Alan Watts: 33 of his Best Quotes and a Video

Inspiration from the man who popularized Eastern philosophy in the West

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Alan Watts (1915-1973) was a philosopher, writer, and speaker. Although best known for popularizing Zen and Buddhist teachings to a Western audience, Watts wrote on a variety of other topics including personal identity, public ethics, the meaning of life, and the relation each person has with the universe.

Here’s his best loooooong quote of all time:

33 more of our favorite Alan Watt’s Quotes:


The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
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.
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.
No valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.
We cannot be more sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain.
The ego is nothing other than the focus of conscious attention.
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.
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.
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.
I owe my solitude to other people.
You are that vast thing that you see far, far off with great telescopes.
Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.
Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.
Before you were born there was this same nothing-at-all-forever. And yet… you happened. And if you happened once, you can happen again.
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.
Everybody is ‘you’. Everybody is ‘I’. That’s our name. We all share that.
There is no such thing as a single, solitary event. The only possible single event is all events whatsoever. That could be regarded as the only possible atom; the only possible single thing is everything.
It’s one of the great wonders of life: What will it be like to go to sleep and never wake up? And if you think long enough about that, something will happen to you. You will find out, among other things, that it will pose the next question to you: What was it like to wake up after never having gone to sleep? That was when you were born. You see, you can’t have an experience of nothing. Nature abhors a vacuum.
Tomorrow never comes.
A buddha would see you all as being exactly right; just where you are, all of you are buddhas. Even for those of you who do not know it, it is right for you not to know it at this moment.
The hills are moving into their stillness. They mean something because they are being transformed into my brain, and my brain is an organ of meaning.
We’ve run into a cultural situation where we’ve confused the symbol with the physical reality; the money with the wealth; and the menu with the dinner. And we’re starving on eating menus.
Faith is, above all, open-ness — an act of trust in the unknown.
We’re living in a fluid universe, in which the art of faith is not in taking one’s stand, but in learning to swim.
The physical world is diaphanous. It’s like music. When you play music, it simply disappears. There’s nothing left. And, for that very reason it is one of the highest and most spiritual of the arts, because it is the most transient.
We have been hypnotized — literally hypnotized — by social convention into feeling and sensing that we exist only inside of our skins… That we are not the original big bang, but just something out on the end of it. And therefore, everybody feels unhappy and miserable.
Nirvana is right where you are, provided that you don’t object to it.
Your ego has about as much control over what goes on as a child sitting next to his father in a car with a plastic steering wheel.
Your skin does not separate you from the world. It’s a bridge through which the external world flows into you. And you flow into it.
This is why human beings find it difficult to learn and adapt to new situations: because we are always looking for precedence, for authority from the past on what we’re supposed to do now. And that gives us the impression that the past is all-important.
Love is a spectrum. There is not, as it were, nice love and nasty love… spiritual love, and material love… mature affection on the one hand and infatuation on the other. These are all forms of the same energy, and you have to take it and let it grow where you find it. If you find that only one of these forms exist in you, if at least you will water it, the rest of the plant will blossom as well.
Education, in the real sense, is not preparation for life, it is actually living. It is the child participating in adult concerns. And doing it now and realizing that the point of the process in which the child is engages, is not to prepare the child for the future, but to enjoy doing the thing today.
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.

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