And what the sage endeavors to do is a kind of action which in Sanskrit is called Nish comma Karma. Nish comma means without passion or without attachment karma, action. And so, in whatever action he does he renounces the fruits of the action so that he acts in a way that doesn’t generate future karma because future karma continues you in the wheel of becoming, Samsara, the round, and keeps you being reincarnated. Now then, in that case, when the time comes that you start to get out of the chain of Karma. All the creditors that you have start presenting themselves for payment, in other words, does a person who begins say to study yoga this felt that he will suddenly get sick or that his children will die he loses money all sorts of catastrophes will occur because. The karmic debt is being cleared up. And it is in no hurry to be cleared up if you’re just living along like anybody but if you embark on the spiritual life a certain hurry occurs and therefore since this is known. It’s rather discouraging to start these things. The Christian way of saying the same thing is that if you plan to bet, o change your life, shall we say to turn over a new leaf, you mustn’t let the devil know, because he will oppose you with all his might if he suddenly discovers that you’re going to escape from his power. So for example, if you have a bad habit say you drink too much and you make a New Year’s resolution that during this coming year you’ll stop drinking that’s a very very dangerous thing to do because the devil will immediately know about it. And what will happen will be this. See he will confront you with the prospect of three hundred sixty five drinkless days, and that will be awful, you know, just overwhelming and you won’t be able to make much more than three days on the wagon.
So in that case you compromise with the devil and say just today I’m not going to drink you see but tomorrow maybe you know we’ll go back. Then when tomorrow comes you say Oh just another day and it’s trial that’s all and the next day you say one more day won’t make much difference so you only do it for the moment and you don’t let the devil know that you have a secret intention of going on day after day after day after day.
But of course there’s something still better than that. And that is not to let the devil know anything. And that means of course not to let yourself know. One of the many meanings of that saying Let not your left hand though watch or write and do it is just this. And that was why in the Zen discipline, the great deal of it centers around. Acting without premeditation, as those of you know who read Harry Gold’s book, Zen in the art of archery it was necessary to release the bowstring without first saying now. There’s a wonderful story it may also have read by a German writer Von Kleist, about a boxing match with a bear. The man can never defeat this bear because the bear always knows his plans in advance. And is ready to deal with any situation. The only way to get through to the bear would be to hit the bear without having first intended to do so. That would catch him. And so this is one of the great great problems in the spiritual life or whatever you want to call it, is to be able to have intention and act simultaneous. By this means you escape karma and you escape the devil. So you might say that the Taoist is exemplary in this respect. That this is getting free from karma without making any previous announcement of simply; supposing we have a train and we want to unload the train of its freight cars. You can go to the back end and you can unload them one by one and shunt them into the siding, but the simplest of all ways of unloading is to uncouple between the engine in the first car and that gets rid of the whole bunch at once. And it is in that sort of way you see that the Taoist gets rid of karma without challenging it. And so it has the reputation, you see, of being the easy way. There are all kinds of yogas and ways for people who want to be difficult. And one of the great gambits of a man like Gurdjieff, was to make it all seem as difficult as possible, because that challenged the vanity of his students. If some teacher Some guru says really this isn’t difficult at all it’s perfectly easy. Some people will say oh he’s not really that the real thing. We want something tough and difficult when when we see somebody starts out giving you a discipline they’re a very weird and rigid people think there is a thing that that man means business, see and so they flatter themselves by going to such a guy that they are serious students, whereas the other people are only dabblers and so on. All right if you have to do that way that’s the way you have to do it, but the Taoist is the kind of person who shows you the shortcut, and shows you how to do it by intelligence rather than effort, because that’s what it is. Taoism is in that sense what everybody is looking for. The easy way in the shortcut. Using cleverness instead of muscle. So the question naturally arises isn’t it cheating. When in any game, somebody really starts using his intelligence he will very likely be accused of cheating. And to draw the line between skill and cheating is a very difficult thing to do. You see the the inferior intelligence will always accuse a superior intelligence of cheating. That’s its way of saving face. You beat me by means that weren’t fair. We were originally having a contest to find out who had the strongest muscles and you know we were pushing against it like this does this that this. And this would prove who have the strongest muscles, but then you introduce some gimmick into it, some judo trick or something like that we see and you’re not playing fair. So in the whole domain of ways of liberation. There are roots for the stupid people and roots for the intelligent people. And the latter are faster. This with perfectly clearly explained by Wua Nung, the six patriarch of Zen in China. And it’s sutra where he says the difference between the gradual school and the Sudden School is they both arrive at the same point but the gradual is for slow-witted people and the suddenness for fast witted people, can you in other words find a way that sees into your own nature but sees into the doll. Immediately, and at the end of this morning’s talk I pointed out to you the immediate way, the way through now. When you know that, this moment is that all. And this moment is by it’s considered by itself. That without past and without future eternal. Neither coming into being or going out of being. There is nirvana. And there is a whole Chinese Philosophy of time based on this. It hasn’t, to my knowledge been very much discussed by Taoist writers. It’s been much discussed by zen writers, but it’s all based on the same thing. Dogan the great thirteenth century Japanese Zen Buddhist started in China, and he wrote a book called Shobo Genzo. A roshi recently said to me in Japan, that’s a terrible book. Because it tells you everything. It gives the whole secret away. But in the course of this book he says, you don’t there is no such thing as a progression in time. The spring does not become the summer. There is first spring and then there is summer. So in the same way, you now do not become you later. This is T.S. Eliot’s idea, in Four Quartets, where he says that the person who has settled down in the train to read the newspaper, is not the same person who stepped onto the train from the platform. And therefore, also you who sit here and not the same people who came in at the door. These states are separate, each in its own place. There was the coming in the door person. That there is actually only the here and now sitting person. And the person sitting here and now is not the person who will die. Because we are all a constant flux, and the continuity of the person from past through present to future is as illusory, in its own way, as the upward movement of the red lines on a revolving barber pole. You know, it goes round and round and round and the whole thing seems to be going up or going dominate over the case maybe. But actually nothing is going up or down. So when you throw a pebble into the pond and you make a con centric rings of waves, there is an illusion that the water is flowing upwards, and no water is flowing outwards at all. Water is only going up and down what appears to move outward is the wave not the water. So this kind of philosophical argument says that our seeming to go along in a course of time. It doesn’t really happen. The Buddhists say suffering exists but no one who suffers. Deeds exist but no doers are found. A path there is, but no one who follows it and Nirvana is but no one who attains it. So, in this way they look upon the continuity of life, as the same sort of illusion that is produced when you take a cigarette and in the dark wallet, it and the illusion of a circle is created whereas there is only the one point of fire.
The argument then is, so long as you’re in the present, there aren’t any problems. The problems exist only when you allow presence to amalgamate. There’s a way of putting this in Chinese, it is rather interesting they have a very interesting sign. This. It’s pronounced nyin. And Japanes, nin. And the top part of the character means now, and the bottom part means the mind-heart machine. And so, this is as it were an instant of thought. In Sanskrit they use it they use this character as the equivalent for the Sanskrit word Shannah. Then if you put if you double this character but it twice, or three times, and I write the Chinese word for ditto.. Nan Nan Nan. Means thought after thought after thought. Now the Zen master JoShu was once asked “What is the mind of a child?” And he said a ball in a mountain stream. What do you mean by a ball in the mountain stream? He said, thought after thought after thought, with no block. So, he was using of course, the mind of the child as the innocent mind. The mind of a person who was enlightened. One thought follows another without hesitation. The thought arises it doesn’t wait to arise, as when you clap your hands, the sound issues without hesitation. When you strike Flint, the spark comes out, it doesn’t wait to come out. And that means that there’s no block. So I thought Sod thought nin nin nin and describes what we call in our world the stream of consciousness. Blocking consists in letting the stream. Become connected chained together in such a way that when the present thought arises it seems to be dragging its past or resisting its future. Saying I don’t want to go.
When then the connection, the dragging, it’s better to call it, of these thoughts, drops. You’ve broken the chain of karma. If you think of this, in comparison with certain problems in music it’s very interesting. Because when we listen to music we hear melody only because we remember the sequence. We hear the intervals between the tones but more than that. We remember. The tones that led up to the one we are now hearing and we are trained musically to anticipate certain consequences. And to the extent that we get the consequences we anticipate we feel that we understand the music, but to the extent that the composer does not adhere to the rules and gives us unexpected consequences, we feel that we don’t understand the music. And if he gives us harmonic relationships which we are not trained to accept, that is to say to expect. We say well this man is just writing garbage. But of course, it becomes apparent that the perception of music, the ability to hear a melody, will depend upon a relationship between past present and future sounds. And you might say well you’re talking about a way of living that would be equivalent to listening to music with a tone deafmind. So that you would reduce and you would eliminate the melody and have only noise and so in your Taoist way of life. You would eliminate. All meaning and have only senseless present moments. Up to a point that’s true. That is in a way what Buddhists and also mean by seeing things in there suchness.
What is so bad about dying for example. It’s really no problem. When you die,you just drop dead, there that’s all there is to it. But what makes it a problem is that you’re dragging a past. And all those things you’ve done all those achievements you’ve made, all these relationships and people that you’ve accumulated as your friends all that has to go see it isn’t there now. Meath a few friends might be around you but all that past that identifies you as who you are, which is simply memory, all that has to go. And we feel just terrible about that. But if we didn’t if we were just dying that’s all death wouldn’t be a problem.
And so likewise the chores of everyday life they become intolerable when everything ties together all the past in the future you feel it dragging at you in every way. Supposing you wake up in the morning and it’s a lovely morning let’s take today right here and now here we are in this paradise of the place. Big Sur. And some of us have got to go to work on Monday. Is that a problem? For many people it is. It spoils the taste of what’s going on now. When we wake up in bed on Monday morning and think of the various hurdles we’ve got to jump that day. Immediately we feel sad bored, and bothered. Whereas actually we’re just lying in bed. And so the Taoist trick says. Simply live now and there will be no problems. That’s the meaning of the Zen saying. When you are hungry, eat, when you are tired, sleep when you walk,walk, when you sit, sit. Rinzai the great Tang Dynasty master said, in the practice of Buddhism there is no place for using effort. Sleep when you’re tired, move your bowels, eat when you’re hungry. That’s all. The ignorant will laugh at me but the wise will understand. And so also the meaning of this wonderful Zen saying. They have the character of the sun. That is good day. Every day is a good day. On condition and see that day-day is like nyin nyin. They come one after another and yet there’s only this one you don’t link them.
This as I said into intimated just a moment ago seems to be an atomization of life. Things just do what they do. The flour goes poof, and people go this way go that way and so on and that’s that’s where that’s what’s happening. It has no meaning it has no destination, it has no value, it’s just like that. And when you see that, you see, it’s a great relief that’s all it is. But then when you are firmly established in suchness, in that it’s just this moment. You can begin again to play with the connections. Only you’ve seen through them, but now you see that they don’t haunt you. Because you know that there isn’t any continuous You running on from moment to moment who originated at some time in the past and will die at some time in the future. All that’s disappeared. So you can have enormous fun, anticipating the future, remembering the past, and playing all kinds of continuities. This is the meaning of that famous Zen saying about mountains are mountains. To the naive man mountains are mountains, waters are waters. To the intermediate student mountains are no longer mountains waters in the longer waters now the words they’ve all dissolved into the point instant to the Shana. But for the perfected student, mountains are again mountains and waters are again waters.
In the philosophy of the Tao, iIt is said, it’s always being said this is. You read this in every art book about Chinese art that in Chinese painting, man is always seen as in nature rather than dominating it. You get a painting in titled poet drinking by moonlight. And you see a great landscape and after some search with a magnifying glass at last you see the poet, stuck in a corner somewhere drinking wine. Whereas, if we painted the subject poet drinking by moonlight, the poet really the most obvious thing in a picture. There he would be, dominating the whole thing the landscape out somewhere behind it. But of all the Chinese painters, I mean, the painters of the great classical tradition there are Chinese painters who specialize in family portraits and do these very formal paintings of someone’s ancestor sitting on a throne it’s quite a different category but the Taoist inspired painters Zen inspired painters, have this view of man as an integral part of nature. Something in it, just as everything else is in it flowers and birds and not they’re sent into this world, commissioned by some sort of supernatural being to come into this world and find it and dominated.
The whole conception of nature is as a self regulating self-governing, indeed democratic organism. But it has a totality it all goes together and this totality is that our. When we can speak. In Taoist and of following the course of nature following the way. What it means is more like this. Doing things in accordance with the grain. It doesn’t mean you don’t cut wood, but it means that you cut wood, along the lines where wood is most easy to cut, and you interact with other people along lines which are the most genial. And this, then is the great fundamental principle which is called wu-wei, which is not to force anything. I think that’s the best translation . Not doing, not acting, not interfering, but not to force seems to me to hit the nail on the air. Like don’t ever force a lock while you bend the key or break the law you jiggle until it revolves. So wu-wei, is always to act in accordance with the pattern of things as they exist. Don’t impose on any situation act a kind of interference that is not really in accordance with the situation.
For example, we have a slum, and that people are in difficulty and so on and they need better housing. Now if you go in with a bulldozer and bulldoze the slum, and you were put in its place by some architects imaginative notions of what is a super efficient high rise apartment building to stop people you create a total mess. Utter chaos. A slum has what we would call an ecology It has a very complex system of relationships going in it. By which the thing is already a going concern even though it isn’t going very well. Anybody who wants to alter that situation must first of all become sensitive, to all the conditions and relationships going on there. It’s terribly important than to have this feeling of the interdependence of every form of life upon every other form of life. How we for example cultivate animals that we eat, and look after them and build them up and see that they breed in reasonable quantities. We don’t do it too well, as a matter of fact. Troubles arising about supplies of fish in the ocean. All sorts of things.
But you have to see that life that the so called conflict of various species with each other is not actually a competition. It’s a very strange system of interrelationship. Of things feeding on each other and cultivating each other the same time the idea of the friendly, the necessary adversary who is part of you. You have conflicts going on in your own body all kinds of microorganisms are eating each other up and if that wasn’t happening you wouldn’t be healthy. So all those interrelationships, whether they appear to be friendly relationships, as between bees and flowers or conflicting relationships as between birds and worms, they are actually forms of cooperation. And that is mutual arising. You have to understand this. As the basis, apply this, not forcing anything and you get spontaneity, a life which is so of itself, which is natural, which is not forced. Which is not unduly self-conscious.
Now, another term that is important although I’m not aware that this word because in lots of the book it’s found in greater use at a much later time in Chinese thought in philosophy that is called neo-Confucian. And it’s also used in Buddhism. But it is a very useful word for understanding. The sort of order that all this constitutes it’s the word Li. And this means originally the markings in Jade. Or perhaps the graining would all the fiber and muscle. It is translated nowadays in most dictionaries as a reason for principle. But this isn’t a very good translation. Joseph Needham suggested that organic patten was an ideal translation of this word. Now you see the markings in Jade are always regarded as beautiful. You might say so you look down at the water here when you see the waves break that are patterns in the foam.
Now if you watch those patterns you know they never make an aesthetic mistake. Never. But they’re not symmetrical and they’re very difficult to describe. They’re wiggly. So the markings in Jade’s I was the Great in wood but we love the grain wood and you see a judge who has done these paintings of rocks based on exams. I think in the Chinese book called The mustard seed garden. These all exhibit live. That is to say they are forms which we know are orderly. And we can distinguish them from messes quite clearly. And so in the same way the phone patterns the rock patterns, the patterns of vegetation, are at once extraordinarily orderly, but they don’t have. An obvious order, nobody can ever pin it down. That’s what I’d like to say you know that there is order there something quite different from a mess but there’s no way of really getting it.
Now in order to be able to paint that sort of way. Or to live that sort of way or to deliver justice that way if you were a judge. You have to have it innately. You have to have an essential sense of Li, and there’s no way prescribing it. This is the very devil for teachers. Because you see all our university of them schools now trying to teach creativity. That’s the great thing these days now and they are here at Esalen, all of the people are giving courses and workshops and creativity. Now the trouble is that if we found out a method whereby we could teach creativity., and everybody could just explain how it was done it would no longer be of interest. What always is an essential element in the creative is the mysterious. The dark. It’s like the black in lacquer. The impenetrable. And yet the profound depth out of which glorious things come but nobody can see why. There’s a poem which says that when the bird calls. The mountain becomes more mysterious. You imagine for example you’re in a mountain valley and everything is very silent. And suddenly a crow. Squawks somewhere. You don’t know where that crow is, and the little sound emphasizes the silence. Now, all those things have in them, you see, an element of mystery. There’s a Chinese poem which puts it this way. It is a poem written by a man who has gone to find a sage in the mountains and the Sage has a little hut at the foot of the mountain and a boy there who is his servant. I asked the boy beneath the pines he said the master’s gone alone herb-gathering somewhere on the Mount. Cloud-hidden, whereabouts unknown.
In so many athletic and artistic skills you will find a teacher who teaches you how to do it without forcing it. I once started the piano. I am absolutely no good at it now because I don’t practice. I’m involved in other things. But I had an absolutely superb teacher for a while. He was a very very great musicologist you know. There was nothing sloppy about his standards, they were of the highest perfection. But when I went to him, he said “Let me see what you can do so”, so I played him a scholarly Sonata. He said “Yeah but the trouble with you is you’re trying too hard. You’re hitting the piano when you should never hit a piano.” He said actually all you’ve got to do in order to play a piano is to drop your hands on it and you need to have relaxed arms so he made me practice for a while he felt my muscles to see what I was relaxed got not and he’s not just dropping out on the piano I don’t care what notes you get but just drop your hand let it fall so there’s enough energy in the weight of your arm to play as loud as you will, or as soft as you will, but just let it drop, he said that’s all you have to do, drop your hands, and kept feeling my arms. He said no no you’re getting too tense you must pretend you are Lao Tzu. And he was a very educated man he knew about these things, then he said Now after dropping your hands all you’ve got to do is hit the right notes. And he said you know, the same thing is involved in making a very complex trill. And he demonstrated, he just dropped his hand on the piano and at the same time his fingers went for a loop like that and there was this magnificent on a mentation. And then we went on with practices for some time he said Now let’s get around it in the right notes and. He found immediately I had a block on reading music, because when I was a small boy started piano at the age of roughly eight, I had a pestiferous teacher who was the mistress in this private school I went to in England. And she used to sit beside you would hit your fingers with a pencil every time you made a wrong note. Gregory Bateson, I think was taught piano and as a child in such a way and he has a total block on reading music. He really has got a brilliant mind you know he’s a mathematician and great anthropologist, ethnologist and so on the other total block to reading music. And so this man had to teach me to overcome my block. And he said now, first of all, feel perfectly free to make mistakes, if everybody’s going to make some mistakes and it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake and if you do make a mistake don’t don’t go back and do it over again but just go on. So play as slowly as you like don’t hurry it just along as you keep the relative rhythm the relative values of thing go slow and take it easy.
Another thing is to not to pay so much attention to the notes but to the distances or intervals between because that is the significant jump. And this sort of overcomes to the difficulty of key signatures where we start out with as we started out learning music with this weird system that the lines on the stave really represent the major scale of C., and that therefore when you put a key signature at the beginning you remember that every time you exposing your playing F. every time you hit B. It should be B. flat. Well that’s extremely tedious way of learning music, and we would just have to think in different keys that’s the only way to adjust to a key signature and play in the thing according to the intervals appropriate for that. But you see in this instance this man although he was a great perfectionist and was highly skilled in music he used intelligence first of all to give you a shortcut and then he also used relaxation to enter into a difficult thing by the easiest route.
In Zen training, in its initial stages, the master discourages intellectualization. You know, you come in with a lot of ideas but this difficulty you have is not going to be solved by ideas it’s not going to be solved by talk and intellectualization. So in the same way this is discouraged because intellectualization sets up a kind of interval or lack of rapport between you and your life. You think about things so much that you get into the state where you’re eating the main you head of the dinner. We all valuing the money more than the wealth. You are confusing as Korzybski would say, the map with the territory.
And what they want to do is to get you into the territory to get you into a relationship with what is as distinct from ideas about what is. And this is an important preliminary discipline. But later on you can realize that the process of thinking is also what is. Thoughts, in their own domain are as real as rocks. Words have their own reality, as much as the sky and water. Thoughts about things are in them their own turn things, and so they lead you eventually to the point where you intellectualize and think in an immediate way. Let’s go on and ask then a further problem. How about thinking about thinking? Wouldn’t that be pretty far off? Here is a person removed from life because he’s in the intellectual world, and he’s all in a living in symbols is a kind of or a kind of a living book. Now what about a librarian? A person who writes books about books, a bibliographer. A classifier of classifications that’s a pretty dusty occupation and as we know. Sometimes librarians seem to be very dusty people they. Seem away removed from life all tied up in their categories and catalogues and musts. That, you see, is also its level of reality. And thinking about thinking. Can be lived with just as much direct fresh spontaneity as just living without thinking, but in order to live it with full spontaneity. You have to be in a position where you no longer feel the symbol before the idea of the words as a block to Life. No longer feel it as something you are using as a sort of means of escape. To be able to use the symbol not as a means of escape, you have to know in the first place that you can’t escape, and not only that you can’t escape but there is no one to escape. There is no one to be delivered from the prison of life. That then the liberation of the mind from identifying itself with symbols. Is the same process exactly as breaking up the links between the successive moments. The illusion of a self, a continuing self that travels. From moment to moment and picks them all up, corresponding to the illusion of the moving water in the wave, and the moving lion, the solid circle created by the moving cigarette point in the dark.
This is the meaning then, that there is no one who perceives anything, no one who experiences anything there is simply seeing, and experiencing. Then we introduce all these redundancies through talk. We talk about seeing sights hearings sounds, feeling feelings, all that is irrelevant. There are sights. There are sounds, there are feelings. You don’t feel a feeling the feeling itself already contains the feeling of it. They see, it is very simple. To have sight of you don’t need something to be seen on the one hand and a sea of something to be seen on the other and then some some mysterious way they come together. The see-er and the seen, the knower and the known are what we call terms. Terms mean ends. And they are what in mathematical language are called limits. Now when we take a stick, the stick has its two ends. They are the terms of the stick, but the ends of the stick do not exist as sort of separate points which encounter each other on the occasion of meeting at a stick. They are actually abstract points, the ends themselves considered as themselves, they’re purely geometrical, they’re Euclidean imaginations their reality is the stick in thing. So in the same way with that phenomenon called experience the reality is not an encounter of the know and the known. The reality is an experience which can be termed as having two aspects to end the know and the known. But that’s only a figure of speech neurologically.
This is true. Everything that you see is yourself. What you are aware of is a state of your nervous system. And there is no other knowledge whatsoever. That doesn’t mean that your nervous system is the only existing reality, and that there is nothing beyond your nervous system. But it does mean that all knowledge is knowledge of you, and that therefore in some mysterious way, you are not different from the external world that you know. If you see then, that what you experience, and you, are the same thing. Then realize also, going beyond that, that you are in the external world you’re looking at. You see, I’m in your external world, you’re in my external world. But I’m in the same world you are. My inside is not separable from the outside world it’s something the so-called outside world is doing. Just as it’s doing the tree and the ocean and everything else that is in the outside world. Now isn’t that great, you see. We’ve completely got rid of the person in the trap. The one who either dominates the world or suffers under it. It’s vanished. It never was there. And when it’s when that happens you see. You can play any life game you want to. Link the past and the present in the future together. Play roles. But you know you’ve seen through this great. They call it the great social lie that one accumulates owns experiences, memories, sights, sounds and from that, other people. Possessions, so on, and building up always this idea of oneself as the haver of all of this. If you think that you’ve been had.
Intellectual Yoga Transcript:
The word yoga, as most of you doubtless know, is the same as our word yoke. Why? OK. And the Latin word iungere, to join. Join, junction, yolk, union, all these words are basically from the same root. And so likewise when Jesus said my yoke is easy he was saying really my yoga is easy. And the word therefore basically denotes. The state that would be the opposite of what our psychologists call alienation. Or what Buddhists call psychiatrist. The view of separateness the feeling of separateness the feeling of being cut off from being. And most civilized people do in fact feel that way. Because they have a kind of myopia attention. Focused on their own boundaries and what is inside those boundaries and they identify themselves with the inside. And they don’t realize that you cannot have an inside without an outside. That would seem Wouldn’t it be extremely elementary logic that we could have no sense. Of being ourselves. Of having a personal identity without the contrast of something that is not ourselves that is to say other.
But the fact that we don’t realize that Self and Other go together is the root of an enormous and terrifying anxiety. Because what will happen when the inside disappears? What will happen when the so-called comes to an end as it seems to. Because if it didn’t. I mean if things did not keep moving and changing appearing and dissolving. The universe would be a colossal ball. And therefore you are only aware that the things are all right for the moment I mean I hope most of the people in this gathering have a sort of genial sense inside them that for the time being things are going on more or less OK Some of you may be very miserable. And then your problem may be just a little different but it’s essentially the same one but you must realize that that sense of life being fairly All right is inconceivable and unfeeling unless there is way way way in the back of your mind the glimmer of a possibility that something absolutely unspeakably awful might happen. Doesn’t have to happen because you’ll die one day. But there always has to be the vague apprehension the hint to get down that the awful awful are possible. It gives spice to life. Now these observations are in line with what I’m going to talk about tonight the intellectual approach to yoga. There are basically certain principle forms of yoga. Most people are familiar with hotter yoga. Which is a psycho physical exercise system and that’s the one you see demonstrated most on television because it has visual value. You can see all these exercises with Lotus positions and people curling their legs around their necks and doing all sorts of marvelous exercises and they’re good exercises the most honest yoga teacher I know is a woman who teaches hatha yoga and doesn’t pretend to be any other kind of guru and she does it very well.
Then there is, back to yoga, Bhakti means devotion. And I suppose in general you might say that Christianity is a form of back to yoga. Because it is yoga practice through extreme reverence for love for. Some being felt more or less external to one’s self who is the representative of the divine. Then there is karma yoga. Karma means action and incidentally that’s all it means. It does not mean the law of cause and effect when we say that something that happens to you is your karma all it saying is it’s your own doing. Nobody’s in charge of karma except you. Karma Yoga is the way of action. Of using one’s everyday life one’s trade or unathletic discipline like sailing or surf riding or track running as your way of yoga as your way of discovering who you are. Then there’s Raja Yoga. That’s the Royal yoga, and that’s sometimes also called can do. And that involves very complicated psychic exercises having to do with awakening the serpent power. That is. As to lie at the base of one’s spiritual spine. And raising it up through certain chakras or centers until it enters into the brain there’s a very profound symbolism involved in that. But I’m not going into that.
And then finally there is there are several others as mantra yoga Montrealer go which is the practice through chanting of humming either out loud or silently certain sounds. Which we’ve come supports for contemplation of what is in Sanskrit called Yana. And Yana. Is the state in which one is clearly awake and aware. Of the world as it is. As distinct from the world as it is described. In other words in the state of jhana you stop thinking. That is to say you stop talking to yourself and figure into yourself and symbolizing to yourself what is going on. You simply are aware of what is and nobody can say what it is because as courtship ski well said the real world is unspeakable. Lovely double taken. But. That’s Jana that’s. Where one practice is to sit absolutely wide awake with eyes open. But not thinking. That’s a very curious state incidentally. I knew a professor of mathematics at Northwestern University. Who one day said you know it’s amazing how many things there are that aren’t so. Now I know he was talking about old wives tales and scientific superstitions and so on but when you practice Jana you are amazed how many things there are that answer. Because when you stop talking to yourself and you are simply aware of what is. That is to say of what you feel. What you sense even that saying too much you suddenly find that the past and the future completely disappeared. So also have disappeared the so-called differentiation between the no and the known the subject in the object the feel around the feeling the thinker in the thought they just aren’t there because you have to talk to yourself to maintain those things. They are purely conceptual their ideas their phantoms ghosts.
So when you allow thinking to stop. All that goes away. And you find you’re in an eternal here or now. And there’s no way you’re supposed to be there’s nothing you’re supposed to do is know what you exposed to go because in order to think you’re supposed to do something you have to think. And so it’s incredibly important to on. At least once a day. For the very preservation of the intellectual life. So if we stop that. Temporarily. And get our mind clear of thoughts. We become as Jesus said again as children. And get a direct view of the world. Which is very useful once here and I doubt it’s not much you can do with it when you’re a baby. Because everybody pushes you around and you know they pick you up and sit with the city of there and you can’t do much except practice contemplation. Only if you can tell anyone what it’s like. But when as an adult you can recapture the baby’s point of view you will know what all child psychologists have always wanted to know how it is that a baby feels. And the baby according to Freud at least has the oceanic experience. That is to say a feeling of complete inseparability from what’s going on. The baby is unable to distinguish between the Universe and his or her action upon the universe. And most of us if we got into that state of consciousness might be inclined to feel extremely frightened. And being beginning to ask. Who’s in charge. I mean. Who controls what happens next we would ask that because we are used to the idea that the process of nature consists of controllers and control ease. Things that do and things that are done to. This is purely mythological. So many spiritual teachers and gurus will look at their disciples and say. I am God. I have realized. But the important thing is that you are. Whether I am or not is that now. Of no consequence to you whatsoever. I could get up and say I have realized I put on a turban and yellow robe and whatever. You come and have Darshan on. I’m going to you need the grace of guru in order to realize and so on and that would be a wonderful hoax if you like picking your pockets and selling you your own watch. But the point is you are. And what are we saying when we say that. We are obviously saying something very important. Alas and alack there is no way of defining it. That is to say going any further into words about it. See when a philosopher hears such a statement as to I must see you or it. Or there is only the eternal now. The Philosopher says I did see where I was so excited about it what do you mean by that. And then he asked that question because he wants to continue in a word game. He doesn’t want to go on into an experience will dimension he wants to go on arguing because that’s his trip. And all these great mystical statements mean nothing whatsoever. There are alternate statements. Just as you know the trees in the clouds in the mountains and the stars have no meaning because they’re not words words have meaning because they’re symbols because they point to something other than themselves. But the stars like music. Music only bad music has any meaning. Classical music never has a meaning and to understand. It humans simply listen to it and observe its beautiful patterns go into its complexity.
So when your mind that is to say your verbal systems get to the end of their tether that is to say when they arrived at the meaningless statement. Here is the critical point. And the method of Indiana yoga is to exercise one’s intellect to its limits. So that you get to the point where you have no further questions to ask. You can do this in philosophy study. If you got the right kind of teacher. Who shows you that all philosophical opinions whatsoever are false. Or at least if not false extremely partial. And so you feel a kind of intellectual vertigo. Which is called in a Zen Buddhist poem. Above not a tile to cover the head below not an inch of ground to stand on. Well where you where are you then. Of course you where you always were. You discovered your it and that’s very uncomfortable because you can’t grab it.
So yeah I’ve discovered that whatever it is that I am. Now is not something inside my head. It is just as much out there as it is in here but whatever it is I cannot get hold of it. Well that gives you the heebie jeebies you get butterflies in the stomach. Anxiety traumas and all kinds of things. But this was all explained by Shankara who the great Hindu commentator on the punish adds the great master of the non-dualistic doctrine of the universe when he said. That which knows which is in all beings the knower is never an object of its own knowledge. So that to everyone who is in quest. Of the supreme kick. The great experience. The vision of God. Whatever you want to call it liberation. When you think that you are not it. Any old guru can sell you on a method to find it. And that may not be a bad thing for him to do. Because as Blake said a fool who persists in his folly will become wise. And a clever girl who is a person who leads you on here kitty kitty kitty kitty kitty I’ve got something very good to show you. You just wait but you’ve got to go through a lot of stages yet. He said. I’m Can I get that island together. You know all the time it’s you. I was talking of the Zen master the other day. And he said. You should be my disciple. I looked at him and said who was Buddhist teacher. And he looked at me in a very odd way and said. So he burst into laughter and he gave me apiece. Of clover. It’s. So. You can you see. So long as you can be persuaded there’s something law that you ought to be than you are. You’ve divided yourself from. Reality from the universe from God or whatever you want to call that the tat and tat. And you will find constantly if you if you’re interested in anything like this in psychoanalysis in just out therapy in sensitivity training in any kind of yoga or what have you. That there will be that. Funny sensation of what I’ll call spiritual greed. That can be aroused by somebody indicating to you. There are still higher stages for you to attain. You should meet my go. The so you might say then and now it to be truly realized you have to get to the point where you are not seeking anymore.
So then you begin to think well, the way we will we will now be non seekers. In the light disciples of Krishnamurti who because he says he doesn’t read any spiritual books they can read anything with mysteries the heart it’s. You know becoming spiritually and spiritual. Well you find that that too is what is called In Zen legs on a snake. It’s irrelevant you don’t need not to see. This you don’t need anything. And I mean it’s like crawling into a hole and pulling the hole in after you. And of the great master of this technique was a Buddhist scholar. Lived about two hundred a day. Invented a whole dialectic he had old school called mechanica where the as it were leader of the students would simply destroy all their ideas. Absolutely abolish their philosophical notions. And they get the heebie jeebies. They see he didn’t have the B.G.. He seemed perfectly relaxed in not having any particular point of view. But as a teacher how can you stand. We have to have something to hang on to. Who does. Who are you. And eventually you discover of course that it’s not necessary to hang on to anything. To rely on and there’s nothing to rely on because here it. Is like the universe it’s like asking the question where is the universe. And by that I mean the whole universe. Who care about says it in space. Everything in it is falling around everything else but there’s no concrete floor underneath. With the thing to crash. Because the space. You can think of infinite space if you like you don’t have to think of space. The space that goes out and out and out forever and ever and has no end what is there. Of course it’s you what else could it be. Only the universe is delightfully arranged. So that it as it looks at itself. In order not to be one sided and prejudiced It looks at itself from. An uncountable number of points of view. We thus avoid solid them. With as if I were to have the notion that it’s only me that’s really here and you’re all in my dream. Of course it’s that point of view cannot really be disputed. Except by imagining a conference of solipsists arguing as to which one of them is the one that was really the. Now you see if you understand what I’m saying with your intelligence. And then take the next step and say I understood it now but I didn’t feel it then next I raise the question. Why do you want to feel it. You say I want something more because that’s again that spiritual green. And you can only say that because you didn’t understand. There is nothing to pursue because you’re it and if you don’t know that you always were it. And if you don’t know that.
In other words, to put it in Christian terms, or Jewish terms, if you don’t know that your god from the beginning what happens is that you try to become God by force. Therefore you start being violent and obstreperous and this and that and the other. All our violence all our competitiveness all our. Terrific anxiety to survive is because we didn’t know from the beginning that we were it. Well then you would safe we didn’t know from the beginning as in fact you did. When you were a baby. Then everybody says well nothing would ever happen. But it did happen. And it’s some of it’s pretty messy. But what people don’t realize is they say well take take the Hindus it’s basic to Hindu religion that we’re all God in disguise. And that the world is an illusion. All that is. Sort of half truth. But if that is the case if Hindus and really awaken Hindus by the knowledge of their union with the Godhead. Would simply become inert. Why then Hindu music. The most incredibly complex marvelous technique. When they sit and play they laugh at each other. They’re enjoying themselves enormously with very complicated musical games but when we come in the symphony orchestra gets up everybody dresses in evening dress in a serious expression and all the audience is down on us like it’s in a kind of church. And there’s none of that to. Records rest well the drama of the tabla player laughs at the sorrow as they compete with each other in all kinds of marvelous improvise ations.
So if you do find out by any chance. Who you really are. You instead of becoming merely lazy. You know you start laughing and laughing leads to dancing and dancing needs music and we can play with each other. For a change.