Alan

60+ Favourite Alan Watts Quotes That Will Blow Your Mind

British philosopher, author, and motivational speaker Alan Watts was one of the first people to interpret the Eastern philosophy of Buddhism for a Western audience. He was a prolific figure in the zen spirituality community, traveling the world to teach people the importance of diminishing the fear(s) of reality, learning to live in the moment, finding peace with nature, and taking time to practice meditation

Born in 1915 England in a small countryside near London, Alan Watts had always been fascinated with Asian art, literature, and philosophy. His father encouraged him to write and when he was a teenager, he became the editor of the Buddhist Lodge’s journal, The Middle Way. He kept writing and in 1932, he wrote and produced An Outline of Zen Buddhism, a booklet summarizing the zen writings of D.T. Suzuki. In 1938, Watts moved to New York City, where he studied and lectured zen in bookstores and cafes. Two years later, he published his first real book The Meaning of Happiness. He then moved to Chicago and enrolled at the Seabury-Western Theological Seminary studying mystical theology. In 1944, he was ordained as a priest, but he left the church and Chicago in 1950. He then moved to upstate New York, where he began writing The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety. One year later, he moved to San Francisco to teach Buddhism

Throughout his life, he went to various colleges across the country to give lectures on zen, meditation, and Buddhism. Sometime around the early 70s, Watts felt an urge to spend the rest of his life in the mountains, which is where he did most of his writing. He passed away in his sleep in November of 1973, on his mountain. British philosopher Alan Watts was a pivotal figure in the meditative community, inspiring people with zen training and words of wisdom on life and the world

Alan Watts Quotes
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Alan Watts Quotes On Spirituality, Religion, Faith, and Knowledge 

“A scholar tries to learn something everyday; a student of Buddhism tries to unlearn something daily.”

“Every intelligent individual wants to know what makes him tick, and yet is at once fascinated and frustrated by the fact that oneself is the most difficult of all things to know.”

“If we cling to belief in God, we cannot likewise have faith, since faith is not clinging but letting go.”

“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.” 

“If you really understand Zen… you can use any book. You could use the Bible. You could use Alice in Wonderland. You could use the dictionary, because… the sound of the rain needs no translation.” 

Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment.”

“The only Zen you’ll find on mountain tops is the Zen you bring up there with you.”

“Philosophy is man’s expression of curiosity about everything and his attempt to make sense of the world primarily through his intellect.”

“But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.”

“The religious idea of God cannot do full duty for the metaphysical infinity.

Alan Watts Quotes On Fear, Anxiety, and Suffering

 “One is a great deal less anxious if one feels perfectly free to be anxious, and the same may be said of guilt.”

“Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.”

“If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you’ll spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid.” 

“There will always be suffering. But we must not suffer over the suffering.”

“If you cannot trust yourself, you cannot even trust your mistrust of yourself – so that without this underlying trust in the whole system of nature you are simply paralyzed.”

“What we have to discover is that there is no safety, that seeking is painful, and that when we imagine that we have found it, we don’t like it.”

“To put is still more plainly: the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath.”

“We cannot be more sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain.” 

“Our pleasures are not material pleasures, but symbols of pleasure – attractively packaged but inferior in content.”

“It’s better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing, than a long life spent in a miserable way.

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

“The more we struggle for life (as pleasure), the more we are actually killing what we love.” 

“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the Gods made for fun.”

“No work of 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.”

“To remain stable is to refrain from trying to separate yourself from a pain because you know that you cannot. Running away from fear is fear, fighting pain is pain, trying to be brave is being scared. If the mind is in pain, the mind is pain. The thinker has no other form than his thought. There is no escape.”

“Your body does not eliminate poisons by knowing their names. To try to control fear or depression or boredom by calling them names is to resort to superstition of trust in curses and invocations. It is so easy to see why this does not work. Obviously, we try to know, name, and define fear in order to make it ‘objective,’ that is, separate from ‘I.’”

Alan Watts Quotes On Love, Joy, and Desire

“Everyone has love, but it can only come out when he is convinced of the impossibility and the frustration of trying to love himself.”

Life and love generate effort, but effort will not generate them. Faith in life, in other people, and in oneself, is the attitude of allowing the spontaneous to be spontaneous, in its own way and in its own time.”

“There is no formula for generating the authentic warmth of love. It cannot be copied.”

“Peace can be made only by those who are peaceful, and love can be shown only by those who love.”

“The world is filled with love–play, from animal lust to sublime compassion.”

“The greater part of human activity is designed to make permanent those experiences and joys which are only lovable because they are changing.” 

Alan Watts Quotes On the Universe

“There was never a time when the world began, because it goes round and round like a circle, and there is no place on a circle where it begins. Look at my watch, which tells the time; it goes round, and so the world repeats itself again and again.”

“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.” 

“What I am really saying is that you don’t need to do anything, because if you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomenon of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that, and there is nothing wrong with you at all.” 

“You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are.”

“You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.” 

“It’s like you took a bottle of ink and you threw it at a wall. Smash! And all that ink spread. And in the middle, it’s dense, isn’t it? And as it gets out on the edge, the little droplets get finer and finer and make more complicated patterns, see? So in the same way, there was a big bang at the beginning of things and it spread. And you and I, sitting here in this room, as complicated human beings, are way, way out on the fringe of that bang. We are the complicated little patterns on the end of it. Very interesting. But so we define ourselves as being only that. If you think that you are only inside your skin, you define yourself as one very complicated little curlicue, way out on the edge of that explosion. Way out in space, and way out in time. Billions of years ago, you were a big bang, but now you’re a complicated human being. And then we cut ourselves off, and don’t feel that we’re still the big bang. But you are. Depends how you define yourself. You are actually–if this is the way things started, if there was a big bang in the beginning– you’re not something that’s a result of the big bang. You’re not something that is a sort of puppet on the end of the process. You are still the process. You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are. When I meet you, I see not just what you define yourself as–Mr so-and- so, Ms so-and-so, Mrs so-and-so–I see every one of you as the primordial energy of the universe coming on at me in this particular way. I know I’m that, too. But we’ve learned to define ourselves as separate from it.”

“You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.”

“We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infinitesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. We have no present. Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We do not realize that there never was, is, nor will be any other experience than present experience. We are therefore out of touch with reality. We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is. We are sick with a fascination for the useful tools of names and numbers, of symbols, signs, conceptions and ideas.”

“You and I are all as much continuous with the physical universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean.”

“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.”

“Without birth and death, and without the perpetual transmutation of all the forms of life, the world would be static, rhythm-less, undancing, mummified.”

“Tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live. There is no other reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly.”

“Every individual is a unique manifestation of the Whole, as every branch is a particular outreaching of the tree.” 

Life exists only at this very moment, and in this moment it is infinite and eternal, for the present moment is infinitely small; before we can measure it, it has gone, and yet it exists forever….”

Other Alan Watts Quotes About Life

“Words can be communicative only between those who share similar experiences.”

“Parts exist only for purposes of figuring and describing, and as we figure the world out we become confused if we do not remember this all the time.”

“Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe.”

“Normally, we do not so much look at things as overlook them.”

“No one is more dangerously insane than one who is sane all the time: he is like a steel bridge without flexibility, and the order of his life is rigid and brittle.”

“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 Quotes

“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” 

“Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way.”

“Society is our extended mind and body.”

“The ego is nothing other than the focus of conscious attention.”

“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.”

“What we have forgotten is that thoughts and words are conventions, and that it is fatal to take conventions too seriously. A convention is a social convenience, as, for example, money … but it is absurd to take money too seriously, to confuse it with real wealth … In somewhat the same way, thoughts, ideas and words are “coins” for real things.”

“A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.” 

“When we attempt to exercise power or control over someone else, we cannot avoid giving that person the very same power or control over us.”

“Just as true humor is laughter at oneself, true humanity is knowledge of oneself.”

More Quotes:

About the author
January Nelson is a writer, editor, dreamer, and occasional exotic dancer and a collective pen name. Read more articles from January on Thought Catalog.

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