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

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.

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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. 

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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