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The Way of Zen Paperback – January 26, 1999
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After D.T. Suzuki, Alan Watts stands as the godfather of Zen in America. Often taken to task for inspiring the flimsy spontaneity of Beat Zen, Watts had an undeniably keen understanding of his subject. Nowhere is this more evident than in his 1957 classic The Way of Zen, which has been reissued. Watts takes the reader back to the philosophical foundations of Zen in the conceptual world of Hinduism, follows Buddhism's course through the development of the early Mahayana school, the birth of Zen from Buddhism's marriage with Chinese Taoism, and on to Zen's unique expression in Japanese art and life. As a Westerner, Watts anticipates the stumbling blocks encountered with such concepts as emptiness and no-mind, then illustrates with flawlessly apt examples. Many popular books have been written on Zen since Watts' time, but few have been able to muster the rare combination of erudition and clarity that have kept The Way of Zen in readers' hands decade after decade. --Brian Bruya
“No one has given such a concise...introduction to the whole history of this Far Eastern development of Buddhist thought as Alan Watts.” ―Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Cons: Most of the book concerns the duality of the illusory world (which comes to us through our bodily senses and mind) and the Oneness of awakening or satori (the indescribable realization that reality is a veneer, that all things are the Buddha and the Buddha is all things). This is admittedly a very difficult concept to fully grasp, even at an artificial level (since by definition one cannot "grasp" satori). However, once I grew comfortable with the idea, I found the book to be rather repetitive. Besides some interesting digressions on zazen and sumi artwork, the rest of the book seemed unnecessary, as all things tied in to the central idea. But perhaps this was Watts' point. Once my Unborn mind no longer spontaneously compelled me to read onward, I should have simply put down his book and picked up any other which struck my fancy.