Why Spirituality Is Important - Alan Watts

the highest kind of a Buddha is like an ordinary person and this comes out very very much in various tendencies in Zen where for example or all the painting peculiarly characteristic of Zen Buddhism in the Chinese and Japanese tradition is as it were secular it has a peculiarly non-religious atmosphere that is to say the painting of shingen's sect and Tendai sect as you saw it in the museum today was religious framing you could tell at once that the subject matter of these paintings is religious but with Zen painting the way of dealing with philosophical on spiritual themes is secular so that when an artist like sin guy living in the 17th century Japan paints the Buddha there is something slightly humorous about the Buddha he wears his halo over one ear there is an informality a slight raffish Ness and so this comes from China from those great song artists like Leon Chi who painted the 6th patriarch of Zen chopping bamboos looking like the most extraordinarily unkempt country oaf so also the greatest Zen painting has as its subject matter not really religious themes at all it uses pine branches rocks bamboos grasses everything of that kind and you would never know that these things were icons likewise also in poetry which we will go into more extensively in the future the superb expression of Zen poetry is derived from the Chinese poet ho Koji who says wondrous action supernatural power drawing water carrying fuel now that's put that poem is a little bit too religious was then taste and so preferable to that is Basho's famous poem the old pond a frog jumps in plop plop is the only possible English translation for the Japanese Meisel knocked off which means literally the waters sound plop at that poem you see is a very high style Zen poem because it has nothing in it about religion there is a poem on the edge which also was written by basho which says when the lightning flashes how admirable he who does not think life is fleeting you see the flash of a lightning is a Buddhist cliche for the transiency of the world your life goes by and it disappears as fast as a flash of lightning that becomes a cliche so all religion all religious comments about life eventually become clichés religion always is falling apart and becoming a certain kind of going through the motions a kind of imitation of attitudes as if one would say we've got a book called the imitation of Christ it's a terrible book because everybody who imitates Christ is the kind of a fake Jesus so in the same way there's all kinds of imitation Buddha's not just sitting on altars made of wood and gilded but just sitting around in monasteries so one might say then that the highest kind of religious or spiritual attainment has no know where a sign about it that it is religious or that it is spiritual and so as a metaphor for this there was used in Buddhism from the very beginning the idea of the tracks of birds in the sky they don't leave any tracks and so the way of the enlightened man is like the track of a bird in the sky and as one poem a Chinese poem says entering the forest he does not disturb a blade of grass entering the water he does not make a ripple in other words there is no sign about him to indicate that he is self-consciously religious and this goes to for the fact that he is not having any religious sign he is also not something contrived it isn't like Protestant simplicity you know all those Catholics with their rituals and how dreadful and insincere that is with the real reason you know why Protestant think Catholic ritual is insincere you know it's expensive Protestantism started in the burger cities of Europe places like a frog Hamburg you know and Geneva because the merchant class who were the foundation of the bourgeoisie got annoyed because every time the Saints Day came around all their employees got a day off because it was a holy day and they had to attend Mass there were so many of these nuisance holidays and all these contributions that were assessed by the church buying your way out of purgatory and saying masses for the dead and so on and so forth they found this not very economical the priests were getting the money instead of the merchants and so they decried as unbiblical and irreligious and wasteful all the finery of the Catholic religion and wanted something plain and simple so it became in cost of time a sign of being really religious to avoid rituals and to avoid colorful clothing and splendor in churches and to be as ordinary as possible but that is not yet the real religion of me giving no sign of having a religion because this simplicity and absence of ritual itself becomes a sign a way of advertising how spiritual you are so the completely Bodhisattva type of person doesn't leave any track either by being religious overtly or by being non-religious overtly how will you be neither religious nor non-religious see that's the great test how will you avoid that trap of being one or the other it's like are you a theist or are you an atheist see the theist is caught by God and the idea of God the belief in God but the atheist is equally caught because an atheist is very often an atheist because he cannot stand the idea that God is watching him all the time that there is this constant all-seeing eye prying on your most private life and that this is you know how when you were a child in school and you were writing something or doing arithmetic and the teacher walks around the class and looks over your shoulder nobody wants to be watched like that even someone who's good at writing or at arithmetic doesn't want somebody looking over their shoulder while they're doing it it puts you off it bugs you so the idea of the Lord God who is watching us all the time who is judging everything that we do puts people off and they can't stand it so better be an atheist to get rid of teacher so but the Atheist you see the man who advertises his disbelief in God is a very pious person nobody believes in God like an atheist there is no God and I am his prophet so then the true Bodhisattva state is very difficult to pin down as being either neither supremely religious nor blatantly secular and people who think that the height of Buddhism or the height of Zen is to be perfectly ordinary have still missed the point like the atheist has missed the point but for this reason then there is an element in the art the painting the poetry etc which has been inspired by this kind of Buddhism this kind of art where the subject matter is non-religious nevertheless there is something about the way in which this non religious subject matter is handled that stops you and you know there's something strange about it this is how I first became interested in oriental philosophy and all that kind of thing I had an absolute fascination for Chinese and Japanese painting in the secular painting the landscapes the treatment of flowers and grasses and bamboos there was something about it that struck me as astonishing even though the subject matter was extremely ordinary and I just as a child practically I had to find out what was the strange element in those bamboos in those grasses I was being of course taught by those painters to see grass but there was something in there that one could never pin down never put your finger on and that was this thing that I will call the religion of no religion the supreme attainment of being a Buddha who can't be detected who in this sense then leaves no trace you remember some of you have seen those 10 paintings called the ten stages of spiritual ox herding and the the author there are two sets of these paintings there's a heterodox one and an Orthodox one the heterodox one has the as the man catches the ox it gets progressively whiter until in the end it disappears altogether and the last picture is an empty circle but the Orthodox set of paintings doesn't end with the empty circle that the empty circle arises – from the end three from the end it is followed by two others after the man has attained the state of emptiness the state in other words of complete iconoclasm the state of no attachment to any spiritual or psychological or moral crutch there are two more steps one is called returning to the origin which is represented by a tree beside a stream and the final one called entering the city with hands hanging down that means hands giving a hand out of it were giving bounty and it shows the picture of the fat Buddha who died or in Japanese known as Jorge who is an enormous belly big ears who carries around a colossal bag and what do you think this bag has in it trash wonderful trash everything the children love things that everybody else has thrown away and thought of as valueless this bum collects and gives it away to children and so it says here that he goes on his way without following the steps of the ancient sages his door is closed because that's the door of his house and no glimpses of his interior life are to be seen so in other words it's like when you erect a building while you're building it you'll have all kinds of scaffolding up that shows you that building is going on but when the building is complete the scaffolding is taken down to open a door as they say in Zen you may need to pick up a brick to knock at the door but when the door is open you don't carry the brick inside to cross a river you need a boat but when you've reached the other side you don't pick up the boat and carry it so the brick the boat the scaffolding all these things represent some sort of religious technology or method and in the end these are all to disappear so that the saint will not be found in church I don't take what I say literally the saint can perfectly readily go to church without being solid by church but ordinary people when they go to church they come out stinking of religion there was a great Zen master once and one of his disciples asked him how am I making progress he said you're all right but you have a trivial fault well what is that he said you have too much Zen well he said when you're studying Zen don't you think it's very natural to be talking about it the master said when it's like an ordinary conversation it is much better and so another monk who was standing by listening to this exchange said to the master why do you so spirit it's like talking about Zen and he replied because it turns one stomach so what did he mean when he said when it's like an ordinary everyday conversation it is somewhat better when the old master Jo Xiu was asked at the end of the cow par when everything is destroyed in fire there will be one thing remaining what is that and Jo she replied it's windy again this morning so in Zen when you're asked a question about religion you reply in terms of the secular when you are asked about something secular you reply in terms of religion so what is the eternal nature of the self it's windy again this morning please pass me a knife the master hands him the knife with the blade first please give me the other end what would you do with the other end see here the the the the disciple starts out with the ordinary please pass me the knife and suddenly he finds himself involved in a metaphysical problem but if he starts out with the metaphysical he's going to get involved with a knife so now to go deeply into the religion of non religion we have to understand the what you might call the final ultimate attainment of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy and this is contained in a school of thought which is called in Chinese hwa-jung and in Japanese Kagan Kagan is the intellectual foundation for Zen and there was a great Chinese master by the name of Shu Mitzvah who was simultaneously a Zen master and the fifth patriarch of the Hawaiian sector qua it means flower yen garland the garland of flowers and it's all based on a sanskrit sutra called avatamsaka this is called simply the in japanese key gancho very big Sutra and the subject matter of this Sutra are what are what are called the four dharma worlds and I must explain what these four worlds are so that you get the point first of all there is a a level of being which we will call G the word G which is Japanese Way of pronouncing the Chinese sure is the world of things and events what you might call the common sense world the everyday world that our senses normally record this the word G the character in Chinese has a multiplicity of meanings because it mean it can mean a thing or an event it can also mean business an affair not in a love affair but something in the way the French say lays affair for business something important you can also mean affectation putting something on or showing off and so a a person who is a master in Zen is called bougie which means no business no affectation nothing special the poem says unmount Lu there is misty rain and the river John is at high tide when you have not been there your heart is filled with longing but when you have been there and come back it was nothing special misty rain on Mount Lu River John at high tide but this nothing special is not a way of putting something down do you see that I could say well it was nothing special it didn't really amount to anything that's one way of saying it was very ordinary but bujji just as it doesn't mean it was very ordinary in the same way that the person who has no religion is really the most religious you do see he's not just a common ignorant moron he looks like one but he isn't and you have to know what he knows in order to see that he isn't and to recognize him for what he is so nothing special bujji it doesn't stand out it doesn't as we would say it it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb so the world of G then means generally the world of particulars the world of multiplicity the world we ordinarily feel we're involved in so that's the first world the second world is called the world of re now re in Chinese Lee is as I explained to you when we were discussing the idea of the law of nature the character means the markings in Jade or the grain in wood or the fiber in muscle but in the Hawaiian philosophy the word re means the universal underlying all particulars the one underlying or multiplicity the unitive principle as distinct from G which is the differentiation principle so as it were like it's like this when you see into the nature of this world you start from G you start from noticing all the particular things and being baffled by their multiplicity and dealing with the multiplicity of things but as you go into this you discover as you understand things what do you mean when you understand things it means you become aware of their relationships to each other and eventually you see the unity behind them and it is as if the multiplicity of the world dissolved into unity you start from noticing all the particular things and being baffled by their multiplicity and dealing with the multiplicity of things but as you go into this you discover as you understand things what do you mean when you understand things it means you become aware of their relationships to each other and eventually you see the unity behind them and it is as if the multiplicity of the world dissolved into unity and so here you encounter a problem I can see the world as a unity I can see the world as a multiplicity but how the devil am I going to put the two visions together if I am to be a practical success in business in family life and so on I have to observe the world of particulars its particulars that matter I have to know chalk from cheese but if I become a saint a monk or a hermit then I Caribbean perhaps a poet or an artist I will forget about the practical matters and contemplate the unity the secret meaning underlying all events but then every all as practical people are going to say to me your your falling down on the job you've escaped from life because they feel that the world of particulars is the real world but the other guy says no your particulars are not real you make a success of things yes but it's completely temporary you think you're an important person that you are really contributing to human life but actually your success in doing this sort of thing lasts for a few years and then you fall apart like everybody else does where's your success now when you're dead what happened to the millions of dollars you made where are you all gone so that isn't real from the standpoint of the person who concentrates on the unity so then to perfect our understanding we have to go to the third of these worlds which is called re G muga now that means between re the unity and G the particulars move there is no gay block that means the world of the universal and the world of particulars are not incompatible let's take two very different things and see how they can be united take shape and color never in a million years can you with a black pencil that can draw shapes make red but if you have red you can draw a circle you can draw a red circle even though the circle shape and the red color will never be the same yet red circle they go beautifully together so think of circle as G and red as re the circle is the particular the color is the universal they go together so then we might say we properly rounded out person is both spiritual and material both otherworldly and worldly this is the supreme attainment of a human being to be both don't get one-sided a person who is what you might call just a materialist ends up by being very boring it's you know you can live the successful life of the world and you can own every kind of material refinement you can have the most beautiful home delicious food marvellous yachts and cars and everything but if you have no touch of mysticism it eventually is all perfectly boring and you will get tired of it then on the other hand there are people who are purely spiritual and they live in a kind of dry world where all luxury has been scrubbed away and they are very intense people when you are in their presence of a very spiritual person an excessively spiritual person you feel inclined to sit on the edge of your chair you are not at ease because you know the eye of judgment is looking through you and going down into your very soul and finding that you're just a scallywag after all and here's this absolutely sincere this dreadfully honest an unselfish person this is something which is always puzzling to people brought up in a Western environment because great spiritual people are often very very censors because they they can't be materialists in the ordinary sense they can't be straight open sensuous because for them the world is too wonderful for that any any human being is too marvelous to be treated as just a kind of sexual object they may be very much a sexual object but so marvelous you'll have to stop with it and really go into the hole of that marvelous wonderful personality so there is a trouble keeps coming up for the West when you go to church and you suddenly go to a church where there's a marvelous clergyman and you think he is the very exemplar of life and you idealize him and then suddenly there develops a frightful scandal that he has an affair with his secretary and you think all is lost that the faith has been sold out that everything's going to rack and ruin because he was not purely spiritual and he himself may be terribly confused and worried about this because in our world you see we make the spiritual and the material mutually exclusive but regime will get this third-world means that between the spiritual and the material there is no obstruction so we might say this would sound as if it were the highest level but is one more to come which is called GG mulga this means then suddenly rejas disappeared but between G and G there is no obstruction between one event and any other event or events there is no mutual exclusiveness shall I put it that way this is the doctrine the highest doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism which you could call the doctrine of the mutual interpenetration of all things or the mutual interdependence of all things and its symbol is the what is called indras net it is used in the avatamsaka sutra imagine at dawn and multi-dimensional spider's web covered in Dew a vast vast spider's web that is the whole cosmos and is not only a kind of a flat thing but a solid thing and solid in 4 5 6 & n dimensions covered with jewels of do all of which have rainbow coloring and every drop of dew contains in it the reflection of every other drop of dew and since every drop of dew contains the reflections of all the others each reflected drop of dew contains the reflections you see of all the others and so ad infinitum now this is the Mahayana vision of the world which is to say this is relativity that whatever exists in this world and is characterized as something particular as a thing as an event has something or other you see as a unit this does not exist without all other such things and events so that you might say any one event implies all events and all events the total universe past present and future depends on every single member in other words you may say I can understand that I depend on this whole universe there could not be me unless there was everything else it is harder to see the current corollary of that that the whole universe depends on you you might say well how can that be because I come into being and then I go out of being and when I'm with or I was born I'm sure the universe was here and after I die I'm sure it will go on how can you say then that the whole thing depends on me very simply it depends on your supposing you're dead and we are talking about someone in the past let's say we're talking about Socrates and I'm going to say this whole universe depends on Socrates I may put it more exactly it depends on Socrates having existed you see your parents now some of your parents may be alive but some of your parents may be dead without your parents he would not have come into being so you depend on your parents even when your parents have gone so everything even when you disappear the universe will still depend on you on your having been here or if you have not yet arrived it depends on your going to be here so we can say obviously going back to Socrates if the fact that Socrates existed tells us something about the kind of world we're living in this world once Socrates and that Socrates and his wisdom was a symptom of the kind of universe we're living in in just the same way as I showed you that an apple is a symptom of a tree certain kind of tree tells us something about that tree what it functions how it produces things so a world which produced Socrates or a world which produced John Doe who was nobody in particular and nobody ever remembered him or thought to write his biography nevertheless for all his obscurity the whole universe depends on him and it depends equally on every fruit fly every gnat every vibration of every Nats wing and depends on every last electron however brief its manifestation may be so that what what this is saying is that everything that there is implies everything else and all those other things collectively in their totality which we call the universe in turn imply each individual object event and so on that's the meaning of indras net so that this is called in Zen to take up a blade of grass and use it as a Golden Buddha 16 feet high when you have a chain and you pick up a link all the other links come up with it you see because it implies if this is a link it is a link in a chain if it isn't it's just an oval piece of metal but if it's a link I've come all other links so if you are an event every event no there's no such thing as a single event the only possible single event is all events whatsoever that could be regarded as the only possible atom the only possible single thing is everything but the things that we call things all imply each other we know what we are only in relation to what we aren't we know of the sensation of oneself only in relation to a sensation of something other so the other goes with the self as the back goes with the front and your life however short everything depends on it if that did not happen nothing would happen so in this sense the whole world bears your signature it would not be the same world if it weren't for you you've heard haven't you what is called the pathetic fallacy this was a idea of the 19th century which said that it was false wrong to project human feelings on the world the wind in the pine trees is not sign it's you who assign the Sun is not happy it's you are who are happy when the sunshine so don't mix up your happiness with the Sun the Sun has no feeling the Sun is not human the wind has no feeling in his not human the poet says the moon doth with delight look round her when the heavens are bare and the logician says no the poet looks round with the light at the moon in the bare heavens how awful I mean if that's what if that's the point you see better not say any poetry just have prose but actually the moon does look round with the light when the poet looks round with the light because the world of which one symptom is the moon is the same world of which another symptom is the poet they go together a well where there is a moon implies the world whether as a poet a world whether as a poet implies a world where there is a moon so in this sense the moon can be said to look round with delight through the agency of the poet because you can't separate poet and moon just as you can't separate head and feet without destroying the unity of the body so in that sense then this whole world is a human world and we should not take the silly attitude or philosophy called the philosophy of the pathetic fallacy which says outside our skins it's all inhuman and dumb and blind force and only inside the skin is there the human world all this world is human because it depends not only on the existence of humanity in general but on the existence of Mary Smith in particular so the whole world is covered as it were with your personals signature but at that moment when you suddenly seem to be everything and to be mr. a you know you suddenly see the obverse of this that your particular personality is nothing at all without everything else without everybody else I need in order to be Alan Watts I need every single other human being and the uncontrollable other nests of all those other human beings that I can't do anything about they're going to be themselves whatever I do and yet at the same time I I depend on all their their difference from me and yet it they all depend likewise on me so that I'm in a very funny position the moment I would be egoless and say I'm nothing without you then suddenly I find I'm I'm the kingpin they all depend on me then suddenly with him when I get swell-headed about being the kingpin I find out nothing at all without them so everything keeps going blue blue blue blue huh in other words how much do you think you've got it in one state it transforms itself into the other that's the G G muguet now in g g muga you see you got a vision of the world in which everybody is boss and nobody is boss there is no one boss who governs the whole thing it takes care of itself it's a colossal democracy but yet every man and every Gugu asou and every snail is king in this world and at the same time is commoner and that's how it works and there is no great king although in Hinduism they have an idea a very strange one to us called ishvara ishvara means the supreme personal God the top being in the devil world and they many Buddhists believe that there is such a God there is a ruler of the universe but he is lower than a Buddha because in the course of the endless cycles ishvara will dissolve into nothing all gods all angels are within the round of being it's a very curious idea to our our minds and therefore although Buddhists believe in God in that sense they don't take it importantly there are no shrines in Buddhism to Ishwara so then it is through GG muguet this idea of the mutual interpenetration and interdependence of all things that we have the philosophical basis for zen as a practical non-intellectual way of life because of the realization that the most ordinary event the charcoal brazier the matte soup for dinner sneezing washing your hands going to the bathroom everything all these so-called events separate events imply the universe so this is why then people will use the ordinary event to demonstrate the cosmic and the metaphysical only they don't rationalize it that way to see infinity in a grain of sand and eternity in an hour is still regime uu gay and not GG muguet GG muguet is when you offer somebody the grain of sand for God's sake stop thinking about eternity he assess the grain of sand there is no difference between the grain of sand and eternity so you don't have to think about eternity as something implied by the grain of sand the grain of sand is eternity so in the same way exactly our sitting here at this moment is not something different from Nirvana we are near of honor as sitting here exactly like this you see so you don't have to say any philosophical comment on the grain of sand or on our sitting here that's called legs on a snake or a beard on a unit you put legs on a snake we see and you embarrass the snake in its motion and a unit doesn't need a beard we would say in our idiom don't gild the lily or Zhen would say don't put frost on top of snow so all what you might call specifically religious activity is legs on a snake eventually this is going to be eliminated just as eventually we hope that government will be eliminated and will become unnecessary because every individual will be self-governing and therefore relate properly to his brother and the state will vanish so – at the same time the church will vanish and that's why in the in the book of Revelation in the New Testament it is said that in heaven there is no temple because the whole place is the temple so in when we achieved the fulfillment of Buddhism there is no Buddha no temple no Gong no Bell because the whole world is the sound of the Bell and the image of Buddha is everything you can look at so a Zen master was asked mountains and Hills are they not all forms of the body of Buddha master replied yes they are but it's a pity to say so

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