To awaken from the illusion is, then, to undergo a radical change of consciousness with regard to one’s own existence. It is to cease being under the impression that you are just “poor little me.” To find out who you really are, or what you really are, behind the mask.

Alan Watts

Of Itself So

Zen

Zen, rooted in the Chinese Chán tradition, is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism renowned for its emphasis on meditation, mindfulness, and direct experience of reality. Originating in China during the Tang dynasty, Zen was influenced by Taoism and gradually spread to Japan, where it became known as Zen. At its core, Zen emphasizes the practice of zazen, or seated meditation, as a means to cultivate awareness and insight into the nature of existence. Unlike some other Buddhist traditions, Zen places less emphasis on doctrinal study and more on direct experience and realization through meditation and contemplation. Zen teachings often employ paradoxical statements (kōans) and stories (zen anecdotes) to provoke deep insight and break through conceptual limitations, encouraging practitioners to transcend dualistic thinking and awaken to their true nature.

Zen philosophy is characterized by its emphasis on non-attachment, emptiness, and the “suchness” of reality. Zen practitioners seek to cultivate a state of profound mindfulness and presence in everyday life, viewing each moment as an opportunity for awakening. The concept of mu, or “emptiness,” lies at the heart of Zen, pointing to the interconnectedness and impermanence of all phenomena. By letting go of attachments and preconceptions, Zen practitioners aim to experience reality directly, free from the distortions of ego and conceptual thought. Through rigorous meditation practice and guidance from a teacher (rōshi), Zen is said to offer a path towards profound insight, liberation from suffering, and a deep sense of inner peace.

Documents

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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   (1973)

Limits of Language

The Tao of Philosophy 8

Alan Watts explains how language helps to construct reality, and what to do about it. He then follows up with the challenges of expressing the ineffable.

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.

Shunryū Suzuki   (1970)

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

In the thirty years since its original publication, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind has become one of the great modern Zen classics, much beloved, much re-read, and much recommended as the best first book to read on Zen. Suzuki Roshi presents the basics—from the details of posture and breathing in zazen to the perception of nonduality—in a way that is not only remarkably clear, but that also resonates with the joy of insight from the first to the last page. It's a book to come back to time and time again as an inspiration to practice.

Alan Watts

Zen and the Art of the Controlled Accident

Most people grow up learning to treat life as a problem, a set of circumstances which must be controlled with an iron will. Some transcend this view, realizing there is no problem and nothing to attain. In that state of mind it becomes possible to act without intention, to have “controlled accidents,” and in so doing one may rejoin society as a whimsical rascal who breaks things to improve them.