We notice that all these suchnesses appear and disappear; they keep changing, they come and they go. But if you get hung up on your particular form, I’ll have to alter the language a little bit, because you see, your form makes a duality, whereas you are your form, you’re what you’re doing. Now, you think, “Hmm, for some strange reason I must make that go on as long as possible,” and therefore you think you have an instinct to survive. So the only thing anybody can agree about today, so far as the discussion of ethical and moral problems are concerned, is that we ought to survive. Therefore certain forms of conduct have survival value and certain forms do not. But when you say to yourself, “You must go on living,” you put yourself in a double bind because you’ve said [yes] to a process which is essentially spontaneous and it must happen. The basic form of the double bind which is imposed upon all children is you are required to do that which will be acceptable only if you do it voluntarily. So, when we say to ourselves, “You must go on,” the reason is, you see, that we are not living in the eternal now, where the reality is. We are always thinking that the satisfaction of life will be coming later. “There’s a good time coming be it ever so far away, that one far off divinely sent to which all creation moves.” Don’t kid yourself. As the Hindus have taught us, in the course of time everything gets worse and eventually falls apart, comes the Kali-Yuga and Shiva at the end, which is to say, only suckers put hope in the future.
You see? I tell you, there are three classes of people in the Western world: the aristocracy, the proletariat, and the bourgeoisie. The aristocrats live on the past because they come of noble family, and they are like potatoes, because the best part is underground. The proletarians live in the present because they have nothing else. And the poor bourgeoisie live for the future, they are the eternal suckers, they can always open to a con game. So when they find out that there really isn’t much of a future, you are going to die, they transpose the future into a spiritual dimension. They figure, “This material world is not the real world, but the spiritual world is the real world; and there will be somewhere, somehow, an eternal life for me.” “A charge to keep I have, a God to glorify, a never-dying soul to save and fit it for the sky.” So whey they say, “What are you going to do there?” Well, they do not have the faintest idea. You know that? If you ask theologians about what they think is going to happen in Heaven, they just dry up. “Why, we are going to play harps!” I mean this is a symbolic meaning of that which I could go into, but the average person’s idea of Heaven is an absolute bore, I mean it’s like being in church forever. Children see this immediately, when they hear a hymn like “Weary of earth and laden with my sin I look to Heaven and long to enter in,” they, “Oh, God! Heaven is to be in church for always.” And they think “Hell is preferable”, at least some excitement is going on. You see it in medieval art, if you go to the Metropolitan Museum in New York you can see Jan Van Eyck’s painting of The Last Judgment, Heaven on top and Hell below. In Heaven everybody is looking like the cat that swallowed the canary, sitting in rows and very smug. God the Father is president and, oh dear, beneath this there is a winged skull like a bat and squirming bodies, all nude, all being eaten by snakes. There is fantastic thing going on; but you see, Van Eyck had a ball painting that, because in medieval way, it was the only way you could get away with painting nudes and sexy scenes, sadomasochistic. So that’s naturally why hell became much more interesting than Heaven.
So therefore, this hope for the future is a hoax, it’s a perfect hoax. That maybe we will make spiritual progress, everybody puts it off. “Maybe if I work at yoga for ten years, twenty years and do this thing, I will eventually make it to moksha to nirvana”, whatever. That is nothing more than a postponement, it’s this business off, because if you are not fully alive now, you think maybe someday you will be. Look, supposing I ask you, “What did you do yesterday?” No, “What did I do yesterday? In fact, I have forgotten.” But mostly we say, “Well, let me see now; let me get out my notebook. I got up at 7:30 and I brushed my teeth, and I read the newspaper over a cup of coffee, and then I looked at the clock and dressed, and got in the car and drove downtown. I did this and that in the office and so on.” You go on and on and suddenly you discover that what you have described has absolutely nothing to do with what happened. You have described a scraggly, skeletal, fleshless list of abstractions whereas, if you were actually aware of what went on, you could never describe it. Because nature is multidimensional, language is linear, language is scrawny. And therefore, if you identify the world as it is with the way the world is described, it is as if you were trying to eat dollar bills and expect a nutritious diet. Or eat numbers. A lot of people eat numbers. People play the stock market and they are doing nothing but eating numbers. They are always unhappy, absolutely miserable, because they never get anything. So therefore, they always hope more is coming because they believe that if they eat enough dollar bills eventually something satisfactory will happen. So eating the abstractions all the time we want more and more and more time.
Confucius very wisely said, “A man who understands the Tao in the morning may die with content in the evening.” Because when you understand, you do not put your hope in time, time will not solve a thing. So when we enter into the practice of meditation, of yoga, we are doing something radically unlike other human activities. Of course, the way yoga is sold in the United States, like everything else, is that it is supposed to be good for you. It is not. It has nothing to do with anything that is good for you. It is the one activity which you do for its own sake and not because it’s good for you, not because it will lead anywhere, because you cannot go to the place where you are now. Obviously. The Yoga is to be completely here and now. Why the word yoke means “join,” to get with it, to be completely here and now. This is the real meaning of concentration, to be in your center. And the Christian word for “sinning” in Greek is amatanene, which means “to miss the point.” And the point is eternal life which is here and now. Come to your senses.
So yoga is defined in Sanskrit in the Yoga Sutra: yoga chitra briti derota. Difficult to translate, but roughly yoga is the stopping of…, briti is turning like a wheel, and chitra is consciousness: “turnings in consciousness.” It is the attempt of the mind to catch hold of itself, which is what we call thinking, worrying, so you could say loosely: yoga is the cessation of thinking. It is not the cessation of awareness, but of symbolizing, trying to catch, clutch reality in terms of thoughts, symbols, descriptions, definitions. Give it up. It’s not easy because we do it habitually. But until there is silence of the mind, it is almost impossible to understand eternal life, that is to say, eternal now. If you could, come to the place where you suspend conceptions. Conceptions in Sanskrit are called vikalpa. And so the stage is called nirvikalpa, “not conceptual.” And this will be basic to everything I’m going to talk about. To understand nonverbal reality, non-conceived reality, what I call “suchness”, ta ta ta, it is really very easy, it’s too easy, that’s why it is difficult. But then when you are fully aware and not thinking, you will notice some amazing absences: there is no past. Can you hear anything past incidentally? Can you hear anything future? They are just not there to the plain sense of one’s ears, ears are easiest to begin with. Can you hear anyone listening to something else other than sound? Can you hear the listener? No, well then presumably it’s not there. Then you become again as a child and simply forget all that you were ever told and contemplate on what is. All these ghosts go away. Weird, but they just go. And then you enter into the eternal state where there is no problem. When you’ll go back and you collect your opinions again, you think: “Well, that will not do. How can I be practical and be in that sort of state?”
Well, I remember in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus said a lot of things about this. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” “And if God so clothed the grass or the field which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you faceless ones? Wow. So do not worry about tomorrow saying, ‘What shall we eat? What shall we drink? Or how shall we clothe ourselves?’ All the rabble seek after these things, sufficient to the day is the worry of it.” Nobody ever preaches a sermon on that text, never. I have heard lots of sermons but never one on that, because people say, “Look, that’s all very well because Jesus was the boss’s son, and he knew that he was really in charge of the universe and had nothing to worry about. But we have to be practical.” Ooo, what do you suppose the Gospel was? The good news, but it never got out? You, too, are the boss’s son: that was the gospel.
If Jesus had lived in India they would not have put him to death, because everybody in India knows that we are all God in disguise. So if he had said, “I and the Father are one,” in India they would have said, “Hooray!”, you know? Lots of people in India know that perfectly well, but here? Uh! uh! That is a no – no! “Who do you think you are? You own the place? You keep your position! You are just a creature, a critter.” It’s in the family system, it’s in everything. Because they have their own way of doing it in India, because they have a delayed action on it. When you get to be a certain age, and after you have studied long enough with a certain guru, then and only then may you realize this. But until then it is still a no – no. But if you have put in the time they finally let you in. Here you have to wait, until you are dead.
Well, the only place to begin is now, because here is where we are. So why put it off? A lot of people say, “Well, I am not ready.” What do you mean you are not ready? What do you have to do to be ready? Well, “I am not good enough because I am neurotic, I am perhaps not old enough, not mature enough for such knowledge. I am still frightened of pain, and of course I would have to overcome that. I am still dependent on material things. I have to eat a lot, drink a lot, have sex around, and all that kind of thing, and I think I had better get all that under control first.” Oh? You mean you have a case of spiritual pride. You want to be able to congratulate yourself for having gone through the discipline which is rewarded with realization. That is trying to quench fire with fire. Another words: “Wouldn’t it be great to be a mystic?” Look at it this way, I mean c-razy, to have no fear, no attachments, no hang-ups, to be as free as the air so that you could just wander out in the streets, give away all your clothes to the beggars, and let go of the whole thing, let it all hang-up. Wouldn’t it be crazy to have that courage? But if you look into yourself honestly you will find that inside you are actually a quaking mess of sensitivity. This desire to be the great mystic is nothing more than a symptom of your quaking mess; it is self-defense.
You may think, “Wow! We will do yoga and get real tough.” That only means you are going to be increasingly insensitive, running away from the quaking mess, escaping. You never can, you are stuck with it. There is nothing you can actually do to transform your own nature into unattached selflessness because you have a selfish reason for wanting to do it. Well, that is pretty depressing, isn’t it? “You mean to tell me that the only people who really get enlightened and liberated are those whom the grace of God somehow hits in an arbitrary way? And all I can do is sit around and wait?” Well, let us begin with that supposition. Let us suppose there is nothing we can do to change ourselves. No psychotherapy, religion all of this is absolutely in vain; there is nothing, nothing, nothing you can do about it. It is like trying, I said, to bite your own teeth, or to lift yourself up by your own bootstraps. Incidentally it struck me as funny, a lot of people are using that phrase in the wrong way. They say when something very difficult has to be done “we have to lift ourselves up by your own bootstraps”. You can’t! It’s impossible.
Now one might say, “That is terribly depressing. You mean, Alan Watts, you come here simply to tell us that there is nothing we can do? I mean, here we are all presumably assembled in a cultural milieu, spiritual milieu, psychotherapeutic milieu where we are supposed to get better.” And I tell you there is nothing you can do about it. Well, give us our money back! Go to somebody else who will be more encouraging! But; what does it mean that you cannot do anything about it? It is singing loud and clear: The reason you cannot do anything about it is that you do not exist, that is, as an ego, as a soul, as a separate will. It just is not there. When you understand that, you are liberated. As they say in Zen, “You cannot take hold of it nor can you get rid of it. In not being able to get it, you get it. When you are silent it speaks. When you speak it is silent.” But do not misunderstand me, this is not any kind of fatalism when I say “you” as you conceive yourself to be, that is your ego, your image of yourself is not there, it does not exist. It is an abstraction. It is like “three.” Did you ever see three? Just plain, ordinary three? No, nobody ever saw it. So it is a concept, it’s a vilkalpa.
So in the same way is oneself. There is the happening, the suchness, but it is not pushing you around because there is no you to be pushed around, like a billiard ball stuck on the end of the cue. There is the cue, and it goes this way and goes that way. They call a Buddha a tathagata, one who comes or goes thus, this way and that way. So this illusion of the persecuted ego who is pushed around by fate has altogether disappeared, and likewise the illusion of the ego who pushes fate around has also disappeared. There is a happening. So in this do you see what has happened? By dying to yourself, by having become completely incompetent and finding that you do not exist, you are reborn, you become everything. In the words of Sir Edwin Arnold, “Forgoing self, the universe grows I.”