Alan Watts Quotes 1–30 of 98 Quotes

Alan Wilson Watts (6 January 1915 – 16 November 1973) was an English philosopher, writer, speaker, and expert in comparative religion.

Below are 30 of 98 sourced Alan Watts quotes. Sources and related information appear under each quote. Use the 'Cite this quote' link to get citation references.

“Zen … does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.”

— Alan Watts

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Watts, Alan. “Alan Watts Quotes: 1–30 of 98 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Alan-Watts-quotes.html#1

Quote source: The Way of Zen, Pt. 2, Ch. 2 (1957)

“Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.”

— Alan Watts

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Watts, Alan. “Alan Watts Quotes: 1–30 of 98 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Alan-Watts-quotes.html#2

Quote source: As quoted in Life magazine (21 April 1961)

“I have suggested that behind almost all myth lies the mono-plot of the game of hide-and-seek.”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: The Two Hands of God : The Myths of Polarity (1963), p. 29

“For several years I have referred to this, hitherto, rare and inaccessible work as the I-told-you-so-book, because it has often been implied that I have invented my explanations of Buddhism out of thin air, thus falsifying its authentic teachings... Yet, despite the occultist flavor of its title, The Secret Oral Teachings in the Tibetan Buddhist Sects is the most direct, no-nonsense, and down-to-earth explanation of Mahayana Buddhism which has thus far been written.”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: Watts' Foreward to The Secret Oral Teachings in the Tibetan Buddhist Sects (1964)], by Alexandra David Neel

“It is especially important for Westerners to understand that high lamas, Zen masters, and Hindu gurus in the discipline of yoga are human beings, not supermen. We must not put them, as we have put Jesus Christ, on pedestals of reverence so high that we automatically exclude ourselves from their states of consciousness.”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: Foreward to The Secret Oral Teachings in the Tibetan Buddhist Sects (1964)], by Alexandra David Neel

“But what we've got going wrong is we've got a kind of bifurcation [in cultural development]: You take your classified telephone directory, and open up "Churches", and have a ruler in your hand. And you will find that the longest space is occupied by authoritarian, Bible-banging churches. And these people are barbarians, who take the written word of the Bible literally. Because they need terribly, they have a personal need, for something to depend on. … The government realizes that there is a very large number of people like that; and therefore, to keep their votes, they have to pander to those kind of people. And these are the boys who never grew up; they always need Papa. … The trouble is that the boys who need Papa, are violent. They have the guns. And they are the types of people who like to be soldiers, policemen — tough guys. And therefore they have a great deal of power.”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: Interviewed on Les Hixon's show "In The Spirit" on WBAI New York (November 1972)

“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: The Essence of Alan Watts (1977)

“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: The Essence of Alan Watts (1977)

“Archimedes said, "Give me a fulcrum and I will move the Earth"; but there isn't one. It is like betting on the future of the human race — I might wish to lay a bet that the human race would destroy itself by the year 2000, but there is nowhere to place the bet. On the contrary, I am involved in the world and must try to see that it does not blow itself to pieces. I once had a terrible argument with Margaret Mead. She was holding forth one evening on the absolute horror of the atomic bomb, and how everybody should spring into action and abolish it, but she was getting so furious about it that I said to her: "You scare me because I think you are the kind of person who will push the button in order to get rid of the other people who were going to push it first." So she told me that I had no love for my future generations, that I had no responsibility for my children, and that I was a phony swami who believed in retreating from facts. But I maintained my position. As Robert Oppenheimer said a short while before he died, "It is perfectly obvious that the whole world is going to hell. The only possible chance that it might not is that we do not attempt to prevent it from doing so." You see, many of the troubles going on in the world right now are being supervised by people with very good intentions whose attempts are to keep things in order, to clean things up, to forbid this, and to prevent that. The more we try to put everything to rights, the more we make fantastic messes. Maybe that is the way it has got to be. Maybe I should not say anything at all about the folly of trying to put things to right but simply, on the principle of Blake, let the fool persist in his folly so that he will become wise.”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: Play to Live : Lectures of Alan Watts (1982)

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“If you awaken from this illusion, and you understand that black implies white, self implies other, life implies death — or shall I say, death implies life — you can conceive yourself. Not conceive, but feel yourself, not as a stranger in the world, not as someone here on sufferance, on probation, not as something that has arrived here by fluke, but you can begin to feel your own existence as absolutely fundamental. What you are basically, deep, deep down, far, far in, is simply the fabric and structure of existence itself. So, say in Hindu mythology, they say that the world is the drama of God. God is not something in Hindu mythology with a white beard that sits on a throne, that has royal perogatives. God in Indian mythology is the self, Satcitananda. Which means sat, that which is, chit, that which is consciousness; that which is ananda is bliss. In other words, what exists, reality itself is gorgeous, it is the fullness of total joy.”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: The Nature of Consciousness; also published as What Is Reality? (1989)

“So in this idea, then, everybody is fundamentally the ultimate reality. Not God in a politically kingly sense, but God in the sense of being the self, the deep-down basic whatever there is. And you're all that, only you're pretending you're not. And it's perfectly OK to pretend you're not, to be perfectly convinced, because this is the whole notion of drama.”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: The Nature of Consciousness; also published as What Is Reality? (1989)

“Camus said there is only really one serious philosophical question, which is whether or not to commit suicide. I think there are four or five serious philosophical questions: The first one is: Who started it? The second is: Are we going to make it? The third is: Where are we going to put it? The fourth is: Who's going to clean up? And the fifth: Is it serious?”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: Out Of Your Mind (2004), Audio lecture 1: The Nature of Consciousness: A Game That's Worth The Candle

“I want to make one thing absolutely clear. I am not a Zen Buddhist, I am not advocating Zen Buddhism, I am not trying to convert anyone to it. I have nothing to sell. I'm an entertainer. That is to say, in the same sense, that when you go to a concert and you listen to someone play Mozart, he has nothing to sell except the sound of the music. He doesn’t want to convert you to anything. He doesn’t want you to join an organization in favor of Mozart's music as opposed to, say, Beethoven's. And I approach you in the same spirit as a musician with his piano or a violinist with his violin. I just want you to enjoy a point of view that I enjoy.”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: Alan Watts, on Zen (2015)

“Religion is always falling apart.”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: Buddhism, the Religion of No-Religion

“There is obviously a place in life for a religious attitude for awe and astonishment at existence. That is also a basis for respect for existence. We don’t have much of it in this culture, even though we call it materialistic. In this culture we call materialistic, today we are of course bent on the total destruction of material and its conversion into junk and poisonous gases. This is of course not a materialistic culture because it has no respect for material. And respect is in turn based on wonder.”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: Images of God

“Ego is a social institution with no physical reality. The ego is simply your symbol of yourself. Just as the word "water" is a noise that symbolizes a certain liquid without being it, so too the idea of ego symbolizes the role you play, who you are, but it is not the same as your living organism.”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: Buddhism : The Religion of No-Religion

“I am amazed that Congressmen can pass a bill imposing severe penalties on anyone who burns the American flag, whereas they are responsible for burning that for which the flag stands: the United States as a territory, as a people, and as a biological manifestation. That is an example of our perennial confusion of symbols with realities.”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: Audio lecture "Individual and Society"

“Now, you see, if you understand what I'm saying, with your intelligence, and then take the next step and say "But I understood it now, but I didn't feel it." Then, next I raise the question: Why do you want to feel it? You say: "I want something more", because that's again that spiritual greed. And you could only say that because you didn't understand it.”

— Alan Watts

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Watts, Alan. “Alan Watts Quotes: 1–30 of 98 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Alan-Watts-quotes.html#19

Quote source: Intellectual Yoga

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“Nowadays, of course, progressive theologians are all for sex; they say it's a good thing, the biblical position was not that sex was evil, but that it was good, and that it's alright.    But now, look here, what is the real point here? The proof of the pudding is in the eating. What can you get kicked out of the church for? Any church — Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Baptist, and the synagogue I think too. What's the real thing for which people get kicked out, excommunicated?    For "envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness"? "Pride, vainglory, and hardness of heart"? Owning shares in munitions factories? Profiting off slums? No sir. You can be a bishop and live in all those sins openly. But if you go to bed with the wrong person, you're out.    So one has to conclude that, for all practical purposes, the church is a sexual regulation society; and it really isn't interested in anything else. Christianity is more preoccupied with sex than even Priapism or Tantric Yoga [are]. Because that's the thing that counts, that's the sin, the really important sin.”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: Audio lecture "Beyond Theology"

“Doctors try to get rid of their patients — clergymen try to get them hooked on the medicine so that they will become addicts to the church. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XWTHoMBJvk”

— Alan Watts

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Watts, Alan. “Alan Watts Quotes: 1–30 of 98 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Alan-Watts-quotes.html#22

Source: Wikiquote: "Alan Watts" (Quotes)

“The basic problem is to understand that there are no such things as things; that is to say separate things, separate events. That is only a way of talking. What do you mean by a thing? A thing is a noun. A noun isn’t a part of nature it’s a part of speech. There are no nouns in the physical world. There are no separate things in the physical world either.”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: Watts on Wiggles Waves, used in the Cosmosis track No Such Thing (2007).

“This is what troubles me about what we'll call vaguely "the new youth". There's a certain sloppiness. For example, at Millbrook in New York - that place is a mess, it's an unspeakable mess! Everything is dilapidated, it's a pad, not just a pad, but a mattress with the stuffing coming out of it. And this bothers me - because, after all, in America, it's bad enough anyway, we don't revere material, we mistreat it terribly. Los Angeles is the most amazing mistreatment of material that one can see in centuries. This is not a materialistic civilization at all. It is a civilization devoted to the hatred and destruction of material, its conversion into junk and poison gas. And therefore, one of the most sacred missions to be imposed upon those who would be liberated from this culture is that they shall love material, that they shall love color, that they shall dress beautifully, that they shall cook well, that they shall live in lovely houses, and that they shall preserve the face of nature. And this is the cardinal thing in your tradition, my friend, because when the Lord God created the material world, he surprised himself. And having already created it, he sat back, and saw then, that it was good. Very good.”

— Alan Watts

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Quote source: Beat Zen and Hasidism talk with Maurice Friedman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPYuvHcRoyw

“Now I'm sure that most of you know the old story about the astronaut, who went far out into space, and was asked on his return whether he'd been to heaven and seen God. And he said: "Yes". And so they said to him: "Well, what about God?" And he said: "She's Black".”

— Alan Watts

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Watts, Alan. “Alan Watts Quotes: 1–30 of 98 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Alan-Watts-quotes.html#25

Quote source: The Nature of God https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLg4AV60uWY

“The more we struggle for life (as pleasure), the more we are actually killing what we love.”

— Alan Watts

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Watts, Alan. “Alan Watts Quotes: 1–30 of 98 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Alan-Watts-quotes.html#26

Quote source: The Wisdom of Insecurity (1951) p. 32

“The greater part of human activity is designed to make permanent those experiences and joys which are only lovable because they are changing.”

— Alan Watts

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Watts, Alan. “Alan Watts Quotes: 1–30 of 98 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Alan-Watts-quotes.html#27

Quote source: The Wisdom of Insecurity (1951) p. 32

“It must be obvious... that there is a contradiction in wanting to be perfectly secure in a universe whose very nature is momentariness and fluidity.”

— Alan Watts

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Watts, Alan (2021, August 5) Alan Watts Quotes: 1–30 of 98 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Alan-Watts-quotes.html#28

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Watts, Alan. “Alan Watts Quotes: 1–30 of 98 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Alan-Watts-quotes.html#28

Source: The Wisdom of Insecurity (1951)

“Running away from fear is fear; fighting pain is pain; trying to be brave is being scared. If the mind is in pain, the mind is pain. The thinker has no other form than his thought.”

— Alan Watts

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Watts, Alan (2021, August 5) Alan Watts Quotes: 1–30 of 98 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Alan-Watts-quotes.html#29

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Watts, Alan. “Alan Watts Quotes: 1–30 of 98 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Alan-Watts-quotes.html#29

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Watts, Alan. “Alan Watts Quotes: 1–30 of 98 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Alan-Watts-quotes.html#29

Source: The Wisdom of Insecurity (1951)

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Watts, Alan. “Alan Watts Quotes: 1–30 of 98 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Alan-Watts-quotes.html

MLA Citation: Use MLA (Modern Language Association) style for the humanities, especially language and literature.

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