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What Is Tao?

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  392 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
In his later years, Alan Watts, noted author and respected authority on Zen and Eastern thought, turned his attention to Taoism. In this book, he draws on his own study and practice to give readers an overview of the concept of the Tao and guidance for experiencing it themselves. What Is Tao? explores the wisdom of understanding the way things are and letting life unfold w ...more
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Published December 19th 2009 by New World Library (first published October 5th 2000)
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Sanjay Gautam
Oct 23, 2015 Sanjay Gautam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alan Watts is the man who can be poetic in the prose. He says: Tao is like water, if you try to hold it, it will slip through; it's better let life flow. Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. The following lines by Lao Tzu sums up the book by Watts: water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is flui ...more
As with all Alan Watts books, 'What Is Tao' clearly articulates concepts which are very difficult and abstract.

While the essence of these concepts are far beyond my grasp so shortly after the completion of this book, it was an interesting read. I assume the subject matter will require far, far more attention - perhaps a lifetime. It took me many months to assimilate at least some of the ideas of Watts' 'What is Zen?' into my life; who knows if this experience will be similar?
Anthony Haynes
Nov 08, 2015 Anthony Haynes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This little book appears to be a shorter, simplified version of Watts' bigger, more academic work, 'Tao: The Watercourse Way'. Though apparently drawn from lectures in the last years of Watts' life and edited, the book reads with flow and continuity, and with the same style throughout, making me think that the content was perhaps originally one or two talks and edited by Mark Watts with the pictures. For that reason, it bears a funny resemblance to the Tao Te Ching, which, though often claimed t ...more
Travis Hosgood
Mar 19, 2014 Travis Hosgood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My main geezer watts on Taoism. Where do I start? Simple explanation of the unexplainable. The way of knowing all things is to know yourself, living simply, finding comfort in hostility, and sharing cultural bits of information and creation. As with all philosophy, use it sparingly. Gather what the ego considers righteous, and be like water. "Nothing in the world is weaker than water, but it has no better in overcoming the hard."
Jan 02, 2014 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
<3 this guy
Lucy Whitaker
Oct 18, 2015 Lucy Whitaker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent introduction to Taoism. My only complaint is that it isn't longer, since I could read it for days. After discovering Alan Watts on YouTube, I decided to seek out more of his work and this book has only encouraged that search.
Alex Kartelias
Mar 18, 2015 Alex Kartelias rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
An excellent book. Without being too- intellectual and being very clear, these words will make anyone who is restless and return back to the present moment. A book to read over and over again.
Jul 24, 2011 Aleah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: taoism
I'm on the lookout for a primer on the philosophy of Taoism. This little book was my first attempt... unfortunately I think I'll have to keep looking. The content of the book is in keeping with what you'd expect from the title, but there wasn't enough substance. And even as I write that I realize that's probably a very Westernized approach to the subject of Taoism, I'll have to work on it. In any case, I found Watts to be fascinating, of course. It's just that this book was so slight as to only ...more
Sep 22, 2014 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alan Watts is my new superhero.
Alan Watts is one of my favourite philosopers. He interprets eastern philosopy better than anyone I've ever read. After reading five of his books in a row, I decided that Taoism is the way for me. I've even created a morning affirmation/meditation from his words and it touches me everytime. It reminds me of the simple things like stay in the moment and live with detachment. Seems simple enough, but so hard to do after nearly 50 years of conditioning in this Wester society.
Interesting introduction to the idea of the Tao, but I think Watts over-intellectualizes the subject. I did find this to be a very welcoming book and a fine place to start with Taoism as a philosophical construct, but you cannot disregard the esoteric threads without at least recognizing the impact and influence on Taoism throughout its history. Doing so relegates the Tao to just an idea and builds intellectual barriers to applying the concepts in your life.
Robbt E
Jan 03, 2014 Robbt E rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting overview of Taoism and eastern philosophy compiled from Alan Watts various talks he gave throughout his life. It is useful for people who are unfamiliar with Taoism and includes enough reiteration to be a useful review for people who want a review of the concepts.
Beatriz Andrea Ortiz Fernandez
This is really a beginners survey of Daoism. More knowledgeable people may find it a little too simplistic. However, it does touch on many of the foundational pillars of Daoism and makes the subject matter easier to comprehend for a Western audience. In my opinion, not one of Alan Watts's best, but certainly not bad.
Jimmy L.
Apr 30, 2007 Jimmy L. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book just comes and blows my mind. Taoism (Daoism) is an interesting practice to study, and I find myself taking upon its influence. Great Book, Alan Watts is now one of my favorite author.
Aug 31, 2012 Evan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Difficult to rate this book. It was well written, convincingly expressed, and a good overview. It just wasn't very...enjoyable? Might earn a revisiting
Worthless Bum
May 28, 2009 Worthless Bum rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
A superb introduction to Taoism, elucidating the central concepts and giving historical and cultural backround information.
Natalia Ospina
Aug 29, 2007 Natalia Ospina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those curious about Taoism
Great short read on the history, background and paradoxical interpretation of the Tao. Watts' use of analogy is masterful.
Nov 25, 2010 Victor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a very short read, but is a good introduction to the philosophy that the book discusses.
Johnny Stork
Exceptional starter, primer on Taoism by the master himself.
Beth Branson
Classic, quotable Watts. A lovely interpretation of Taoism.
May 27, 2007 Madeleine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good companion to Watt's other Tao book, Tao: The Watercourse Way.
May 07, 2013 Kristy rated it liked it
A good and short introduction to Taoism
Jan 08, 2010 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As great as What is Zen?
Feb 18, 2016 Saoirse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirituality
Tao is Tao not Tao
Oct 14, 2013 Mako.allen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mar 15, 2016 Cameron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mike Kolba
Mike Kolba marked it as to-read
Apr 28, 2016
John F Herberger
John F Herberger rated it really liked it
Apr 30, 2016
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Apr 18, 2016
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Apr 12, 2016
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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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