Alan Watts ~ A Man of Zen

Who was Alan Watts?

Alan  Wilson Watts was a British writer and speaker of repute. He was born on 6th January 1915 in Chislehurst, England. He migrated to the United States in the year 1938 and began Zen training in New York. Watts gained a loyal following when he was working as a volunteer programmer at the KPFA Radio Station in Berkeley.

He enjoys the distinction of having written more than 25 books on religion and philosophy. He introduced the Zen way of living to the Hippie culture in the USA. His first book, The Way of Zen written in 1957 was the first bestselling book on Buddhism. 

What were his Works and Teachings? 

Alan started the Alan Watts organization. This organization is committed to preserving Alan’s legacy. They carry it out through creative partnership and archival efforts. Alan Watts was a scholar and philosopher who was very adept at translating Eastern wisdom for the Western world. His ideas about the cosmos and the individual Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and other religions, philosophies, and psychologies, and daily life were deeply profound. Yet they were approachable by non-scholars and scholars alike.

Alan Watts discovered the Buddhist lodge at a young age and was deeply touched by it. After moving to the USA in 1938, Alan took up the work of a priest for some time. 

Later, he relocated to Millbrook, New York, where he gave shape to his pivotal book The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety. In the year 1951, Alan moved to San Francisco. Here he began teaching Buddhist studies. It was in 1956 that his popular radio show “Way beyond the West” began. By the early sixties, Alan’s radio show gained national acclaim. In addition to this, the counterculture movement adopted him as their spiritual speaker. He wrote and traveled regularly until his passing away in the year 1973. 

The LA Times wrote the following about him: “Perhaps the foremost interpreter of Eastern disciplines for the contemporary West, Alan Watts had the rare gift of writing beautifully the un-writable. Watts began with scholarship and intellect and proceeded with art and eloquence to the frontiers of the spirit. A fascinating entry into the deepest ways of knowing.

During his lifetime, Alan Watts enjoys the distinction of having written 25 books on topics so varied as philosophy, the mystical experience, and psychology of religion. He also has the distinction of having written more than a dozen booklets. He has also contributed individual chapters to a plethora of books. Since he passed away in 1973, nearly 40 of his additional books have been published to date. This includes his writings from his early years and his works derived from numerous lectures. Watts also authored many popular and academic articles. Much has been published about Watts. Watts also gave lectures on subjects like 

  • Tao of Philosophy
  • Philosophies of Asia
  • Myth and Religion
  • Philosophy and Society
  • Comparative Philosophy

His works on Eastern wisdom include Ways of Liberation. Watts’ views on social identity and the spiritual side include that regarding his ethical outlook. Watts felt that absolute morality had nothing to do with the fundamental realization of one’s deep spiritual identity. He advocated social rather than personal ethics.

In his writings, Watts was concerned with ethics as they are applied to relations between humanity and the natural environment and between governments and citizens. Watts wrote out of an appreciation of a culturally and racially diverse social landscape. Watts often said that he wanted to act as a bridge between the ancient and the modern, between East and West, and between culture and nature. 

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Watts
https://www.alanwatts.org/about/
https://www.alanwatts.org/books/

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