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Thread: Alan Watts on Enlightenment

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  1. #1

    Alan Watts on Enlightenment

    I thought this video has some good insights so I thought I would share....

    [youtube] [/youtube]

    Hope you enjoy...

  2. #2
    I owe Watts this: In The Way of Zen, he made clear the difference between conventional and unconventional knowledge. Before reading The Way, I had a bad tendency to dismiss or belittle unconventional knowledge. Getting a grip on the difference opened me up to Eastern philosophy in a new way. And, not incidentally, convinced me that it was worthwhile to get my butt on the cushion.

  3. #3
    Thanks for digging up this old thread!

    My two cents on "Alan Watts":
    As was said above, Alan Watts didn't claim to be a Zen master. When you listen to his talks (there is an excellent collection called "You're It!") or read his book "The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are" you see that he mixed traditions/practices in his personal life. He "combined" Zen, Taoism, Hinduism and other practices. IMHO the reason for this becomes apparent in some of his talks: He considered these practices as a means not as the goal, they were fingers pointing to the moon, not the moon themselves. He warned that one should not to get attached to a certain practice.

    Even Abbot Muho from the Soto monastery Antaiji said in a documentary something like "I believe there are other ways to enlightenment than Zazen. I don't claim it is the only way. And I am even not sure whether it is the easiest way for everybody."
    Nevertheless, he chose this way for himself.

    Yes, Alan Watts was not someone who strictly followed one tradition. He had his faults, but who hasn't?
    However, this does not mean we cannot learn something from him. I have found his talks and books quite inspirational.

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  4. #4
    Senior Member Nengyo's Avatar
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    I've watched a few small excerpts of Alan Watts' work on youtube and thought they were really cool. Then when I read his works I was less impressed. It seems that, as happens with movie trailers, all the "best parts" were made into short videos already. That being said, I really liked a few of his videos where he tries to get people to understand that they are not separate from the universe, it is a simple scientific fact that we are the big bang, we are star dust, we are the planet. We may not feel like it, but we certainly are. Anyone who helps get that across is doing good work to me. One of my favorite discussions is when he talks about how we aren't amazed when an apple tree apples because that's what they do, well the earth is doing the same thing, it peoples. Peopling is what it does.

    I don't care for his stance on drugs and alcohol mixing with spiritual insight. I'm not against casual drug and alcohol use if that's what someone digs, but he seems to make an error in thinking that drugs and alcohol can lead to "enlightenment." As a non drug user I can't refute or explain his experiences. However, If I used drugs for insight, I would always be scared that my insight had nothing to do with reality. For an analogy, lets say you are young, shy guy who has a hard time picking up girls at a bar. You drink a few drinks and loosen up. You drink a few more and you meet a girl and go home with her. On the way out the bar you tell your buddies that you are leaving. You are proud and you think to yourself "man, I've got this game figured out!" Then the next morning you wake up in a trailer park with an unattractive, crazy, 40 year old divorced cat lady whose kid is jumping up and down on the bed screaming "new daddy!" Suddenly you realize that all your inner realizations, all your confidence, and your new "game" were all wrong. The booze was a lie. I imagine that any insight gained trough drugs could be the same, only you may never "wake up" to see if it comported with reality or not.
    "You yourself must strive. The Buddhas only point the way." - Shakyamuni Buddha

  5. #5
    I read the books mentioned before learning Buddhist practice.. and as already said, they draw from different traditions. What they instructed me to do was to look at, and recognize, already existing oneness, and of already being-the-flow , regardless. This was in line with the Advaita Vedanta I was familiar with at the time. When I began to learn Buddhism (not Zen at the time) it was a surprise to see that these things were not the emphasis at all. The emphasis was on seeing into the nature of Dukkha, while pointedly, importantly, dropping the inherent limitation of ontological concern. Is non-dukkha oneness? or not-twoness? or being the flow? or "It"? ...Can't say. It is non-Dukkha. When I came to Zen practice some Advaita sounding language came back, but it was in the context of Dukkha and Non-dukkha, and that made a world of difference for me, because then practice became more than just saying to myself "I'm already it" without even touching deeply ingrained, greed anger and ignorance. That's my flawed sense of things anyway.. and those readings were a long time ago, so they may be remembered poorly.


    Gassho. kojip
    大山

  6. #6
    Hi kojip,

    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip View Post
    Is non-dukkha oneness? or not-twoness? or being the flow? or "It"? ...Can't say. It is non-Dukkha. When I came to Zen practice some Advaita sounding language came back, but it was in the context of Dukkha and Non-dukkha, and that made a world of difference for me, because then practice became more than just saying to myself "I'm already it" without even touching deeply ingrained, greed anger and ignorance. That's my flawed sense of things anyway.. and those readings were a long time ago, so they may be remembered poorly.
    Very interesting thoughts!
    Doesn't Oneness contain even Dukkha?
    Perhaps when one really realizes ones true self (i.e. not just a mere theoretical grasp), it is a way to "overcome" Dukkha. By accepting it as part of life and finding a way "somewhere in the middle".

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by LimoLama View Post
    Hi kojip,



    Very interesting thoughts!
    Doesn't Oneness contain even Dukkha?
    Perhaps when one really realizes ones true self (i.e. not just a mere theoretical grasp), it is a way to "overcome" Dukkha. By accepting it as part of life and finding a way "somewhere in the middle".

    Gassho,

    Timo
    In my experience "when one really realizes ones true self (i.e. not just a mere theoretical grasp)" is just stringing along a concept.., throwing away the thing and keeping the scent, blowing away the scent and keeping the memory..etc. All I mean is... when sitting where is true self? There is reaching, and there is seeing reaching, and there is no longer reaching... ontological qualifiers have no footing. That is just my honest experience of practice . Gassho kojip
    大山

  8. #8
    Hi kojip,

    Thank you!

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  9. #9
    Hi Charles,

    What a cool (and graphic) comparison!
    I totally agree with you on the drug thing. I think several people experimented with LSD during that era.
    Taking substances in order to achieve a certain goal seems unnatural to me...

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  10. #10
    Junior Member Oaken's Avatar
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    Thank you Seiryu for the video and everyone for this discussion
    After high school one of my friends gave me The Way of Zen to read,we spent many a night talking about the concepts in it. It opened my young mind to thinking outside the box that school and our culture tried to put us in. Alan's writing got me started thinking about meditation and it got me on the winding zig zaggy path my life has been.
    I reread The Way of Zen this summer and I was surprised how much of the concepts in the book had stuck with me over the years. I am glad to read Suzuki Roshi thought of him as a Bodhisattva
    Gassho
    Tom
    Last edited by Oaken; 11-17-2012 at 12:11 AM.
    Trying to go straight ahead on a narrow mountain path which has ninety-three curves

  11. #11
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oaken View Post
    Thank you Seiryu for the video and everyone for this discussion
    After high school one of my friends gave me The Way of Zen to read,we spent many a night talking about the concepts in it. It opened my young mind to thinking outside the box that school and our culture tried to put us in. Alan's writing got me started thinking about meditation and it got me on the winding zig zaggy path my life has been.
    Me too!
    Heisoku
    平 息

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