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The Way of Zen

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  13,158 ratings  ·  462 reviews
In his definitive introduction to Zen Buddhism, Alan Watts explains the principles and practices of this ancient religion to Western readers. With a rare combination of freshness and lucidity, he delves into the origins and history of Zen to explain what it means for the world today with incredible clarity. Watts saw Zen as “one of the most precious gifts of Asia to the wo ...more
Paperback, 236 pages
Published January 26th 1999 by Vintage (first published 1957)
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Alrik Ken Wilber might be an interesting read, for example No Boundary. It incorporates a lot of Eastern as well as Western philosophies, from meditation to…moreKen Wilber might be an interesting read, for example No Boundary. It incorporates a lot of Eastern as well as Western philosophies, from meditation to psychoanalysis.(less)

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Dec 01, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There ought to be a special star (green? purple?) for books that meant something to you a long time ago, but which you know you would hate today.
Apr 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
In The Way of Zen, Alan Watts introduces us to Zen Buddhism and to some extend Taoism to the average John and Jane. The history and background of Zen and Taoism in part one helps us understand the cultural contexts behind these philosophies: how Taoism developed in China, how Buddhism spread to China and how Zen developed in China and spread to Japan.


Watts explains Zen, to the extend that it can be explained, so that we can understand it, to the extend we should try to understand it. Though Zen
Worthless Bum
Aug 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
I see the Way of Zen not so much as an exposition of a secularized version of Zen Buddhism (or Eastern thought more generally), explained in a manner easily understood by Westerners (which it is), but more as an accoutrement to Eastern spiritual practices like meditation and other numinous experiences derived from Eastern thought. This book is easily as good as anything I've read on spirituality, and probably the very best. It is important to read between the lines in this book if the full benef ...more
When we attempt to exercise power or control over someone else, we cannot avoid giving that person the very same power or control over us.

Hmm. This is going to be fun.
Khashayar Mohammadi
Great book for an introduction to Zen.
I picked this up on a whim whilst searching for books on Buddhism at the library. Actually, an online friend years ago had mentioned Watts among several other recommendations on the subject of Buddhism, so as I was searching this one immediately popped out. I wasn't interested in reading about Zen specifically, but then it's not something I know a ton about and the book was a pretty reasonable length, so why not?

I'm glad I got this book, because now I feel much more knowledgeable and conversant
Dec 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It might be that I am a little too generous with my stars here, but this was the first book on Japanese (and Chinese) philosophy that I ever read. I was very much taken with Watts' attitude - respect without too much enthusiasm, no effort to convert the reader into anything, but also no self-inflicted distance that would view the subject matter entirely as a topic of purely academic interest. Of course, Japanese studies have advanced considerably from those days, important texts have been transl ...more
Jan 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhadharma
Written in Watts' eminently readable attractive prose style, concise and provocative, The Way of Zen has annoyed American practitioners since its 1957 publication. Philip Kapleau went out of his way to denounce it in the introduction to his Three Pillars of Zen for downplaying zazen.

Watts' critique of zazen does in fact have merit, to the extent that Buddhadharma is reduced to sitting and nothing else. The other very interesting point he makes in his chapter on meditation is the introduction of
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhism
It's amazing how many books have been written about Zen in the West, since almost all of them admit right off the bat that Zen cannot be explained, at least in words. It might seem like a futile endeavor, and yet we can't help both writing and reading them. But if Zen, and Buddhism in general is about avoiding extremes, then it's not the heresy it appears to be. We just have to remember that a book, like anything else, is not the thing itself. It's a measurement, an aspect of "conventional" wisd ...more
Amirtha Shri
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Zen tangles, paintings, sayings, haiku, made me ever so curious about Zen. Also, a few books I read recently set in China and Bhutan, and a few non-fictions gave a glimpse of the liberal and understanding religion of Buddhism. Alan Watts has cleaved the book into two halves, the first half explains the (possible) origins of Zen and the second half is about practices, forms, masters, and art. Both the parts were equally critical and with this thorough introduction through the eyes of a westerner, ...more
Camille Stein
Jul 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Ensō – The Art of the Zen Buddhist Circle |


Cuando todos reconocen la belleza como bella, ya hay fealdad;
cuando todos reconocen la bondad como buena, ya hay mal.
'Ser' y 'no ser' surgen recíprocamente;
lo difícil y lo fácil se realizan recíprocamente;
lo largo y lo corto se contrastan recíprocamente;
lo alto y lo bajo se alternan recíprocamente;
antes y después están en recíproca secuencia.

Jianzhi Sengcan (鑑智僧璨) - Xin Xin Ming (信心銘)


El Shōbōgenzō (正法眼蔵) dice:

Cuando un pez nada
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great exposition of Zen Buddhism, its history, philosophy, practice, and cultural/artistic influences. Alan Watts is definitely an awesome writer who's capable of not only clearly explaining the intricate concepts foreign to Western sensibility but also respecting and handling fine linguistic and conceptual differences between cultures. Aside from his gripes with Soto and Rinzai Zen practice resembling boarding school discipline, I loved it, especially Zen's Chinese and Indian philosophical root ...more
May 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, religion
Read slowly and take note.

Nho giáo tựa như 1 người gương mẫu, đầy chuẩn mực của xã hội. Anh ta sống trong xã hội, phụ thuộc vào xã hội. Còn Đạo giáo thì hoàn toàn ngược lại, như 1 kẻ nổi loạn có trình độ, anh ta sống thuận theo ý mình, thuận theo tự nhiên, luôn giữ cho tâm bất biến giữa dòng đời vạn biến - my thought on this book.

Lần đầu tiếp xúc với chủ đề tôn giáo mà lại bắt đầu vs cuốn này thật sự là 1 thử thách quá lớn vì quá khó hiểu, có lẽ là vs 1 ng trẻ trc h chỉ quen vs kiểu suy luận log
Nov 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
One of the first books that taught me how to think philosophically about the world around me. Watts has been an inspiration to me and I turn to his work to gain perspective when times are tough, or even when times are going well and I need something to focus my mind again. I love how he can synthesize complex philosophical topics in a way that anyone, even the uninitiated could really feel comfortable discussing.
"We have come to feel ourselves as centers of a very, very, tender, sensitive, vuln
Dec 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
I have read this book in the hopes of gaining some background knowledge on Zen Buddhism, to help me in my studies of Japanese Art. Although the book is indeed very thorough and supplies a wealth of knowledge of the origin of Zen and of Buddhism as a whole, before moving on to the specifics of its appliance to the arts in China and Japan, it is written in such a way that is often hard for the uninitiated to follow and understand. Buddhism being as it is foreign to most Westerners, the Indian voca ...more
Chintushig Tumenbayar
Зен буддизмийн талаарх анхны гадаад ертөнцөд зориулан бичигдсэн бүрэн хэмжээний гэж хэлж болох энэ номонд зен буддизмийн үүсэл гарал энэтхэгийн буддизм, хятад дахь таоизмийн хамаарал болоод хэрхэн зен японы арлуудад хүрсэн түүхэн баримтуудийн дурдсан байна. Шашин бус ямар нэг итгэл үнэмшил дээр тулгууралдаггүй өөрийгөө чөлөөлөх арга замд хөтөлдөг зен буддизмийн талаарх чанартай бүтээлүүд өдий хэр нь ховор. Сузуки багшийн эссенүүд төдий л олны хүртээл болоогүй нь дээр ихээхэн ойлголт тэвчээр шаар ...more
Rick Goff
Oct 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wow! This little book is amazing in its efficiency. It takes a philosophical topic that is in every way foreign to the modern Western mind. It provides history, philosophy, practice and art criticism - in 201 pages total! The book is easy to consume but satisfying in its content. p.s. I love the topic.
Juraj Holub
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Paradoxical as it may seem, the purposeful life has no content, no point. It hurries on and on, and misses everything. Not hurrying, the purposeless life misses nothing, for it is only when there is no goal and no rush that the human senses are fully open to receive the world.”
Teo 2050
Jun 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in a witty interpretation of Zen for the West
Recommended to Teo 2050 by: Koi
[Update after listening to Patrick Horgan's unabridged narration (5h @ 1.5x):

(view spoiler)

This felt to me like medicine when I first read it, and it did the same w
May 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thiền đạo của Alan Watt là một cách tìm hiểu về thiền qua óc phân tích lý luận của người phương Tây, dưới bản dịch của người Việt Nam cách diễn đạt lại càng trở nên vòng vo thừa thãi. Vì lý giải dưới bằng phương pháp phân tích, lý luận nên nó rất thích hợp để giúp người phương Tây ban đầu làm quen với Thiền, đủ để phá vỡ những định kiến vốn có trong họ, nghĩ rằng Thiền là thứ gì đó cao siêu, thứ định kiến nhồi nhét từ những nhánh pháp Phật giáo xa rời chính thống, nhuốm yếu tố thần thoại, siêu h ...more
Michael Kress
Dec 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1950s
Tao Te Ching was my introduction to Eastern philosophy, and I didn't really get it the first time I read it. I think it can be difficult for Westerners to truly understand Eastern ideas because our culture and world-view are so different. Western writers like Arthur Schopenhauer and Herman Hesse have improved my understanding, but The Way of Zen is the first book I've read that had the specific goal of teaching the reader about Zen from a Western perspective. I had plenty of "a-ha" moments while ...more
Mack Hayden
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, philosophy
This is the first real exposure I've had to Alan Watts. I've read a few books about Buddhism this year and I feel like this was, far and away, the best. He covers a lot of ground in a little bit of time and he's a really gifted communicator. Heady concepts become really understandable in his hands. Considering most diehard fans of his I've met can be pretty head-in-the-clouds and/or dogmatically New Agey, I really appreciated how his treatment of Zen Buddhism was done in a down-to-earth, open-pa ...more
Bob Nichols
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Watts provides a good history and summary of Zen's origins and its practices.

According to Watts, Zen involves the breaking of the egoistic will (by letting go of its attempt to control) and following the principle of non-grasping to experience liberaion, "the aimless, self-sufficient life of the 'eternal now,'" and "seeing reality directly, in its 'suchness.'" One does not seek this end, for seeking is just another form of "grasping." "To put it another way," he writes, "one does not practice Z
Steve Woods
Sep 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I've read a lot about Zen over the years, beginning during my Asian Studies degree at university 40 years ago. I have always had a good intellectual grasp of what was being put to me but somehow I didn't really have a sense of connection. This book delivers that sense of connection. It may be the wider reading I have done recently or my daily "practice" of meditation or Watts' incisive and distinctive style of writing or a combination of all and other factors. Whatever! Who cares? This is a grea ...more
Feb 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Although some people have criticised Watts' take on Buddhism -specifically his understanding of the role of zazen, "The Way of Zen" is still an excellent overview for the Western reader. Concepts in Buddhism such as karma, emptiness and rebirth are notoriously elusive for those used to the Judeo-Christian black-white good-bad dichotomies, and Alan Watts has a true gift for coming up with clear, concise illustrations to explain these ideas.

The book is divided into two sections: The first is Backg
Nico Vlaming
May 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great insights can be obtained while reading this book which is why I think it is worth a lot. The beginning of the book I found a little hard to get trough because I had a hard time reconstructing the historical narative of Watts in my own mind, but fortunately it is sprinkled with clear toughts and great lessons. The rest of the book was very readable to me. A great many points of pause to reflect upon the given information or on the experience the words evoke makes me value this book very muc ...more
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
aaaaaaaaaaaaa yes this book right here
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Every now and then, I feel guilty about reading so many comic books, so I throw myself into something hard. And this one is freaking hard! Written in the mid-1950s by a man who would become a bit of a guru in the 1960s, this book is about the philosophical and historical origins of Zen Buddhism. There are a lot of words in Hindi, Chinese, and Japanese, as well as in-depth discussions of philosophical musings on the self in cultures that are alien to me, where people spoke and wrote in languages ...more
Lyubina Yordanova
Алън Уотс (1915 -1973) е английски философ и писател. Той има огромен принос за представянето и популяризирането на източната философия в западния свят, и по-точно на Дзен-будизма, но по един обективен начин, който не е нито твърде близо до Запада, нито твърде близо до Изтока.

В продължение на повече от 40 години той написва над 25 книги, записва хиляди публични радио и телевизионни лекции и провежда поредица от семинари, свързани с философията на Индия и Източна Азия, със себеизразяването и инди
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Molti libri sullo zen iniziano, giustamente, con la premessa che lo zen non di può spiegare ma solo "far vedere" e giustificano in qualche modo il loro tentativo di parlare di un qualcosa ineffabile per natura. Watts non fa eccezione, ma si pone in una posizione precisa: fungere da ponte, in virtù della sua esperienza, tra la cultura orientale ed occidentale, cercando di colmare parzialmente quella distanza (in primo luogo semantica, come puntualizzato nella parte introduttiva) che rende ardua l ...more
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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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“When we attempt to exercise power or control over someone else, we cannot avoid giving that person the very same power or control over us.” 238 likes
“We feel that our actions are voluntary when they follow a decision and involuntary when they happen without decision. But if a decision itself were voluntary every decision would have to be preceded by a decision to decide - An infinite regression which fortunately does not occur. Oddly enough, if we had to decide to decide, we would not be free to decide” 66 likes
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