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Alan Watts - the Western Buddhist who healed my mind - Tim Lott | Aeon Essays

The Zen View Of The World

The word 'Zen' means emptiness or void. This is the basis of Zen — that all that exists is based on a dynamic emptiness. Which is also what quantum science says.

In this view, there is no difference between matter and energy. Look at anything closely enough and you will see that it is an event, not a thing. Furthermore, there is not a ‘multiplicity of events’. There is just one event, with multiple aspects, unfolding. 

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Alan Watts - the Western Buddhist who healed my mind - Tim Lott | Aeon Essays

Alan Watts - the Western Buddhist who healed my mind - Tim Lott | Aeon Essays

https://aeon.co/essays/alan-watts-the-western-buddhist-who-healed-my-mind

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Key Ideas

The Zen View Of Morals

Evil cannot be destroyed, any more than good can, because they are polar opposites of the same thing. Destruction and creation, chaos and order; opposite aspects of reality, in tension with one another, are necessary to keep the whole going: the unity of opposites.

Zen makes no judgment about good or bad besides saying both are necessary to make the universe dynamic. Zen has no particular moral code and The Noble Truths are not moral teachings. 

The Zen View Of Life

For Zen practitioners, life is transitory and insubstantial. There is no security and thinking otherwise is a waste of time. 

They also don’t believe in an afterlife. Reincarnation can be more accurately thought of as a constant rebirth, of death throughout life, and the continual coming and going of universal energy before and after death.

The Zen View Of The World

The word 'Zen' means emptiness or void. This is the basis of Zen — that all that exists is based on a dynamic emptiness. Which is also what quantum science says.

In this view, there is no difference between matter and energy. Look at anything closely enough and you will see that it is an event, not a thing. Furthermore, there is not a ‘multiplicity of events’. There is just one event, with multiple aspects, unfolding. 

Instinctual Versus Intentional Behavior

Western philosophical traditions tend to distrust spontaneity since it supposedly clears the way for the dominance of brute animal instincts and dangerous passions.

Conversely, Zen thinkers believe that intuition, in a healthy soul, is more important than conscious reflection and that evolution has made the human unconscious wise, not reckless.

Western Versus Eastern Philosophy

Westerners find Buddhism frustrating as it deemphasizes language, reason and logic as tools to transform the self or to ‘know’. The riddles, or koans, that Zen thinkers speak in are intended to confuse and expose how inadequate words are in making sense.

Zen emphasizes intuition and mushin, an empty mind, over plans and thoughts. The ideal is that your mind can be unblocked from maya (illusion and play) and thus acquire a kind of resonance or instant reflection, or munen, which translates roughly as now/mind/heart.

Alan Watts’ Take On Buddhism

  • Life has no intrinsic meaning but that which we give it.
  • Everything is uncertain, so we must put together a world view that fits roughly with the facts, and accept that it is just a guess.
  • Life cannot be described, only experienced.
  • Zazen, spending hours seated in contemplative meditation, is unnecessary.
  • Karma and reincarnation are not real.
  • Zen and Taoism are more like psychotherapy than religion. They offer ways to maintain a healthy personality in a contradictory and repressive culture.
  • Zen philosophy teaches one to think clearly, and thus transcend conventional thinking to a place where the mind could be at peace despite its environment.

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  1. Whatever you do, practice being in the moment.
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Be Balanced

Chaos is the natural state of the universe. There are more ways things can go wrong than ways things can go right. But chaos is a potential threat and that’s why we like orderly and ordering things.

Understand that there will always be problems in your life. Don’t expect to solve every problem or to always do the right thing. Simply do the best in your power, but don’t try so hard that you create more problems than solve.

Dealing With Things As They Come

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The History Of Zen
  • 1500 years ago, the founding of the the Ch’an (Zen) school
  • 12th century C. E. , the concept arrives in Japan
  • 1, 300 years ago Zen reaches Korea and Vietnam.
  • Late 19th ...
Being Zen

It's essentially a state of being at peace with your own thoughts, and being self-aware of your place within the universe, inconsequential (and simultaneously essential).

The word Zen is both the acceptance of everything and nothing, the realization that Zen encompasses and is encompassed by everything. It also centers on a relationship with your own mind, and a higher, undefined entity outside of yourself.

The Practices Of Zen

The most common ways are sitting meditation (Zazen) and walking meditation (Kinhin), where direct noninteractive observation of breath and mind is practiced. The ideal scenario is to clear your mind and allow thoughts to organically rise and fall, without interacting or affecting them in any way.

There are also group sessions of intense meditation, often taking up to a week of silent, disciplined focus, interrupted only by short periods of sleep. Other forms of practice include the use of koans (stories practitioners meditate on), and Zen chanting (repetition of sutras followed by silent meditation on them).

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Of Zen And Focus

Zen spirituality is to be in the moment and do only what you are doing without giving in to fleeting thoughts.

When a human is so self-controlled, that he cannot let go of himself, he dithers or wobbles between opposites. The effort to remain “good” or “happy” necessitates such strenuous balancing that it will surely induce mania and anxiety.

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What Zen Is Not
  • A habit
  • Simplicity
  • A state of peace
  • A state of mind
  • A minimalist aesthetic
  • Living simply
  • A destination
  • Just being in the moment
On Zen
  • “Zen” is a shorthand for Zen Buddhism, introduced into China in the 6th century, and emphasizes enlightenment for the student by the most direct possible means.
  • Zen is a path to fully awaken to your original nature, which is present at all times.
  • The word Zen comes from the Chinese word “chán” and the Sanskrit word “dhyana, ” which means “meditation. ”
  • A Zen mind cannot be understood from the perspective of our ordinary, dualistic mind.
  • Zen practice may calm our minds, bring more clarity, and infuse us with greater kindness.
Shunryū Suzuki
Shunryū Suzuki

“Zen mind is one of those enigmatic phrases used by Zen teachers to make you notice yourself, to go beyond the words and wonder what your own mind and being are. This is the purpose of all Zen teaching—to make you wonder and to answer that wondering with the deepest expression of your own nature.”

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