Alan Watts

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JoaoRodrigues
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Alan Watts

Post by JoaoRodrigues » Tue Mar 24, 2020 11:42 am

Image

He's quite famous in the West, people have started in this circles by listening to his lectures, and I feel like he's becoming more famous than he ever was. No one can deny that he is very articulate, his words are like music, his perspectives are food for imagination, somehow he makes everything shinny, a play, something that maybe is lacking.

There is a suspicion, neglect about this individual in the typical zen / buddhist circles. His master D.T. Suzuki was also not well regarded, I've been told. For those you've studied Alan's work, what are, in your opinion, the major reasons for such? Maybe his life-style, overall a paradox of disconcern about zen traditions? Trivialize mediation, and ideas, like, we are already awaken Buda's and the more we go for enlightenment the more we go away from it? His attempt to put into words, with a certain mysticism, what is said transcend words?

Thoughts?

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:21 pm

He was never able to free himself. While I always enjoyed reading his books and found them useful (he also had a tv series on San Francisco public television which one can watch on YouTube. It’s great, and also really silly) I think he couldn’t get past observing Buddhism (and Taoism too) as an outsider, as a ‘Brit examining exotic orientalism’. He loved Buddhist teachings but put them high up on a pedestal that he himself could not reach.

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by JoaoRodrigues » Tue Mar 24, 2020 2:40 pm

Very nice words. I agree, I think. He was never able to free himself, and that is the enigma people have until they actually experience it, until than, we believe, probably not the right word: believe, in persons like Alan, or at least I do like to believe he experienced some things that made him be able to say such marvelous words, and that's the point I'm trying to get here, but can't articulate it, Alan sure could. *laughter*

Now, how could he say, such accurate(?) things, things that had to be experienced, sensorial or not (?), and some presumptuous / not accurate things as well, and I'd like to know if someone could mention some of those presumptuous things, or things that didn't go in accordance with the standard teachings of zen buddhism.

Overall, he was a scholar that had a fascination for eastern philosophy and attempted to express things that according to zen can't be expressed with word, with actual words, and for some he did a tremendous job, but at the same time, it stopped there, he didn't apply any of those, or it doesn't seem he did. How could that be? Am I making any sense?

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by Dan74 » Tue Mar 24, 2020 7:25 pm

I think he was just a brilliant guy, very very clever and with an incredible gift of gab. Zen to him was a wonderful intellectual adventure, not a praxis. I enjoyed his book The Way of Zen tremendously. It made perfect sense to me and I thought I had Zen figured out. Until that is, I did my first actual Zen retreat. And then I realised I had not the faintest idea.

Zen Buddhism is not about an intellectual understanding. Zen realisation is in the marrow of your bones. It in not an idea. That's where Alan Watts' contribution ends and some may say, it is actually counterproductive. Because it's given a generation (or more) a false notion of what Zen really is about.

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by JoaoRodrigues » Wed Mar 25, 2020 2:53 pm

Dan74 wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 7:25 pm
Until that is, I did my first actual Zen retreat. And then I realised I had not the faintest idea.
What made you realize that? Meditation? Other sources / studies it were taught to you there?
Dan74 wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 7:25 pm
Zen Buddhism is not about an intellectual understanding. Zen realisation is in the marrow of your bones. It in not an idea. That's where Alan Watts' contribution ends and some may say, it is actually counterproductive.
Yes, he said that quite often, but he did try to grab it intellectually, he did a good job I believe. Why do you find it counterproductive? Do you think that people that see zen true his teachings will have problems making a transition to "practice"?
Dan74 wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 7:25 pm
Because it's given a generation (or more) a false notion of what Zen really is about.
Where do you think he missed? I've mention some, one is obviously trying to understanding zen with words, the other that he didn't though meditation was necessary, quoting him: a cat sits and gets up when he fells like to.

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by Aemilius » Wed Mar 25, 2020 3:59 pm

JoaoRodrigues wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 2:40 pm
Very nice words. I agree, I think. He was never able to free himself, and that is the enigma people have until they actually experience it, until than, we believe, probably not the right word: believe, in persons like Alan, or at least I do like to believe he experienced some things that made him be able to say such marvelous words, and that's the point I'm trying to get here, but can't articulate it, Alan sure could. *laughter*

Now, how could he say, such accurate(?) things, things that had to be experienced, sensorial or not (?), and some presumptuous / not accurate things as well, and I'd like to know if someone could mention some of those presumptuous things, or things that didn't go in accordance with the standard teachings of zen buddhism.

Overall, he was a scholar that had a fascination for eastern philosophy and attempted to express things that according to zen can't be expressed with word, with actual words, and for some he did a tremendous job, but at the same time, it stopped there, he didn't apply any of those, or it doesn't seem he did. How could that be? Am I making any sense?
On what gorunds do you (or other people) say that "he was never able to free himself"? What do you mean by it? That he never had kensho? Or that he is not a stream winner or at higher stages? Or that he had not developed bodhicitta?
Buddha says in the sutras that it is difficult to know other people, and it takes a long time to know them:

Udana 6.2

[1] "It's through living together that a person's virtue may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who isn't discerning.

[2] "It's through trading with a person that his purity may be known...

[3] "It's through adversity that a person's endurance may be known...

[4] "It's through discussion that a person's discernment may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who isn't discerning."

Anguttara 4.192

"Monks, these four traits may be known by means of four [other] traits. Which four?

"It's through living together that a person's virtue may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning.

"It's through dealing with a person that his purity may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning.

"It's through adversity that a person's endurance may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning.

"It's through discussion that a person's discernment may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning.

[1] "'It's through living together that a person's virtue may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning': Thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said?

"There is the case where one individual, through living with another, knows this: 'For a long time this person has been torn, broken, spotted, splattered in his actions. He hasn't been consistent in his actions. He hasn't practiced consistently with regard to the precepts. He is an unprincipled person, not a virtuous, principled one.' And then there is the case where one individual, through living with another, knows this: 'For a long time this person has been untorn, unbroken, unspotted, unsplattered in his actions. He has been consistent in his actions. He has practiced consistently with regard to the precepts. He is a virtuous, principled person, not an unprincipled one.'

"'It's through living together that a person's virtue may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning': Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

[2] "'It's through dealing with a person that his purity may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning': Thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said?

"There is the case where one individual, through dealing with another, knows this: 'This person deals one way when one-on-one, another way when with two, another way when with three, another way when with many. His earlier dealings do not jibe with his later dealings. He is impure in his dealings, not pure.' And then there is the case where one individual, through dealing with another, knows this: 'The way this person deals when one-on-one, is the same way he deals when with two, when with three, when with many. His earlier dealings jibe with his later dealings. He is pure in his dealings, not impure.'

"'It's through dealing with a person that his purity may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning': Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

[3] "'It's through adversity that a person's endurance may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning': Thus was it said.

(translations by Thanissaro Bhikkhu)
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by Meido » Wed Mar 25, 2020 4:30 pm

Where do you think he missed? I've mention some, one is obviously trying to understanding zen with words, the other that he didn't though meditation was necessary, quoting him: a cat sits and gets up when he fells like to.
I am not terribly familiar with Watts. But I recently took a look again at The Way of Zen. I hadn't read it since my teens (and don't recall at that time finding it interesting).

My impression now: basic factual inaccuracies in the text are too numerous to list. One may start with the first page of the first chapter, where he asserts the misunderstanding that has since (perhaps largely because of him) become commonplace among aspiring Zen beginners, namely that Zen is a kind of Daoist-Buddhist hybrid. At best, it is a curio work - neither scholarly nor of use to practitioners - and may perhaps be consigned to whatever shelf is reserved for such things. I do appreciate that it may have inspired some to seek out Buddhadharma. But there is nothing in it to recommend it now to someone interested in actual Zen practice or teachings.

An erudite and well-spoken intellectual opining on a tradition about which he has heard a few interesting things, and holding forth with puzzling hubris (if also some sincere admiration) on profound practices he has not done, may be entertaining to some. But speaking about this book at least, the misconceptions imparted in the process have, I think, been a disservice.
It is relatively easy to accomplish the important matter of insight into one’s true nature, but uncommonly difficult to function freely and clearly [according to this understanding], in motion and in rest, in good and in adverse circumstances. Please make strenuous and vigorous efforts towards this end, otherwise all the teachings of Buddhas and patriarchs become mere empty words. - Torei

The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Hidden Zen: Practices for Sudden Awakening and Embodied Realization

Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by boda » Wed Mar 25, 2020 4:38 pm

Meido wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 4:30 pm
Where do you think he missed? I've mention some, one is obviously trying to understanding zen with words, the other that he didn't though meditation was necessary, quoting him: a cat sits and gets up when he fells like to.
I am not terribly familiar with Watts. But I recently took a look again at The Way of Zen. I hadn't read it since my teens (and don't recall at that time finding it interesting).

My impression now: basic factual inaccuracies in the text are too numerous to list. One may start with the first page of the first chapter, where he asserts the misunderstanding that has since (perhaps largely because of him) become commonplace among aspiring Zen beginners, namely that Zen is a kind of Daoist-Buddhist hybrid. At best, it is a curio work, best left consigned to whatever shelf is reserved for such things. I do appreciate that it may have inspired some to seek out Buddhadharma. But there is nothing in it that recommends it to someone interested in actual Zen practice or teachings.

An erudite and well-spoken intellectual opining on a tradition about which he has heard a few interesting things, and holding forth with puzzling hubris on profound practices he has not done, may be entertaining to some. But speaking about this book at least, the misconceptions imparted in the process have, I think, been a disservice.
With all due respect, Meido, you say that you’re not very familiar with the man yet claim to know what practices he had done. Can you clarify?

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by JoaoRodrigues » Wed Mar 25, 2020 5:02 pm

Aemilius wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 3:59 pm
On what gorunds do you (or other people) say that "he was never able to free himself"? What do you mean by it? That he never had kensho? Or that he is not a stream winner or at higher stages? Or that he had not developed bodhicitta
I don't think anyone here is capable of affirming that he had or not had kensho. We could probably say that his lifestyle didn't go in accordance with a enlightened being, there's plenty of information about it from people that knew him, heavy drinking, infidelity, pornography / masturbation obsession, a book written about it: zen effects by monica furlong. I guess we could argue the opposite, that he lived accordingly with what he talked about, that might be concerning and one of the reasons I opened this thread: to know how could someone say accurate things, things that according to zen teachings one can't reach with words, only experiencing, assuming he reached there, how could he not apply it (taking in consideration zen-buddhist teachings and not his philosophies). That would raise the question if his words are actually accurate, if not, my question doesn't have a use.

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Wed Mar 25, 2020 5:25 pm

Interesting guy, but always struck me as just a few steps up from Jack Kerouac in terms of learning about Zen.

An analogy would be someone in the Tibetan traditions opening a book with something like "Tibetan Buddhism is a hybrid of Buddhism and the indigenous Bon tradition". This is a thing people outside the tradition say all the time. It's a statement that lacks such nuance that it is basically untrue, and in some ways harmful to both traditions.

We may not be able to evaluate someone's realization from it, but we can evaluate their exposure and practice of the traditions involved, as this sort of statement is telling of someone who simply never really "went there".
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by Meido » Wed Mar 25, 2020 6:21 pm

boda wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 4:38 pm
With all due respect, Meido, you say that you’re not very familiar with the man yet claim to know what practices he had done. Can you clarify?
I have no idea what practices, if any, Watts did do, and have not claimed so. But certainly, any of us can say what he didn't do. This is because Watts says so himself in the Preface to the mentioned book. He states - after explaining why, to his mind, someone actually involved with Zen would not be the best person to write about Zen - that he himself is not one of those people, and that his association with Zen has consisted of appreciating Zen art since boyhood, as well as informal association with a few people who practiced Zen.

One could also read the second half of the book, about practice, where multiple inaccuracies (for example about koan practice) further confirm that he has not been actually done the things he is talking about.
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 5:25 pm
An analogy would be someone in the Tibetan traditions opening a book with something like "Tibetan Buddhism is a hybrid of Buddhism and the indigenous Bon tradition". This is a thing people outside the tradition say all the time. It's a statement that lacks such nuance that it is basically untrue, and in some ways harmful to both traditions.

We may not be able to evaluate someone's realization from it, but we can evaluate their exposure and practice of the traditions involved, as this sort of statement is telling of someone who simply never really "went there".
Yes, I think this is spot on.
It is relatively easy to accomplish the important matter of insight into one’s true nature, but uncommonly difficult to function freely and clearly [according to this understanding], in motion and in rest, in good and in adverse circumstances. Please make strenuous and vigorous efforts towards this end, otherwise all the teachings of Buddhas and patriarchs become mere empty words. - Torei

The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Hidden Zen: Practices for Sudden Awakening and Embodied Realization

Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by boda » Wed Mar 25, 2020 7:26 pm

Meido wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 6:21 pm
boda wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 4:38 pm
With all due respect, Meido, you say that you’re not very familiar with the man yet claim to know what practices he had done. Can you clarify?
I have no idea what practices, if any, Watts did do, and have not claimed so. But certainly, any of us can say what he didn't do. This is because Watts says so himself in the Preface to the mentioned book. He states - after explaining why, to his mind, someone actually involved with Zen would not be the best person to write about Zen - that he himself is not one of those people, and that his association with Zen has consisted of appreciating Zen art since boyhood, as well as informal association with a few people who practiced Zen.

One could also read the second half of the book, about practice, where multiple inaccuracies (for example about koan practice) further confirm that he has not been actually done the things he is talking about.
Thanks for clarifying.

I don't think there is any doubt that he meditated in some fashion, and in that sense had a practice. Can anyone really judge that practice? It may not align with your practice, which I'm sure you would be a good judge. I guess the question is if he could fall under the general category of 'Zen'.

Personally, I don't see how anyone couldn't love the guy. I can see how those invested in a particular tradition would want to put distance between their tradition and such an untraditional man.

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by JoaoRodrigues » Wed Mar 25, 2020 7:51 pm

Meido wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 6:21 pm
One could also read the second half of the book, about practice, where multiple inaccuracies (for example about koan practice) further confirm that he has not been actually done the things he is talking about.
Could you mention specifically? Doesn’t need to be quoting, just your interpretation of what he said and how it’s inaccurate.

And yes, his daughter said he didn’t ever practice any thing related to zen or any other philosophy / religion. He was focused on the scholar part. He was asked once about his drinking, he vaguely responded. He was like you said fascinated with eastern painting, it’s simplicity... he was a questioner, and the simplicity of zen took him, like it took many questioners faced with questions without an answer.

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by Meido » Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:33 am

boda wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 4:38 pm
Personally, I don't see how anyone couldn't love the guy. I can see how those invested in a particular tradition would want to put distance between their tradition and such an untraditional man.
I'm sure he had lovable qualities. As I said, i don't know much about him. The only thing I'm really interested in addressing here is the question posed in the OP, i.e. why he is viewed less than positively in Zen circles.

The answer to that has nothing to do with him being "untraditional," if indeed he was. Unless by untraditional one means presuming to write a book intending (as he says) to explain Zen teachings and practice to Westerners better than can be done by someone who actually practices Zen. Really, the tortuous argument he gives in his preface as to why he was best qualified of all possible persons to introduce Zen to Westerners should be enough for anyone to remember that sometimes, love just aint enough.
JoaoRodrigues wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 7:51 pm
Could you mention specifically? Doesn’t need to be quoting, just your interpretation of what he said and how it’s inaccurate.

And yes, his daughter said he didn’t ever practice any thing related to zen...
I'll leave it at that.
It is relatively easy to accomplish the important matter of insight into one’s true nature, but uncommonly difficult to function freely and clearly [according to this understanding], in motion and in rest, in good and in adverse circumstances. Please make strenuous and vigorous efforts towards this end, otherwise all the teachings of Buddhas and patriarchs become mere empty words. - Torei

The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Hidden Zen: Practices for Sudden Awakening and Embodied Realization

Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:38 am

boda wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 7:26 pm
Meido wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 6:21 pm
boda wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 4:38 pm
With all due respect, Meido, you say that you’re not very familiar with the man yet claim to know what practices he had done. Can you clarify?
I have no idea what practices, if any, Watts did do, and have not claimed so. But certainly, any of us can say what he didn't do. This is because Watts says so himself in the Preface to the mentioned book. He states - after explaining why, to his mind, someone actually involved with Zen would not be the best person to write about Zen - that he himself is not one of those people, and that his association with Zen has consisted of appreciating Zen art since boyhood, as well as informal association with a few people who practiced Zen.

One could also read the second half of the book, about practice, where multiple inaccuracies (for example about koan practice) further confirm that he has not been actually done the things he is talking about.
Thanks for clarifying.

I don't think there is any doubt that he meditated in some fashion, and in that sense had a practice. Can anyone really judge that practice? It may not align with your practice, which I'm sure you would be a good judge. I guess the question is if he could fall under the general category of 'Zen'.
Honestly, yes. People can judge a practice. While the ultimate results are hidden from us as deluded beings, someone who is unwilling to give up their personal prediliections enough to adopt a tradition and practice it earnestly is probably not really practicing, as far as Buddhist tradition is concerned.

This doesn't mean being a zealot, needing to wear certain grab, or even being particularly orthodox....it just means giving up enough of yourself to practice what has been passed down earnestly, and suspend the usual skepticism, cynicism, and bypassing that allows people to "sample from afar" and not go further. If one's exposure to Zen stays in the conceptual realm, it's hardly exposure to Zen.

If someone "meditates" and they are not using the -huge- wealth of knowledge that comes from direct association with the lineages and traditions they admire...then what are they really practicing?

In this sense you could compare it to a mundane pursuit like martial arts. Lots of people are good at talking about martial arts, categorizing them and knowing their history, maybe they know some interesting little stories, and maybe they can throw a punch or two. This is quite different from someone who spends years going deep into a martial art...there is really no comparison at all...even if the first group can write a well-received book, and they do.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by Wayfarer » Thu Mar 26, 2020 2:33 am

My illusions about Alan Watts were shattered by two things. First, when I was a cab driver, decades ago, I picked up a really cool-looking American dude to take to the airport, and I had the impression he might be interested in Watts, whose book The Book: on the Taboo against Knowing who you Are, had made a great impression on me.

'You know that he died from alcoholism', was all he had to say.

Not long after that, I got the biography by Monica Furlong, which was published in Australia under the title Genuine Fake (published under a different name elsewhere). That was a no-holds-barred account, and pretty depressing to read; he really did die an alcoholic, he was consuming a bottle of spirits a day towards the end of his life. To me, that kind of negated any prospect of the kind of wisdom that I thought he had communicated so brilliantly. It was obvious that although articulate and eloquent - and I still think he's a brilliant philosophical prose stylist - he never really 'walked the walk'.

Actually, that was one of three things that happened around the same time - the other was the scarifying Common Boundary article on Chogyam Trungpa, and the Rosalind Rajagopal Sloss book on Krishnamurti. (This must have been early 90's). I was very disillusioned by all of those.

All that said, I think Watts still had some profound things to say, and that he said some things that you wouldn't find in other sources. In his defense, I don't think he ever proclaimed himself any kind of spiritual master or guru, in fact he said he was an entertainer. I still retain a lot from some of his serious books, like The Supreme Identity and Beyond Theology. But I think he can be seriously misleading if taken as any kind of authority - he needs to be understood in context, and that takes a fair bit of reading and study.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by Wayfarer » Thu Mar 26, 2020 2:41 am

Incidentally, it might be noted that the reason for the resurgence of interest in current culture, is mainly due to the work of his son, Mark Watts, who has worked tirelessly to preserve and publicize his father's works, and also one of the animators behind South Park, who made a whole bunch of Youtube animations of some of Watt's talks, like this one:




Note also his splendidly resonant English voice - that doesn't hurt.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by PeterC » Thu Mar 26, 2020 3:52 am

Meido wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 4:30 pm
One may start with the first page of the first chapter, where he asserts the misunderstanding that has since (perhaps largely because of him) become commonplace among aspiring Zen beginners, namely that Zen is a kind of Daoist-Buddhist hybrid.
In fairness to those people, this is a very easy mistake to make when you confuse the medium with the message. There is a lot of common cultural baggage around the visual arts and poetry. Someone lacking an understanding of classical Chinese art might not realize that the apparent common ground is just due to the cultural milieu - I believe this was an important motivation for Watts when he first became interested in the field. The people making that mistake also usually don't realize that the art they so admire was usually created by people who lacked any particular achievement in either Buddhism or Daoism.

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Re: Alan Watts

Post by boda » Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:32 am

Meido wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:33 am
boda wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 4:38 pm
Personally, I don't see how anyone couldn't love the guy. I can see how those invested in a particular tradition would want to put distance between their tradition and such an untraditional man.
I'm sure he had lovable qualities. As I said, i don't know much about him. The only thing I'm really interested in addressing here is the question posed in the OP, i.e. why he is viewed less than positively in Zen circles.

The answer to that has nothing to do with him being "untraditional," if indeed he was.
Having just read the preface, I suppose the appropriate term is "universal individualists," though I don't see a difference in meaning. And having read the preface, I'm more convinced that it has everything to do with being a universal individualist. In the preface he writes:
I cannot represent myself as a Zenist, or even as a Buddhist, for this seems to me to be like trying to wrap up and label the sky. I cannot represent myself as a scientifically objective academician, for - with respect to Zen - this seems to me to be like studying bird-song in a collection of stuffed nightingales.
...
In this friendly neutral position one is apt to be disowned by both sides.
Yep.
Unless by untraditional one means presuming to write a book intending (as he says) to explain Zen teachings and practice to Westerners better than can be done by someone who actually practices Zen.
Again from the preface:
Perhaps, then, the most appropriate author of such a work would be a Westerner who had spent some years under a Japanese master, going through the whole course of Zen training.
Not knowing much about him, as you say, it seems there shouldn't be a reason to disbelieve him here. Also:
Ideally, I suppose, such a work should be written by an accomplished and recognized Zen master. But at present no such person has sufficient command of English.
So some of his reasoning was merely practical.
Really, the tortuous argument he gives in his preface as to why he was best qualified of all possible persons to introduce Zen to Westerners should be enough for anyone to remember that sometimes, love just aint enough.
This is somewhat of a mischaracterization, he offered reasons for why his work may be of value but did not argu what you claim he argued. Near summation of his position he humbly states:
... even if this study of Zen does no more than express a standpoint which is neither Zen nor anything Western, it will at least provide that third point of reference.
Anyway, Meido, perhaps we can agree to disagree on why this lovable man is viewed less than positively in Zen circles and move on to the much more important issue of when your next book(s?) will be available. I periodically check the Koeinji website in eager anticipation. Can you give an ETA?

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Dan74
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Re: Alan Watts

Post by Dan74 » Thu Mar 26, 2020 8:06 am

JoaoRodrigues wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 2:53 pm
Dan74 wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 7:25 pm
Until that is, I did my first actual Zen retreat. And then I realised I had not the faintest idea.
What made you realize that? Meditation? Other sources / studies it were taught to you there?
Meditation, initially. Restlessness, not coping with pain, Endless story-making and getting caught up in it... Etc etc… "oh, what a tangled web we weave..."
JoaoRodrigues wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 2:53 pm
Dan74 wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 7:25 pm
Zen Buddhism is not about an intellectual understanding. Zen realisation is in the marrow of your bones. It in not an idea. That's where Alan Watts' contribution ends and some may say, it is actually counterproductive.
Yes, he said that quite often, but he did try to grab it intellectually, he did a good job I believe. Why do you find it counterproductive? Do you think that people that see zen true his teachings will have problems making a transition to "practice"?
Yes, I think some people mistake Zen for a kind of a mental trick. And it's anything but.
JoaoRodrigues wrote:
Wed Mar 25, 2020 2:53 pm
Dan74 wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 7:25 pm
Because it's given a generation (or more) a false notion of what Zen really is about.
Where do you think he missed? I've mention some, one is obviously trying to understanding zen with words, the other that he didn't though meditation was necessary, quoting him: a cat sits and gets up when he fells like to.
He was probably enchanted by his abilities and the reactions they produced and at the same time revolted by what lay beneath the spark, which drove him to drink. And deep down probably afraid to get buckle down to it and immerse himself. Whether due to a lack of self-belief or some other factor.. I am only guessing though..

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