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When Jack Karouac wrote about Zen in Dharma Bums he was echoing the sentiments of the Beat generation, who found in Zen credence for a way of life unencumbered by the limits of "square" society. And it was Alan Watts who first wrote and spoke about Zen and Eastern culture in terms accessible to mainstream Western audiences.
Through his popular radio series Way Beyond the West Alan Watts brought listeners a delightful and practical side of Zen, which he prescribed as "a cure for education and culture." By the early sixties his radio programs were renowned for their synthesis of Eastern wisdom and everyday life. Several of these radio talks have been selected and edited by Mark Watts, Alan's oldest son, to introduce a new generation to Zen and the Beat Way.
Through this collection we see influences of D.T. Suzuki, C.G. Jung, Gary Snyder and others. Specific chapters discuss Zen influences on traditional Japanese and Chinese arts and explore the celebrated concept of the "controlled accident" within the rich tradition of Zen aesthetics. Also included is "Return to the Forest," an essay that explores the works of Joseph Campbell on the earliest Beat tradition.
Alan Watts was the unofficial spiritual leader of the Hippies and an intimate of the Beat Poets. Since Watts's untimely death in 1973, his son Mark has devoted himself to bringing out his father's work in new editions by transcribing this master's tapes into exceptional little books. This book is another in that labor of love. These six lectures are among the best and least heard of Watts's tapes. "Introduction to the Way Beyond the West" comes from his early Berkeley radio show and shows an affable Watts full of reminiscence. "The Beat Way of Life" is one of the most valuable statements of Beat consciousness. Watts's early thinking on Zen meditation and his struggle to reconcile it with modern psychology is found in "Consciousness and Concentration," one of a trio of essays on Buddhist subjects. The last transcription, "Return to the Forest," is an early discourse on his friend Joseph Campbell's work. This book is an excellent record of the early Watts, and a delightful read.