Alan_Watts

Alan Watts — You’re It (#56) | Below the Line with James Beshara

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Key Takeaways

  • “Most people in the West have been brought up to believe that they are in this Universe as strangers on probation” – Alan Watts
    • We feel alienated from the Universe, therefore we attack it
      • We think we have to conquer Nature because we don’t realize that we are Nature’s children
  • “The body does not exist without its environment, just like a front goes with a back”– Alan Watts
    • We cannot exist without the Sun, we are inseparable from it
      • Just like we are inseparable from our bodies
      • “The Universe that is said to be outside us is our own extended body” – Alan Watts
  • We are most effective if we act with a sense of detachment
    • You wouldn’t want your surgeon to be so concerned that his hands shake
    • You can realize that whether you succeed or fail, the Universe will go on
      • It’s not about doing “nothing”, it’s about “not forcing”
      • “You cannot achieve any creative result by forcing it”– Alan Watts
  • “We live in an eternal now, yet, most people are under the delusion that they live for a future” – Alan Watts
    • They make all sort of plans, but when plans mature they’re unable to enjoy them

Books Mentioned

  • When talking about his childhood, Alan Watts mentioned his autobiography, In My Own Way

Intro

  • Alan Watts was a British writer and speaker known for interpreting and popularizing Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism for a Western audience.
  • Host: James Beshara (@jamesbeshara)
  • In this conversation, we hear Alan Watts discuss deep philosophical topics such as, “Who are we?”, “What is God” and much more

Who Are We?

  • “Most people in the West have been brought up to believe that they are in this Universe as strangers on probation” – Alan Watts
  • We say “I came into this World”
    • But that’s a wrong way to put it
      • We actually came out of the World, we are its fruits
        • Just like an apple tree “apples”, the galaxy “peoples”
  • “We are not lonely, isolated egos inside bags of skin” – Alan Watts
    • We are actually a function of the Total Universe
      • We are the Universe observing itself
    • Each one of us is a different expression of the energy of the World
      • Some people call this energy “God”

The Idea of God

  • In the West, the image of God tied up to the idea of a universal king
    • If I say “I’m God”, in the West it sounds crazy
      • As if I’m saying that I’m the boss
  • In Hinduism, instead, God is considered the Self
    • The Self of the Individual and the Self of the Universe
    • “If Jesus lived in India and announced that he was God, everyone would have said: ‘Of course!'” – Alan Watts
      • In the West, he was crucified for it

What is Cosmic Consciousness?

  • It is an experience that can happen to anyone
    • The experience of being One with the Universe
    • You see that despite all its troubles, the Universe is fundamentally harmonious
  • It’s an indescribable experience
    • The task of the poets and philosophers is to try to express the unspeakable
  • If people understood this experience, they’d behave more sanely
    • “We feel alienated from the Universe, therefore we are attacking the Universe”– Alan Watts
      • We think we have to conquer Nature because we don’t realize that we are Nature’s children

Alleviating the Feeling of Alienation

  • We have been taught to identify as something inside of us
    • An ego encapsulated within our skin
    • We identify our self with our ideas, thoughts, the way we talk
      • We don’t even identify with our body
        • We say “I have a body”, not “I am a body”
    • This idea of our selves is completely wrong
  • If we truly felt our body, we’d see that the body is at one with the Universe
    • “The body does not exist without its environment, just like a front goes with a back” – Alan Watts
    • We cannot exist without the Sun, we are inseparable from it
      • Just like we are inseparable from our bodies
      • “The Universe that is said to be outside us is our own extended body” – Alan Watts

On Self-Improvement

  • “The first thing you should understand is that you can’t do anything about it” – Alan Watts
    • If you try, you reinforce the idea that there is a separate ego inside you
      • You can put in the effort but you’ll find out that it’s useless
    • The ego cannot do something to transform itself, and it cannot do nothing to transform itself, because it doesn’t exist
  • Once you find out that the ego is an illusion, the problem is solved
    • You see that there is a “happening”, Nature going along
      • You see that you cannot push it around

Making a Change in the World

  • Alan is concerned about the big issues facing humanity (ecology crisis, poverty, racism, etc.)
    • He’s actively working to alleviate these issues
      • But he realizes that being overly concerned about anything makes one less effective
        • You wouldn’t want your surgeon to be so concerned that his hands shake
      • We are most effective if we act with a sense of detachment
        • You can realize that whether you succeed or fail, the Universe will go on
      • It’s not about doing “nothing”, it’s about “not forcing”
        • “You cannot achieve any creative result by forcing it”– Alan Watts
          • The foreign aid program in the Third World is a disaster
            • We are forcing our way of life without even asking if that’s what they really wanted
          • “‘Kindly let me help you or you will drown,’ said the monkey putting the fish safely up a tree.” –Alan Watts

Questions About Existence

  • Children often wonder about the nature and the history of the World
    • Their endless questions are usually shut and discouraged by their parents
    • Alan is very grateful to his father for encouraging his curiosity about the Universe
  • You will not understand the Universe by studying its past, but by being attentive at its present
    • The World always begins Now
    • If you forget everything you know and simply pay attention to sounds, you’ll hear different sounds coming out of silence
      • You can’t hear any past or any future, only sounds in the now coming out of silence in the now

Styles of Meditation

  • Alan is non-partisan about religion or meditation styles
    • He thinks different kinds can appeal to different people
  • Simply listening to what is going on is an easy way to get into a meditative state
    • Experience the vibrations of sound directly without naming them
    • If you can’t stop thinking, listen to your thoughts as sounds (not words)
      • You realize that the World as it is is not like the World as it is described

The Eternal Now

  • We live in an eternal now, yet, most people are under the delusion that they live for a future” – Alan Watts
    • They make all sort of plans, but when plans mature they’re unable to enjoy them
      • They are again working on some future plan
      • Like a donkey, continuously chasing a carrot in front of it
    • Once you realize that every moment we are already there, we can enjoy it
      • Then it is worthwhile to make plans
      • You know that when plans are realized you’ll be there to enjoy
Below the Line : , ,
Notes By Giorgio Parlato

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