Experiences of Alan Watts
Watts travelled from England to the U.S. bringing
with him a deep understanding of Buddhism and Zen at a
time these topics were being discovered by Americans.
Author of many books, Watts provides us with a direct
view into two of his most mystical experiences.
(1915 - 1973)
after I had first begun to study Indian and Chinese
philosophy, I was sitting one night by the fire, trying
to make out what was the right attitude of mind for
meditation as it is practiced in Hindu and Buddhist
disciplines. It seemed to me that several attitudes
were possible, but as they appeared mutually exclusive
and contradictory I was trying to fit them into one---all
to no purpose. Finally, in sheer disgust, I decided
to reject them all and to have no special attitude of
mind whatsoever. In the force of throwing them away
it seemed that I threw myself away as well, for quite
suddenly the weight of my own body disappeared. I felt
that I owned nothing, not even a self, and that nothing
owned me. The whole world became as transparent and
unobstructed as my own mind; the "problem of life"
simply ceased to exist, and for about eighteen hours
I and everything around me felt like the wind blowing
across a field on an autumn day."
second time, a few years later, came after a period
when I had been attempting to practice what Buddhists
cal "recollection" (smriti) or constant attention
of the immediate present, as distinct from the usual
distracted rambling of reminiscence and anticipation.
But in discussing it one evening, someone said to me,
"But why try to live in the present? Surely we
are always completely in the present even when we're
thinking about the past or the future?" This, actually
quite obvious, remark again brought on the sudden senstation
of having no weight. At the same time, the present seemed
to become a kind of moving stillness, an eternal stream
from which neither I nor anything could deviate. I saw
that everything,. just as it is now, is IT---is the
whole point of there being life and a universe. I saw
that when the Upanishads said, "That art thou!"
or "Al this world is Brahman," they meant
just exactly what they said. Each thing, each event,
each experience in its inescapable nowness and in all
its own particular individuality was precisely what
it should be, and so much so that it acquired a divine
authority and originality. It struck me with the fullest
clarity that none of this depended on my seeing it to
be so; that was the way things were, whether I understood
it or not, and if I did not understand, that was IT
too. Furthermore, I felt that I now understood what
Christianity might mean by the love of God---namely,
that despite the commonsensical imperfection of things,
they were nonetheless loved by God just as they are,
and that this loving of them was at the same time the
godding of them. This time the vivid sensation of lightness
and clarity lasted a full week."
Alan. This Is It and Other Essays on Zen ( this
selection was taken from a reprinting of This Is
It in The Highest State of Consciousness,
edited by John White), pp. 444-445.
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