Alan Watts Teaches Meditation

I was listening to a lecture “Alan Watts Teaches Meditation” (mp3 format) and I thought that I would share a bit of what he said on this blog. I enjoy listening to Alan Watts. Thankfully, there is a lot of great recordings of his available on the web. While in Berkeley, I used to listen to these dharma talks of his on a local public radio station. Anyway, I took the time to transcribe a few minutes of the talk. If anyone is interested in the audio files, let me know and I will tell you how to get them.


. . . When you come to see that you can do nothing, that the play of thought or feeling just goes on by itself as a happening, then you are in a state which we will call mediation. And slowly without being pushed, your thoughts will come to silence. That is to say, all the verbal symbolic chatter going on in the skull — don’t try and get rid of it because that will again produce the illusion that there’s a controller. It just goes on and goes on and goes on and finally gets tired of itself, gets bored and stops. And so then there’s a silence. And this is a deeper level of meditation. And in that silence you suddenly begin to see the world as it is.

And you don’t see any past, and you don’t see any future. You don’t see any difference between yourself and the rest of it. That’s just an idea. You can’t put your hand on the difference between myself and you. You can’t blow it, you can’t bounce it, you can’t pull it. It’s just an idea. You can’t find any material body because material body is an idea. So is spiritual body. It’s somebody’s philosophical notion. See reality isn’t material. That’s an idea. Reality isn’t spiritual. That’s an idea. Reality is . . . [you hear the sound of a clap].

So we find, if I’ve got to put it back into words, that we live in an eternal now. You’ve got all the time in the world because you have all the time that there is — which is now. And you are this universe. And you feel a strange feeling. When ideas don’t define the differences, you find that other people’s doing are your doings. That makes it very difficult to blame other people.

If you are not sophisticated theologically, you may of course run screaming into the streets and say that you are god. In a way that’s what happened to Jesus, because he wasn’t sophisticated theologically. He only had old testament biblical theology behind him. If he had Hindu theology, he could have put it more subtly. But it was only the rather primitive theology of the old testament. And that was the conception of god as a monarchical boss. And you can’t go around saying that I’m the boss’s son. [Laughter from the audience.]

If you’re going to say “I am god,” you must allow it for everyone else too.

But this was a heretical idea from the point of view of Hebrew theology. So what they did with Jesus was that they pedestalized him. That means, kicked him upstairs so that he wouldn’t be able to influence anyone else. And only you may be god. And that stopped the gospel cold right at the beginning. It couldn’t spread.

Well anyway, this is therefore to say that the transformation of human consciousness through meditation is frustrated so long as we think of it as something that I by myself can bring about, by some sort of wangle, by some sort of gimmick. Because you see it leads to endless games of spiritual one-up-manship. And of guru competition. Of my guru being more effective than your guru. My yogas are faster than your yoga. I am more aware of myself than you are. I am humbler than you are. I am sorrier for my sins than you are. I love you more than you love me. There’s this interminable goings on where people fight and wonder whether they are a bit more evolved than somebody else and so on.

All that can just fall away. And then we get this strange feeling that we’ve never had in our lives except occasionally by accident. Some people get a glimpse that we are no longer this poor little stranger and afraid in a world it never made. But that you are this universe. And you are creating it at every moment. Because you see it starts now. It didn’t begin in the past. There was no past. If the universe began in the past, when that happened it was now. But it is still now and the universe is still beginning now and it’s trailing off like the wake of a ship from now and as the wake of the ship fades out, so does the past. You can look back there to explain things but the explanation disappears. You will never find it there. Things are not explained by the past. They’re explained by what happens now. That creates the past. And it begins here.

That’s the birth of responsibility. Because you can look over your shoulder and say, “Well, I am the way I am because my mother dropped me. And she dropped me because she was neurotic because her mother dropped her.” And we go way way back to Adam and Eve or to a disappearing monkey or something.

We never get at it. But in this way you are faced with that you’re doing all this. And that’s an extraordinary shock. So cheer up. [Audience laugher.]

You can’t blame anyone else for the kind of world you’re in. And that helps a great deal. Because most of the good things we are trying to do are based on blaming somebody else and to improve them. “Kindly let me help you or you’ll drown,” said the monkey putting the fish safely up a tree. [Audience laugher.]

If therefore we would stop blaming others, it would be very difficult to go about a war with a straight face. And you see if you know that the I — in the sense of the person, the front, the ego — it really doesn’t exist, then it won’t go to your head too badly if you wake up and discover that you’re god.


Author: Atanu Dey


4 thoughts on “Alan Watts Teaches Meditation”

  1. anuj,

    I’d encourage you to *try* meditation first-hand (after doing some research of course). Second-hand wisdom goes only so far.


  2. Atanu,

    I highly recommend Swami Tyagananda’s lectures at the Boston Vivekananda Center. Podcasts available free at

    Swami Tyagananda is one of the most articulate and eloquent speakers about Hinduism that I have heard.
    No mumbo-jumbo. His lectures are based on the Upanishads and Swami Vivekananda.


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