Alan Watts – Willing To Die

 From the The World As Emptiness by Alan Watts 

Change–and everything is change; nothing can be held on to–to the degree that you go with a stream, you see, you are are still, you are flowing with it. But to the degree you resist the stream, then you notice that the current is rushing past you and fighting you. So swim with it, go with it, and you’re there. You’re at rest. And this is of course particularly true when it comes to those moments when life really seems to be going to take us away, and the stream of change is going to swallow us completely. The moment of death, and we think, ‘Oh-oh, this is it. This is the end.’ And so at death we withdraw, say ‘No, no, no, not that, not yet, please.’

But, actually, the whole problem is that there really is no other problem for human beings, than to go over that waterfall when it comes. Just as you go over any other waterfall, just as you go on from day-to-day, just as you go to sleep at night. Be absolutely willing to die. Now, I’m not preaching. I’m not saying you OUGHT to be willing to die, and that you should muscle up your courage and somehow put on a good front when the terrible thing comes. That’s not the idea at all. The point is that you can only die well if you understand this system of ways. If you understand that you’re disappearance as the form in which you think you are you. Your disappearance as this particular organism is simply seasonal. That you are just as much the dark space beyond death as you are the light interval called life. These are just two sides of you, because YOU is the total way. You see, we can’t have half a way. Nobody ever saw waves that just had crests, and no troughs. So you can’t have half a human being, who is born but doesn’t die. Half a thing. That would be only half a thing. But the propogation of vibrations, and life is vibration, it simply goes on an on, but its cycles are short cycles and long cycles.

Space, you see, is not just nothing. If I could magnify my hand to an enormous degree so you could see all the molocules in it, I don’t know how far apart they would be, but it seems to me they would be something like tennis balls in a very, very large space, and you’d look when I move my hand, and say ‘For god’s sake, look at all those tennis balls, they’re all going together. Crazy. And there are no strings tying them together. Isn’t that queer?’ No, but there’s space going with them, and space is a function of, or it’s an inseparable aspect of whatever solids are in the space. That is the clue, probably, to what we mean by gravity. We don’t know yet. So in the same way, when those marvelous sandpipers come around here, the little ones. While they’re in the air flying, they have one mind, they move all together. When they alight on the mud, they become individuals and they go pecking around for worms or whatever. But one click of the fingers and all those things go up into the air. They don’t seem to have a leader, because they don’t follow when they turn; they all turn together and go off in a different direction. It’s amazing. But they’re like the molocules in my hand.

So then, you see, here’s the principle: when you don’t resist change, I mean over resist. I don’t mean being flabby, like I said at the beginning. When you don’t resist change, you see that the changing world, which disappears like smoke, is no different from the nirvana world. Nirvana, as I said, means breathe out, let go of the breath. So in the same way, don’t resist change; it’s all the same principle.

So the bodhisattva saves all beings, not by preaching sermons to them, but by showing them that they are delivered, they are liberated, by the act of not being able to stop changing. You can’t hang on to yourself. You don’t have to try to not hang on to yourself. It can’t be done, and that is salvation. That’s why you may think it a grisly habit, but certain monks keep skulls on their desks, ‘momentomori,’ ‘be mindful of death.’ Gurgdjieff says in one of his books that the most important thing for anyone to realize is that you and every person you see will soon be dead. It sounds so gloomy to us, because we have devised a culture fundamentally resisting death. There is a wonderful saying that Anandakuri- Swami[?] used to quote: ‘I pray that death will not come and find me still unannihilated.’ In other words, that man dies happy if there is no one to die. In other words, if the ego’s disappeared before death caught up to him.


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