Alan Watts Forward to the Knee of Listening


of Listening


by Alan Watts:

Although I do not know Franklin
Jones [now Adi Da] personally, what he says, and
says very well, is something that I have been trying to
express for thirty-five years, but which most people seem
quite reluctant to understands if it were too good to be
true. The point, with which Krishnamurti and the ancient
Chinese Zen masters also agree, is that there is no
progressive method by which the liberated and awakened state
(moksha) can be attained. This state of being and
consciousness has innumerable names, mystical experience,
enlightenment, self-realization, cosmic consciousness, union
with God, not to mention Sanskrit, Chinese, and Arabic
equivalents but none of them are satisfactory because it is
altogether beyond words. Striving after this state blocks
the understanding that it is already present, as does also a
kind of purposive not-striving.

There are, for example, those who
try to live completely in the present, the Eternal Now, by
attempting to be fully concentrated on what is at this
moment as in the Theravada Buddhist satipatthana discipline
or Gurdjieff’s “self remembering.” I am not quarreling with
this. Franklin Jones also tried many methods. But all along
it should have been obvious that all consciousness, all
experience, is of nothing else than the eternal present.
Memories of the past and anticipation’s of the future exist
only now, and thus to try to live completely in the present
is to strive for what is already the case. This should be
clear to anyone. The same principle applies to striving for
nirvana or union with God by means of so-called spiritual
exercises. There is no actual necessity for a road or
obstacle course to that which IS.

But there are two main reasons for
the persistent attachment to spiritual methods. The first is
that, being ignorant of what we have and are now, we look
for it in the future, and therefore can be beguiled by all
those gurus who pick our pockets and sell us our own
wallets. They promise marvelous states of consciousness,
ecstasies, psychic powers, and transportation to other
levels of being. So what? If you were managing the entire
universe which in one sense you are it would be absolutely
necessary for it to appear that a lot of things were out of
control. Does the ventriloquist want to dine every night
with only his dummy?

The second is the beguilement of
spiritual pride, which is also the same thing as a sense of
guilt. “I am not worthy to attain this exalted state unless
I have suffered, unless the teacher has beaten me, unless I
have sat in a cold, dark cave for three years, or practiced
zazen with my legs aching for hours.” Anyone silly enough to
think this way deserves all the pains he must endure.
Nothing is more ostentatious than deliberate humility, nor
more egocentric than projects to get rid of egotism. These
are strong words, but not uttered in a spirit of
condemnation, for those who undertake such projects may, by
so doing, realize very clearly that they are futile. But
then they may return as gurus thinking that this is the only
way to realize the futility of spiritual ambition, and then
“lay their trip” upon others without asking themselves, “Is
this trip really necessary?”

As I read Franklin Jones especially
the Epilogue, which is worth the price of the book he has
simply realized that he himself as he is, like a star, like
a dolphin, like an iris, is a perfect and authentic
manifestation of the eternal energy of the universe, and
thus is no longer disposed to be in conflict with himself.
Dangerous wisdom and yet fire, electricity, and technical
knowledge are also dangerous. But if you genuinely know
this, it is nothing to be proud of nor humble about. It is
just what is so, and there is absolutely no necessity to
parade it by defying social conventions, on the one hand, or
by coming on as one who is extremely holy, on the other. The
hapless Rasputin was, perhaps, an example of the first case,
and Meher Baba of the second though he had a jolly face and
a lively twinkle in the eye.

It should be understood that none of
this is to say that one should not practice yoga or any
other type of meditation. I myself use some of these
disciplines, not to attain anything in terms of spiritual
rank, but simply to enjoy them, as if I were playing a
musical instrument or preparing a Chinese dinner.

Now to say what Franklin Jones is
trying to say is like drawing an asymptotic curve a curve
which is always getting nearer and nearer to a straight
line, but only touches it at infinity. Perhaps it could be
said that his curve is approaching it a little faster than
some others, knowing, however, that there is no hurry.
Beyond words, in the silencing of thought, we are already

Rancho Saucelito,

April, 1973

of Listening


Study the Knee of

A course
of study