Thursday, 12 March 2015

Good Podcast: The Alan Watts Podcast

Alan Watts was one of the first Zen teachers I encountered, full forty years ago, and today he remains among my favourites. One-time rock star of Western Zen, he's lost a lot of glitter in the intervening decades; from Boomer gadfly to unfashionable hermit. But his lectures are still as magnetic, his wit as wicked. And his insights? Right on, man!

Indeed, rarely has so qualified a scholar stepped into those waraji. Once a Zen student working toward transmission, he chose instead in the last stages to be ordained as an Anglican priest. As a result his references are about equal parts Christian and Buddhist -- ideal for Western audiences.

If it's true that Watts was symptomatic of his generation (there's a lot of self–obsession and fad-envy in his background, along with the requisite flirtation with drugs), it's also true that he maintained a sardonic distance from both the youth culture of the 60s and the Zen hierarchy in Asia; his blunt Saxon axe cleaves to the heart of what was often a very vapid conversation.

Fortunately for us -- his descendants -- most of Watts' talks were assiduously recorded. Now some of them are available free of charge online, in fifteen-minute bites, from The Alan Watts Podcast. You can hear them on the website's Flash player, or download them from the iTunes Store directly to your own computer or mp3 player.

Speaking as a guy with a hard-bitten Generation X distaste for all things hippy, I think we Zenners could use a lot more Alan these days. Load up one of these podcasts, and see if you don't agree.
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