“My title, ‘Alan,’ means ‘concord’ in Celtic and ‘hound’ in Anglo-Saxon. Accordingly, my existence is, and has been, a paradox, or higher, a coincidence of opposites.”
Zen Buddhism is stuffed with paradoxes: sensible, but mystical; severely formal, but shot by way of with jokes and performs on phrases; stressing intricate ceremonial guidelines and communal practices, but simply as typically dropped at life by “wild fox” masters who flout all conference. Such a Zen grasp was Alan Watts, the instructor, author, thinker, priest, and calligrapher who embraced contradiction and paradox in all its kinds.
Watts was a pure contrarian, turning into a Buddhist at 15 — a minimum of partly in opposition to the fundamentalist Protestantism of his mom — then, within the Forties, ordaining as an Episcopal Priest. Although he left the priesthood in 1950, he would proceed to put in writing and educate on each Buddhism and Christianity, looking for to reconcile the traditions and succeeding in ways in which offended leaders of neither faith. His ebook of theology, Behold the Spirit, “was broadly hailed in Christian circles,” David Man writes at Tricycle journal. “One Episcopal reviewer mentioned it might ‘show to be one of many half dozen most vital books on faith within the twentieth century.’”
As a Buddhist, Watts has are available in for criticism for his use of psychedelics, habit to alcohol, and unorthodox practices. But his knowledge acquired the stamp of approval from Shunryu Suzuki, the Japanese Zen instructor typically credited with bringing formal Japanese Zen follow to American college students. Suzuki referred to as Watts “an ideal bodhisattva” and died with a employees Watts had given him in hand. Watts didn’t keep lengthy in any establishment as a result of he “simply didn’t need his follow to be about leaping by way of different folks’s hoops or being put of their bins,” writes a buddy, David Chadwick, in a current tribute. Nonetheless, he remained a robust catalyst for others who found non secular practices that spoke to them extra authentically than something they’d recognized.
Watts, a self-described trickster, “noticed the true vacancy of all issues,” mentioned Suzuki’s American successor Richard Baker in a eulogy — “the multiplicities and absurdities to the Nice Common Persona and Play.” It was his contrarian streak that made him the best interpreter of esoteric Indian, Chinese language, and Japanese spiritual concepts for younger People within the Fifties and 60s who had been questioning the dogmas of their mother and father however lacked the language with which to take action. Watts was a severe scholar, although he by no means completed a college diploma, and he constructed bridges between East and West with wit, erudition, irreverence, and awe.
A lot of Watts’ first devotees obtained their introduction to him by way of his volunteer radio broadcasts on Berkeley’s KPFA. You may hear a number of of these talks at KPFA’s web site, which at the moment hosts a “Best Hits Assortment” of Watts’ talks. Along with his 1957 ebook The Means of Zen, these splendidly meandering lectures helped introduce the rising counterculture to Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, forgotten mystical elements of Christianity, and the Jungian concepts that usually tied all of them collectively.
Irrespective of the custom Watts discovered himself discussing on his broadcasts, listeners discovered him turning again to paradox. Hear him accomplish that in talks on the “Fundamentals of Buddhism” (prime), and different talks just like the “Non secular Odyssey of Aldous Huxley,” the “Reconciliation of Opposites” and a chat entitled “Means Past the West,” additionally the title of his lecture collection, extra of which you could find at KPFA’s “Best Hits” assortment right here.
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