Alan Watts

Alan Watts

Alan Wilson Watts (6 January 1915 – 16 November 1973) was a British philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and populariser of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. 

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You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.

Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We do not realize that there never was, is, nor will be any other experience than present experience.

Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.

Just as true humor is laughter at oneself, true humanity is knowledge of oneself.

This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.

Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way.

Society is our extended mind and body.

Never pretend to a love which you do not actually feel, for love is not ours to command.

The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.

We are, therefore, out of touch with reality. We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is. 

We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infinitesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. 

Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.

The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless.

To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float. 

The question “what shall we do about it” is only asked by those who do not understand the problem.

Omnipotence is not knowing how everything is done, it's just doing it.

Religion is not a department of life, it is something that enters into the whole of it.

The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand, nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.

No valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.

Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.

I owe my solitude to other people.

Faith is a state of openness or trust.

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it and join the dance.

How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain, can experience itself anything less than a god.

So then the relationship of self to other is the complete realization that loving yourself is impossible without loving everything defined as other than yourself.

Saints need sinners.

We cannot be more sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain.

In known history nobody has had such capacity for altering the universe than the people of the United States of America. And nobody has gone about it in such an aggressive way.

But we try to pretend, you see, that the external world exists altogether independently of us.

You and I are all as much continuous with the physical universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean.

Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.

You are that vast thing that you see far far off with great telescopes.

But I'll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you'll come to understand that you're connected with everything.

We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree.

No one is more dangerously insane than one who is sane all the time: he is like a steel bridge without flexibility, and the order of his life is rigid and brittle.

Peace can be made only by those who are peaceful, and love can be shown only by those who love.

We must abandon completely the notion of blaming the past for any kind of situation we’re in and reverse our thinking and see that the past always flows back form the present. 

What we have forgotten is that thoughts and words are conventions, and that it is fatal to take conventions too seriously. 

Jesus Christ knew he was God. So wake up and find out eventually who you really are. In our culture, of course, they’ll say you’re crazy and you’re blasphemous, and they’ll either put you in jail or in a nut house (which is pretty much the same thing). However if you wake up in India and tell your friends and relations, ‘My goodness, I’ve just discovered that I’m God,’ they’ll laugh and say, ‘Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.

I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.

And the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging to belief of holding on.

But the attitude of faith is to let go and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.

We identify in our experience a differentiation between what we do and what happens to us.

Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe.

If you study the writings of the mystics, you will always find things in them that appear to be paradoxes, as in Zen particularly.

The ego is nothing other than the focus of conscious attention.

The religious idea of God cannot do full duty for the metaphysical infinity.

Reality is only a Rorschach ink-blot, you know.

But at any rate the point is that God is what nobody admits to being and everybody really is.

The reason we have poverty is that we have no imagination. There are a great many people accumulating what they think is vast wealth, but it's only money... they don't know how to enjoy it because they have no imagination.

Some believe all that parents, tutors and kindred believe. They take their principles by inheritance and defend them as they would their estates because they are born heirs to them.

But to me nothing - the negative, the empty - is exceedingly powerful.

No work or love will flourish out of guilt, fear or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.

And although our bodies are bounded with skin, and we can differentiate between outside and inside, they cannot exist except in a certain kind of natural environment.

The style of God venerated in the church, mosque or synagogue, seems completely different from the style of the natural universe.

The reason we want to go on and on is because we live in an impoverished present.

The difficulty for most of us in the modern world is that the old-fashioned idea of God has become incredible or implausible.

Buddhism has in it no idea of there being a moral law laid down by somekind of cosmic lawgiver.

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.

So the bodhisattva saves all beings, not by preaching sermons to them, but by showing them that they are delivered, they are liberated by the act of not being able to stop changing.

In other words a person who is fanatic in matters of religion and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe, becomes a person who has no faith at all.

What the devil is the point of surviving, going on living, when it's a drag? But, you see, that's what people do.

So, what is discord at one level of your being is harmony at another level.

The myths underlying our culture and underlying our common sense have not taught us to feel identical with the universe, but only parts of it only in it only confronting it - aliens.

A myth is an image in terms of which we try to make sense of the world.

The moralist is the person who tells people that they ought to be unselfish, when they still feel like egos, and his efforts are always and invariably futile.

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

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