The difficulty, you see, is with people who get their introduction to mysticism—through LSD, or marijuana and other chemicals—is that they get suddenly flipped into very high states of consciousness with no background, no way to comprehend it, no way to deal with it, no way to bring it down to earth. And therefore, since there are operating (in the same area where these things are happening) experienced people who have long, long training in knowing how to connect the mystical with the practical. This is a very good influence. And in the same way I would think Krishnamurti has a comparable influence, although he doesn’t act as the leader of an ongoing community as Suzuki does. This is a more or less touch and go thing: a few meetings, a few encounters, and that’s the end of it. It’s up to you after that.
But both these directions of presenting the problem of self-realization are certainly not frivolous, and certainly require a great deal of self-examination. And this is a great problem which faces us now among young people who are in revolt against all sorts of things that, in the lives of their fathers and mothers, they feel to be false. They’re in revolt against what Buddhists call saṃsāra. Saṃsāra means “the wheel of birth and death,” but saṃsāra really is the same thing as a squirrel cage, a rat race, where you are working and working and working for you really know not what. A process of gaining money, or status, or whatever it is—not really to be enjoyed, because one feels a little bit too guilty to enjoy it. But to bring up children, to give them expensive and glorious college educations, so that they can bring up their children to do the same thing, you see? And it just goes on, and on, and on, and on, like this. And so, against this rat race, against the absorption—say, of the executive in paperwork and abstractions, against the complete dissolution of the family by reason of husband’s absorption in business, wife’s absorption in womens’ clubs, children’s absorptions in a school where they’re not cared for by their parents. The revolt against all that sort of thing is going on.
But it’s just not enough to revolt. It’s just not enough to take various drugs which open your mind to new dimensions. It’s not enough to challenge everybody’s standards in clothing, in housing, in family arrangements, and so on. Behind and beyond all that there must be some way of bringing it all to earth; grounding it. As I’ve intimated already, the fascination of young people today for the mystical, and for chemical mysticism, is very dangerous—like every worthwhile enterprise is dangerous. If they weren’t doing that, they’d be driving hot rods and perhaps skydiving. Anyway, something dangerous. The young always have to be involved in something dangerous. This adventure of exploration of the inner world is of peculiar danger simply because it goes into that aspect of our being about which we know least: our own inner life, our minds. But it is of the utmost importance that those adventures be accompanied with some kind of discipline.
Now, discipline is a dirty word today, among young people. When you say “discipline” it means “AAGH!” You know? “Don’t do it!” And so I substitute for the word “discipline” the word “skill,” because there is no pleasure in this world without skill. And skill is an attractive word; discipline is a push-away word, you see? And you—all of you, as I look around to estimate the ages of people in this room—you’re all involved with young people. And you must be very conscious, as you all are very conscious, of the strife, the discord, the gap between generations. And so I, myself, regard my function to be a bridge-person. I’ve worked all my life to be a bridge between East and West, and now it’s thrown in my lap the job of being a bridge between the young and the old. And so now I’m talking to a relatively older group, and I want to say some very serious things to you about how to handle what is happening among young people, especially since this is under the auspices of the Blaisdell Institute, which is concerned with the university and, therefore, with the education of young people—in relation to everything I’ve been talking about.
Because the young are interested—deeply and seriously interested—in the transformation of consciousness, in breaking out from the narrow situation of the alienated individual against the world. But in doing this, they are showing the usual excesses and imbalances of things that young people always do. They’re not experienced, they’re not mature. Therefore, just for the very reason that they’re not mature, they have the guts—or the foolhardiness, if you want to call it that—to go out on these expeditions. But it was always so. In the year 6000 B.C., an Egyptian priest was complaining of the decadence and irresponsibility and indiscipline of the young. So what to do under these circumstances?
You must not give up your own ground—in the sense that there is, as I said, a very definite need for a discipline, for something that will act in the same way as in radio the ground wire acts to the antenna. It’s not enough to have a way-out experience and come back and say to your friends, “Man, it was a gas!” because it is immemorial wisdom that everybody who takes a heroic journey must bring something back—because if he doesn’t, nobody knows he’s taken it. He may have lied, he may just have said that he went to the land of the demons and fought with the dragons, and then crossed the perilous bridge and came into the fairy palace. Bring back a fairy’s feather! Prove it! This is not merely to prove it, this is also to do another thing, which is the whole work of art.
What is art? Art is what Christians call the process of incarnation. The making of the divine word into the flesh; the expression—in a material form—of vision. And to do that is very difficult. On a hundred micrograms of LSD you may very well have seen the vision of God in a dirty old ashtray. Can you imagine that that’s possible? But it is, because: what is an ashtray? Ashes. The decay. The falling apart, the burning away. The turning of more or less alive, or at least moist, leaves of tobacco into dust. And as you begin to think about that from a certain point of view, it becomes a parable of the process of existence. What is this turning of everything into dust? At first sight it looks as if it were a kind of doom. Everything is just going into dust, dust, dust, dust, and blowing away. And you realize that’s what you’re doing. And by smoking these cigarettes, you’re slowly committing suicide. Giving yourself lung cancer or something. Then you may remember the words of C. G. Jung: that life is an incurable disease with a very bad prognosis, which lingers on for years and invariably ends with death. Everything you do is bad for you! Like the little boy, four years old, who’d got sunburn and his skin was peeling, and he looked in the mirror and said, “So young, and wearing out already….” You know? All energy wears you out. Everything is going into dust.
But as I was suggesting this morning, when you understand that your birth was being kicked off a precipice and that you’re going to ashes—remember this ceremony in the Catholic church on Ash Wednesday, and everybody kneels before the altar, and the priest puts cigarette ash (or rather, the burnt palm leaves from previous Palm Sunday) on their foreheads and said, “Remember, old man, that dust thou art and unto dust shalt return.” Remember the poem of G. K. Chesterton about dust?
“What of vile dust?” the preacher said.
He goes on and he talks about everything being a kind of trembling dust, and he ends up by saying, talking about that final day—no, not the final day, the first day, when God was with the angels
When God to all his paladins
So it is to the extent, you see—there’s a kind of a paradox in all this: to the extent that you completely accept the dissolution of everything into dust, that, by doing that, you let go of that clinging—to permanence, to yourself, to security—which releases all the energies of life. The formula, then, is: to the degree that you are willing to become dust, to that degree you are alive. And that’s how a person could see the vision of God in an ashtray.
Now, I’ve spent a few minutes taking some trouble with words to explain the ashtray as a vehicle of the vision of God. Now, if you’re a painter, it’s not just enough to take a pedes—I mean, let’s say you’re a sculptor, you’re a person who presents objects of art: you can’t just get away with putting up a nice walnut cube, beautifully polished, filthy ashtray on it, enclose it in a glass case, put a label on it, and say “Beatific Vision.” That’ll shock people a little bit. That might give them pause. But if you’re really skillful, you will understand how to paint an old ashtray (or photograph it) in such a way that people’s hearts will stop. They’ll say, “Look at that!” And then—but to do that it will be necessary for you to show all the individual little pepper-and-salt patterns in ash as a collection of tiny jewels. Which is how you can see them. But you have to represent that, and carry it out, and bring it through just in the same way as the people who painted Persian miniatures, which are painted jewelry. They would look at trees and grasses and rocks, and suddenly show them as full of interior light—enchanted, divine—by a very skillful technique. But you have to have that technique to bring it through. Some possession, some complete mastery of an artistic technique is necessary for the bringing through of the vision.
So then, our young people have stumbled on a key to the vision: psychedelic chemicals and such things. But they will not be able to bring it through unless they also have the skills. And therefore, the attitude of the older generation in this situation will naturally be one of great concern and worry as to what this kind of easy mysticism—too easy mysticism, shall we say—is going to bring about. All this has become terribly popular for the simple reason that human beings need religion, are starved for it, and the churches have not delivered. They have not delivered the experience; therefore, alternatives are being explored. It’s quite natural. But you—I repeat—you are rightly and properly concerned as to what will be the outcome. And the only way to make a good job of it is, instead of saying, “Suppress the whole thing”—which never works anyway—is to emphasize the point: “Alright, alright. You’ve done this. This is what you’ve seen. You’ve had these experiences, but there is a great deal more to it than that.”
In my own study of these kind of experiences I could not have really enjoyed them unless I had, before that time, been trained in all sorts of ways—not only to understand the doctrines and the symbolism of religions, mythologies, but also simply to speak and write. Because unless you know the art of language, or you know the art of numbers—or whatever it is, whatever is the vehicle through which you express yourself—you can’t bring it forth. See, one of the great puzzles of life is: consider people who’ve had a great love affair; Dante and Beatrice. Everybody knows about that love affair because Dante could express it so gorgeously. But supposing there’s some people who’ve had a love affair, and all the guy could ever say to the girl was, “Ugh! Mmmh! Aaah! Ooogh!” This is a real puzzle, because: is that guy any less in love with the girl than Dante was with Beatrice? Perhaps it was the same degree of love. But obviously, the effect for mankind of Dante’s love was far greater than the guy that can only say, “Oogh!” See? They both go into the paradise. They both go into the beatific vision. But one brings it back and shares it.
And this is the distinction which is made in Buddhism between two kinds of Buddhas. There’s the Buddha who attains nirvāṇa for himself: he’s called a pratyekabuddha. And there is the Buddha who crosses and sees nirvāṇa and comes back to share it with the whole universe, with everybody, with all sentient beings: he’s called a bodhisattva. And it so turns out that, in the literature of Mahayana Buddhism, pratyekabuddha is almost a term of abuse, whereas a bodhisattva is the ideal form of man, because the bodhisattva realizes that he does not have the vision, really, if—well, let me put it this way: I don’t have it if you don’t have it. Because I have it only to the extent that I can give it away; that I can give it up and to—I’m quoting Gary Snyder—up and to all others.
But in order that people may master these disciplines—and this is a responsibility of the older generations—it must be understood that working on the disciplines is fun. And this is the task of all good teachers. All good, really gifted, and great teachers are people who never have to resort, in their classes, to artificial methods of imposing discipline. They need no proctors. They need no punishments. They need no bribes. Because the good teacher is the person who makes the work of learning the discipline so completely fascinating that the student is embroiled. The reason being that learning a discipline is not a matter of forcing yourself. And here, the English language leaves a little bit to be desired. We have a paucity of words for “effort,” for “application,” for “concentration.” We can talk about—when we’re talking with children—“you must apply yourself.” Now, it’s perfectly true: nothing, in the way of a skill, will be achieved without practice. But if practice is strained, still nothing will be achieved by it—except resentment. Many a little boy learns to hate the violin or the piano because it was drummed into him, “This is what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to apply yourself to it.” Za-cha-cha-cha-cha, driving it home. But on the other hand, if there is a way of fascinating a child with the discipline of any musical instrument, or what have you, then they can apply themselves day after day after day after day, and be fascinated with the discipline. So this is the skill of the teacher. This is upāya—I used this Sanskrit word this morning; “skillful means”—to get the student to love the art.
Because—remember this principle—if your student does not learn to love the discipline, he will never be any good at what you’re teaching him. Now, you may know that certain kinds of scholars do work that most of us would think very tedious. They are, let’s supposing—I talk a field about which I know a few smatterings, which is the study of Chinese. Chinese scholarship is very difficult. You have enormous amount of characters to study, and you have to look up things in dictionaries, and consult volumes of this, and volumes of that. But the true scholar is a person who just loves doing that. He’ll spend a whole afternoon going after one character, through all sorts of things, sifting this reference and that reference. And he will be having more fun than someone at a bowling alley doing just that. And from the standpoint of an external observer who has no particular interest in this, they’ll say, “Oh, how hard he’s working!”
You know, in my private life—I must confess to you—I’ve had a terrible time with this because I love my work. And people who had absolutely, say, no comprehension or interest in what I’m doing would wonder how do I keep up the pace? How can I possibly do this, that, and the other? I love it. But then there are other people who say, “You never do a lick of work in your life! You’re playing all the time. Just goofing off. It’s too easy for you”—see?—“because you love it.” But that’s the only way to get it done, and done well! Because if you have something that is, say, a good marriage: a good marriage is not the result of forcing yourself into that marriage. Are you seriously supposing that if you say to your husband or wife, “Darling, do you really love me?” and the partner answers, “I’m trying my best to do so.” This is simply not a satisfactory marriage. We are not going to get beautiful work by mere effort against the grain. When you—you can tell a cook instantly, by tasting one mouthful of a dish, whether it was cooked out of a sense of duty or cooked out of love. A person, say, who cooks out of true love would, of course, encounter days on which it is difficult. But somehow, the overall love of the art will manage to get him through those days when it’s difficult. And so with marriage, and so with the mastery of any other art. But it is on the end of the older people—it is up to the teachers, the parents—to present the disciplines of life as something that’s not just what you ought to know, but as something that it is beautiful to understand.