Alan Watts was a great British philosopher. Easily, one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century.
He interpreted and popularized Eastern philosophy, which used to be considered mystical, for the Western audience.
As a spiritual entertainer, he was among the first to bring Zen Buddhism thought to the West. We found the best Alan Watts book, from an initial list of 5.
A quick guide
This book draws on Watts' extensive experience both in Eastern philosophy and in Western religion, mainly Christianity. This book talks about living fully in the present moment.
Don't waste your time anticipating and planning for the future or regretting the past, instead embrace the present and live in the moment.
Living for the future is the primary root cause of our human frustration and a feeling of emptiness. This book inspires us to lead more flourishing lives.
To explain it better, Alan talks about the transition Western society went through after the Industrial Revolution, moving away from religion and into consumerism.
We create suffering by clinging to how we want the things to be rather than accepting them how they are. This creates a certain disturbance to our personal identity.
Some compelling points made by Watts in this book are:
- Pleasure and pain are two sides of a coin. Therefore, the task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity. Becoming more comfortable with our vulnerability is key to feeling secure.
- The vacuum created by the absence of God was filled with a primitive consumeristic drive. But, with consumerism, the chase of happiness will never be over.
- Live through your experiences! Don't virtualize them.
- Thoughts and words are just conventions. And it is deadly to take conventions too seriously.
Undoubtedly, this is one of the best Alan Watt books that you'll come across. Highly recommendable, especially for people who are anxious or depressed.
This book gives a comprehensive overview of Zen Buddhism. It lays out the different forms of Buddhism and how they are different from each other.
It is a book on religion and talks about how the basic premises of Eastern and Western thoughts are different.
There are three primary schools of Eastern philosophy: Buddhism, Zen, and Taoism.
To understand “complex” things use intuition rather than linear thinking, Watt uses a term called “peripheral vision” of our minds.
Forced self-improvement and accomplishment never ends. Sticking to your ego would result in frustration.
Some other compelling points made by Watt in this book:
- Doing meditation for no purpose, instead of doing it to gain something.
- The muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone. Be happy with things as they are. Don't try to change and control others.
- Zen is a liberation from time. Past and future are simply abstractions without any concrete reality.
- To know about anything, first, try to get an idea of its opposite. The real happiness can be felt only by someone who has experienced the deepest pain. Chaos must exist if we know what order it is.
This meditative book will take you deep into the histories, principles, and practices of Zen Buddhism. This book is a piece of art and highly recommended for anyone who wants to learn the ways of Zen Buddhism.
This book explains the universe and our place in it and the problems of life and death. We are directly connected to everything else. It emphasizes how to reconsider our relationship with the world.
We as humans are forever “conquering” nature, space, mountains, deserts, bacteria, and insects instead of learning to cooperate with them in a harmonious order.
“The biggest taboo of all knows who we are, behind the mask of our self as presented to the world.”
With this book, Alan Watt tells how to open our eyes and see ourselves not as coming into the world but to consider ourselves as coming from the world.
Some other valuable learnings:
- Religions are divisive and quarrelsome. Rather than liberating us from this sense of separateness, they work to reinforce us.
- “I” and the illusion of its separateness from the rest of the universe is deep-rooted in us. We even fail to recognize that we do not merely belong to the rest of the world- we are the universe.
- Genuine love comes from knowledge, not from a sense of duty or guilt.
- Attention is narrowed perception. It can only focus on one area at a time, thereby ignoring everything else.
If you seek spiritual answers about your own identity and role in the world, then this one is a perfect read for you.
In this book, Alan Watt says that present exists forever. Life exists only at this very moment, and at this moment, it is infinite and eternal.
There's a lot of difference between those who survive and those who live. It is all a question of motive, of what you want. The infinite Tao is something which you cannot escape. So become what you are.
Some amazing points from this book:
- Abandon idol-worship and celebrity culture as they steal away your realness. Don't become mere imitators.
- Reality is not symbols; it is not words and thoughts; it is not reflections and fantasies. If you want to know what reality is, see for yourself.
- Real concentration is a maximum of consciousness and the minimum of ego-feeling.
This book will surely enlighten your thinking process and tell you how reality should work. Written in witty and straightforward language, this one is a must-read.
In My Own Way: An Autobiography
This book reflects on Alan Watts’ philosophies, all about his education and his ideas on living.
When you read books by Watts, you'll be terrified by his vast knowledge and the method of education he opted for.
Don't mistake this book as his way of directing you onto a path of mysticism. It's just a simple book that tracks his spiritual and philosophical evolution.
He has demonstrated his vast learning so considerately that you cannot help but agree with him. With this book, he encourages his readers to follow their own weirdness – just the way he has done for himself.
This book is highly recommended for people interested in philosophy and exploring ways of life.
For people interested in the world of philosophy, humanism, and spirituality, Alan Watts is the name to go for.
Blessed with an incredible gift of explanation, Alan in all his books has intensified the relationship each person has with the universe.
Equipped with some incredible and life-changing lessons, all of Alan Watts' books are worth reading at least once in your life!