If a man aims at finding the ebb and flow of life in a decayed tree or withered grass, an inaudible sound or a savorless taste, he becomes a bellows for the fires of heaven and earth and a root to men and to objects.
From Creative Meditation and Multi-Dimensional Consciousness (1984), by Anagarika Govinda.
Only he who, while fully recognizing and understanding his Western heritage, penetrates and absorbs the heritage of the East, can gain the highest values of both worlds and do justice to them. East and West are the two halves of our human consciousness, comparable to the two poles of a magnet, which condition and correspond to each other and cannot be separated. Only if man realizes this fact will he become a complete human being.
Those desolate door-steps where foxes crouch and those deserted terraces where rabbits ramble, might in olden days have been places for singing and dancing. There where yellow flowers are chilled by dew and where faded grass is obscured by mist, might once have been battlegrounds. Can prosperity and decline remain constant? Where are the victors and the vanquished of old?
From Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers (1994), by Leonard Koren.
Wabi-sabi means treading lightly on the planet and knowing how to appreciate whatever is encountered, no matter how trifling, whenever it is encountered. “Material poverty, spiritual richness” are wabi-sabi bywords. In other words, wabi-sabi tells us to stop our preoccupation with success--wealth, status, power, and luxury--and enjoy the unencumbered life.
Obviously, leading the simple wabi-sabi life requires some effort and will and also some tough decisions. Wabi-sabi acknowledges that just as it is important to know when to make choices, it is also important to know when not to make choices: to let things be. Even at the most austere level of material existence, we still live in a world of things. Wabi-sabi is exactly about the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from freedom from things.
When a man contends for supremacy, he contends like the sparks flashed between two stones. How long can those sparks last? When he fights for victory, he fights in the horn of a snail. How large a world is that horn?
Ay, the moment has arrived in the history of our Western world when a new religion is on the verge of breaking forth and spreading like wild-fire among us.
One cannot yet prophesy what world-deep rapture this religion will bring. But this, surely, one can prophesy. It will be a religion that will help individual men and women to shake themselves free from the factious, shallow, vulgar, sneering humour of the commonplace world. It will be a religion of intense gravity and intense earnestness. It will be a religion that actually worships the sun, the moon, the earth, the sea, the wind, the seasons. It will be a religion that strips off the hot, feverish, gregarious, over-human garments of the other religions. It will be a religion that could be shared by the non-human consciousness of trees enjoying the rain, of crows sailing across the sky, of cattle grazing in the fields, of fishes poised motionless in the river, of vipers basking in the sun, of ancient cosmogonic rocks breathing the air and feeling the magic of moonlight. In my own. symbolic words it will be a religion of the "ichthyosaurus-ego."
It will be the most sacramental and the most ritualistic religion--but at the same time the most subjective one--that has ever existed; for every morsel of food and every drop of drink will be exquisitely godlike to it! Sleep, with all its mystical intimations, will be the greatest of its sacraments. Indolent, idle, dreamy, care-free thoughts will be the incense of its casual breath. Leisure will be its cathedral-court, and sensuous sensation its high-altar! Its piety will be drawn from the organic atavisms of planetary life, its ritual from the long centuries of human experience. Its moral virtue will consist in just being "kind" in the most simple of all senses, and in this alone! The best-remembered, though not the best-loved, of all its many gods will be the ultimate First Cause; and the great daimon Chance will be its Holy Ghost.
From This is It & Other Essays on Zen & Spiritual Experience (1960), by Alan Watts.
The whole point of these essays is to show the fallacy of this opposition, to show that the spiritual is not to be separated from the material, nor the wonderful from the ordinary. We need, above all, to disentangle ourselves from habits of speech and thought which set the two apart, making it impossible for us to see that this--the immediate, everyday, and present experience--is IT, the entire and ultimate point for the existence of a universe.
. . . I am neither a preacher nor a reformer, for I like to write and talk about this way of seeing things as one sings in the bathtub or splashes in the sea. There is no mission, nor intent to convert, and yet I believe that if this state of consciousness could become more universal, the pretentious nonsense which passes for the serious business of the world would dissolve in laughter. We should see at once that the high ideals for which we are killing and regimenting each other are empty and abstract substitutes for the unheeded miracles that surround us--not only in the obvious wonders of nature but also in the overwhelmingly uncanny fact of mere existence.
Thus the “brainy” economy designed to produce this happiness is a fantastic vicious circle which must either manufacture more and more pleasures or collapse--providing a constant titillation of the ears, eyes, and nerve ends with incessant streams of almost inescapable noise and visual distractions. The perfect “subject” for the aims of this economy is the person who continuously itches his ears with the radio, preferably using the portable kind which can go with him at all hours and in all places. His eyes flit without rest from television screen, to newspaper, to magazine, keeping him in a sort of orgasm-with-out-release through a series of teasing glimpses of shiny automobiles, shiny female bodies, and other sensuous surfaces, interspersed with such restorers of sensitivity--shock treatments--as “human interest” shots of criminals, mangled bodies, wrecked airplanes, prize fights, and burning buildings. The literature or discourse that goes along with this is similarly manufactured to tease without satisfaction, to replace every partial gratification with a new desire.
For this stream of stimulants is designed to produce cravings for more and more of the same, though louder and faster, and these cravings drive us to do work which is of no interest save for the money it pays--to buy more lavish radios, sleeker automobiles, glossier magazines, and better television sets, all of which will somehow conspire to persuade us that happiness lies just around the corner if we will buy one more.
He went on to say that according to old Celtic occult lore we belong in the morning of our lives, or childhood, to the sea; in the afternoon, or maturity, to the land; and in the evening, or old age, to the air. Only after death do we mingle with and belong to all three elements. Then Time is undifferentiated, like a great wave which never breaks, like a wind blowing strong and free forever, like a vast range of hills unbroken by any plain. In this eternal time our strength does not ebb or flow and no moment is more propitious than another.