Tag Archives: Alan Watts

The Way of Zen by Alan Watts

  1. Alan Watts introduces Zen Buddhism to a western audience by discussing zen’s history, the principles and practices, za-zen meditations, koans, and how to incorporate into your life
Key Takeaways
  1. The western mind attaches the idea of “self” more closely to what he or she has done or was than who they currently are
  2. Must learn how to combine peripheral with linear thinking. The hunch with rationality, trusting our gut and the feel of the situation as much as what we rationally know about it
  3. The minute nirvana becomes a desire, it becomes Sankara (suffering). Real nirvana cannot be conceived.
  4. One has to know in one’s bones that there is nothing to be grasped. There is no way to enlightenment that requires any force. Must surrender completely
  5. Everything is relative, non dual. Things can only exist in relation to others. Only when we begin classifying things does duality arise
  6. All beings are endowed with a Buddha nature. We simply forget it. There is nothing to achieve, we just need to go back to our original state. To seek Buddhahood is to deny you already have it
  7. The contemplation and distinction between right and wrong is a common sickness of the mind
What I got out of it
  1. A thorough and informative history of zen and a good overview of the main themes, terms, and characters

You’re It! On Hiding, Seeking and Being Found by Alan Watts

  1. A compilation of Alan Watts’ speeches on a broad number of topics
Key Takeaways
  1. On spiritual gurus – Watts says he is more like a physician than a clergyman since he wants to get rid of people and not keep them
  2. On mysticism and morality. A feeling of total harmoniousness and oneness with the universe where nothing is a coincidence. Ties this to morality by saying there are no wrong feelings. There is no shame in feeling anyway about yourself or others. The only way to overcome your feelings is to accept it wholly and become one with it
  3. The game of yes and no. The philosophy of Yin and Yang is that externally yes/no, good/bad are different but internally they are one and the same. Without contrast nothing can exist – the negative is the source of the positive, the empty space in the window is what makes it useful
  4. On Zen. Zen Buddhism works to change your perception of who and what you are. A method of changing consciousness. The sensation of being an independent ‘I’ is simply a hallucination
  5. Any future precisely known instantly becomes the past
  6. The Hindu looks upon the earth as a drama, a play, where God gets involved in order to keep from being bored. Westerners view the world as a construct and the Chinese as an organism
  7. We are consistently tricked by our thoughts which are merely symbols. Losing sight of the fact that money is merely a symbol, an abstraction to make trade more convenient has gotten more people in trouble than nearly anything else. In the pursuit for these abstractions we are destroying our physical world and relationship with others
  8. Realizing there really is nothing we can do to improve ourselves or improve the world is often a huge moment of relief. It gives us space to just be. To observe ourselves, others and the world for what it truly is rather than what we wish it would be like. Trying to improve yourself is like trying to lift yourself by your own bootstraps. It can’t be done
  9. A myth is an image in which we try to make sense of the world. All understanding is done by analogy. Two models of the universe have been prevalent over the last 2,000 years – the ceramic and fully automatic models. The ceramic is based on the Book of Genesis and is one where the world is made and this leads to a subject and ruler mentality. The fully automatic model holds that evolution is pushed along by the desire for survival, not by an intelligent designer
  10. People get in trouble for mistaking the description of the world for how the world is. Beware that the map is not the terrain
  11. We live in an eternal now
What I got out of it
  1. Hammered home some aspects of Zen, Buddhism and Hinduism that weren’t as clear to me before. The idea that nothing can exist in isolation, without its contrast (can’t know fat without skinny, good without bad) was talked about a lot and is really interesting to me