There has been a resurgence of interest and popularity in
Watts’ work. I would say Watts is similar to spiritual
teacher Eckhart Tolle; although, I prefer Watts
because of his bohemian lifestyle, sense of humour, and organic nature. (Tolle
has become too commercial in my opinion.) Listening to Watts’
lectures will transform, entertain, and enlighten you. I’ve always been fairly
open-minded, but Watts has helped me to clear
away false beliefs that I was holding on to and wasn’t even aware of. It’s
amazing how much damage our spiritual upbringing can have. How much needs to be
unlearned to even catch a glimpse of what is truth and find the freedom that we
are seeking. Watts has done this for me and I
am eternally grateful. Whenever I need a shift in thinking, I turn to his
lectures. He has become a part of my consciousness in an intimate and crucial way.
Alan Watts was a spiritual teacher in the sixties and early seventies (he died in his sleep in 1973). I honestly don’t know how to describe him. I want to say that he was so cool (because he was!), but that sounds trite and childish. I heard about him early last year through some talks that I was transposing for a former Buddhist monk. My local library has a copy of
Om: Creative Meditations—a superbly edited
compilation of some of his lectures—and I was blown away by this little masterpiece. It was the beginning
of my Watts fascination. Audio collections of
his lectures are available for purchase on the Alan Watts website, which is
managed by his son Mark Watts; however, you can listen to hours upon hours of Watts’ lectures for free on YouTube. His famous book, The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing WhoYou Are is also available to download for free online. I’m looking forward
to obtaining and reading The Way of Zen. I’ve heard it’s very good...
There is dew
on these poems in the morning,
and at night a cool breeze may rise from them.
In the winter they are blankets, in the summer a place to swim.
I like talking to you like this. Have you moved
a step closer?
Soon we may be
|Photo: Toni Frissell|
Now then, if one must try to say something about what Zen is, and I want to do this by way of introduction, I must make it emphatic that Zen, in its essence, is not a doctrine. There’s nothing you’re supposed to believe in. It’s not a philosophy in our sense, that is to say a set of ideas, an intellectual net in which one tries to catch the fish of reality. Actually, the fish of reality is more like water—it always slips through the net. And in water you know when you get into it there’s nothing to hang on to. All this universe is like water; it is fluid, it is transient, it is changing. And when you’re thrown into the water after being accustomed to living on the dry land, you’re not used to the idea of swimming. You try to stand on the water, you try to catch hold of it, and as a result you drown.
The only way to survive in the water, and this refers particularly to the waters of modern philosophical confusion, where God is dead, metaphysical propositions are meaningless, and there’s really nothing to hang on to, because we’re all just falling apart. And the only thing to do under those circumstances is to learn how to swim. And to swim, you relax, you let go, you give yourself to the water, and you have to know how to breathe in the right way. And then you find that the water holds you up; indeed, in a certain way you become the water.