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The Way of Zen [Mass Market Paperback]

Alan W. Watts
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 1, 1959
Classic of the genre.

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The Way of Zen + The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are + The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: New American Library/Mentor; 1st Pbk edition (September 1, 1959)
  • Language: English
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 4.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,908,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
104 of 108 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still The Best December 30, 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Receiving my first copy of The Way of Zen in 1959 set me on the path of exploring both the literature and the practices of Eastern traditions for the next 47 years. My original copy became so well-worn that I recently had to relegate it to archive status and purchase a new working copy. All these years later, this title still remains for me the classic work for Western understanding of Buddhism.

I am amazed at the proliferation of books on the subject to be currently found on 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.
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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
Generally speaking, Watts doesn't appeal to new-age crystal fairies, channelers, and so forth, and if you prefer your Zen texts all poetical and mysterious, then this book isn't for you; but if you want a treatment of Zen as an important, credible and viable philosophical tradition, then you'll like this book. It's not an easy read, but this is good, solid, hardheaded Watts.
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118 of 130 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth a couple dozen other books on Zen Buddhism December 19, 2001
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This can be seen as a significant book in the transmission of the dharma to the Western world, even though, or perhaps especially because, it is written by a Westerner. Consistently admired since its first publication in 1957, and reprinted many times, The Way of Zen is that rarest of books, a popular and academic success. You will not read far before seeing why. Watts's style is reasoned and reasonable, clear and authoritative, but without a hint of affectation. Watts knows what he is talking about and to whom he is speaking. Because of his perspective between two worlds, he is, more than almost any other writer on Zen, able to match the ideas of the East to the mind of the West, and in doing so make the broader outlines of Zen as clear as the polished, dustless mirror.

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.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Scan the "Eastern Philosophy" racks at your local bookstore
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
of purpose.

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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Anything by Alan watts is worth a read and this is no exception
Published 1 day ago by john
1.0 out of 5 stars I was interested in Zen. Not so sure if I am anymore after reading...
Very dry, boring, and above all, hard to follow. i don't think this book is good for anyone who's starting out or has an interest in Zen. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Mr. G
5.0 out of 5 stars the buddha advises you not to worship him
This book is well written and interesting. It gives you a good history of zen and tries to explain eastern thought to westerners in a succinct and interesting way. Read more
Published 25 days ago by slick
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
I liked it. I prefer The Wisdom of Insecurity by him better.
Published 1 month ago by Tae McGrew
1.0 out of 5 stars Way too cerebral. Difficult to understand. Poorly written ...
Way too cerebral. Difficult to understand. Poorly written. The anthesis of zen. Not worth your money
Published 1 month ago by flute_maker
5.0 out of 5 stars The primary tool is the mind and at the same time it is the greatest...
I have walked my own path since I first read this in the late 80s. It resonated with a questioning mind still forming. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Redfour5
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Published 1 month ago by C. Mims
5.0 out of 5 stars The Way of Zen - A Must Read
Everyone who wants to understand any religion needs to be aware of Watts' brilliant explanation of a basic foundation for most religious practices -- Zen meditation.
Published 2 months ago by G. Ball
2.0 out of 5 stars Watt versus D.T. Suzuki
A friend of mine who had spend time in a Zen monastery when young, he is a japanese American from Hawaii, when I asked him about Watts and zen he asked if I had read his biography. Read more
Published 2 months ago by old squid
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh, Alan. You are such a character and ...
Oh, Alan. You are such a character and such as master and both come through in your writing.
Published 3 months ago by Jon R. Christensen
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