The Way of Zen

The Way of Zen

by Alan W. Watts

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Overview

In his definitive introduction to Zen Buddhism, Alan Watts explains the principles and practices of this ancient religion to Western readers. With a rare combination of freshness and lucidity, he delves into the origins and history of Zen to explain what it means for the world today with incredible clarity. Watts saw Zen as “one of the most precious gifts of Asia to the world,” and in The Way of Zen he gives this gift to readers everywhere.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375705106
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/28/1999
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 41,121
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.54(d)

About the Author

Alan W. Watts, who held both a master’s degree in theology and a doctorate of divinity, is best remembered as an interpreter of Zen Buddhism in particular, and of Indian and Chinese philosophy in general. Standing apart, however, from sectarian membership, he has earned the reputation of being one of the most original and “unrutted” philosophers of the twentieth century. Watts was the author of some twenty books on the philosophy and psychology of religion that have been published in many languages throughout the world, including the bestselling The Way of Zen. An avid lecturer, Watts appeared regularly on the radio and hosted the popular television series, Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life,in the 1960s. He died in 1973.

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The Way of Zen 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As most of us know, Watts is historically one of the most significant writer's introducing the West to Eastern thought. Although 'The Book' may speak to a wider audience, this is the best English book on Eastern thought in terms of accesibility and comprehensiveness. It provides us a nice historical overview of the evolution of this type of consciousness and explains the main messages of various 'Eastern' schools of thought in a way that most of us Western minds can comprehend. Because of this, I use this as a book as one of the texts in my class of Eastern philosophy. Another book I use for this class is a book called 'The Ever-Transcending Spirit' by Toru Sato. It is an excellent book that provides a nice bridge between Western thought and Eastern thought in a way that students can understand and appreciate. If you are truly interested in Eastern thought, I believe that these two books are two pieces of essential reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book by Alan Watts is concise and to the point. Zen thought and practice is distinct from world religions in that it is a philosophy of being 'in the moment.' Watts reveals the subtlety of Zen ideas -- especially applicable for people who feel trapped in the age of the so-called 'rat race.' There is hope of a calm life, emptied of the 'tape recorder' in your head repeating everything that: 1. might have been done better (regrets about the past -- which is gone); and, 2. must be done in the future (anxiety about that which has not even come). If you feel 'unsettled,' read this book . . .
Aaron Knight More than 1 year ago
Well written. Wide ranging. Includes history and great examples of Zen teaching along with the comments and explanatory summaries of the author.
Inkwirer More than 1 year ago
Surprised why the guy doesn't have a doctorate on the matter. I checked out most the things he wrote and their all spot on when it came to the buddhism terms, quotes and important figures. Not usually one to cross-check someone else's body of work but one can't really be sure these days as even the all-mighty Oprah's been duped by someone clever enough to wield a keyboard and printer.
Bidwell-Glaze on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Way of Zen, by Alan W. Watts is a scholarly popularization of Zen Buddhism, written in 1957. It has the bibliography, notes and index of a scholarly book, but the looser style of a book written for real people. In the author's opinion, Zen cannot be understood in a purely literary or scholarly method. The author is, therefore, a participant observer. He attempts to put it within a context understandable by the Western mind, I think he is successful in that attempt.The book is divided into 2 parts. The first part gives us the context for Zen. The background and history includes information on how the Eastern mind-set differs from the Western mind-set and how this informs the study of Zen. He discusses the Chinese tradition of Tao (the Way), Buddhism in general, and how they joined to create Zen. The second part of the book is about Zen principles and practices; empty mind, still body, contemplating koans (sayings), and creating art in stillness.In the beginning, Watts reminds us how much our conventions and mind-sets informs our understanding. When we say the word fist, it is a noun, a thing. It is not a part of our body or an action we have chosen to take. Thus we can ask ¿what happens to my fist [noun-object] when I open my hand?¿(p.5). Because our conventions are different from Asian conventions it is difficult to study Zen using translated Asian texts. We are missing the context. ¿... so that one who thinks in Chinese has little difficulty in seeing that objects are also events, that our world is a collection of processes rather than entities.¿ (p.5) It then takes pages of examples, explanations, quotations and analysis to get the feel of Tao and wu-wei. Wu is non or not, wei is action, doing, striving, busyness or grasping. Other concepts from the Tao are also expressed. The next chapters deal with India's religious background, Buddhism, how Buddhism changed when it became accepted in China, and the beginning of Ch'an (China) and Zen (Japan).The book goes gingerly, step-by-step along the path of understanding, yet it never condescends. In Watt's words, the difference between Zen and other meditation traditions of Buddhism is the feeling that ¿awakening¿ is quite natural and possible to attain in this lifetime, at any moment. Your regular family life and duties can continue to be fulfilled while you experience the ¿thunderous silence¿ of enlightenment.The second part of the book, the principles and practices of Zen are understandable because of the context explained in the first part of the book.I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this old friend for this review.
yapete on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm not a huge Watts fan - too esoteric for me. But this is a great introduction into Eastern Philosophy. I keep rereading this one, just to rermind myself of its profound insights.
wrmjr66 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very good historical overview of the development of Zen Buddhism. It is not so much a description of beliefs and practices for someone who wishes to practice Zen Buddhism as it is a scholarly description of thos beliefs and practices. So if you are looking for a handbook to Zen, look elsewhere. But if you are interested in the place of Zen in the history of other forms of Buddhism, this is an excellent, readable study.
neurodrew on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very difficult book. Alan Watts is clearly convinced that Zen is a great truth and superior in many ways to western thought, but he is not convincing. Much of the problem is tendentiousness. Western thought is said to be limited by mind body dualism, and Zen liberated by using the ""peripheral vision of the mind"" to grasp essential truths about existence. But is western thought limited by the envisioning of a world separate from the self, or emboldened to manipulate that world rather than allowing it to simply exist? The historical summary of thought is confusing, and the repetition of the koans of Zen teaching simply mysterious. Is it really useful to have sitting meditation when monks are beaten to stay awake, or is it, as Watts admits, a response to the constraints of oriental politeness? I plan to revisit this book another time, since the simplicity of the doctrine and its lack of a god-centered view of reality is appealing, but I have not yet been able to separate the sensation of satori from terminal boredom.
ostrom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Watts comes off as a bit of a snob, ironically, but he's very smart, and the book is clear. It's almost as if acquiring knowledge of Zen made him feel superior--a bit un-Zen-like.
RAP-BIG-ICP1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great information. A labor to read. The audio version makes this a little better.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
It has become fashionable among those who speak in the electronic media, and other illiterates, to drop the initial article. But you would think a bookseller would try to get the title of a book right. This book was my initial introduction to Zen Buddhism. It warrants frequent rereadings. Watts was a certain kind of genius.