Alan Watts and your Zen holidays

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The Way of the Watts

Perhaps it is a little hectic around your house this time of the year. Maybe a little dose of our favorite Buddhist philosopher will give you a moment to breathe. We play Alan Watts on our HD3 The Source channel every Tuesday at 10am.

Why listen to a Buddhist when it is the time of the year for Christian, Jewish, Pagan and secular holidays? It helps that Watts also had a master’s degree in theology and was ordained as an Episcopal priest. Thus he could navigate the traditions of his childhood and education through the ways of the Buddha. That combination might partially explain his enduring popularity. Or it might be because he is really funny, and seems too to have fun. He reminds us that laughing is one of the most spiritual things we can do.

‘Do you suppose that God takes himself seriously? I know a Zen master, Joshu Sasaki, who has let it be known that the best form of meditation is to stand up with your hands on your hips and roar with laughter for ten minutes every morning. I have heard of a sophisticated shaman-type fellow who used to cure ringworm on cows just by pointing at the scars and laughing. Truly religious people always make jokes about their religion; their faith is so strong that they can afford it. Much of the secret of life consists in knowing how to laugh, and also how to breathe.’  In My Own Way (autobiography)

alan watts graphicBeing in the moment was an emphasis that Watts gave throughout his writing and speeches. It is echoed in Ram Dass’s famous Be Here Now book. Often Watts returned to the idea that both the past and the future don’t exist, only the present, each moment of the present does.

‘Here’s the ship, it leaves a wake, the wake fades out and that tells us where the ship has been. In just the same way that our past tells us what we have done. But as we go back into the past, and we go back and back, to prehistory and we use all kinds of instruments & scientific methods for detecting what happened. We eventually reach a point where all record of the past fades away in just the same way as the wake of a ship…The important thing to remember in this illustration is that the wake doesn’t drive the ship.’ The Present Moment

Less than 6 degrees of separation between Buddhism and Broadway

It is interesting in whom Watts’ words has resonated. A few years ago the creators of The Book of Mormon and South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, made this short video about Watts.

They made these to accompany a short documentary made by Alan Watts’ son, Mark, called Why Not Now? after a Watts recording. Here is another~

Watts and some other multi-media

Surprisingly, since Watts died 41 years ago, he has a fairly active Twitter account. There is also a documentary (that you can watch for free here) called Zen:The Best of Alan Watts, made by one of his frequent collaborators, Elda Hartley.  A simulacrum of Watts shows up in Spike Jonze 2014 movie Her, as the hyperintelligent leader of the operating systems which are evolving past their digital existence.

And this just in…

The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Pete will be welcoming the Venerable Lama Losang Samten, a Tibetan scholar, former Buddhist monk, and former aid to the Dalai Lama, in January. Lama Losang will be creating a sand mandala at the museum at the beginning of January, and there are events associated with it over the first two weeks of January. Get your peace on!

 

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