Eastern philosophy is often considered very esoteric. It epitomizes paradox, and this is where Alan Watts comes in.
Born in England, this British philosopher made Eastern philosophy simpler to the Western audience. Alan Watts was a Zen propagator and proposed Buddhism as a form of psychotherapy, not just a religion.
Watts was fascinated by Asian culture. In order to explore the various philosophies of India and East Asia, Watts learned Chinese and began meticulous research. The Way of Zen is a product of his fascination with Zen Buddhism. His knowledge was not only limited to philosophy and later he wrote books on cybernetics and the anthropology of sexuality, natural history, and semantics. His words inspire people even today. Here are some of his quotes that will help you introspect:
“Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.”
You cannot label yourself because you cannot know yourself in totality. You can only be, and this being changes with time.
“We seldom realize, for example, that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”
Simply put, society lives in our minds and thereby our most authentic voice is suppressed.
“Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way.”
There is a solution to every single problem on earth. You just need to look for it.
“How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself anything less than a god.”
Your mind is the greatest possible weapon. Believe in yourself and enrich your knowledge.
“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”
Take Alan Watt’s word for it, live life as it comes.
“What happens if you know that there is nothing you can do to be better? It’s kind of a relief, isn’t it? You say ‘Well, now what do I do?’ When you are freed from being out to improve yourself, your own nature will begin to take over.”
When you let go of the idea of yourself, you will know who you really are. Give yourself the chance to grow.
“No work or love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.”
Alan Watts believes that one must keep love and work away from negative emotions. He is also of the opinion that nothing but the present moment holds much value.
“The word ‘person’ comes from the Latin word ‘persona’ which referred to the masks worn by actors in which sound would come through. The ‘person’ is the mask — the role you’re playing. And all of your friends and relations and teachers are busy telling you who you are and what your role in life is.”
There! Someone finally said it! All the world is a stage and we are merely players…
“We cannot be more sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain.”
There’s no rainbow without rain, that’s the way of life.
“I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.”
Living in the moment is the key to a fulfilling life.
“Nirvana is right where you are, provided that you don’t object to it.”
Being content is an art and we ought to master it.
“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead, you relax, and float.”
Alan Watts says what we learned in Finding Nemo – “keep swimming!”
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
Change is the only constant said Heraclitus, and Watts believes the same.
“The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.”
We stop living the moment we stop learning.
“Life is like music for its own sake. We are living in an eternal now, and when we listen to music we are not listening to the past, we are not listening to the future, we are listening to an expanded present.”
Alan Watts repeatedly uses the idea of the eternal now, which shows his strong belief in philosophy.
Read these when you are feeling low and it’ll surely uplift your mood.