Have you heard people talk about “awakening” or becoming “enlightened” but have wondered what that really means?
If so, you’ll absolutely love this video of a young Alan Watts, the brilliant philosopher known for translating Eastern spiritual concepts to a Western audience through his books and lectures.
Watts explains in clear and passionate language that one becomes awakened when you treat life as a game and dance rather than a conquest.
He does this by asking you to consider the conquest of nature, which is at the root of most human conceptions of society. We have seen our task as one of making order victorious over chaos or randomness. It becomes like warfare, where the most urgent thing we can do is to make order prevail.
This is like making good prevail over evil, or life prevail over death.
But when we’re involved in a contest of this kind and take it seriously, we are involved in life in a very deep and bitter way.
The Western scientific worldview treats this conquest as a given, whereas a Buddhist perspective focuses on something else.
Consider the yin and yang above. Imagine it spinning around like a black and white fish. The black fish is trying to eat the white fish, just as the white fish is trying to eat the black fish.
This is like trying to make order out of chaos, or getting the “light” to emerge over “darkness”.
The Buddhists, according to Watts, understood that if the white fish ever emerged victorious over the black fish, then there’s nothing left.
It’s the same with using technology to conquest nature. If technology wins, what is left?
The black and white fish “wake up” or become “enlightened” when they realize they are inseparable. This realization is the experience of awakening.
It’s the sudden dawning on our consciousness that life is not really a contest. We are not here to make good triumph over evil.
There is a necessity to everything negative, painful and evil. It is necessary for the good and light to exist.
Disorder is necessary for the manifestation of order.
When one understands this, a profound transformation happens in attitude. Life doesn’t become a contest, but a game. A dance. Having fun with life.
Watts finishes with some illuminating rhetorical questions. Must we have the idea fixed in our minds that all forms and patterns of nature are simply methods of attack or defense? That everything is simply a device for camouflage or designed to provoke sexual attraction?
Or is there a dance of joyous cosmology at the root of life?
Here’s the video, I hope you enjoy as much as I did.