Zen and the Beat Way

(Zen Teachings of Alan Watts)

Tuttle Publishing
Alan Watts
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'Everything disappears into nothing at all, but out of that same nothing at all come all the new things, forever and ever.' — Alan Watts

When Jack Kerouac wrote his novel Dharma Bums, his views on Zen Buddhism echoed the sentiments of the Beat Generation, who found in Zen a way of life unencumbered by the limits of 'square' society. And it was the philosopher Alan Watts who first wrote and spoke about Zen and Eastern culture in terms accessible to mainstream Western audiences. Watts was an engaging speaker and an icon of America's Beat and Counterculture movements who named among his friends Aldous Huxley, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, John Cage, and Joseph Campbell.

Through his popular radio series Way Beyond the West, Alan Watts presented the practical side of Zen, which he described as 'a cure for education and culture'. By the early sixties, his radio programs were renowned for their synthesis of Eastern wisdom and everyday life.

Watts' teachings during an era of turmoil and political strife are as timely today as they were over 50 years ago. The fascinating essays in this collection include:

  • 'The Beat Way of Life' How the Beats lived an uncomplicated Zen life and despite being denigrated as worthless slackers, like Eastern thinkers, they actively pursued 'an arduous course of spiritual and psychological discipline'
  • 'Return to the Forest' How the popular works of the writer Joseph Campbell influenced the earliest Beat traditions by advocating the internal search for individual truth over learned schools of thought
  • 'The Democratization of Buddhism' How Buddhism is actually a 'religion of no-religion', that conveys the spiritual through the everyday and the ordinary and recognises no division between the two

This book is an engaging introduction to Watts' fascinating and enduring Zen teachings.