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133 of 137 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We are all centered in the Tao- we have but to realize it.
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...
Published on August 13, 2004 by OAKSHAMAN

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14 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tough read
I've read only one other book of Alan Watts and it was much easier for me to digest than this one. I struggled through the entire book hoping to extract some little nugget that would make the entire book worth the read. I just never got there. His writing style is perhaps for the technical minded and I'm more of a visual dreamer. Help me create a vision in my mind to...
Published 19 months ago by K. N. Cannon


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133 of 137 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We are all centered in the Tao- we have but to realize it., August 13, 2004
By 
OAKSHAMAN "oakshaman" (Algoma, WI United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Become What You Are (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. You just have to get out of your own way. A life, or a society, totally balled-up in rigid self-control and self-consciousness must eventually fail. Wu-Wei means to live with your center outside of this trap.

Lightness of Touch: Deals with not taking the world of Maya, or yourself, too seriously. The real world is the play of the spirit.

Birds in the Sky: Describes the path of the sage as paradoxically both in harmony with the world, as well as detached from it (in the world but not of it.) Points out that almost all western thought rebels against this as pessimism and nihilism.

Walking on the Wheel: Examines the ideal life as 1) stillness, calm, and immovability, and as 2) dancing with the flow of life. Resolves the seeming conflict as a question of relative perception.

The Language of Metaphysical Experience: Examines how modern logical philosophy (scientific empiricism and logical positism) simply ignores metaphysical and spiritual issues as "meaningless." Points out that such philosophers have no idea what reality is. Shows how materialists are ego driven types who are driven to order and control- and ignore anything that doesn't fit.

Good Intentions: Shows how good intentions in and of themselves are not necessarily good- if they are based on ignorance, laziness, incompetence, or misplaced desire.

Birth of the Divine Son: Once again, long before it was popular Watts recognized that the symbolism of the Christ long preceded Christianity. The Universal power of the symbol of Spirit entering into union with matter is examined. Also dealt with is the concept of the Second Birth- of the potential for unregenerate man becoming Christ.

Even the cover of this book is a spiritual lesson, with its mirror at the center of the mandala, that we may glimpse our Self at the center of creation.
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78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What Else Can We Be?, September 16, 2004
By 
Butch (From the American Heartland.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Become What You Are (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. Such a mystical experience can also make one feel as though everyday reality is little more than a dream, like one has woke up from a dream of being separate from the rest of reality. The Father and I are a unitive one. Nothing is separate from the whole. Reality is whole and it has no second. More than one, but less than two, synergetic.

Watts had found that Oriental religious philosophy, in particular Taoism, more freely shared this mystical interconnectedness of man and God (Source) with the common man than do most Western religious traditions. Alan then made it his life's mission to spread the good news. That we are part and parcel of a singularly unitive totality. That we are essential. That our predominant Western conception of a discrete self is a case of mistaken identity. That we "think" we are separate from the rest of reality. Thus cut off from our source through dualistic thinking we face an alien world alone. Witness the universality in the West of existential dread. The truth shall set you free. We are not alone, nor are we strangers in a strange land. "In my Father's house are many rooms". John 14:2. This is more than semantics. We are not alone because every whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Reality is synergetic. Not simply one. But a unitive One. A One greater than one. We are home for we come out of the world and not into it. No man is an island, he is a peninsula. It is an intuitive thing. More a feel than a think. Though we cannot know God, I AM THAT I AM, we can experience God. "Be still, and know that I am God". Psalm 46:10. Meditate.

Read this collection of essays and start seeing what Watts saw. That we are created in the image of God (or whatever word or term you prefer that refers to that which is beyond naming). The eternal Tao, Allah, Source, Great Spirit in the Sky, or my personal favorite, the ineffable "I AM THAT I AM". That whatever we prefer to call It we are a microcosm of the macrocosm. We are a part of that which has no separate parts. That it takes a godlike being to realize a Godlike source. That the Kingdom of I AM THAT I AM is a family and we are all members.

I also wholeheartedly recommend Mr. Watt's last book "Tao: The Watercourse Way". It is about living a balanced life, a natural/supernatural way of living. I found the Chapter on the Chinese Language to be one of the most enlightening essays I have ever read. Read it and you will know why a picture can indeed be worth a thousand words. Alan had a way with words. That is, he used words at least as much as they used him.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buddhism for beginners. An excellent introduction., September 28, 2012
This review is from: Become What You Are (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. They would even say that in this respect there is some advantage in being weak and foolish, for the possession of a strong will and a clever head makes some things very difficult to see."

"Detachment means to have neither regrets for the past nor fears for the future; to let life takes its course without attempting to interfere with its movement and change, neither trying to prolong the stay of things pleasant nor to hasten the departure of things unpleasant. To do this is to move in time with life, to be in perfect accord with its changing music, and this is called Enlightenment. In short, it is to be detached from both past and future and to live in the eternal Now. For in truth neither past nor future have any existence apart from this Now; by themselves they are illusions. 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 persists for ever."
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gloss over of Alan Watts, March 26, 2007
By 
Big Vinnie (Arlington, Va.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Become What You Are (Paperback)
For those who have lisened to Alan Watts on tape this book is a reliable reference to many of the diverse ideas that he had. Some of the ideas are given a little more depth which may or may not increase your understanding of what he was trying to present. Because the book is short essays it can be read over and over with a different understanding each time or only reinforcing what you already think about the man and his suggestions.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wish I had read it sooner, December 12, 2012
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This review is from: Become What You Are (Paperback)
I had never even heard of Alan Watts until I ran across him on yo(u)tube of all places. I have spent a couple of years trying to sort out my spiritual beliefs and have browsed, read, watched and generally consumed all manner of media in my quest for "enlightenment". I have to say this book wraps all of that up in just a few short pages and has given me a new perspective on life and the struggles we all go through.
If you are struggling trying to make sense of all the differing religions and belief systems out there I encourage you to read this. It breaks things down to the simple core understandings that run through all of them you're probably looking for.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Become What You Are, October 7, 2009
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This is a superb book for people on inner journey. Over the last 10 yrs, I have read and listened to a lot of spiritual stuff, but this book blew my mind. Everything i had ever heard is mentioned somewhere in this relatively thin book. Sometimes without context ! But an incredible book. Bhuddahood/Samadhi cannot be described more simple than what Watts has done in this book. Must read. Must read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't try to be someone who you are not, be who you are and you will succeed, October 2, 2013
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Excellent book by the pioneer in bringing Buddhism to the U.S. This book is very readable and will convince you to follow your bliss. If you think that earning a living is tortuous and mind numbing, then you are in the wrong job or career. If you get on the right path to expressing your true self, you will feel better, attract the right people and get a good career that is profitable and satisfying.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight, February 23, 2014
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This review is from: Become What You Are (Paperback)
Well written explanation of Eastern philosophy. A good guide for opening the eyes and discovering a world hidden by our cultural indoctrinations and opening a path the understanding true freedom.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightenment, Not What You Might Have Thought, September 13, 2013
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Enlightenment, awakening, etc.words we use all the time but have a hard time putting a handle on them. Alan Watts brings light to these terms that may be new to you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One For The Collection, November 19, 2013
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Such a great book. Watts had such a skill for delivering ideas in a form anyone can grasp. This book is like an anti-anxiety pill in written form.
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Become What You Are
Become What You Are by Alan Watts (Paperback - March 11, 2003)
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