“My title, ‘Alan,’ means ‘concord’ in Celtic and ‘hound’ in Anglo-Saxon. Accordingly, my existence is, and has been, a paradox, or higher, a coincidence of opposites.” Zen Buddhism is filled with paradoxes: sensible, but mystical; critically formal, but shot via with jokes and performs on phrases; stressing intricate ceremonial guidelines and communal practices, but simply
“My title, ‘Alan,’ means ‘concord’ in Celtic and ‘hound’ in Anglo-Saxon. Accordingly, my existence is, and has been, a paradox, or higher, a coincidence of opposites.”
Zen Buddhism is filled with paradoxes: sensible, but mystical; critically formal, but shot via with jokes and performs on phrases; stressing intricate ceremonial guidelines and communal practices, but simply as usually delivered to life by “wild fox” masters who flout all conference. Such a Zen grasp was Alan Watts, the trainer, author, thinker, priest, and calligrapher who embraced contradiction and paradox in all its types.
Watts was a pure contrarian, turning into a Buddhist at 15 — no less than partly in opposition to the fundamentalist Protestantism of his mom — then, within the Nineteen Forties, ordaining as an Episcopal priest. Although he left the priesthood in 1950, he would proceed to jot down and educate on each Buddhism and Christianity, in search of to reconcile the traditions and succeeding in ways in which offended leaders of neither faith. His ebook of theology, Behold the Spirit, “was broadly hailed in Christian circles,” David Man writes at Tricycle magazine. “One Episcopal reviewer mentioned it will ‘show to be one of many half dozen most vital books on faith within the twentieth century.’”
As a Buddhist, Watts has are available in for criticism for his use of psychedelics, dependancy to alcohol, and unorthodox practices. But his knowledge acquired the stamp of approval from Shunryu Suzuki, the Japanese Zen trainer usually credited with bringing formal Japanese Zen apply to American college students. Suzuki referred to as Watts “an ideal bodhisattva” and died with a employees Watts had given him in hand. Watts didn’t keep lengthy in any establishment as a result of he “simply didn’t need his apply to be about leaping via different folks’s hoops or being put of their packing containers,” writes a friend, David Chadwick, in a recent tribute. Nonetheless, he remained a robust catalyst for others who found religious practices that spoke to them extra authentically than something they’d recognized.
Watts, a self-described trickster, “noticed the true vacancy of all issues,” mentioned Suzuki’s American successor Richard Baker in a eulogy — “the multiplicities and absurdities to the Nice Common Character and Play.” It was his contrarian streak that made him the best interpreter of esoteric Indian, Chinese language, and Japanese non secular concepts for younger People within the Fifties and 60s who had been questioning the dogmas of their dad and mom however lacked the language with which to take action. Watts was a severe scholar, although he by no means completed a college diploma, and he constructed bridges between East and West with wit, erudition, irreverence, and awe.
Lots of Watts’ first devotees obtained their introduction to him via his volunteer radio broadcasts on Berkeley’s KPFA. You possibly can hear a number of of these talks at KPFA’s web site, which presently hosts a “Greatest Hits Collection” of Watts’ talks. Along with his 1957 ebook The Way of Zen, these wonderfully meandering lectures helped introduce the rising counterculture to Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, forgotten mystical features of Christianity, and the Jungian concepts that always tied all of them collectively.
Regardless of the custom Watts discovered himself discussing on his broadcasts, listeners discovered him turning again to paradox. Hear him accomplish that in talks on the “Fundamentals of Buddhism” (prime), and different talks just like the “Religious Odyssey of Aldous Huxley,” the “Reconciliation of Opposites” and a chat entitled “Approach Past the West,” additionally the title of his lecture sequence, extra of which you could find at KPFA’s “Greatest Hits” collection here.
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