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Alan Watts Quotes

Alan Watts Quote

Alan Watts (1915-1973) was a British-born philosopher, writer, and speaker who popularized Eastern philosophy and spirituality in the Western world. He was born in Chislehurst, Kent, England, and showed an early interest in philosophy, spirituality, and literature.

Watts studied theology and philosophy at the University of London, but later left formal academia to pursue his interests independently. He traveled extensively throughout Europe and the United States, studying and practicing various forms of Eastern spirituality, including Zen Buddhism and Taoism.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Watts gained popularity as a writer and speaker on the subjects of philosophy, spirituality, and psychology. He authored over 25 books, including “The Way of Zen,” “The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are,” and “The Tao of Philosophy.”

Watts also gave numerous lectures and talks, many of which were recorded and later released as audio recordings. He had a unique ability to translate complex Eastern concepts and ideas into language that Westerners could understand and relate to, making him a beloved figure in the counterculture movement of the 1960s.

Watts believed that the key to a fulfilling life was to live in the present moment and to let go of attachment to the past and future. He also emphasized the interconnectedness of all things and the importance of finding one’s true self.

Watts died in 1973 at the age of 58, but his teachings continue to influence and inspire people around the world. He is remembered as a pioneering thinker who brought Eastern philosophy and spirituality to a Western audience, and who encouraged people to live more fulfilling and authentic lives.

Alan Watts Quotes the Meaning of Life

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

2. “Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.”

Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun. - Alan Watt

3. “We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”

4. “The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”

5. “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.”

6. “Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.”

7. “Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.”

8. “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.”

9. “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

10. “You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.”

11. “The menu is not the meal.”

12. “Everything that happens, everything that I have ever done, everything that anybody else have ever done is part of a harmonious design, that there is no error at all.”

13. “Everyone has love, but it can only come out when he is convinced of the impossibility and the frustration of trying to love himself.”

14. “Love is not something that is a sort of rare commodity, everybody has it.”

15. “Never pretend to a love which you do not actually feel, for love is not ours to command.”

16. “So then, the relationship of self to other is the complete realization that loving yourself is impossible without loving everything defined as other than yourself.”

17. “No work or love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.”

18. “But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.”

19. “When we attempt to exercise power or control over someone else, we cannot avoid giving that person the very same power or control over us.”

20. Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way.”’

21. “A scholar tries to learn something everyday; a student of Buddhism tries to unlearn something daily.”

22. “Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.”

23. “Try to imagine what it will be like to go to sleep and never wake up… now try to imagine what it was like to wake up having never gone to sleep.”

24. “The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless.”

25. “You are a function of what the whole universe is doing in the same way that a wave is a function of what the whole ocean is doing.”

Short Alan Watts Quote

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

27. “The world is filled with love-play, from animal lust to sublime compassion.”

The world is filled with love-play, from animal lust to sublime compassion. - Alan Watt

28. “When you find out that there was never anything in the dark side to be afraid of… Nothing is left but to love.”

29. “To live, and to love, you have to take risks. There will be disappointments and failures and disasters as a result of taking these risks. But in the long run it will work out.”

30. “But this is the most powerful thing that can be done: surrender. See. And love is an act of surrender to another person.”

31. “Society is our extended mind and body.”

32. “Philosophy is man’s expression of curiosity about everything and his attempt to make sense of the world primarily through his intellect.”

33. “There is no other reality than present reality… even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly.”

34. “Tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present.”

35. “One is a great deal less anxious if one feels perfectly free to be anxious, and the same may be said of guilt.”

36. “There will always be suffering. But we must not suffer over the suffering.”

37. “We cannot be more sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain.”

38. “Stay in the center, and you will be ready to move in any direction.”

39. “Our pleasures are not material pleasures, but symbols of pleasure – attractively packaged but inferior in content.”

40. “Words can be communicative only between those who share similar experiences.”

41 “It is hard indeed to notice anything for which the languages available to us have no description.”

42. “It’s better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing, than a long life spent in a miserable way.”

43. “Normally, we do not so much look at things as overlook them.”

44. “Hospitals should be arranged in such a way as to make being sick an interesting experience. One learns a great deal sometimes from being sick.”

45. “Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe.”

46. “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.”

47. “Every individual is a unique manifestation of the Whole, as every branch is a particular outreaching of the tree.”

48. “Life exists only at this very moment, and in this moment it is infinite and eternal, for the present moment is infinitely small; before we can measure it, it has gone, and yet it exists forever….”

49. “But I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything.”

50. “When you get free from certain fixed concepts of the way the world is, you find it is far more subtle, and far more miraculous, than you thought it was.”

Alan Watts Quotes Love

51. “Every intelligent individual wants to know what makes him tick, and yet is at once fascinated and frustrated by the fact that oneself is the most difficult of all things to know.”

52. “If you cannot trust yourself, you cannot even trust your mistrust of yourself – so that without this underlying trust in the whole system of nature you are simply paralyzed.”

53. “What we have to discover is that there is no safety, that seeking is painful, and that when we imagine that we have found it, we don’t like it.”

What we have to discover is that there is no safety, that seeking is painful, and that when we imagine that we have found it, we don’t like it. - Alan Watt

54. “Life is like music for its own sake. We are living in an eternal now, and when we listen to music we are not listening to the past, we are not listening to the future, we are listening to an expanded present.”

55. “Parts exist only for purposes of figuring and describing, and as we figure the world out we become confused if we do not remember this all the time.” – Alan Watts

56. “How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself anything less than a god.”

57.“Things are as they are. Looking out into it the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.”

58. “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

59. “You and I are all as much continuous with the physical universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean.”

60. “We seldom realize, for example, that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”

61. “What I am really saying is that you don’t need to do anything, because if you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomenon of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that, and there is nothing wrong with you at all.”

62. “You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.”

63. “What the devil is the point of surviving, going on living, when it’s a drag? But you see, that’s what people do.”

64. “To put is still more plainly: the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath.” – Alan Watts

65. “If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you’ll spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid.”

66. “There is no formula for generating the authentic warmth of love. It cannot be copied. You cannot talk yourself into it or rouse it by straining at the emotions or by dedicating yourself solemnly to the service of mankind.”

67. “Just as true humor is laughter at oneself, true humanity is knowledge of oneself.”

68. “No one is more dangerously insane than one who is sane all the time: he is like a steel bridge without flexibility, and the order of his life is rigid and brittle.”

69. “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.”

70. “People sometimes fail to live because they are always preparing to live.”

71. “The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.”

72. “Parts exist only for purposes of figuring and describing, and as we figure the world out, we become confused if we do not remember this all the time.”

73. “The destination of life is this eternal moment.”

74. “There is only this now. It does not come from anywhere; it is not going anywhere. It is not permanent, but it is not impermanent. Though moving, it is always still. When we try to catch it, it seems to run away, and yet it is always here and there is no escape from it. And when we turn around to find the self which knows this moment, we find that it has vanished like the past.”

75. “Once the mind has seen through all fear and all hope, it finds peace within itself, in a state of awareness beyond thought.”

Alan Watts Quotes on Happiness

76. “If happiness always depends on something expected in the future, we are chasing a will-o’-the-wisp that ever eludes our grasp, until the future, and ourselves, vanish into the abyss of death.”

77. “And people get all fouled up because they want the world to have meaning as if it were words … As if you had a meaning, as if you were a mere word, as if you were something that could be looked up in a dictionary. You are meaning.”

78. “Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.”

79. “I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.”

 I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is. - Alan Watt

80.“Life is not a problem to be solved, nor a question to be answered. Life is a mystery to be experienced.”

81. “Tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live. There is no other reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly.”

82. “We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe.”

83. “What we have forgotten is that thoughts and words are conventions, and that it is fatal to take conventions too seriously. A convention is a social convenience, as, for example, money … but it is absurd to take money too seriously, to confuse it with real wealth … In somewhat the same way, thoughts, ideas and words are “coins” for real things.”

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

85. “To remain stable is to refrain from trying to separate yourself from a pain because you know that you cannot. 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. There is no escape.”

86. “And people get all fouled up because they want the world to have meaning as if it were words… As if you had a meaning, as if you were a mere word, as if you were something that could be looked up in a dictionary. You are meaning.”

87. “If we cling to belief in God, we cannot likewise have faith, since faith is not clinging but letting go.”

88. “To put is still more plainly: the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.”

89. “Other people teach us who we are. Their attitudes to us are the mirror in which we learn to see ourselves, but the mirror is distorted. We are, perhaps, rather dimly aware of the immense power of our social enviornment.”

90. “Irrevocable commitment to any religion is not only intellectual suicide; it is positive unfaith because it closes the mind to any new vision of the world. Faith is, above all, openness – an act of trust in the unknown.”

91. “Only words and conventions can isolate us from the entirely undefinable something which is everything.”

92. “Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe.”

93. “Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment.”

94. “It is a special kind of enlightenment to have this feeling that the usual, the way things normally are, is odd—uncanny and highly improbable.”

95. “In the moment of death many people undergo the curious sensation not only of accepting but of having willed everything that has happened to them … not willing in the imperious sense; it is the unexpected discovery of an identity between the willed and the inevitable.”

96. “The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad — because you never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune; or, you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.”

97. “You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.”

98. “The funda­mental, ultimate mystery – the only thing you need to know to understand the deepest metaphysical secrets – is this: that for every outside there is an inside and for every inside there is an outside, and although they are different, they go together.”

99. “Soon you will find that the so-called outside world and the so-called inside world come together. They are a happening. Your thoughts are happening, just like the sounds going on outside and everything is simply a happening and all you’re doing is watching it.”

100. “The relationship of self to other is the complete realization that loving yourself is impossible without loving everything defined as other than yourself.”

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