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Become What You Are Paperback – March 11, 2003

4.7 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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From the Inside Flap

?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?. You may believe yourself out of harmony with life and its eternal Now; but you cannot be, for you are life and exist Now.??from Become What You Are

In this collection of writings, including nine new chapters never before available in book form, Watts displays the intelligence, playfulness of thought, and simplicity of language that has made him so perennially popular as an interpreter of Eastern thought for Westerners. He draws on a variety of religious traditions, and covers topics such as the challenge of seeing one?s life ?just as it is,? the Taoist approach to harmonious living, the limits of language in the face of ineffable spiritual truth, and the psychological symbolism of Christian thought.

About the Author

Alan Watts (1915–1973) was a renowned lecturer and the author of nearly thirty books, including The Way of Zen and The Book.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; Expanded edition (March 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570629404
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570629402
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
For such a small book there is an incredible quantity of wisdom here to contemplate. The essays included in this collection are all from Watt's work in the 50's. It becomes clear that this man was not merely ahead of his time- he was beyond time.

The Paradox of Self-Denial: This first essay sets the tone for the collection. It is framed around the intuition that "He who loseth his soul shall find it." It is pointed out that the seeker that consciously tries to transcend the world, and his own conscious ego, shall never do so. It is only when ego has truly, deeply, experienced defeat, failure, and despair that true transcendence is ever reached. And perhaps not even then, for it comes from beyond the self and is far from predictable.

Become What You Are: This essay deals with the concept of the enlightened man as a mirror. This involves grasping nothing/ refusing nothing and receiving all/ keeping nothing. This is detachment from future and past to live in an eternal Now. We are all centered in the infinite Tao- we have all but to recognize it.

The Finger and the Moon: One of his most famous essays, it deals with not mistaking religion for the ultimate goal of religion. Once you cross the river, don't try to carry the raft with you on your back.

Importance: Deals with the fact that the importance of things has nothing to do with their permanence or duration. Value is in quality and not quantity. The tiniest part of the universe contains that universe in microcosm- and fully participates in the whole.

Tao and Wu-Wei: Watts addressed the concept of Wu-Wei long before it became fashionable. This is what works and moves in harmony with nature without having to be forced. Your heart does this- so would your mind if you let it.
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Format: Paperback
This is a collection of essays written by Watts before he came to the United States in 1938 along with articles he wrote during the 50's. The overall theme is about discovering, or realizing, who we are. No one explains our true natures better than Watts. I have been a big fan of his ever since my days growing up in the 60's in Northern California. I listened to his radio program out of Berkeley a few times and even met him once. Though I really didn't know what the heck he was talking about it was clear to me that he was very wise and sincere. I was more into girls than Reality at the time. I digress. Sorry ladies, I am not blaming any of you for my wasted youth. I just wish I had used a little more of my youthful energy a little more wisely.

Classically educated in Occidental Orthodoxy Mr. Watts went in search of further understanding and found it in the Wisdom of the East. He found no fundamental argument between Jesus and Buddha. Between Christianity and Buddhism perhaps, but not between the two great men. The transformation of consciousness was both men's primary focus, not dogma. They were both big on meditation. Their message was essentially the same. As the Buddha stated in the Dhammapada, "The path is not somewhere in the sky, It is in our hearts". As Jesus stated in Luke 17:20-21, "The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." As the Buddha and Jesus well knew, to experience ultimate reality--reality as it is as opposed to merely what one thinks it is can make one feel like a child again, everything becomes new, born again. Enlightened.
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Format: Paperback
"This volume is a collection of Alan Watt's articles from the mid-fifties, interspersed with short essays from the late thirties, written before he came to America from England." In total, there are 20 pieces. I really enjoyed this book, even before I understood what Buddhism was all about. It certainly isn't for everybody, but if you are interested in Buddhism, I definitely recommend this slim addition to your library. In addition, I would recommend the following two books:Buddhism Plain and Simple and Zen and the Art of Consciousness.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"It is simply the expression of the universal discovery that a man does not really begin to be alive until he has lost himself, until he has released the anxious grasp which he normally holds upon his life, his property, his reputation and position."

"Thus the one important result of any really serious attempt at self-renunciation or self-acceptance is the humiliating discovery that it is impossible."

"I have always found that the people who have quite genuinely died to themselves make no claims of any kind to their own part in the process. They think of themselves as a lazy and lucky. If they did anything at all, it was so simple that anyone else could do the same - for all that they have done is to recognize a universal fact of life, something as true of the weak and the foolish as of the wise and strong.
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