Alan Watts, fully Alan Wilson Watts

Alan
Watts, fully Alan Wilson Watts
1915
1973

English-born American Philosopher, Writer, Exponent of Zen Buddhism

Author Quotes

Try to imagine what it will be like to go to sleep and never wake up... now try to imagine what it was like to wake up having never gone to sleep.

Underneath the superficial self, which pays attention to this and that, there is another self more really us than I.

Understanding comes through awareness. Can we, then, approach our experience--our sensations, feelings, and thoughts--quite simply, as if we had never known them before, and, without prejudice, look at what is going on? You may ask, "Which experiences, which sensations and feelings, shall we look at?" I will answer, "Which ones can you look at?" The answer is that you must look at the ones you have now.

Unless one is able to live fully in the present, the future is a hoax. There is no point whatever in making plans for a future which you will never be able to enjoy. When your plans mature, you will still be living for some other future beyond.

Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.

Wars based on principle are far more destructive... the attacker will not destroy that which he is after.

This-the immediate, everyday, and present experience-is IT, the entire and ultimate point for the existence of a universe.

To most of us living today, all these fantasies of the future seem most objectionable: the loss of privacy and freedom, the restriction of travel, and the progressive conversion of flesh and blood, wood and stone, fruit and fish, sight and sound, into plastic, synthetic, and electronic reproductions. Increasingly, the artist and musician puts himself out of business through making ever more faithful and inexpensive reproductions of his original works. Is reproduction in this sense to replace biological reproduction, through cellular fission or sexual union? In short, is the next step in evolution to be the transformation of man into nothing more than electronic patterns?

Thought and science are therefore raising problems which their terms of study can never answer, many of which are doubtless problems only for thought. The trisection of an angle is similarly an insoluble problem only for compass and straight-edge construction, and Achilles cannot overtake the tortoise so long as their progress is considered piecemeal, endlessly having the distance between them. However, as it is not Achilles but the method of measurement which fails to catch up with the tortoise, so it is not man but his method of thought which fails to find fulfillment in experience.

To play so as to be relaxed and refreshed for work is not to play, and no work is well and finely done unless it, too, is a form of play.

Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.

To practice with an end in view is to have one eye on the practice and the other on the end, which is lack of concentration, lack of sincerity.

Therefore, if reason grows out of the primal energy that we are, then it means that the primal energy is at least reasonable, whatever else it may be. You can tell the tree by its fruits ? for by their fruits you shall know them ? and so it is that figs do not grow on thistles, or grapes on thorns, and a stupid universe does not create people. People are a manifestation of the potentiality in the energy of the universe, and if we are intelligent, then that which we express is also intelligent. By logical extension, that in which we express it is our central self. The world is not something external; it is what is most fundamentally you.

Thus bamboozled, the individual--instead of fulfilling his unique function in the world--is exhausted and frustrated in efforts to accomplish self-contradictory goals. Because he is now so largely defined as a separate person caught up in a mindless and alien universe, his principal task is to get one-up on the universe and to conquer nature.

To put is still more plainly: the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.

There's no point in going on living unless we make the assumption that the situation of life is optimal.

Thus for thousands of years human history has been a magnificently futile conflict, a wonderfully staged panorama of triumphs and tragedies based on the resolute taboo against admitting that black goes with white. Nothing, perhaps, ever got nowhere with so much fascinating ado. As when Tweedledum and Tweedledee agreed to have a battle, the essential trick of the Game of Black-and-White is a most tacit conspiracy for the partners to conceal their unity, and to look as different as possible. It is like a stage fight so well acted that the audience is ready to believe it a real fight. Hidden behind their explicit differences is the implicit unity of what Vedanta calls the Self, the One-without-a second, the what there is and the all that there is which conceals itself in the form of you. If, then, there is this basic unity between self and other, individual and universe, how have our minds become so narrow that we don't know it?

To remain stable is to refrain from trying to separate yourself from a pain because you know that you cannot. Running away from fear is fear, fighting pain is pain, trying to be brave is being scared. If the mind is in pain, the mind is pain. The thinker has no other form than his thought. There is no escape.

They found security in letting go rather than in holding on and, in so doing, developed an attitude toward life that might be called psychophysical judo. Nearly twenty-five centuries ago, the Chinese sages Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu had called it wu-wei, which is perhaps best translated as action without forcing. It is sailing in the stream of the Tao, or course of nature, and navigating the currents of li (organic pattern)?a word that originally signified the natural markings in jade or the grain in wood. As this attitude spread and prevailed in the wake of Vibration Training, people became more and more indulgent about eccentricity in life-style, tolerant of racial and religious differences, and adventurous in exploring unusual ways of loving.

Thus the "brainy" economy... is a fantastic vicious circle which must either manufacture more and more pleasures or collapse--providing a constant titillation of the ears, eyes, and nerve ends with incessant streams of almost inescapable noise and visual distractions. The perfect "subject" for the aims of this economy is the person who continuously itches his ears with the radio, preferably using the portable kind which can go with him at all hours and in all places. His eyes flit without rest from television screen, to newspaper, to magazine, keeping him in a sort of orgasm-without-release through a series of teasing glimpses of shiny automobiles, shiny female bodies, and other sensuous surfaces, interspersed with such restorers of sensitivity--shock treatments--as "human interest" shots of criminals, mangled bodies, wrecked airplanes, prize fights, and burning buildings. The literature or discourse that goes along with this is similarly manufactured to tease without satisfaction, to replace every partial gratification with a new desire.

To Taoism that which is absolutely still or absolutely perfect is absolutely dead, for without the possibility of growth and change there can be no Tao. In reality there is nothing in the universe which is completely perfect or completely still; it is only in the minds of men that such concepts exist.

Things are as they are. Looking out into it the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.

Time is a measure of energy, a measure of motion. And we have agreed internationally on the speed of the clock. And I want you to think about clocks and watches for a moment. We are of course slaves to them. And you will notice that your watch is a circle, and that it is calibrated, and that each minute, or second, is marked by a hairline which is made as narrow as possible, as yet to be consistent with being visible. And when we think of a moment of time, when we think what we mean by the word 'now'; we think of the shortest possible instant that is here and gone, because that corresponds with the hairline on the watch. And as a result of this fabulous idea, we are a people who feel that we don't have any present, because the present is instantly vanishing - it goes so quickly. It is always becoming past. And we have the sensation, therefore, of our lives as something that is constantly flowing away from us. We are constantly losing time. And so we have a sense of urgency. Time is not to be wasted. Time is money. And so, because of the tyranny of this thing, we feel that we have a past, and we know who we are in terms of our past. Nobody can ever tell you who you are, they can only tell you who they were. And we think we also have a future. And that is terribly important, because we have a naive hope that the future is somehow going to supply what we are looking for. You see, if you live in a present that is so short that it is not really here at all, you will always feel vaguely frustrated.

To the philosophers of India, however, Relativity is no new discovery, just as the concept of light years is no matter for astonishment to people used to thinking of time in millions of kalpas, (A kalpa is about 4,320,000 years). The fact that the wise men of India have not been concerned with technological applications of this knowledge arises from the circumstance that technology is but one of innumerable ways of applying it.

Things are not explained by the past, they are explained by what happens now.

Author Picture
First Name
Alan
Last Name
Watts, fully Alan Wilson Watts
Birth Date
1915
Death Date
1973
Bio

English-born American Philosopher, Writer, Exponent of Zen Buddhism