“Buddhism as dialogue” – Alan WATTS

“When two Zen Masters meet each other on the road, they need no introduction. Thieves recognise each other instantaneously.”

Zen proverb

Dans un livre sur le bouddhisme zen de A. W. Watts, je lis ceci : « But the anxiety-laden problem of what will happen to me when I die is, after all, like asking what happens to my fist when I open my hand, or where my lap goes when I stand up. »

Pourquoi je ne cesse de pratiquer Marc Aurèle, Épictète, le Bouddha, le Zen et le reste? Pourquoi j’y ai recours presque tous les jours? Qu’est-ce que j’en attends?- Je ne vois qu’une réponse: apprendre à ne pas (plus) souffrir, et à minimiser mes misères. Par mes propres moyens, je n’y arrive pas: et c’est bien cela ma misère.

Tout à l’heure je me suis mis en colère en écoutant les nouvelles à la radio. J’ai senti mon sang « bouillir ». Sur le coup, j’aurais été capable de n’importe quoi. Et puis, je me suis souvenu que je dois me maîtriser et ne plus m’oublier. La sagesse est peut-être une invention des peuples vifs, cruels. Les Japonais s’attachèrent au Zen comme à une antidote et un garde-fou; ils y virent une arme contre eux-mêmes, un remède élaboré par leur caractère pour se défendre de ses propres excès.

4 nov. « Il est dit qu’un moine tc’ an (Zen chinois) entra dans un temple et cracha sur la statue du Bouddha. Quand on le critiqua, il dit : “Je vous prie, montrez-moi un endroit où il n’y ait le Bouddha.” »
(Récit sur la transmission de la Lumière, Histoire de la philosophie chinoise)

« Un ennemi est aussi utile qu’un Bouddha. » – Combien je comprends cela! Je dois à mes ennemis d’avoir commis moins d’erreurs que je n’en aurais fait autrement. Ils ont veillé sur moi, ils veillent toujours : ma gratitude à leur égard est sans bornes.

28 déc. [1965] – J’ai passé tout ce dernier temps à lire sur le zen jusqu’à la saturation. Et maintenant, après la tentation, de nouveau le dégoût de la sagesse :je retombe en moi-même. Fort heureusement. Car la sagesse n’est pas ma voie.

CIORAN, Cahiers: 1957-1972

Alan W. Watts (1915-1973) was a British-born American philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and popularizer of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. Born in Chislehurst, England, he moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York. Pursuing a career, he attended Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, where he received a master’s degree in theology. Watts became an Episcopal priest in 1945, then left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies.

Now I hope you remember that this morning, I was trying in the brief space of fifteen minutes, to give you a basic introduction to Mahayana Buddhism. The kind of Buddhism that is found in China and Japan, and the kind of Buddhism of which Zen Buddhism in particular is a subsect. And, we are rather particularly concerned with Zen, since it has had such a fundamental influence in the shaping of Japanese culture and the arts of Japan. And since we are in the course of this informal tour going to be visiting a good deal of Zen monasteries and seeing a great deal of Zen formed works of art, architecture, and so on. 

So I want to lead now tonight from Buddhism in general or Mahayana Buddhism in general to Zen in particular. Now, Zen plays a little game with you. Whenever anybody like myself or Dr Suzuki talks about Zen, all the other people say because they talk about it they don’t understand it. Those in the words of Lao Tzu, who know do not say those who say do not know, and yet he said that. You wrote a book of several, 80 chapters or so, to explain. The Tao, and the debt its power and. Nobody can help themselves they’ve got to talk human beings are a bunch of chatterboxes and when we’ve got something in our minds that we want to talk about we talk. Now poetry, though, is the great language, because poetry is the art of saying what can’t be said. Every poet knows this. They’re trying to describe the indescribable, and every poet also knows that nothing is describable. Whether you take a some sort of ineffable mystical experience at one extreme or whether you take an ordinary rusty nail at the other. Nothing is really describable. In the words of the famous count Korzybski, ‘Whatever you say something is, it isn’t.’ We used to have a professor at Northwestern would produce a match booklet in front of his class and would say to them what is it. And they would say matchbook it he’d say No no no matchbook it is a noise is this a noise what is it. And so to answer this he’d throw it at them. That’s what it is. So in this way, you see nothing can really be described, and yet on the other hand we all know perfectly mean well what we mean when we talk. If you know, if you shared an experience with somebody else, then of course you can talk about it we can all talk about fire and air and water and wood because we know what it is, and there’s no mystery. And so, in the same way, when it comes to discussing something so esoteric as Zen it can be discussed only. Then people play games with each other they play little tricks they test each other out by saying to somebody I remember when I met Paul Reps for. The first time who wrote that lovely book Zen Flesh and Zen bones, and he said to me ‘Well,’ he said, ‘You’ve written quite a number of books by now you must think you’re pretty fancy.’  I said I haven’t said a word. So this is theft is then game. And people sort of feel each other out. There’s a poem which says when two Zen masters meet each other on the road they need no introduction. Thieves recognise one another instantaneously. 

So now, having got that out of my chest it’s to say then if I were to give you a really proper and it really hadn’t truly educative talk about Zen I would gather around here and sit here and silence for five minutes and leave. And in a way this would be a much more direct exposition of it than what I’m going to do instead would talk about it only I have a feeling that you would feel that you were disappointed and somewhat cheated by this kind of behavior, if I just left and five minute silence. So then, this word Zen is Japanese way of pronouncing the Chinese word Chan, which in turn is the Chinese way of pronouncing the Sanskrit word Jana. And Jana is a very difficult word to translate into English if not impossible. It’s been called meditation. Meditation in English generally means sitting quietly and thinking about something, and that’s not what Zen is. Contemplation might come a little nearer if you use the word in a very technical sense the sense that it was used or a still is used among catholic mystics. Perhaps that’s something a bit like Zen. But again contemplation, as we normally use the word, has a sense of inactivity. The sense of not doing anything, of being completely still and passive. Whereas Zen is something I acted. 

So we really don’t have an English word for Jana, Chan, Zen. But I would say that we do know what it is. Because we do all sorts of things every day of our lives in this spirit. When for example, you drive a car. Most Americans, at any rate, drive car since they were teenagers. And are very expert drivers. And when they drive a car, they don’t think about it. They’re one with the car. Or when a rider of a horse is one being with a horse, when you watch a good cowboy or cavalry rider, he’s glued to the horse. He’s like a centaur almost, as the horse moves, he moves, which is in control is the horse riding the man or the man riding the horse you practically don’t know the same way when you have an excellent dancing partner who leads who follows it seems as if you are one body, and you move together. That is Zen that is Jana,. And so, in the in that in a wider sense, when a person doesn’t react to life, on the one hand, or try to dominate it on the other. But when the internal weld or runs an organism and the ext on a world of other people and other things move together as if they were and indeed are one and the same motion. That is Zen. 

So you could say in a very very simple way, that the real concern of Zen is to realize, not merely to think, but to know in your bones. That the inside world inside your skin and the outside world outside your skin going out as far as anything can go into galaxies beyond galaxies, is all one world. And all one being, one self, and you’re it. And once you know that, then you have completely abolished all the problems that arise as a result of feeling that you’re a stranger in the world, that you’re set down in the middle of a hostile and alien domain of nature or people. Who are not you. This whole sense of estrangement, foreignness, to the world is overcome in Zen. 

Now let me illustrate this a little before we go into Zen in any kind of technical way, by a fewl rather superficial but nevertheless significant facts out of Japanese culture and the place of Zen in Japanese culture. Japanese culture is as you may have noticed, was as you may have noticed extraordinarily ritualistic. There is a right way of doing everything. A good form, a proper style, and nowhere is this more apparent, than in such practices as the tea ceremony or arranging flowers, or knowing how to dress. Or knowing how to organize a formal dinner. The punctiliousness. The skill, of these people in doing these things is quite remarkable. But in the same measure as they are very skillful at doing this things, they’re very worried about it. The whole question, for example, of bringing presents to somebody else. Have they given us more than we’ve given them? Did we remember this occasion? Did we remember that occasion? These weigh very heavily on the Japanese soul. The debt which you owe to your parents. The debt which you owe to your country and to your Emperor. Immeasurable, infinite debt, never can be paid. All these way very heavily. 

And therefore in Japan, until the sort of break away of modern youth, with its westernized ideals, this is a very nervous culture. Concerned about whether one is playing the ritual correctly. A culture like that needs an outlet, needs a safety valve, needs a way out of this thing. And Zen provides just that. And so, by contrast, when you meet a Japanese, who is not thoroughly trained in Zen, he is a different kind of personality altogether from ordinary Japanese. He is in manners. Not all. Studiedly courteous. Nor is he Brusque. But he is simply at ease. He gives you his whole attention so long as you give him your whole attention. If you start wandering and frittering, he’s got work to do, and he promptly leaves. 

But so long as you are wanting to talk to him, he is there for you and for nobody else. And he sits down, and he really sits, you know, he doesn’t worry about whether he ought to be somewhere else. And so unable to sit with complete serenity in one place you know, if you have half an idea that you ought to be worrying about them going out in the garden all that you ought to be cooking dinner, or you want to be done in your office or something you can’t sit where you are. You’re not really there, you are a kind of gas balloon that keeps wanting to wander off. That these people when you see as you meet people connected with Zen even they are sometimes the most. Neophyte novice of a priest has as this atmosphere of knowing how to live in the present. And not to be fidgety and giggly and worrying about whether he’s done the right thing. Or that’s very much zen style, even though at the same time the Zen people do have a very exacting and demanding discipline, the function of this discipline is rather curious, it’s to enable you to be comfortable. It’s an aid to enable you for example to sleep on a concrete sidewalk on a cold wet night. And enjoy it. To relax completely under any situation of hardship. You see ordinarily when you sit on a. You’re out in the cold, you start shivering, why? Because you’re resisting the code you are tightening your muscles against the cold and you get the staggers. But you are taught if you would learn Zen discipline not to do that. Take it easy go with the cold, relax. And all those monks in those monasteries here there, it’s cold as hell in winter. And they simply sit there most of the time and there we would be frozen to death and miserable and have influenza on the great Siberian itch, but they simply relax, and learn how to take the cold. 

So there’s nothing about Zen discipline which is masochistic. It isn’t to beat your body because your body is bad and the creation of the devil or something has nothing to do with that it is how to be comfortable under all circumstances. But that again, is something rather incidental to the main question of Zen. As I said, the Zen people as you meet them, and as you get to know their style or personality, are at ease in a culture that is not at ease. In a culture that is chronically concerned with protocol. And is it just right, that is indeed a terribly self-conscious culture. Where everybody is always watching themselves. And having therefore second thoughts about everything. And so, the discipline of Zen is to enable you to act without watching yourself. We would say unselfconsciously. The Japanese are as terrified of this as we are. They think, and we think, if I don’t watch myself, I’ll make a mistake. If I don’t hold a club over myself hour cease to be civilized and become a barbarian. If I don’t discipline myself with all sorts of [grunts] down on that is passions of yours you will become like the monk of Siberia who burst from his cell and devour the fathers Superior. So this basic mistrust and so on in one’s own spontaneity makes it, makes us wonder that if they Zen people are really spontaneous. And they don’t plan and premeditate and all clubs over themselves well they become very very dangerous people socially when they go out and rape their mothers and daughters and murder their grandmothers to inherit their fortunes and so on and so forth. And Zen people just don’t do that. And yet, they are perfectly spontaneous. 

So then, let me try then and indicate. How this discipline called Zen actually works. This will involve a little bit of letting the cat out of the bag. But it can’t be helped. Let’s go back to what I told you was fundamental to Buddhism. Buddhism is unlike other religions, in that it does not tell you anything. It doesn’t require you to believe in anything. Buddhism is a dialogue. And what are called the teachings of Buddhism, are nothing more than the opening phrases or opening exchanges in the dialogue. Buddhism is a dialogue between a Buddha. And an ordinary man or rather someone who insists on defining himself as an ordinary man. And thereby creates a problem. I quoted you this morning hour saying, that anybody who goes to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined. And in exactly the same way, in this culture, anybody who goes to go to a spiritual teacher or a Zen master or whatever, ought to have his head examined. Or as the old Chinese master Tokuzan put it. If you ask any question you get thirty blows, with my stick if you don’t ask any question you get that it closed as the saying another words, what the hell are you doing around here. Defining yourself as a student and defining me as a teacher. 

In other words you have to raise the problem. And in the way of training it was then this is very clearly emphasized if you go to a zen teacher, and you approach him in the traditional way, the first thing he will do is to say, ‘I haven’t anything to teach. Go away.’ Well you say what are these people doing around here and they used to. Say ‘Well they’re working with me but unfortunately we are very poor these days we don’t have enough rice really to go around and make ends meet and we can’t take on anybody else in this community.’ So you have to insist to be taken in. Every postulant for Zen training assumes immediately that the teacher has given him the brush off in order to test his sincerity. In other words, if you really want this thing. You’ve got to work for it. 

That isn’t the real point. The point is that you’ve got to make such a fuss to get in, that you cannot withdraw gracefully after having made such a fuss to get in. Because you put yourself on the spot and you define yourself as somebody needing help or somebody with a problem who needs a master in order to be helped out of the problem. So then, when you’ve done this in the old days of course and it’s still the formal rule among the Zen monasteries here, that when you’re a postulant and you want to come in, you have to sit outside at the gate for a week or maybe only five days, in a position of supplication with your head bowed down on the steps. And they let you in at night because they must give a hospitality to any wandering monk but you. I expect not to go to sleep any of those five nights but the sit there in meditation. And they give you food. But are you sit and you sit and you sit there and you make a damn fool of yourself. Saying, ‘I insist on getting into this thing. I insist on learning I want to know what the secret of this master here is.’ And he stole it from the star that he doesn’t have a secret of that he doesn’t eat anything. But you insist that he does. See, that is the situation of everybody who feels that life is a problem to be solved. Whether you want psychoanalysis, whether you want integration, whether you want salvation, whether you want Buddhahood, whatever it is you define yourself as wanting. You created the problem. 

What is the real problem that everybody brings to these teachers? What is it all about. It’s basically this isn’t it, teacher, I want to get one-up on the universe. I feel a stranger in this world. I feel that it’s a problem and that having a body means that I am subject to disease and change and death. Having emotions and passions means that I am tormented. By feelings which I can’t help having and yet it’s not reasonable to act on those feelings without creating trouble. I feel trapped by this world and so I want to get the better of it and is there some wise man around who is a master of the. Life and who can teach me to cope with all this. 

So that’s what everybody’s looking for in a teacher. The man who is the Savior and who can show you how to cope with. The Zen teacher says, ‘I don’t have any answers.’ Nobody believes that. Because he seems to be so competent when you look at him. You can’t believe that he has no answers. And yet that’s the consistent teaching of Zen. That it has nothing to say, and nothing to teach. The great Chinese master of the Ton Dynasty called Lindi in Chinese or Rinzai in Japanese said Zen is like using a yellow leaf to stop a child crying. A child is crying for gold, and the father takes an autumn leaf with yellow and says Gold. 

Or he said it’s like using an empty fist to deceive a child. See, you’ve got a closed fist and you say to the child that I got here. And the child says ‘Let me see.’  You put your fist behind your back. And the child to come to more and more excited to know what the devil’s in that feels and fights and fights and fights and finally is apparently in tears. And then suddenly you finally open the system is nothing inside. So in exactly the same way, a person who is under the impression that there is something that we ought to get, see all this is dressed up in a big way, to be a Buddha, to know the answer, to finally solve the problem to get the message to get the word or however you put it. In other words to be in control, of your fate and of the world. Would you like it? If you could have it. And so all these powers are projected upon the Zen master. He is a Buddha, he is a master of life. And if he is, the reason why this is that he has discovered the unreality of the whole problem.

And so, all these powers are projected upon the Zen Master. He is a Buddha, he is a master of life. And if he is, the reason why is this, that he has discovered the unreality of the whole problem. There is not life on the one hand, and you on the other. It’s all the same. But you see you can’t tell people that. And just by telling get them to see it. 

Just in in exactly this way you are people who know that the earth is flat. Can’t be reasoned with. People who believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, absolutely impossible to reason with them at all because they know it is. So in the same way, we tend to know that we are all separate poor little me, and that we are in need of salvation or something. And we know this is so and so somebody says well you’re not really that you know that that feeling of separateness is an illusion. Well that all very nice in theory but I don’t feel it. So what will you do? What will you do with a person who is convinced that the earth is flat? No way of reasoning with him. If it’s for some reason important that he discovered that the earth is round, you got to play a game with him, you want to play a trick on him you tell him great the earth is flat, let’s go and look over the edge when that be fun. Because, if we’re going to look over the edge of the earth we must be very very careful that we don’t go around in circles or we’ll never get to the edge. So we’ve got to go along consistently along a certain line of latitude westwards. And then we’re going to come to the edge of the earth, just so long as we’re consistent. In other words, in order to convince a flat surface that the world is round, you’ve got to make him act consistently on his own proposition, and go consistently westwards to find the edge of the world. Now, at last when he by going consistently westwards he comes back to the place where he started, he’s been convinced that the Earth is at least cylindrical, and he may believe you. Then take it on faith that if he goes along the line of longitude, the same thing will happen. But you see what you did was to make him persist in his folly. 

Now that’s the whole method of Zen. To make people become perfect egotists. And so explode the illusion of the separate ego. So what happens? In effect then, in the, in the discipline of Zen ou finally, when you convince the master that you are stupid enough to be accepted as a student. Because you persisted and because you’ve defined yourself as someone having the proper. He is want you well in advance that he has nothing to teach. But he says now I will ask you a question. There are many ways of asking this question, but they all boil down to one common theme, and that is Who are you? You say you have a problem. You say you’d like to get out of the sufferings of life, you say you would like to get one up on the universe. I want to know who’s asking this question, show me you. And only they put it in such ways as. Before your father and mother conceived you, what was your original nature? Questions like that. And they’ll say now, look I want I want to be shown I don’t want a lot of ideas about who you are I don’t want to know who you are in terms of a social role. You know, that you have such degrees or you have such professional qualifications and such a name and such a family, all that’s the past, I want to see you genuinely now. It’s like saying to a person, ‘now don’t be self-conscious, see I want you right this minute to be completely sincere. C’mon now.’ 

Well nothing is better calculated to make a person incapable of sincerity. As when relatives come and uncles and the little child and they want to review this child and see it and the parents say to the child, ‘darling come on down play for us.’ And the poor child is completely nonplussed. Doesn’t know what to do. Because you cannot play on demand. Now what is the Zen teacher doing in saying to a person. You must answer this question by coming before me in  in fact a rather formal situation where you use the kind of context in which is and master interviews his students is very formal. And there he sits, sort of enthroned tiger, he is definitely in this culture a sense a a of parity figure. And so he is the last kind of person you can respond with. Because you feel that he knows you through and through. And that you know ever read that story of one Clive about a man another fight with a bear, and the bear is a mind reader and always knows what movie is going to make. It so that the man can never conquer the bear unless he makes a move which he doesn’t think about first. How would you do that? And then you get the same feeling with relationship to a Zen master. You feel that he is absolutely aware of everything phony about you. That he reads you like a book, but that you can’t find a way of being not phony. Think about this a little. 

You see it’s, we can arrange a group session and this is a little game that’s being played by lots of people it’s a kind of psychotherapy we can arrange a group session, in which the gimmick is this. That when anybody says anything or does anything. The group or some section of the troop of the group challenges its sincerity. And says ‘Why you coming on so strong? Are you trying to dominate us?’ And you see anything that you do can be interpreted in that way. Because the moment a group of people becomes, starts making comments on its own behavior, it is setting up a situation in the group which is analogous, say in a T.V. studio, to turning the camera on the monitor. 

So, when we start, thinking about thinking. Being aware of being aware, this is what is called in the Japanese, the observing self. I watch myself all the time, you see, a hopeless mess. But this is the price that human beings pay for having become self-conscious. Anxiety and killed. Anxiety because, am I  sure that I thought this out sufficiently carefully. When I left the house did I turn off the gas stove? And incidentally I remember turning it off but can I trust my memory. Don’t think about memory now I wonder if I can trust it maybe I better go back and look I went back and I looked at it I really see and thinking about my sight, and whether whether this is quite authentic, did I did I look properly, because you know how the unconscious can alter your senses so I better go look again see as soon now I’ve got into a sort of vicious circle where I’ll never get away from the house. Yes. And this you all this sort of getting mixed up is the penalty we pay for the advantageous gift of being able to know that we know. ‘There was a young man who said though it seems that I know, that I know what I would like to see is the I that knows me when I know that I know that I know.’ 

And so this is the Zen trick. It’s to put you into this situation in a very crucial way. To think about thinking about thinking about thinking about, or just the same thing. To make a very strong effort not to think. That’s Zazen. Sit, let your senses operate and be responsive to whatever that may be around but don’t think about it. But now this is already thinking, I’m thinking about not thinking. How will I stop thinking about not thinking? So there you are! See, you’re all caught up it’s like somebody came to you and they put tar on one hand, molasses feathers in the other that the to dance to gether rub them around said, ‘Now pick up the feathers.’ 

So you see what happens the teacher is well aware that he’s played this trick on you. And he’s going to see what will happen if you act and he’s got to help you to act consistently on this foolishness. Now, you see what he’s done, is he simply made a special case of what society does to us all any how. And this is true of most cultures, the high cultures of the world, whether they’re of the East or whether they’re of the West, play a game on every new member they don’t know they’re playing this game because their forefathers played it on them and they’re still it’s hopeless victim. 

The game is called the double-bind. And the formula under which, under whose auspices, everybody comes into this world is as follows. You are required to do something which will be acceptable only if you do it voluntarily. You must love me. You must go to sleep. You must be natural. You must be. Listened to that you must be free. Now what happens you see, society, the community into which every child enters, defines the child. We know who we are, as other people react to us. So the other people say to us, you’re an independent agent. Your responsible. You’re a freely acting individual. But this is a commandment. And we obey it because we can’t help it. Child has no way of criticizing us. Or of seeing the something phony about it. So the child, has to be free because he is commanded to be so by the community. Now then, the community sets itself a problem. Having defined the child as an independent agent, and how they got the child to believe that he is an independent depended agent because he isn’t. In other words, he wouldn’t believe this if he were independent. It then has trouble getting him to behave as the community wants him to behave. 

So they feel that the something ornery about all children they’re born in Original Sin, they’re a fractious and so on of course they are because they’ve been defined in a self-contradictory way. So when the community says to a person you must be free. Or when we are in a family relationship in which the members of the family are saying to each other you must love me it’s your duty to love me. What a bunch of rot. Supposing your one day you get up and you say to your wife, ‘Darling, do you really love me?’ And she replies ‘Well I’m trying my very best to do so.’ Is that the answer you wanted? No! You wanted out of say darling I can’t help loving you I love you so much I could reach you. You don’t want to try to love you but yet that is what you put on people. In almost any marriage ceremony, that you shall laugh that’s both shout above the law by God shout love thy neighbor as thyself. This is a double bind. And anybody who lives under the dominance of a double bind, lives in a state of chronic frustration. Because he is devoting his whole life to solving a meaningless, nonsensical problem. Let’s take the double bind that is the deepest of all, you must go on living. Now living is a spontaneous process. And to say to it, you must happen, is exactly the same thing as saying to any kind of creative artist. You must come through with the goods. Tonight you must give the super performance and above all you must be unselfconscious. 

Well, this is being done to us all the time, and the object of the Zen discipline is that instead of doing this to people and consciously as parents do it and as teachers do it to children and as the children’s peers do it to their own peer members. In Zen, the double bind is put on you deliberately knowing how stupid it is. The teacher is well aware of everything he is doing, and the tricks he’s playing on you, because he has behind it all the compassionate intent of getting you into such a fierce double bind that you will see how stupid it is. 

So then, what happens is this. He gives you the double bind. Be genuine. I want to see you do something that is the real you. I had a friend who was studying Zen and he was given some koan like this to work on. And when he was one day going for his interview, he walked through the garden that connected the Soto, or the monks study quarters with the master’s place, and there was a big bull frog, bull frogs in this country are rather tame, people don’t eat them. And so he swept up the bull frog and dropped it into the sleeve of his kimono. And when he got in front of the teacher to answer the koan, that is to say to do spontaneously produce his genuine self he produced the bull frog. And the teacher looked at it and shook his head and said ‘Too intellectual.’ Or, as you might say, too contrived, too studied. That’s not yet YOU. Now do you see the bind in this? It’s like being told that everything is all right at this moment so long as you don’t think of a green elephant. So try not to think of a green elephant. Now as he works at this,  as he tries to produce the genuine you the teacher really strings him out on this and makes him work and work and work over a period of many months, until he comes to the point of seeing this. There is nothing you can do to be genuine. The more you do the phonier you know you are. But at the opposite extreme there is nothing you can not do. That is to say you cannot give up trying to be again. You can’t relax you know and be completely passive. And say well let’s forget about it. Let’s think about practical. Matters and forget all these spiritual concerns the moment you do that your abandonment of trying is itself an insidious form of trying. For example or there’s a very interesting Hindu teacher by the name of Krishnamurti that many of you may know about. And he tells people you know that all their religious inquiry or their yoga practices their reading religious books and so on is nothing but a form of perpetuating one’s egocentricity but on a very refined and highbrow level. So he gets a kind of disciple who studiously avoids reading any kind of philosophical edifying book they’re reduced to reading mystery stories. And they become devoted non-disciples. See what a clever bind that is it’s the same as theirs in technique. You can’t, in other words, let go, of you we’ve seen is a My point was at the beginning we saw that. The way of Buddhism is to let go of yourself. To see that you live in a universe in which in which nothing can be grasped. Therefore stop grasping. 

So here’s the problem. I come and say to the teacher teach me not to grasp. You say ‘Why do you want to know?’ And he’s rich shows you that the reason why you want to stop grasping is that it’s a new form of grasping you feel that you will beat the game by being unattached. It’s horrible to grieve when somebody you love dies and the reviving on attached to that I can avoid grief. Pretty cold isn’t it? Maybe you see, by not having an ego. When life comes and bangs on me. If there’s nobody there, it’ll be all right. So that’s why I want non-ego state. That’s phony. All this is a new way of safeguarding and protecting the ego. So this is the way in which Buddhism is a dialogue. So you see, if you go back to fundamental primitive Buddhims, people say to the Buddha, I want to escape from suffering. Perfectly honest statement. All right. I realise that suffering is caused by desire. Trying not to desire. So the student goes away and tries to eliminate desires by controlling his mind and practicing yoga. Comes back to the teacher and says a pretty difficult but I have managed at least to get rid of some desire. Teacher says to him, but you’re still desiring to get rid of desire. What about that one? And then the student sees. That if he tries to stop desiring, but then he’s got to stop desiring to get rid of not desiring to desire. And suddenly he finds himself once more with molasses in one hand, and feathers in another. Absolutely tied up in a vicious circle. 

So he realizes, there is nothing I can do about it, and there’s nothing I can not do about it. And this predicament in Zen is called in mosquito trying to bite an iron bull. A position of such psychic extremity, that nothing can be done about it. Now the point here is, what does this situation mean? When you find yourself in that kind of a trap, what’s the meaning of the trap? Why that’s very simple. If there’s nothing you can do, and also nothing you cannot do about a given situation. It means that you are phony. And in other words, what we call a separate ego. Isn’t there. Cos it can’t do anything because it is not an agent and by virtue of the fact that it can’t do anything equally It can’t not do anything. It’s completely phony. So what has happened is to expose the fiction of there being a separate ego, either to force its actions upon the world, or to have the actions of the world forced upon it as a puppet this thing just doesn’t exist. Except as a figment of the imagination. Or except as a game rule. Let’s pretend everybody is responsible, is independent is separate. Sure, that’s a great game. But it’s a game. And so, the whole object of this is then dialogue between the teacher and the student is to carry that game of being the separate ego to its logical conclusion, to its reductio ad absurdum. So that as Blake said ‘the fool who persists in his folly will become wise.’

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