22 July 2014
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The student of Zen is confronted by a master who has himself experienced awakening, and is in the best sense of the expression a completely natural man. For the adept in Zen is one who manages to be human with the same artless grace and absence of inner conflict with which a tree is a tree. Such a man is likened to a ball in mountain stream, which is to say that he cannot be blocked, stopped, or embarassed in any situation. He never wobbles or dithers in his mind, for though he may pause in overt action to think a problem out, the stream of his consciousness always moves straight ahead without being caught in the vicious circles of anxiety or indecisive doubt, wherein thought whirls wildly around without issue. He is not precipitate or hurried in action, but simply continuous. This is what Zen means by being detached – not being without emotion or feeling, but being one in whom feeling is not sticky or blocked, and through whom the experiences of the world pass like the reflections of birds flying over water. Although possessed of complete inner freedom, he is not, like the libertine, in revolt against social standards, nor, like the self-rigtheous, trying to justify himself. He is all of a piece with himself and with the natural world, and in his presence you feel that without strain or artifice he is completely “all here” — sure of himself without the slightest trace of aggression. He is thus the grand seigneur, the spiritual aristrocrat comparable to the type of worldly aristocrat who is so sure of the position given to him by birth that he has no need to condescend or put on airs. – Alan Watts, This is It
However puzzling this may be, and however many philosophical problems it may raise, one clear look is enough to show its unavoidable truth. There is only this now. It does not come from anywhere; it is not going anywhere. It is not permanent, but it is not impermanent. Though moving, it is always still. When we try to catch it, it seems to run away, and yet it is always here and there is no escape from it. And when we turn round to find the self which knows this moment, we find that it has vanished like the past.
– The Way of Zen, Alan Watts
I am really enjoying reading Alan Watts, getting a lot out of his distillation of Eastern philosophy. A few more insights from The Book (on the Taboo Against Knowing Yourself)…
If you know what you want, and will be content with it, you can be trusted. But if you do not know, your desires are limitless and no one can tell how to deal with you
Peace can be made only by those who are peaceful, and love can be shown only by those who love
No work of love will flourish out of guilt, fear or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.
There is a lot more in this book, far too much to cover in these few quotes that are of interest. A proper review of this book would be in order, but for now the quotes will have to suffice. If these are not enough to entice you, let me be blunt – read this book! You will not regret it, and may get something to take away from it that lasts with you.