Lyrics / Transcript of Alan Watts Chillstep Mix #2
In the western world, I supposed we have two dominant ideas about what happens to us when we die.
There’s the old fashioned idea that after we die, we go to another world. I say old fashioned. not that it’s out of date, we don’t know what the answer to this is.
But that’s the traditional answer of the western world. When you die, you go to another life. Maybe heaven, maybe purgatory, maybe hell, who knows.
It think nowadays, though, the more general idea—the more plausible idea to many people, is that when we die, we just cease to be. There’s all there is to it. But we are inclined I think to have in our minds a picture of this, which is indeed depressing. Of being shut up in the dark for always and always and always. To be kind of buried alive in a blackness.
Where we are blind deaf and dumb, but are still conscious.
But in the eastern world, there are different ideas of this. Think of it this way: supposing I make two statements.
Statement one (1): after I die, I shall be reborn again as a baby, but I shall forget my former life.
Statement two (2): After I die, a baby will be born.
Now I believe that those two statements are saying exactly the same thing.
Death is not the end of consciousness.
If we think of death as endless darkness, endless nothingness, is not only inconceivable, but it’s logically, absolutely meaningless. Because we aren’t able to have any idea, much less sensation of nothing, unless it can be compared with the sensation of something. And therefore, what is meant, is the vacuum that is created, the disappearance of a being, the disappearance of his memory system, is filled by another being.
Who is I, just as you feel your I.
The funny thing about being I, is that you can only experience I sensation in the singular. You can’t experience two or three “I’s” all at the same time. Now then, it seems to me that this idea has very important consequences. One is that the disappearance of our memory in death, is not really something to be regretted. Of course, everybody wishes to hold forever, to the memories and to the people and to the situations that he particularly loves. But surely, if we think this thru, is that actually what we want?
Do we really want to have those we love, however greatly we love them, for always and always and always?
Isn’t it inconceivable that even in a very distant future, we wouldn’t get tired of it? And this indeed, is the secret of it, why the demon impermanence is nice. Because it is forgetting about things, that renews their wonder.
Just think. When you opened your eyes on the world for the first time as a child, how brilliant colors were. What a jewel the sun was, what marvel were the stars, how incredibly alive the trees were. That’s all because they were new to your eyes. Or in the same way you know how you’ve been reading a mystery story, and you’re looking around the house looking for something to read, you pick up an old mystery story. If you had read it years and years ago and you’d forgotten all about the plot, it still excites you.
But if you remember the plot, it doesn’t excite you. And so, by the dispensation of forgetting, the world is constantly renewed, and we are able to see it again and again and to love again and again, to have people to whom we are deeply attached, and deeply fond, always with renewed intensity.
And without the contrast of having seen before before before before for always and always and always.
Another consequence of this is a very curious realization, who would I be if my mother had married someone else?
These are the kinds of questions that make us puzzle profoundly about our existence. I might so easily have been born in China and India. Why do I feel that the world is centered in this place, as distinct from some other place?
In other words, you jolly well know, the world descended where you are. There is consciousness anywhere that is I. You then, in a way, look out through all I’s. And that perhaps is the secret of the great virtue of compassion.
When your own sense of inner 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.
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’re doing it for selfish reasons. You can’t be unselfish by a decision of the Will, anymore than you can decide not to think of the…
There is a story about Confucius, who one day met Laozi, a great Chinese philosopher. Laozi said, “Sir, what is your system?” And Confucius said, “It is charity, love of one’s neighbor, and elimination of self interest.”
Laozi said, “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 upward 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.”
When the police arrive on the first floor, the thieves have gone up to the second. And so to the third, and finally up to the roof. So when the ego is about to be unmasked, it immediately identifies with the higher self. It goes up a level.
I had a friend who was studying Zen in Japan, and he got pretty desperate and produced 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 saw just a very common sight in Japan, a big bullfrog, sitting around in the garden. And he scooped the bullfrog up in his hand and dropped it into the sleeve of his kimono.
And then he went to the master and to give the answer to who he was, he suddenly produced the bullfrog.
And the master said, “nn-nnn, too intellectual.” <lol>
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.
And so after a while, what happens is this: the student finds that there is absolutely no way of being his true self.
There is also no way of doing it by not doing it.
Let me, make this clearer, by putting it into Christian terms. Thou shalt love the Lord thy got.