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Tao: The Watercourse Way

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  2,710 Ratings  ·  90 Reviews
Drawing on ancient and modern sources, Watts treats the Chinese philosophy of Tao in much the same way as he did Zen Buddhism in his classic The Way of Zen. Critics agree that this last work stands as a perfect monument to the life and literature of Alan Watts Table Of Contents: ForewordviiPrefacexivProlegomenaxviiThe Pronunciation of Chinese Wordsxxi1The Chinese Written L ...more
Paperback, 1st edition, 160 pages
Published 1975 by Pantheon
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Andrew Neuendorf
May 17, 2012 Andrew Neuendorf rated it it was amazing
Ha Ha Ha Ho Ho Ho !
Camille Stein


¿Qué es aquello que se aleja cada vez que es perseguido? La respuesta es: tú mismo.
Dec 22, 2008 Marc rated it it was amazing
While I most enjoy the hundreds of hours of lectures by this, my favorite thinker of all time, I do treasure this book which was his last - and was a gift to me from his son Mark. After I received it, I noticed the musty smell of a fine old book. Watts died in the 70's while in his late 50's and he lived on a houseboat in Sausalito harbor near San Francisco (he also had a cabin in the forests just 30 minutes north where he would go for solitude). When I asked Mark about the smell of the book he ...more
Мартин Касабов
Дао на водата:

Никога не съм се интересувал от източните философии и религии. За момче, израснало с традиционно християнско образование, те винаги са били символ на езичеството. Тази година обаче книжният път ме отведе до "Пътят на Дзен" на Алън Уотс - книга, която представя естеството на Дао и дзен за западния читател. От нея осъзнах колко малко съм разбирал и какво предразсъдъци са ме спирали да изследвам културата на източния човек. Сега издателство "Из
Sep 24, 2014 Johnny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual
I read this book, Watts' last, immediately after reading The Spirit of Zen, his first. What I got from The Spirit of Zen was to what great extent early Zen Buddhism was influenced by Taoism. What I got from The Watercourse Way was how utterly fucking cool Taoism is. A fitting swan song from the ever-lucid Watts.
It is very difficult to for me to write this review because, like water, Tao seems to be something so pervasive yet so elusive. It is the source of everything but it is not their Creator. It permeates everything but it cannot be seen and cannot be grasp. It reigns but does not rule. Tao has order but it is not law. Because we are part of Tao, and Tao flows through us, we are part of the stream and it is difficult for us to see, understand or describe it objectively.

"The Tao that can be spoken is
Olga Teslenko
Nov 12, 2016 Olga Teslenko rated it it was amazing
This is the book which explaines why it is impossible to foollow the requets like " You have to relax" or "You need to love God with all your heart".
There are things in life which are natural like loving, relaxing, gettinng inspiration. Fortunately, noone can hurry them or postpone them as noone can smooth out the waves on the sea (and one`s thoughts , to tell the truth). One can only attune to them and follow the course much like the coursewater.
Alan Watts tells that living is turned to such a
Harish Venkatesan
Apr 27, 2009 Harish Venkatesan rated it really liked it
"Just as Chinese writing is at least one step closer to nature than ours, so the ancient philosophy of the Tao is of a skillful and intelligent following of the course, current, and grain of natural phenomena— seeing human life as an integral feature of the world process, and not as something alien and opposed to it. Looking at this philosophy with the needs and problems of modern civilization in mind, it suggests an attitude to the world which must underlie all our efforts towards an ecological ...more
Apr 29, 2008 Josh added it
Wow. A fitting capstone to Watts' catalog.

A topic that necessarily defies linguistic elucidation is necessarily the most ambitious topic a writer can take on. The fact that Lao Tzu did it once should be enough to deter all other interpreters. Far beyond scholarship, this is nearly as essential as the Tao Te Ching itself.

I will take some issue with Watts' dismissal of pranayama (and the bulk of yogic practice) toward the end, but I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one and sa
Frank D'hanis junior
Oct 11, 2014 Frank D'hanis junior rated it really liked it
This was my first brush with the work of Alan Watts, and I have to say it was very intriguing. Not so much because of the content, I read quite some classical Chinese in university and there were no real surprises, but more because of the magnetic personality of the writer that radiates of each page. In the afterword there's an account from the coauthor about the great joy as well as the tragedy in Watts' life, which I found very moving.
Jan 14, 2013 Rachel rated it it was amazing
The finger pointing to the moon is not the moon, and the Way that can be named is not the eternal Way. Watts knows this well, but points and names for fun anyway (more effectively than anyone else I've come across so far.)
Aug 21, 2016 GhostKnight rated it it was amazing
Awesome, mind-blowing, effectively powerful and over all a magnificent piece of work. Watt's final books adjusts the ideas of ancient Chinese traditional philosophically-religious movements such as Taoism, Zen Buddhism, and Confucianism while briefly mentioning some of the most important principles of Christianity, points from Hinduism et. c Watts also presents his thought concerning traditional Chinese calligraphy. He also gives a brief info about historical foundations of the research of Buddh ...more
ManuFactured Artists
May 07, 2011 ManuFactured Artists rated it it was amazing
This is the book with which to start if you would like to explore philosophical Taoism--or Zen Buddhism, for that matter--as opposed to later religious Taoism.

Alan Watts studied with Christmas Humphreys in England (founder of The Buddhist Society and author of an influential early edition on Buddhism entitled, Buddhism: An Introduction and Guide) before moving to the United States in the late thirties, and was largely responsible for the rapid spread of the writings of his teacher, D. T. Suzuki
Jan 09, 2011 Jim rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent treatise on contemplative Taoism, that is the way based in meditation and oneness with nature rather than that involved in Chinese alchemical and quasi-magical practices. Watts elegatly explains the Tao as the watercourse way, showing how it is both life-philosophy and a deep expression of Chinese culture.

The only difficulty I had had with Watts's approach was that it seemed a little disjointed. This is probably less a reflection on Alan Watts than a reflection of the sheer
Bob Miller
Jan 14, 2017 Bob Miller rated it really liked it
"The Tao is that from which one cannot deviate; that from which one can deviate is not the Tao".

"You may imagine that you are outside, or separate, from the Tao and thus able to follow it or not follow; but this very imagination is itself within the stream (Tao), for there is no other way than the Way (Tao)."

"For the game of Western philosophy and science is to trap the universe in networks of words and numbers, so that there is always a temptation to confuse the rules, or laws, of grammar and
Oct 30, 2016 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
This is a nice introduction to Tao. Alan Watts was probably totally bonkers, and the hippy-style life he lived was one of those chaotic lives you don't know whether to envy or be thankful you've avoided. Insofar as he wrote about the Tao, he did not know Tao (Lao Zu, 56) - there's the paradox and dilemma. He left the book unfinished at his death... and you have the same question in mind: Would it have been improved if he had finished and/or revised it at all? Or is it 'perfect' (i.e. imperfect) ...more
Kátherin Sánchez
Es un libro muy interesante para ver el taoísmo desde una perspectiva que, a pesar de ser moderna, es totalmente ilustrativa y enormemente válida si se quiere estudiar el mismo de una manera 'clásica', por decirlo de alguna manera, desde sus principios más hondos y su filosofía más profunda.

Me gustó mucho para aprender al respecto. Me ha interesado para seguir leyendo sobre el tema.
Jul 23, 2017 Suhrob rated it liked it
Alan Watts is such a lovable nice guy and fun teacher.

Therefore, I feel immense guilt that I think that I'd not like him in person.

Metaphysics, Shemetaphysics, nobody above age of 10 *genuinely* enjoys playing with balloons.

You are lying to yourself.

Blanca Sejin
Voy a explicar mi valoración. El libro no está mal, para el que le interese el Tao está bien, lo que pasa es que a mi no me interesa y me lo tuve que leer para la asignatura de Modelo de pensamiento de Asia Oriental, es decir, lectura obligatoria. De otro nunca lo habría leído porque no me interesa
Felt like this was an unfinished work, or maybe it is because I simply wanted more. I wanted to understand this "thing that cannot be understood". Asian mysticism and philosophy challenges and frustrates my western-dominated paradigm of reality, which seeks to know reality through words, classifications, categorizations and the "ten steps to enlightenment". I accept that Western mind-set has an underlying arrogance to it in trying to control reality through forcing it into laws, but I also can't ...more
Dec 16, 2013 Aurelien rated it liked it
Shelves: taoism
Here's a nice train of thought that, I particularly like as Alan Watts seemed to share my own view of Taoism. Thus, he is more concerned by its contemplative aspect than, what he refers to as 'Hsien Taoism' that is, all the metaphysical and religious stuff later added and uselessly burdening it. I agree indeed to say that all these asides (alchemy and other exercises to reach 'immortality') even contradict the basic teaching of its classical roots, found for instance in the 'Tao Te Ching'. More, ...more
Jan 25, 2013 Mac rated it liked it
I didn't enjoy this book all that much. Could it have a long-term effect on me? Quite possibly. So why the disconnect?

As I read the book, which explains Tao, I kept asking: Why is there no concise definition at the beginning of each chapter? Wouldn't a glossary help? How about an explanatory chart? Isn't it useful here to say X causes Y, thus yielding Z? At times I was frustrated, at other times impatient, with concepts that seemed a little too vague, a little too impractical.

So I didn't find en
Josh Macphee
Jan 12, 2015 Josh Macphee rated it liked it
As far as adapting an eastern perspective to a western audience Alan is definitely up there as one of the most articulate. Some of Alan's lectures and quotes are fantastic gems of thought, 'on death' being one of my favorite. This book is no different, and definitely has some very well constructed interpretations of the musings of some influential Taoist personalities. Some of his viewpoints can be I think a little dated, (although one does need to remember that this book was published 50 yrs ag ...more
Aug 07, 2011 Aleah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: taoism
Tao: The Watercourse Way, the final work by philosopher Alan Watts, was published posthumously in 1975. This is the first book I've read that was penned by Watts himself and I was so pleasantly surprised. The first chapter is devoted to Chinese ideograms, which made perfect sense to me. How better to understand such an abstract worldview as Taoism without also trying to understand a bit of the language in which it developed? And even without the intellectual reasons, the ideograms themselves are ...more
Nancy Bevilaqua
May 13, 2013 Nancy Bevilaqua rated it it was amazing
Wow--that went quickly. I didn't realize when I started reading Tao: The Watercourse Way that Watts passed on before he could finish it. I wish he could have held out a little longer and gotten it done. Of course, it's not as if he didn't write anything else, and there are a mess o' his talks on YouTube to keep me going.

There's no way that I'm going to be presumptuous enough to review Alan Watts, but I will mention that one thing (among many) that he helped me understand was the nature of "wu we
Jul 16, 2014 Justin rated it liked it
Reads as more of an extended, slightly whimsical essay than some of his more serious works, like The Way of Zen. Still hugely enjoyable and refreshing, yet I was hoping for more of a full on treatment of Taoism as he did so effectively with Zen. Appreciate that he died before he could finish, although his collaborators who claimed to be able to finish the book for him offered fairly little. With a good couple dozen pages dedicated to calligraphy and a foreword and afterword there is really only ...more
Jason Gregory
Jun 15, 2016 Jason Gregory rated it it was amazing
Out of the multitude of books on Taoism, I found this book to give the most clarity on the philosophy of all the mystery that makes up the Way which cannot be told. This was Watts last book and it may be his best work. His understanding of Chinese ideograms are second to none. These explanations give the reader a profound depth of how to perceive the reality we all experience. The essential principle of Taoism is wu wei, (non-forcing/non-doing), but the biggest problem with this principle is it ...more
Davood Wadi
Dec 08, 2016 Davood Wadi rated it it was amazing
I loved his "The way of zen," although half the time I was lost in his pedantic notes. However, this work, "Tao: The Watercourse Way" was written in an astoundingly facile way. Really resembles water movement in its use of words.

Its first chapter on Chinese written language was truly thought-provoking. I had previously sensed his preference of ideograms in his previous works; now here he elaborated on this topic thoroughly.

The next chapters were on the fundamental mindset of Taoism (polarity, wu
Rick Harper
Sep 20, 2015 Rick Harper rated it it was amazing
I wish I could give this book (Alan's final and unfinished book [yet perfect in its way]) a thousand stars. I've wanted this book for quite some time, but it isn't sold in the local bookstores. My incredible wife gave it to me on my birthday.

I love the concept of "Li", like flowing water or grains in the wood. "...the only single event is the universe itself. Li, not causality, is the rationale of the world." Pg 54. This discussion is having a huge impact on me.

"...people would be much better o
Roger K.
Jan 03, 2016 Roger K. rated it it was amazing
This book is a timeless classic that is both the perfect introduction to Watts and the essential summary of his philosophical exploration. His simple language, clear metaphors, and conversational tone reiterate the points I have seen him reference again and again:
- everything is connected
- life is meant to be enjoyed
- it will all be all right

It is a relatively short read, yet I found myself going slow and taking breaks so it wouldn't end so quickly. Whether you speed through it or not, make time
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Alan Wilson Watts was a British philosopher, writer and speaker, who held both a Master's in Theology and a Doctorate of Divinity. Famous for his research on comparative religion, he was best known as an interpreter and popularizer of Asian philosophies for a Western audience. He wrote over 25 books and numerous articles on subjects such as personal identity, the true nature of reality, higher con ...more
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“This may be illustrated by the Taoist story of a farmer whose horse ran away. That evening the neighbors gathered to commiserate with him since this was such bad luck. He said, “May be.” The next day the horse returned, but brought with it six wild horses, and the neighbors came exclaiming at his good fortune. He said, “May be.” And then, the following day, his son tried to saddle and ride one of the wild horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. Again the neighbors came to offer their sympathy for the misfortune. He said, “May be.” The day after that, conscription officers came to the village to seize young men for the army, but because of the broken leg the farmer’s son was rejected. When the neighbors came in to say how fortunately everything had turned out, he said, “May be.”14” 3 likes
“Confucians, along with Hebrew, Islamic, and Catholic scholastics, as well as Protestant fundamentalists, are like tourists who study guidebooks and maps instead of wandering freely and looking at the view. Speech and writing are undoubtedly marvelous, but for this very reason they have a hypnotic and fascinating quality which can lead to the neglect of nature itself until they become too much of a good thing.” 3 likes
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