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Lions Roar : September 2015
jumping through other people’s hoops or being put in their boxes. Watts didn’t like the restrictions of institutions and discipline and didn’t hang around the Zen Center (or any center). But he was an essential element in Zen Center’s formation and, like a pied piper, led so many to be swallowed up by more formal practice. There’s an old saying in India that one should live two val- leys away from their guru. He made it clear that he was no guru, but in considering his legacy, I suggest we stay two valleys away from speculation about his states of mind, and what he did and didn’t do as he breathed in and out. ALAN WATTS CAME TO GREEN GULCH to meet with Rich- ard Baker in 1973, when I was Baker’s attendant. It was early in the day, and he seemed to be in good health. But what he had come to talk about was his funeral. I had a good time listening to them, though I found it a little strange that he was going on about all these details about his funeral as if it were around the corner. Turns out it was. Late in the year he died in his sleep, of heart failure it was said. I thought, wow, he predicted his own death just like the Zen masters in the stories. Tai chi master Al Huang worked with Watts on his last book, Tao: The Watercourse Way. In the introduction, Huang wrote, “I spoke with him on the phone on his last evening to find him drained in energy [having just returned from Europe] but euphoric during a gathering of friends in his Mandala house (reconstructed from a circular wine vat). ‘Wish you could join us dancing Tai Ji tonight ... we are playing with helium balloons... I feel my spirit is flying up with them,’ were his last words to me.” Hundreds attended Watts’ funeral ceremony at Green Gulch Farm. This man who brought the good news with goodwill was well-loved. As his Catholic priest confidant, Dom Alraed Gra- ham, wrote, “I never heard him speak harshly of anyone.” Michael Murphy, the founder of Esalen Institute, said this in his eulogy: “He taught us by who he was. We learned from his infectious, outrageous laughter, from his virtues and his faults, from his sense of play and his eye for the binds we would get ourselves into. He was our gentlest and most joyous teacher. “ The culmination of the ceremony was the eulogy by Richard Baker. Using the dharma names he’d given Watts and holding Watts’ jangling staff, which he’d inherited from Suzuki, he spoke: “Alan, Daiyuin Yuzan Myoko, Daizen Jomon, here is your lineage Watts at his desk at the American Academy of Asian Studies, now the California Institute of Integral Studies. He was named dean in 1952. PHOTOSCOURTESYOFALANWATTS.ORG SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2015 67