“Shiva ol’ boy… Don’t kid me; I know who you are…
But you’re coming on beautifully, in this act…”
The only way to handle danger is to face it. If you start getting frightened of it, then you make it worse. Because you project unto it all kinds of bogeys and threats which don’t exist in it at all. Whenever you meet a ghost, don’t run away. Because the ghost will capture the substance with your fear, and materialize itself out of your own substance; and will kill you eventually, because it will take over all your own vitality. So then, whenever confronted with a ghost, walk straight into it. And it will disappear.
“We gotta survive! You must survive! That’s the great thing!” We’re all working on that, and counting it out, day after day in anxiety. Because this is a description of anxiety: Anxiety is the fear that one of a pair of opposites, might cancel the other. Forever.
And if by any chance, by any means, you find out that that is not so, you have an entirely new attitude to what human beings are doing. Which may be very creative, but which, also, may be very dangerous:
You – See – Through – The Game!
You are only just kidding, that you’re just “Poor little me.”
See, the function of a guru –that is to say, a spiritual teacher, in India– is to give you a funny look in the eye. Because you come to him and say, “Mr. Guru, I have problems!” [Laughter] “I suffer, and it’s a mess, and I can’t control my mind, and I’m miserable, and depressed,” and so on… And he gives you a funny look. And you feel a bit nervous about the way he looks at you. Because, you know, he is reading your thoughts. This man is a great magician! He can read everything that’s IN you! He knows right down into your unconscious! And you know all the dreadful things you’ve thought, and all the awful desires you have, and you’re rather embarrassed that this man looks right through you and sees them all!
But that’s not what he’s looking at!!! He’s giving you a funny look for quite another reason altogether! Because, he sees, in you, the prana, the Godhead, just claiming “It’s poor little me!” That’s why he gives you a funny look! And why he seems to look right through you; as if to say, Shiva ol’ boy… Don’t kid me; I know who you are… But you’re coming on beautifully [Laughter] in this act, that you’re somebody else altogether! And I congratulate you! You’re doing a wonderful job, playing this part, which you call the person… My person…
It’s all very well. Anybody can have ecstasy. Anybody, as a matter of fact, can become aware that he is one with the eternal ground of the universe. But since that’s what you are anyway, I’m going to ask: “So what?”
When a hero goes on an adventure, and he leaves his people, and he’s going to a strange land; he can go away, and just hide himself around the corner in an obscure house, and then appear a year later, and say “I’ve been on a heroic journey,” and tell all sorts of tales. And they say, “Prove it!” Because they expect him to bring back something; something which nobody has seen before. Then they believe; “You’ve been on a journey.”
So in the same way exactly, anybody who goes on a spiritual journey, must bring something back. Because if you just say, “Oh, man! It was a gas!” [Laughter] Anyone can say that!
Now, this is why, in the doctrines of Buddhism, there is a differentiation between two kinds of enlightened beings. They are both forms of Buddha – which is to say, the word Buddha means “somebody who has awakened, who has discovered the secret behind all this” and in other words, all this thing we call life with its frantic concerns, is a big act, which you, in your unconscious depths, are deliberately setting up.
So, you can do one of two things when you discover this: you can become what’s called a Pratyekabuddha, that means a private Buddha, who doesn’t tell anything; or you can become a Bodhisattva. Pratyekabuddha goes off into his ecstasy, and never is seen again. Bodhisattva is one who comes back, and appears in the everyday world, and plays the game of the everyday world by the rules of the everyday world; but he brings with him upaya; he brings with him some way of showing that he’s been on a journey, that he’s come back, and he’s going to let you in on the secret, too, if you… if, if, if… you’ll play it cool; and also come back to join in the everyday life of everyday people.
The first thing, then, is to discover what indeed you do love! If anything. And you’ll find, there is something! And then, go into the nature of that. Now, it’s said that selfish people love themselves; is something which you thought is other than yourself. Even if it be very ordinary things, such as ice-cream, or booze… In the conventional sense, booze is not you; nor is ice-cream. It certainly… it turns into you in a manner of speaking when you consume it, but then you don’t have it anymore. And so, you look around for more, in order to love it once again. But, so long as you love it, you see, it’s never you! When you love people –even however selfishly you love them, because of the pleasant sensations they give to you– still, it is somebody else that you love. And as you enquire into this, as you follow honestly your own selfishness, many interesting transformations begin to come about in you.
One of the most interesting transformations, of being directly and honestly selfish, in the same way that for example cats are, is that you stop deceiving people.
If, what you define as you, is inseparable from everything which you define as not-you, just as front is inseparable from back, then you realize that deep down, between self and other, there is some sort of conspiracy. If these things always occur in combination, and look very different from each other, and feel quite different, nevertheless the feeling of difference between them, allows each one to exist. And so, underneath the opposition, or the polarity, between self and other, or between any other pair of opposites you can think of, there is something in common, as there is for example between figure and background. You can’t see a figure without a background. You can’t have an organism without an environment. Equally, you can’t have a background without a figure; or an environment without organisms in it; or without things in it. You can’t have space which is unoccupied by any solid. You cannot have solids not occupying some space. This is absolutely elementary, and yet, we don’t realize it, because, for example, the average person thinks that space is nothing. But it’s just such a sort of not-there-ness, in which there are things, and we are slightly afraid that not-there-ness, that nothingness, that darkness, that the negative poles of all these oppositions, will win! That they will eventually swallow up every kind of being and every kind of there-ness!
But when you catch on to the game, you realize that that won’t happen. Because what is called not-existing, is quite incapable of being there without the contrast of something called existing.
It’s like the crest and the trough of a wave; you can’t have a wave that is all trough and no crest, just as you can’t have a wave which is all crest and no trough. Such a thing has never been manifested in the physical universe. They go together.
And that is the secret!
There really is no other secret than that.
That is the secret!
Alan Watts transcribed by Leon Hieros