In the second episode of Being in the Way – an Alan Watts podcast exclusively on the Be Here Now Network – Alan’s son, Mark Watts, shares background on Alan’s early life, before introducing two of his father’s specially curated dharma talks: Taoist Way of Dropping Out From Karma (Part III), and Wisdom of the Ridiculous.
“The whole conception of nature is as a self-regulating, self-governing, democratic organism. But it has a totality; it all goes together. This totality is the Tao.” – Alan Watts
Beginners Mind, Zen Mind
To open the show, Mark sheds light on Alan’s early life, highlighting the inspiration Alan received from curiously exploring nature and being exposed to Eastern styles of art. Falling into prodigal accordance with spiritual paths like Zen Buddhism, Alan found himself giving talks and writing works on the nature of reality at a young age, giving way to a short stint as an Episcopal priest before his travels to California, where this podcast’s two talks took place.
“As a young man, my father was very curious about everything around him. He began to investigate the garden and the woods around the house, and was fascinated with the butterflies and birds. Alan was fascinated [by Chinese & Japanese art] because the images he saw were different from Western art, particularly in their depiction of nature. Nature was predominant; the figure was secondary. Nature was mystical; not just a background.” – Mark Watts
Enjoy the special podcast that inspired the series: Join spiritual teachers Ram Dass & Alan Watts on: From Separation to Unity, Intuition and Trust
Taoist Way of Dropping Out From Karma (7:40)
Speaking to the foreground-background flip noticeable in Eastern paintings compared to art from the West, Alan highlights the Taoist view that sees man as an integral part of the totality of nature, like birds and flowers. Sharing personal stories of learning piano, Alan relays the concept of Wu-Wei: to not force anything, to always act in accordance with the pattern of things as they exist, rather than imposing. From here, Alan reconciles order and mystery within the mutual arising of a cooperative universe,
“There is no one who perceives anything, no one who experiences anything. There is simply seeing and experiencing. We introduce all of these redundancies through talk. We talk about seeing sights, hearing sounds, feeling feelings. All that is irrelevant. There are sights, there are sounds, there are feelings. You don’t feel a feeling. The feeling itself already contains the feeling of it.” – Alan Watts
For more on dropping out from karma by ‘Following the Taoist Way,’ join Mark and Alan Watts, on Ep. 1 of Being in the Way
Wisdom of the Ridiculous (34:45)
Harkening the humor-steeped wisdom of Chinese Taoist philosopher, Zhuang Zhou, Alan instills the notion that: the joy for the Taoist is that things have no use, and the future is not important. Through this lens of life as a game or dance; Alan welcomes us into the ‘wisdom of the ridiculous,’ explaining how ‘the fool’ is synonymous with the sage, further inviting us into the cosmic giggle of of the self-less, journey-less, present moment.
“When a Taoist sage is wandering through the forest, he isn’t going anywhere. He’s just wandering. When he watches the clouds, he loves them because they have no special destination. He watches birds moving around, he watches waves lapping on the shore, because all this is not busy in the way human beings are busy, because it serves no end other than being what it is now. It is for that reason that he admires it.” – Alan Watts