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The Way of Zen Paperback – January 26, 1999
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Top Customer Reviews
I am amazed at the proliferation of books on the subject to be currently found on Amazon.com. Separating the wheat from the chaff can be a daunting challenge. Many interpretations of the Dharma, especially by Western authors, often seem to be tainted by naive New Age idealism on the one hand, or dry pedantry on the other. Although Watts was academically disciplined, reading the text with appropriate reflection can be simultaneously an intellectual and experiential endeavor (although not in the "how-to" sense). Watts wisely points out, with ample historical support from past Zen masters, that while so-called techniques for enlightenment may serve as transitional supports along the path, they ultimately lead to dead ends.
The Way of Zen, despite some rather petty criticisms by pedants and literalists over the years, has survived as one of the most lucid expositions of Zen specifically and Buddhism in general. Highly recommended...still.
The book is divided into two parts, "Background and History" and Principles and Practice," each with four chapters. There is a bibliography also divided into two parts, the first referring to original sources and second to general works on Zen in European languages. There are 16 pages of Chinese Notes in calligraphy keyed to the text, and an Index.
"The Way" in the title refers to the "watercourse way" from Taoism, a philosophy to which Zen owes much, as Watts makes clear in the first two chapters, "The Philosophy of the Tao" and "The Origins of Buddhism." The first chapter is one of the best on Taoism that I have ever read, replete with insight and wisdom. Throughout, Watts expresses himself in an infectious style, even in the very scholarly chapters on the history of Buddhism where he traces Zen from its origin in India, through the Buddha under the Po tree, to Ch'an in China, and finally into Japan.Read more ›
and you'll see the problem--books with titles like "The Tao
of Love and Relationships" or "The Zen of Career
Advancement." Much of the literature on eastern philosophy
written by westerners is distorted as it is re-focused
through the prism ("prison," some would argue) of western
thought and language.
Alan Watts appreciates and addresses these difficulties in
The Way of Zen, an excellent introduction to the Zen
Buddhism. Watts explores Zen's historical background,
tracing it from Buddhism's migration from India to China,
where it absorbed elements of Confucian and Taoist thought,
to its final development in Japan. The second half of the
book describes Zen's underlying principles and its
practices, such as the absence of "self" and the futility
Rich in scholarly detail, yet accessible to the lay reader,
The Way of Zen, is remarkable in its lucidity. Watts uses
analogies and allusions culled from daily life to
illustrate Zen principles and does much to clear up western
misconceptions about Zen thought. He also warns of the
difficulties many westerners face trying to understand Zen.
With the English language's clear separation between the
observer and the observed, the action and the actor and its
rigid division of time into past, present and future, Zen
thought often strikes westerners as mystical or moronic.
While Watts may champion Zen, he never stoops to mere
cheer-leading. Instead he has produced a highly readable
book that explains and de-mystifies Zen.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book by alan watts, de-mystifying and saying it how it is, great book with many insights to take away. Read morePublished 1 month ago by iLikeToTalk
I personally find his writing to be drier than Tolkien, yet also very insightful. The Way of Zen was an excellent reintroduction into Buddhism. For me, anyway.Published 4 months ago by Chelsea Frederick