Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “What Is Zen?” as Want to Read:
What Is Zen?
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

What Is Zen?

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  225 ratings  ·  17 reviews
What Is Zen? examines Zen's religious roots, its influence on Eastern and Western culture, its transcendent moments, and the methods of Zen meditation that are currently practiced.
ebook, 0 pages
Published December 20th 2009 by New World Library (first published September 10th 2000)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about What Is Zen?, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about What Is Zen?

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-29 of 390)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Aaron Maurer
This is a short fast read of seminars conducted by Alan Watts. I love listening to his audio online. I am getting into his reading and books to further dive deeper into Zen. I don't want to be a Buddhist and am not changing faith. What I am doing is trying to find that sense of living in the now and being more present in my life. This book is a great starting point. It is not too deep, but deep enough to give pause to think about how you view things in your own life. A great read to slow down an ...more
Scott Bell
The authority on ancient eastern religions, Alan Watts, presents a conversational approach to zen buddhism while providing a historical overview. Great book to own and reread. You'll be surprised at the ending.
Lachwhip
What can you even say about a book like this? Watts is an excellent teacher and lecturer. Thanks to him I have a fairly solid conception of Zen. The hard part is working to obtain such a state or awareness.
Rebecca White
Essential information, clearly and cleverly explained.
Misha
I started reading this book right after finishing Shogun by James Clavell. I was so impressed by samurai attitude towards life and death so I had to know more.

This book is a nice start for someone who wants to understand what zen is all about. Some parts (specifically the chapter on space) are more difficult to comprehend then the others but in overall you get the gist.

It's quite short too so you don't get lost as I would usually do in such types of books. Although there definitely are some len
...more
Susan Urbuteit
If you've ever listened and enjoyed any of Alan watts' lectures, then you will probably enjoy this book, as it was compiled from some of them. As I read it, I could hear his voice and since I know his style of speaking, I found it easy and pleasing to follow. But I found myself wondering how this book might read to someone who has not heard him lecture. Would it seem not so well written? I also think the title may mislead, although it is a book about Zen, i believe it only touches the surface. I ...more
Kathy
I checked out a few books by Alan Watts after seeing the movie "Her," in which he is visited with and quoted from. I really like the metaphors he uses to help Westerners understand Zen Buddhism. A great book for discussion if you're curious about the simple meditation practice of "sitting" and where it could lead you.
Steve
Not much new here, but a fine little introduction, by the always enlightening, entertaining & elucidating mr. watts.
Kathy
a simple, easy to read book, but left me with some good thoughts to ponder.
Julian Summerhayes
I read this is keen anticipation, having heard so much of Alan Watts. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed that it didn't really tell me much about Zen - the philosophy or the practice. I think even for a novice (me), you need to understand the journey of Zen and what it is different to some of the other Buddhist traditions. The trouble is with all the information that now exists on the Web this book feels quite shallow. It would have nice to have had a follow up too - something where the ...more
Deborah
Intro to zen for westerners. Nice.
Emma
I pulled this book off of my mother's book shelf out of curiosity. I had no pre-existing knowledge on the topic of Zen and this book conveys the basics perfectly in an easy and concise way. Watts gave me a completely different perspective and made me a lot more curious. I definitely recommend this.
mikeyO
Digging it so far, or is it digging me?

Pretty good intro to the concept of Zen philosophy, some of its teachings, and its history. You will definitely come away knowing whether or not Zen would be the right philosophy for you.
Belle
If you are interested at all in Zen Buddhism, I would recommend this book. I am becoming a fan of Alan Watts and just started another Zen book by him afterwards because this one was so good. It will make you think.
Paul
a nice little introduction to zen perspectives.
Emily
Great book on zen. Explains everything in his Watts way. The best way it can be explained.
Bpw White
The best way for western minded folk to intro to zen
Carol Jenkins Abdelhalim
Carol Jenkins Abdelhalim marked it as to-read
Nov 24, 2014
Brian
Brian marked it as to-read
Nov 24, 2014
Antti
Antti marked it as to-read
Nov 21, 2014
Nichole
Nichole marked it as to-read
Nov 13, 2014
Tanya Bhanaut
Tanya Bhanaut marked it as to-read
Nov 08, 2014
Nestor Vicente
Nestor Vicente marked it as to-read
Oct 21, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 12 13 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Zen and Japanese Culture
  • Barefoot Doctor's Guide to the Tao: A Spiritual Handbook for the Urban Warrior
  • The Power of Internal Martial Arts: Combat Secrets of Ba Gua, Tai Chi, and Hsing-I
  • The Spiritual Teaching of Ramana Maharshi
  • Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony
  • The Zen Way to Martial Arts: A Japanese Master Reveals the Secrets of the Samurai
  • Meditation: A Simple Eight-Point Program for Translating Spiritual Ideals into Daily Life
  • Transforming the Mind: Teachings on Generating Compassion
  • On the Warrior's Path: Philosophy, Fighting, and Martial Arts Mythology
  • Zen Effects: The Life of Alan Watts
  • The Diamond in Your Pocket: Discovering Your True Radiance
  • The Little Zen Companion
  • Rethinking History
  • The Art of True Healing: The Unlimited Power of Prayer and Visualization
  • The Gateless Gate: The Classic Book of Zen Koans
  • Zen Meditation in Plain English
  • The Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics
  • The Empty Mirror: Experiences in a Japanese Zen Monastery
1501668
Alan Wilson Watts was a British philosopher, writer, speaker, who held both a master's in theology & a doctorate of divinity. Famous for his research on comparative religion, he was best known as an interpreter & popularizer of Asian philosophies for a Western audience. He wrote over 25 books & numerous articles on subjects such as personal identity, the true nature of reality, higher ...more
More about Alan W. Watts...
The Way of Zen The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety Tao: The Watercourse Way This is It & Other Essays on Zen & Spiritual Experience

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“We think that the world is limited and explained by its past. We tend to think that what happened in the past determines what is going to happen next, and we do not see that it is exactly the other way around! What is always the source of the world is the present; the past doesn't explain a thing. The past trails behind the present like the wake of a ship and eventually disappears.” 21 likes
“Here's an example: someone says, "Master, please hand me the knife," and he hands them the knife, blade first. "Please give me the other end," he says. And the master replies, "What would you do with the other end?" This is answering an everyday matter in terms of the metaphysical.

When the question is, "Master, what is the fundamental principle of Buddhism?" Then he replies, "There is enough breeze in this fan to keep me cool." That is answering the metaphysical in terms of the everyday, and that is, more or less, the principle zen works on. The mundane and the sacred are one and the same.”
17 likes
More quotes…