This experience is the real substance of Indian philosophy as a whole, both Hindu and Buddhist. It is called mokṣa, which roughly means ‘liberation.’ Liberation from the hallucination that you are just “poor little me.” To wake up from that kind of hypnosis and discover that you are simply something—your organism, your physical body, your conscious attention (which is your ego)—that you are something being done by this vast, indescribable Self.

Eastern Philosophy

Eastern philosophy refers to the broad traditions of philosophy that originated in East and South Asia, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indian philosophical schools of thought. Some of the major Eastern philosophies include Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and the various schools of Indian philosophy such as Nyaya, Vedanta, and Yoga.

Eastern philosophies are generally more oriented towards mysticism, intuition and holistic perspectives compared to Western philosophies. Some of the key concepts found in Eastern thought include dharma, karma, reincarnation, impermanence, the cycle of rebirth, the importance of meditation and mindfulness, non-violence, filial piety, and living in harmony with nature. Important Eastern philosophers include Confucius, Lao Tzu, the Buddha, Nagarjuna, Adi Shankara, and many more across the different traditions. Core differences from Western thought include a cyclical view of time and cosmology, a greater emphasis on ethics and relationships, and an acceptance of contradiction over binary either-or categorization of concepts.

Documents

Alan Watts

Being Far Out

(Spiritual Alchemy)

Alan Watts touches upon a peculiar tendency wherein psychedelic drugs may ignite mystical experiences similar to those known in the Eastern philosophies. However, wheras Buddhism, Hinduism, and Zen accompany these mystical experiences with discipline in order to cultivate positive outcomes, psychedelically induced insights may lead to unhealthy misinterpretations and possibly even delusions of grandeur if not handled properly.

Alan Watts

Birth, Death, and the Unborn

All the patterns we see around us in the world are projections of our minds. There is no way things should be, there is no way things shouldn’t be. But if humans can adopt a mental discipline in which they remain able to project patterns without becoming hung up on them, life for everyone will transform into a beautiful artwork.

Alan Watts

Consciousness and Rhythm

This seminar explores consciousness as an intrinsic rhythmic interplay with reality instead of a detached witness. Watts challenges notions of separateness, asserting that individuals and the cosmos are fundamentally unified. He encourages transcending ego and dualistic thinking to harmonize with the underlying patterns and dance that all differentiated experiences, including our own being, arise from. The goal is realizing our inherent interconnectedness with the seamless whole.

Alan Watts

Cosmic Network

Alan takes us from the very small to the very large, explaining the interrelatedness of all things in the universe as a vast network which weaves us into a united yet unnamable divinity.

Alan Watts

Diamond Way

Watts beckons us to peer past the veil, where remembering and forgetting engage in a cosmic dance. Traverse the paradoxical streams of jiriki and tariki, self-power and other-power, until the very concept of “I” dissolves like a dewtopped lotus. Prepare to be unshackled and uninhibited, for in the quest for nothingness lies the quintessence of everythingness.

Alan Watts   (1959)

Pain

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 9)

Alan Watts discusses the Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist ideas about physical and moral pain, emphasizing the art of accepting pain by ridding it of its contextual associations.

Alan Watts   (1960)

Mahayana Buddhism

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 20)

What lies behind the fluttering forms we see? No clay, cries Buddhism, just a ceaseless dance devoid of stuff and substance. Grasping at ghosts within grants no relief, rather anxiety’s siege. Freedom rides life’s wave instead of taking cover. Be sage and bodhisattva mid melody, summoning the courtesan’s carefree bliss. Embrace experience utterly, no escaper you need be. For the void is full, if we still our need to fill.

Alan Watts   (1960)

Buddhism and Science

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 21)

Science precisely describes nature’s wiggly forms by classifying them into yes/no boxes to predict and control the environment. Yet there is ignorance in seeing life as a contest between order and chaos. These principles contain each other; their realization is awakening. Rather than a crude survival struggle, we can see nature’s forms as a joyful cosmic dance, like wise fishes delightedly circling in unity.

Alan Watts

Ecological Awareness

When Alan Watts talked about the ‘mystical experience’ among scientific circles, he preferred to call it ‘ecological awareness’—referring to a state of mind in which a person ceases to feel separate from the environment in which he or she exists.

Adyashanti   (2004)

Emptiness Dancing

Who are you when you are not thinking yourself into existence? What is ultimately behind the set of eyes reading these words? In Emptiness Dancing, Adyashanti invites you to wake up to the essence of what you are through the natural and spontaneous opening of the mind, heart, and body that holds the secret to happiness and liberation. From the first stages of realization to its evolutionary implications, Adyashanti shares a treasure trove of insights into the challenges of the inner life, offering lucid, down-to-earth advice on topics ranging from the ego, illusion, and spiritual addiction to compassion, letting go, the eternal now, and more.

Alan Watts   (1972)

Cosmic Drama

Essential Lectures, Program 5

Alan Watts further explores the Hindu dramatic view of the universe, in which God plays all of the parts – all the while pretending not to know who he/she/it is!

Alan Watts

Game Theory of Ethics

Alan muses whether life's a game worth playing. He argues we're all gambling from birth, so best embrace the dice-roll with open arms. Though the rules seem fixed, we shape them by how we play. At the heart of it, trusting the game and one another renders it all worthwhile.

Alan Watts

Intelligent Mindlessness

Alan discusses ways in which Western civilization confuses symbols with reality and introduces meditation and its associated gadgets as tools to get in touch with reality. Then he encourages his audience to cast off their reliance on symbols by guiding them through various mantra in a half-hour demonstration of this intelligent mindlessness.

Alan Watts

Journey to India

Buddhism sees life as drama—the Self playing hide and seek, getting lost for fun. It strips Hinduism for export, pursuing enlightenment not through beliefs but direct experience of who you really are beyond the separate ego. Through dialectic questioning, it demolishes all concepts you cling to, shaking your foundations until you let go into a state of insecurity that amazingly equals freedom. The teacher seems perfectly sane having nothing to hold onto, inspiring you to be alright that way too.

Alan Watts

Of Itself So

Watts takes us on an odyssey to peer through the prism of East and West. Brace for a metamorphosis as familiar philosophical tenets are unraveled and recast in vibrant hues. From the celestial monarchies of old to the grand cosmic theater, diverse models of existence intertwine, beckoning us to shed our self-imposed blinders. An electrifying exploration of consciousness itself, this lecture tantalizes with the promise of inner awakening and long-sought liberation.

Alan Watts   (1969)

The Nature of Consciousness (Part 1)

Out of Your Mind 1

A seminar about “what there is.” Watts weaves together keen insights from science and spirituality to propose that existence is more like a game of hide-and-seek where we pretend not to recognize how self and other are interconnected.

Alan Watts   (1969)

The Nature of Consciousness (Part 2)

Out of Your Mind 2

Alan Watts suggests the sole identity with our egoic thoughts limits our consciousness, and that existence is an interdependent web in which consciousness plays a game of pretending to be separate. We must recognize the fundamental unity of self and world; that consciousness encompasses all experience. He provides various techniques aimed at dissolving illusory boundaries of the ego. Watts maintains that enlightenment requires no striving, since we already live in eternal presence and are manifestations of the divine reality, pretending forgetfulness for the adventure of self-discovery.

Alan Watts

The Web of Life (Part 1)

Out of Your Mind 3

Alan Watts explores the interconnectedness and interdependence of all things. He asserts that human consciousness excludes an awareness of the whole, instead focusing narrowly and seeing the world as disjointed parts. Watts aims to broaden awareness to encompass the fundamental unity underlying apparent diversity. Using examples like music intervals, Chinese philosophy, and weaving, he elucidates the inseparability of opposites like order and randomness, sound and silence, self and other. Watts contends that a recognition of the implicit wholeness of existence brings peace, joy and harmony. He encourages a view of life that pairs an individual persona with an understanding that each person is an expression of the total cosmos.

Alan Watts

The Web of Life (Part 2)

Out of Your Mind 4

A deep dive into the cosmic game of life. Alan says existence is an interwoven, rhythmic dance veiled in illusion, but when we peek behind the veil, we find life is actually playful—so come on in and join the party!

Alan Watts

The Inevitable Ecstasy (Part 2)

Out of Your Mind 6

With cosmic wit, Watts unveils the mystic truth: our selves are but specks of dust, our lives a flicker in eternity's eye. Yet in this vanishing wisp of consciousness, we may glimpse our true nature—the boundless void that births the ten thousand things. Facing the abyss with laughter, we find liberation in the inevitable ecstasy of dissolution.

Alan Watts

The World as Just So (Part 1)

Out of Your Mind 7

Alan Watts lectures on the origins and essence of Zen, a branch of Mahayana Buddhism that spread from India to China and Japan. He discusses key concepts like satori, no-mind, and non-attachment, and emphasizes Zen's spontaneity, directness, and humor. Major figures covered include Bodhidharma, Hui-neng, Rinzai, and Dogen. Watts aims to illuminate Zen's appeal in the West and convey the feeling of its practices.

Alan Watts

The World As Self (Part 1)

Out of Your Mind 9

Alan parts the veil on Hinduism's mystical heart. The cosmos is līlā, a divine dance between Brahman, the eternal Self, and māyā, the veiling illusion of multiplicity. We are That: Atman, non-separate from Brahman. Liberation dawns when we wake from māyā's spell of separateness to realize our timeless unity with the One beyond all opposites.

Alan Watts

The World as Emptiness (Part 1)

Out of Your Mind 11

With Buddha as our guide, Watts leads us along the unfolding petals of the Eightfold Path—past the thorns of suffering, through the mists of illusion, and into the open arms of change. Life, impermanent as the wind, is ours not to grasp but to embrace. Accept each fading blossom without clinging, observe each passing cloud without craving, and suffering falls away like autumn leaves. We are left not with answers, but with questions that bloom into understanding.

Alan Watts

The World as Emptiness (Part 2)

Out of Your Mind 12

Alan Watts talks about the Buddhist perspective on change and impermanence. He discusses how Buddhism encourages detachment from the world of change and pursuit of nirvana, the state beyond change. However, clinging to nirvana as something permanent is still seeking permanence. True liberation comes from fully accepting change and transience, including death. The void or emptiness doctrine in Mahayana Buddhism elaborates on this by teaching that reality escapes concepts. Freedom comes from letting go of fixed ideas and accepting the void.

Joan Tollifson   (2010)

Painting the Sidewalk with Water

Talks and Dialogues About Non-Duality

These lively talks and dialogues are about seeing through the illusion of separation and waking up to the boundless wholeness that is all there is. Joan's approach is open and explorative, questioning all attempts to conceptually grasp and frame the movement of life. She talks about seeing through the stories and beliefs that create our human suffering and waking up to the simplicity of what is. This book beautifully dissolves the apparent dichotomy between the uncompromising "this is it, just as it is" message of radical non-duality and the emphasis on "being here now" that is found in many meditation teachings. Joan has an affinity with Buddhism, Advaita, and radical non-duality, but she belongs to no tradition. In these talks and dialogues, she takes on such perennial questions as, Is there a way out of personal and global suffering? Can we choose to stop addictive and destructive patterns? Does being awake take effort, vigilance, and practice, or is it effortlessly and unavoidably always already the case? What happens when we die?

Alan Watts   (1968)

Parallel Thinking

Philosophy: East and West, Program 19

What a tickling trickster the universe is! As Watts wanders down philosophical byways, tales emerge of those healed by harmonizing body and world. Yet we teach children to twist themselves to fit odd ideals. Tension tunnels through society, our “civilizing” ways quite uncouth! Might we reconsider, relax our willful ways? Observantly ambling amidst being's little blooms, we rediscover unity in the unruly diversity—finding wisdom whispering within, inviting us to dance delightfully with life’s flowing forms.

Alan Watts

Problems of Meditation

Watts illuminates meditation as a vehicle to transcend the illusion of individuality and realize one’s intrinsic unity with the cosmos. He unveils a symphony of sacred techniques—from breath awareness to primordial sonic mysticism—as potential pathways to the ineffable experience of non-dual consciousness. By surrendering the ego’s compulsive control, one may ultimately arrive at the paradoxical fruition of subject and object coalescing into one unconditioned field of pure witnessing awareness.

Alan Watts

Reality, Art, and Illusion

Join Alan as he expresses the meaning of life through the Hindu-Buddhist idea of reality as a divine game of hide-and-seek. "Life is not ultimately serious," Watts argues. By embracing the fluidity of identity and recognizing our interconnectedness, we can creatively engage with existence as impermanent, unified, and filled with playful potential. Accessible yet philosophically rich, these decades-old lectures offer timeless insights on the nature of reality.

Alan Watts

Relevance of Oriental Philosophy

Alan Watts discusses the limitations of Western theology, contrasting it with Eastern philosophies. He argues that the Western concept of God as a separate, authoritarian figure is problematic and that true faith involves letting go of fixed ideas about God. Watts suggests that Eastern ideas, such as the unity of opposites and the illusory nature of the ego, can provide a more meaningful understanding of spirituality and existence.

Ajahn Brahm   (2013)

Talk on Non-Self (Anattā)

Ajahn Brahm uses the metaphor of a lotus flower to describe the path of meditation leading to enlightenment. He guides the listener inward, petal by petal, until reaching the very heart—the ultimate truth of non-self and emptiness. With his characteristic wit and wisdom, he reveals how all phenomena are impermanent processes devoid of a permanent essence. Though initially confronting, Brahm suggests this teaching contains the song of freedom itself, destined to liberate those who have heard it.

Lao Tzu   (506 B.C.E.)

Tao Te Ching

Written more than two thousand years ago, the Tao Te Ching is one of the true classics of spiritual literature. It is a guide to cultivating a life of peace, serenity, and compassion. Through aphorisms and parable, it leads readers toward the Tao, or the “Way”: harmony with the life force of the universe.

Alan Watts   (1966)

The Book

On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

At the root of human conflict is our fundamental misunderstanding of who we are. The illusion that we are isolated beings, unconnected to the rest of the universe, has led us to view the “outside” world with hostility, and has fueled our misuse of technology and our violent and hostile subjugation of the natural world. In The Book, philosopher Alan Watts provides us with a much-needed answer to the problem of personal identity, distilling and adapting the ancient Hindu philosophy of Vedanta to help us understand that the self is in fact the root and ground of the universe. In this mind-opening and revelatory work, Watts has crafted a primer on what it means to be human—and a manual of initiation into the central mystery of existence.

Alan Watts

The Gateless Gate

Watts explores Zen Buddhism's unconventional approach to conveying enlightenment through seemingly mundane statements or actions instead of words or teachings. He delves into various Zen stories and their commentaries, revealing how direct pointing at reality can lead to a profound realization beyond the limits of language and conceptual thinking.

Alan Watts   (1962)

The Joyous Cosmology

Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness

The Joyous Cosmology is Alan Watts’ exploration of the insight that the consciousness-changing drugs LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin can facilitate when accompanied with sustained philosophical reflection by a person who is in search, not of kicks, but of understanding. More than an artifact, it is both a riveting memoir of Alan’s personal experiments and a profound meditation on our perennial questions about the nature of existence and the existence of the sacred.

Alan Watts

Images of God

The Tao of Philosophy 2

Alan Watts talks on the impact of various models of the ultimate reality, and the contrasts between male and female symbolism.

Alan Watts   (1965)

Myth of Myself

The Tao of Philosophy 5

The ferryboat philosopher riffs on how we're not skin bags with an “I” inside, but the whole cosmos peeking out! Says we feel separate because we ignore our cosmic “floodlight” consciousness. But we're waves in the ocean, apples on the tree. Realizing this brings real joy.

Alan Watts   (1965)

Man in Nature

The Tao of Philosophy 6

How should we view nature—as machine, drama, or organism? Alan says we must trust its organic patterns, explaining that the borders of our imagined selves determine our relationship to the environment and our role in the universe. So go with the flow, be purposeless, let the Tao wash over you like wild geese vanishing into clouds.

Alan Watts   (1965)

The Veil of Thoughts

Alan describes the ways in which we have concealed truth behind a veil of thoughts. He talks about how and why we mistake symbols for reality, argues that civilization may be a misguided experiment, offers observations about the way in which abstractions have become more powerful than the realities they are referencing, and explains how we can become “unbamboozled” from these ways of thinking.

Alan Watts   (1951)

The Wisdom of Insecurity

This 1951 classic explores how our modern pursuit of security through money, status, and technology leads to anxiety. Watts artfully weaves Eastern philosophy and Christian mysticism to argue that seeking permanence in an impermanent world is futile. Rather, we must embrace the present moment and recognize the illusion of the ego. Watts writes breezily with penetrating insight about how relaxing our grip on life's impermanence paradoxically allows us to live fully. Though challenging at times, ultimately Watts' message brings great comfort in understanding the futility of chasing security. Give it a read and you may just find the wisdom that insecurity brings!

Alan Watts

Unserious Wisdom

(Buddhist Mysticism)

While Pure Land Buddhism promises easy enlightenment through faith in Buddha Amitābha, Alan Watts explains how its eccentric followers, the myōkōnin, found wisdom by goofing off. With playful tales of the monk Ryōkan’s antics, from imitating tigers to forgetting letters mid-juggle, Watts shows how these rascal sages attained childlike wonder by ditching spiritual bootstraps for carefree acceptance of their flawed humanity. For the myōkōnin, the path to Buddhahood involved more fun and games than pious efforts.

Aldous Huxley   (1961)

Visionary Experience

Presented at the 14th Annual Congress of Applied Psychology. Aldous Huxley had been invited to the symposium by Timonthy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass). The two had met some months earlier, when Tim invited the author of the first two major works of modern psychedelic literature (The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell) to participate in the Harvard research program. Huxley agreed and was “Subject no.11” in a group psilocybin session run by Leary in November 1960.

Ramana Maharshi   (1923)

Who Am I?

A set of questions and answers on Self-enquiry that were put to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi by Sri M. Sivaprakasam Pillai in 1902.

Alan Watts

Who Is It That Knows There Is No Ego?

Alan explores the idea of separateness, and whether our language has tricked us into falsely believing that things are individual, independent, and comprehensible all on their own.

Joanna Macy   (1991)

World as Lover, World as Self

This overview of Joanna Macy's innovative work combines deep ecology, general systems theory, and the Buddha's teachings on interdependent co-arising. A blueprint for social change, World as Lover, World as Self shows how we can reverse the destructive attitudes that threaten our world.

Alan Watts   (1967)

Zen Bones

Alan invites us to float like clouds and experience life directly instead of mediating it through concepts. Constant thinking takes us from the real. Open wide the mind’s doors, be here, flow present like water. Watts touches on meditation’s liberating power in realizing our true nature already within. Sit, walk, breathe; see through illusion’s mist, marvel at the mundane’s hidden jewels, embrace each now, wake up! Enlightenment’s sunrise awaits those who cease thinking. Realize you're already It and let life’s living magic move your feet.

Alan Watts   (1947)

Zen Buddhism

This insightful booklet illuminates Zen Buddhism's iconoclastic yet practical approach to awakening one's mind to the timeless Reality beyond concepts. Watts skillfully conveys how Zen uses spontaneity, humor, and shock tactics to point directly to the ever-present "now." A thoughtful exploration for any seeker.

Alan Watts

Zen Clues

A small group of students traveled with Alan Watts through Japan, and along the way they stopped to visit the temples and gardens of Kyoto, listening to Alan bring ancient kōans to life.