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Alan Watts

I've been practicing Buddhism to different extremes for the past 10 years, and recently I have started to listen to Alan Watts. I know he's a philosopher, but much of what he says about the universe and Buddhist philosophy has not only allowed me to understand it, but to go forward and have insight into that understanding.

I have heard many times about grasping and desire from reading about it, listening to monks give talks on it, but somehow when I heard Alan Watts talk about it, it really sunk in. Other topics he has given me great insight into are things such as the fact that enlightenment is ever present, only we shroud it with delusion, much like as a sculptor chips away at a chunk of stone to reveal a sculpture. How the universe and me are one of the same, how as I hear a bird sing or a leaf fall to the ground, I am creating all of that within my mind. How my lungs do not exist without the air and so forth. But more importantly, he has taught me to not take life so seriously. He often talks about how the universe and life is a game, not in the sense of something trivial, because suffering exists, but I have thought for a long time about how this whole ride we call life shouldn't be taken so seriously.

I don't know, I like to pick and choose opinions from different sources and then base my world view around them. As the Buddha said, do not take anybody's word as solid truth, even his own. I'm not sure what it is about Watts that resonates with me, but it his words and theories have been helpful to me, especially during the past week which have been some of the darkest in my life. What do you think of Alan Watts?

ShoshinSnakeskin

Comments

  • wojciechwojciech I yam whatever you say I yam Veteran

    I like Alan Watts' general point of view. He is definitely well studied on the history of Buddhism and other religions. And reading his books is a joy for that same reason.

    I really enjoy his book Out of Your Mind, which is the one book of his I go back to the most, lots of goodies in there.

    My main question with Mr. Watts is why he didn't choose to practice one religion exclusively. In his books and lectures he blends information/knowledge of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, etc. But I do remember him saying he affiliated himself with none of these religions.

    I dig Alan Watts because he finds the common threads intersecting faith and practice and either throws out or flat out pokes fun at the bullsh*t that comes along with belief/faith/practice.

    Peace to your path @Ukjunglist -- the brighter the light, the darker the shadow.

    UkjunglistSnakeskin
  • Sorry to hear about the darkness :cry:

    I feel Alan Watts understood the spirit or internal essence to a greater degree than many self appointed purists and experts. Very accessible, comprehensible and sensible. Where others have failed, his explanations have allowed you access/understanding ...

    In Buddhist terminology dukkha is not what or who we are. How to connect/resonate/attune and ultimately reside in the placeless? Varies.

    UkjunglistSnakeskin
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    I think you have to see Alan Watts in context. He lived from 1915 to 1973, and his most popular period was during the 1950’s and 1960’s, explaining Eastern philosophy to Western audiences. So he was one of the people at the root of the flower power movement, where they also took in a lot of Eastern concepts along with the popular hallucinogenics.

    Which I think is why he doesnt restrict himself to one religion... he studied theology, and he is passing on knowledge from his work at the American Academy of Asian Studies. He is very life positive, with a deep consideration of ethics and his fellow man, which I find quite beautiful about him.

    Personally, I find him an interesting speaker. Some of his lectures have resonated. But at other times I’ve found him obscure and wordy — so for me it’s a bit hit and miss. Nevertheless some of his turns of phrase have been illuminating, and I sometimes listen to his lectures on YouTube.

    UkjunglistlobsterSnakeskin
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I think it was Alan Watts who went on a Buddhist retreat, and was at, one evening, around a camp fire with other participants and the Guru or Master leading the retreat. Watts had with him a small book, into which (he explained, to the Guru) he wrote his arising thoughts, his 'bubbles'.
    The Guru picked the book up and threw it into the fire, declaring that bubbles were simply objects of no substance.

    I think once a book is read, all those words are said.
    Pick it up, use it, pass it on.

    But don't keep them to close.
    Your own consequential words are what matter.
    For the moment.

    UkjunglistHozanSnakeskin
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited November 2

    Thus have I heard ....Mr Watts said eff the ineffable

    Snakeskin
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    idiot.

    dhammachick
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @federica said:
    idiot.

    Why are you calling him an idiot ?

  • UkjunglistUkjunglist Explorer
    edited November 2

    @wojciech said:
    I like Alan Watts' general point of view. He is definitely well studied on the history of Buddhism and other religions. And reading his books is a joy for that same reason.

    I really enjoy his book Out of Your Mind, which is the one book of his I go back to the most, lots of goodies in there.

    My main question with Mr. Watts is why he didn't choose to practice one religion exclusively. In his books and lectures he blends information/knowledge of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, etc. But I do remember him saying he affiliated himself with none of these religions.

    I dig Alan Watts because he finds the common threads intersecting faith and practice and either throws out or flat out pokes fun at the bullsh*t that comes along with belief/faith/practice.

    Peace to your path @Ukjunglist -- the brighter the light, the darker the shadow.

    Maybe he didn't practice one religion exclusively because that requires blind faith and to swallow every single ideology of that religion.
    For me, this is why I do not conform to one religion, and it does fall in line with the whole 'don't take anybodies word as absolute truth' dealio. I have listened to his talks and most of the things he says I either already thought and felt, or I can relate to.

    There are certain things I do not agree with him on, such as in one talk he spoke of how meditation can never really bring you to enlightenment. He seems to have a fondness for zen Buddhism, and a zen master apparently told him a story.
    The master had a student that was meditating, and he asked the student what was he doing. The student replied he is meditating to become a Buddha. The master then started polishing a rock to which the student asked what he was doing. He said he polishing the rock so it can become a Buddha. Although this may be suggesting the idea that any kind of desire or attempt to attain something will result in suffering, but I am pretty sure he has said before about how meditation isn't worth while.

  • I have listened to his talks and most of the things he says I either already thought and felt, or I can relate to.

    There are certain things I do not agree with him on, such as in one talk he spoke of how meditation can never really bring you to enlightenment.

    Cool.

    I find, like you, that most of what he says corresponds to my experience and insight, including from meditation.

    All too often purists swallow the baby with the bathwater (eh ... something wrong there) ...

    Start again.

    Experts are like manure, if they don't provide the nutrient, the plant dies. Too many holy types shine so bright, sensitive plants wither. We can keep the baby, water the plant with bath water but without drowning seedlings ...

    Balance between types of requirement and relevant provision is I feel available from Alan Watts. Much Buddhist dharma is so ancient, it is best buried but is still provided as wisdom. The same applies to all applied, practical knowledge including the spiritual realm which requires constant reinterpretation and provision of relevant sources ...

  • SnakeskinSnakeskin Texas, USA Explorer

    @Ukjunglist said:
    I have listened to his talks and most of the things he says I either already thought and felt, or I can relate to.

    @lobster said:
    I find, like you, that most of what he says corresponds to my experience and insight, including from meditation.

    I've heard little from Allan Watts specifically, but I relate generally to what y'all are saying. One thing that endures a teacher to me is when they articulate something in a way that crystallizes what I already knew or illuminates another side I hadn't seen or had misunderstood. I've heard only a couple things from Mr. Watts. He did have a way of speaking clearly and vividly. That's prolly what separates the teachers from the rest of us. To grok is one thing; to communicate, another.

    lobster
  • SnakeskinSnakeskin Texas, USA Explorer

    Speaking of effective communication ... *endears ... Basics. O.o

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    What do you think of Alan Watts?

    I 'think' he was an English gentleman who smoked cigarettes & dope, dropped trips & drank alcohol , womanised, and put into practice his study of Eastern philosophy ....

    And I would often be lost for words with much of what he had to say regarding the Dharma (which I might add ultimately was a good thing......if you get my drift :)

    Philosophising
    Phenomenal natural world
    Form's empty nature

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Snakeskin said:
    Speaking of effective communication ... *endears ... Basics. O.o

    and *prolly = probably. Thanks.

  • SnakeskinSnakeskin Texas, USA Explorer

    @federica, "grok" is only ~50 years old. Do we have to wait that long before we can use "prolly"?! Also, you missed one: "Allan Watts". :p

  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @Shoshin said:
    Why are you calling him an idiot ?

    @Shoshin said:
    I 'think' he was an English gentleman who smoked cigarettes & dope, dropped trips & drank alcohol , womanised, and put into practice his study of Eastern philosophy ....

    That would be why I would call him an idiot. HIS version of Eastern Philosophy. Not Buddhism. No matter how people try to swing it, Buddhism does NOT condone psychedelic or illicit drug taking. People can rail against it all they want. That won't change the Precept. It's everyone's individual choice to ingest whatever they want. But call it what it is, not something else.
    _ /\ _

    HozanDhammaDragonlobsterSnakeskin
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Yes. Basically, what ^^she^^ said.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Snakeskin said:
    @federica, "grok" is only ~50 years old. Do we have to wait that long before we can use "prolly"?! Also, you missed one: "Allan Watts". :p

    Allan Watts is a mis-spelling. 'Prolly' is unnecessary on a forum where English - proper English - is the acceptable form of communication.
    If you wish to communicate in 'text-speak' then by all means do so.
    In texts.
    Here, banal abbreviations aren't necessary. There's no charge, and no limit to post-length.

    Snakeskin
  • HozanHozan Veteran

    @dhammachick said:

    @Shoshin said:
    Why are you calling him an idiot ?

    @Shoshin said:
    I 'think' he was an English gentleman who smoked cigarettes & dope, dropped trips & drank alcohol , womanised, and put into practice his study of Eastern philosophy ....

    That would be why I would call him an idiot. HIS version of Eastern Philosophy. Not Buddhism. No matter how people try to swing it, Buddhism does NOT condone psychedelic or illicit drug taking. People can rail against it all they want. That won't change the Precept. It's everyone's individual choice to ingest whatever they want. But call it what it is, not something else.
    _ /\ _

    Yeah spot on @dhammachick . Call it what it is, not something else. Agreed.

    Snakeskin
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    When studying the Dharma I make a point of not mistaking the finger pointing to the moon "for the moon"... In other words... I try not to throw the baby( the teaching) out with the bathwater( the teacher's somewhat "unskillful" manner) ..

    Snakeskin
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Plus one of the core teachings of the Buddha was on one's "aversions & desires" which can lead to "unsatisfactoriness"... I always keep this in mind :)

    Snakeskin
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    The teacher's unskilful manner includes encouraging people, or at least condoning they try drugs. His manner has nothing to do with it, his example, does. There's a difference, @Shoshin

    dhammachickSnakeskinHozan
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Shoshin said:
    Plus one of the core teachings of the Buddha was on one's "aversions & desires" which can lead to "unsatisfactoriness"... I always keep this in mind :)

    Don't cloud the waters, @Shoshin, the discussion is one on Allan Watts and his example as a teacher. I for one. don't particularly rate him, and am happy to discount him as being of any value to me. He is of no consequence. I am neither averse nor desirous.
    I am completely indifferent.

    HozanSnakeskin
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @federica you have your opinion which I respect and no doubt others also share your opinion... Which I also respect...However I'm under the impression members here can make up their own minds when it comes to the late Mr Watts and his philosophy on life...Different Strokes For Different Folks... When it comes to what he said regarding drugs... I'm not condoning nor condemning... I'm only interested in the Dharma.... :)

    Snakeskin
  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran
    edited November 2

    @Shoshin said:
    @federica you have your opinion which I respect and no doubt others also share your opinion... Which I also respect...However I'm under the impression members here can make up their own minds when it comes to the late Mr Watts and his philosophy on life...Different Strokes For Different Folks... When it comes to what he said regarding drugs... I'm not condoning nor condemning... I'm only interested in the Dharma.... :)

    I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.
    urāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.

    image

    HozanDhammaDragonTravellerSnakeskin
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Well said @DhammaDragon... I couldn't agree more :)

    DhammaDragonHozanSnakeskin
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @dhammachick in regards to the precept...I don't take drugs, and nor do I drink alcohol...so I'm sweet when it comes to the precept... However this does not mean I will completely ignore any words of wisdom from someone who does... If other people don't like what he has to say they can easily "choose" not to listen to or read what's been said... I'm not sure why a mountain is being made from a molehill... When I listen to "any" teacher my mental filters are functional...filtering out what's skilful/beneficial and what I personally feel is not ( I'm under the impression others are capable of doing the same . I have a duty towards the well being of others...This is why I neither condone or condemn...Others have to see for themselves.... Love him or hate him... He has opened the door to Buddhism for many Westerners including some modern day Dharma teachers from the East and West... .

    Snakeskin
  • wojciechwojciech I yam whatever you say I yam Veteran

    Right @Ukjunglist I agree. To me it's about the message not necessarily the messenger.

    Alan Watts' accessibility need not be mistaken for his ability to put the entire dharma into practice, however, if you find meaning in and connect with a teacher's lessons, keep going that direction. (Esp. if they have helped you in any form or fashion)

    For all we know Trungpa and Watts are sharing drinks in the Pure Land laughing at all of this conjecture :smile:

    :+1:

    KeromeSnakeskin
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @Ukjunglist said:
    I didn't even know about his use of psychedelics and alcohol before making this thread...

    You might find this of interest "Alan Watts" Personally I find his work ie, books and lectures refreshing & stimulating, but then that's just me...and I'm weird like that :) )

    "Some of Watts’ writings published in 1958 (e.g., his book Nature, Man and Woman and his essay "The New Alchemy") mentioned some of his early views on the use of psychedelic drugs for mystical insight. Watts had begun to experiment with psychedelics, initially with mescaline given to him by Oscar Janiger. He tried LSD several times in 1958, with various research teams led by Keith S. Ditman, Sterling Bunnell, Jr., and Michael Agron. He also tried marijuana and concluded that it was a useful and interesting psychoactive drug that gave the impression of time slowing down. Watts' books of the '60s reveal the influence of these chemical adventures on his outlook. He later said about psychedelic drug use, "If you get the message, hang up the phone. For psychedelic drugs are simply instruments, like microscopes, telescopes, and telephones. The biologist does not sit with eye permanently glued to the microscope, he goes away and works on what he has seen"

    "Friends of Watts had been concerned about him for some time over what they considered his excessive alcohol consumption.[34] On 16 November 1973, he died in his sleep."

    Snakeskin
  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran
    edited November 3

    @Shoshin said:
    I'm not sure why a mountain is being made from a molehill...

    I'm just stating what the Dharma is on this. You're the one who took umbrage when Fed called Watts an idiot, so maybe you do know why. And it's not a molehill, it's a statement of fact.

    He has opened the door to Buddhism for many Westerners including some modern day Dharma teachers from the East and West... .

    Awesome, but he's not following the 5th Precept shrugs

    Snakeskin
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @dhammachick said:

    @Shoshin said:
    I'm not sure why a mountain is being made from a molehill...

    I'm just stating what the Dharma is on this. You're the one who took umbrage when Fed called Watts an idiot, so maybe you do know why. And it's not a molehill, it's a statement of fact.

    @dhammachick I didn't take "umbrage" I just wanted to know why she used such a derogatory term ...

    Hence why I asked Why are you calling him an idiot ?

    He has opened the door to Buddhism for many Westerners including some modern day Dharma teachers from the East and West... .

    Awesome, but he's not following the 5th Precept shrugs

    Short answer... he was "not" a practising Buddhist :)

    His faults ( if one chooses to call them that) are his own, he chose how to live his personal life, just as we choose how to live ours..Be it skillfully or not...

    However this "but he's not following the 5th Precept *shrugs could be seen as throwing the baby out with the bathwater ....If I were to dismiss the whole person because of past drug use (be it in the case of Mr Watts for scientific research, studying the mind), I would have missed out on his insight and creativity...
    As I've already mentioned I personally have no interest in drugs or alcohol consumption, I see them both as intoxicants, be one glass or many ....Water quenches thirst alcohol/drugs intoxicate...

    Anyhow I think we have all made our point clear ....Some like what he has/had to say, some don't ..and some are indifferent :)

    What I find wholesomely interesting about Buddhism/the Dharma is that "Nothing is carved in stone" there's is (as Mr Watts often said ) "Always a middle way" :)

    Snakeskin
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    ...So let's all move on now.....

    dhammachickHozanSnakeskin
  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @federica said:
    ...So let's all move on now.....

    Indeed. The horse died a few posts ago......

    Snakeskin
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    You could say that Alan Watts is a good “gateway teacher”... a first point of contact with Eastern philosophy... but perhaps not the best “lifetime teacher”.

    Snakeskin
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    I guess one could say @Kerome that all Dharma teachers are gateway teachers...a first point of contact with the gateless gate ...and the best lifetime teacher is one's own mind...(once it's tamed/trained :wink: )

    Snakeskin
  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    @Ukjunglist said:
    I didn't even know about his use of psychedelics and alcohol before making this thread, does that discount the positive, insightful and enlightening things I have taken from him? Of course it doesn't. When you listen to a teacher or a person, you should objectively listen to what they are saying, and then evaluate their words and see if you agree with it and if it can help you. I find it interesting that I didn't know this side of him prior to making this thread, and seeing responses there after.

    To be fair to Mr. Watts, that's because his dharma talks and his lectures on psychedelics never overlapped. His character may have suffered less harm if he wasn't associated with the likes of Ginsberg, Leary, Huxley and Ram Das though as his wisdom was much deeper.

    Of course to each their own, I just find his way of teaching concepts to be ideal for whatever reason, and they have helped me get through some tough times and instil a more eager / clear intention of exploring the Buddha Dharma. It kind of feels like people may discount everything he says simply because of his habits, much like people may discredit anything an ex-con would say or do simply because they've been to prison. I've read above that someone even found Buddhism because of him, that's a very noteworthy turn of events in somebodies life.

    I'd have to agree.

    There was a time I'd employ the argument that the precept leaves wiggle room with the qualifier "heedless" or "careless" but I think when you start looking for the loophole, you know you've broken the precept.

    And that's the crux. It's really a personal thing. Did Alan Watts break the precept? You would really have to put that question to him in my books.

    I got a lot from him and The Way of Zen got me to notice Buddhism at 18 out of my love for Taoism. My love of Taoism came from misunderstanding Shaolin but that's neither here nor there.

    A few years ago I stumbled upon some cartoons on YouTube matching his talks with animation by the South Park people.

    Brilliant.

    SnakeskinShoshin
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    What do you think of Alan Watts?

    I generally don't listen to anything he says because of the way he behaved.

    Snakeskin
  • @seeker242 said:

    What do you think of Alan Watts?

    I generally don't listen to anything he says because of the way he behaved.

    Yeah like I've said since I made this thread, I didn't know anything much about the guy. I knew of his name but I had never given his talks time before. I'm glad I did though for the various insights that I have had recently

    Snakeskin
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    There are worthwhile insights coming from many streams of thought, and someone like Alan Watts becomes a cauldron containing a rich mixture. It’s hard to say that any modern western Buddhist hasn’t picked up a variety of thought from neo Vedanta, Tao, Sufism and other streams.

    I don’t think it does any harm though, I’m not a Buddhism purist. I think a lot of spiritual thought is about understanding our place in the world, understanding our being and our mind, it’s a larger quest than just Buddhism although Buddhism has a big role to play in it — it’s not the only source of wisdom on this topic.

    The end of suffering might come with such understanding, or it might not. I think for me, Thich Nhat Hanh in No Mud, No Lotus pretty much demonstrated that suffering and happiness are interrelated, and I’m finding out through my experiences of nighttime anxiety that mindfulness alone is not the end of anxiety and suffering.

    But an understanding of my place would make me happier. I suspect that once you get down to it these things are at least partially interrelated and part of the same path. Perhaps I’m a universalist at heart.

    Snakeskin
  • SnakeskinSnakeskin Texas, USA Explorer

    @federica said:

    @Snakeskin said:
    @federica, "grok" is only ~50 years old. Do we have to wait that long before we can use "prolly"?! Also, you missed one: "Allan Watts". :p

    Allan Watts is a mis-spelling. 'Prolly' is unnecessary on a forum where English - proper English - is the acceptable form of communication.
    If you wish to communicate in 'text-speak' then by all means do so.
    In texts.
    Here, banal abbreviations aren't necessary. There's no charge, and no limit to post-length.

    I concede some abbreviations are superfluous on a practically unlimited medium, but 'prolly' has migrated from Textland to Speech. It’s a naturalized word now, slang, not proper English, but here to stay, I suspect. Still, I’ll stick to the formal, ‘probably’, for now, cos because it’s “what ^^she^^ said.” :p

  • SnakeskinSnakeskin Texas, USA Explorer

    This was a lively and insightful thread, a pager turner. I didn't mean to sit and read the whole thing, but that's what I did. :)

    Shoshin
  • HozanHozan Veteran

    Hardly a page turner really. 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    We can learn much from every person, whether they are a labelled 'teacher' or not.
    Some 'teachers' teach us that what they teach isn't a lesson worth listening to.
    And that is still a teaching.

    FWIW, AFAIAC.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    From his US TV series...Late 1950s

    Also what @David was on about " South Park animation"

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    Not my cup-of tea, too new-agey I'm afraid.

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