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Buddhism: The Religion of No-Religion

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  464 ratings  ·  42 reviews
The widespread influence of Buddhism is due in part to the skill with which a way of liberation was refined by its teachers and became accessible to people of diverse cultures.

In this dynamic series of lectures, Alan Watts takes us on an exploration of Buddhism, from its roots in India to the explosion of interest in Zen and the Tibetan tradition in the West. Watts traces
Paperback, 112 pages
Published October 15th 1999 by Tuttle Publishing (first published 1996)
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Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
I think I'll be a Buddhist now. Well, at least I will try to live by some of the precepts.
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Watts does a fantastic job of explaining the history of Buddhism as well as many of the nuances that you won't find in other primers like this. At times the concepts throughout are a bit difficult to understand but I believe this has a lot to do with the fact that those raised in Western society (like myself) are exposed to very dualistic styles of thinking whereas Eastern thought tends to be fairly cyclical. I've read a lot of Eastern works over the years and this has helped with this to some ...more
Matt Hayes
Dec 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Of the four or five works by Alan Watts that I've read, this one is my favorite. This book is quite functional, in that I have recommended it to a few people who are interested in learning some of the basics of Buddhism, but want it communicated in layman's terms. However, this does not mean it is dumbed down. Watts shoots right to the heart of Mahayana philosophy, teasing out the core tenets, and using simple yet effective analogies to communicate the often murky principles of Buddhist thought. ...more
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Ron Davidson
Jan 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brief overview of some of the basics of Buddhist thought and Zen from the legendary philosopher. It's a good starter book for those new to the subject -- transcripts of talks that Watts gave, so they are in an easy, informal style. You won't get bogged down with needing to interpret koans and terms -- he explains things rather well. I have always wanted to read more of his works; maybe now I finally will.
Oct 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I can't imagine a better introduction for a westerner to Buddhism than Alan Watts. Brilliant stuff.
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"There are two fundamental notions of being, and they are represented by the dualities of male and female, light and dark, now and memory. Memory, remember, creates a future as well as the past. You would not know you were going to have anything happen tomorrow unless you remembered that something bad happened yesterday. You figure that because the sun rose yesterday, and the day before yesterday, it will rise again tomorrow. If you did not remember the past, you would not know that there will ...more
Gianmichael Salvato
No other book by Alan Watts seemed to capture the essence of the "Japan Seminars" the way this book has. Perhaps it's because I personally came away from viewing the Japan Seminars with a clearer sense of validation of my belief that Buddhism was never intended to be a religion, and this book treats that topic with scholarship and clarity.

Recognising that the Buddhist cosmology need not be interpreted literally -- something too few Buddhists, especially in the Tibetan and Pureland sects seem to
Mihai Rosca
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: have-audio
I could not think of a better teacher in Buddhism that is calmer, wiser in speech and attitude and more adept to speak to our Western cultured ears than Alan Watts.

I came to this right after Inner Engineering: A Yogi's Guide to Joy. Obviously, no comparison applies. However, some complementary terms in these writings helped me understand better the relationship between Hinduism and Buddhism and the whole Hindu cosmology. Reading one after another deepened the knowledge of those far away lands
Erdenesuvd Bat-Erdene
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you want to understand different sects of Buddhism in a concise way, this is a great book. Also you will get to know what Buddhism is. As I understood, at the core, Buddhism do not say "You should do this and should not do this" instead it is a dialogue between Buddha and you. Through this dialogue you will get to know the nature of reality.
In Buddhism, one of the most important thing to keep in mind is to follow the Middle Way. We can become monks and renounce all worldly attachments but too
Phil Calandra
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
"Buddhism the Religion of No Religion" is and excellent general overview of Buddhism. The author states that Buddhism cannot be classified as a religion in which there is a higher power to be worshiped. Buddhism is interested in experience only and emphasizes that the separate ego does not exist but is transcended by the ultimate reality of experience. Although not and easy book to comprehend, it does provide an excellent introduction to Buddhist thought including Zen and the Tibetan tradition
Jason Marciak
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's a brilliant combination of lectures provided regarding the history of zen and Buddhism in India and later in Japan. Alan Watts was a brilliant lecturer and philosopher who spoke at great length regarding religious method and history. This book seems an excellent guide in positing that life, or existence, is really just waking up.
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great explanation and discussion of a complex religion. If you don't know anything about it, this may be a good starting point. However, if you're not familiar with basic Sanskrit or Hinduism, then this might be a bit of a stretch. Still, a good read.
Don Packett
May 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2019
Interesting enough read.
Kristina Gibson
Jun 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Love Alan Watts but he confuses the hell out of me.
Aug 10, 2018 rated it liked it
A pretty good book for someone just getting their feet wet.
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Introduction to Buddhism and especially Zen Buddhism. Very easy explanation of the core concepts.

I really like the idea that Buddhism is Hinduism for export, that is Hinduism that stripped from culture and can be used as religion by people of different cultures.
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great introduction to Buddhism.
Steve Woods
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is a classic example of Alan Watts' ability to condense complex subjects into bight sized easily digestible lumps, a bit like a good Belgian chocolate. That ability probably makes him the most accessible author writing on Buddhism and related philosophy either past or present. This particular book can serve not only as a revelation to the neophyte, but a kind of concordance offering crystal clarity around the myriad lists that traditional Buddhist teaching contains. Like Alexander's ...more
Michael Williams
May 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
A clear, simple introduction--simple without being simplistic. Watts ranges lucidly among a number of key Buddhist ideas, explaining them in a way that this novice could follow readily. What was perhaps even more illuminating is a prevailing attitude in the book--calm and good-humored--that helps make an inviting subject even more inviting.

Drawbacks? Since this is a series of lectures rather than a book with a sustained and thorough approach, it tends toward some repetition, not just of ideas
Aug 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhism
This is, as it says, a collection of a series of lectures. They were delivered orally to an audience, and must be approached that way. It is not a textbook or even a popular work on the topic, so those looking for an overview of Buddhism as a whole will be disappointed. Listening to it rather than reading might be the best way to experience it.

They are also a distillation of many years of study and writing, and so are quite terse and pithy. I admit that, at times, I wished for more information,
Nov 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: spirituality
It's a collection of lectures by Alan Watts who was a very well-respected philosopher and scholar of Buddhism, ordained Episcopal priest and Harvard professor. Very short, less than 100 pages. Not really my cup of tea, but I guess it depends on what you're looking for. For me, the book spends a lot of time trying to articulate directly that which Buddhism says can't be articulated directly, and gets a bit dry and left-brained in the process. Some parts I just didn't get it.

To the extent that he
Adam Morva
Aug 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
Dived into the book with an equal amount of enthusiasm and low expectations due to knowing that Alan Watts is not the greatest epistemologist out there.

Buuuuut... Atheists are the most religious people out there. Atheists are the biggest theists. Nobody acknowledges god more than them, but they dislike the idea of a celectial teacher always looking over your shoulder and that's why they deny god.

The book has some of these pearls. Watts relies on empty rhetoric devices and nonsensical sentences
Katie D'Angelo
Jan 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
This was interesting to read but I dont' feel much more knowledgable about buddhism that I was before. I couldn't tell who this book was aimed at as it is too disjointed and not basic enough for someone like me who knows nothing about buddhism but it seems to be far too vague for those who are practicing buddhists so I suppose you have to be somewhere in between and have a mild curiousity about the different types of buddhism. It wasn't a bad read and had some great examples of buddhist ...more
Blaine Morrow
Jul 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirit
Alan Watts was a great speaker and teacher, as this book - which puts into print some of his lectures about Buddhism - demonstrates. There's more information here than I expected, and the insights are on nearly every page. The message is simple, singular, but amazingly rich and nicely delivered.

I was surprised to find that the lectures fit together nicely, almost as well as if they had been designed chapters in one of Watts's books. Worth the short time it will take to read it.
Brian Mikołajczyk
A pretty good compilation of philosophical ideas on Buddhism from a western perspective. Selections were taken from a lecture series Watts did. The series of selections didn't have a scope or direction; it was a revealing of non-sequitur ideas and ways to think. It would've much better served the audience if it had broken ideas into grouped sections of similar ideas.
Jul 27, 2011 rated it liked it
It didn't turn me into a Buddhist, but some interesting thoughts. As a book, it was okay, at times hard to follow. I'd probably recommend another book as an introduction to Buddhism, but don't which it would be (looks to be 100s out there).
Johnny Brooks
Feb 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Great introduction to Buddhism. This book was created from a lecture series, and the transition was made with grace. Actually I would think the lecture would be a great place to learn about Buddhism, this book could be the next best thing to actually have been at the lectures.
Apr 08, 2014 added it
sufferation exists
>> get to the point of "no mind"
Stevie Smith
Feb 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
It doesn't get any better than Watts. Sure, he drank too much and smoked too much, but he is incomparable in communicating deep understanding in all his books.
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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 ...more

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