80+ Alan Watts Quotes on Mindfulness, Reality, and Philosophy

Alan Watts’ quotes are widely known for their wisdom and insight on topics such as mindfulness, self-awareness, and the nature of reality. Alan Watts was a British-born philosopher, writer, and speaker who is best known for his lectures and books on Eastern philosophy and its relation to Western culture.

He pioneered in introducing Eastern ideas and practices, such as meditation and mindfulness, to a wider audience, and his ideas continue to be studied and discussed today. Some of his memorable quotes are showcased below.

A myth is an image in terms of which we try to make sense of the world.
The ego is nothing other than the focus of conscious attention.
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.
Never pretend to a love which you do not actually feel, for love is not ours to command.

64 Best Quotes by Alan Watts to Live By

Check out these Alan Watts quotes on life, love, wisdom, and God:

  • 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.
  • A myth is an image in terms of which we try to make sense of the world.
  • A scholar tries to learn something everyday; a student of Buddhism tries to unlearn something daily.
  • And although our bodies are bounded with skin, and we can differentiate between outside and inside, they cannot exist except in a certain kind of natural environment.
  • And the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging to belief, of holding on.
  • Buddhism has in it no idea of there being a moral law laid down by somekind of cosmic lawgiver.
  • But at any rate, the point is that God is what nobody admits to being, and everybody really is.
  • 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.
  • But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.
  • But we try to pretend, you see, that the external world exists altogether independently of us.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such a fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself as anything less than a god?
  • 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 owe my solitude to other people.
  • 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.
  • If you study the writings of the mystics, you will always find things in them that appear to be paradoxes, as in Zen, particularly.
  • In known history, nobody has had such capacity for altering the universe than the people of the United States of America. And nobody has gone about it in such an aggressive way.
  • In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe, becomes a person who has no faith at all.
  • Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.
  • Omnipotence is not knowing how everything is done; it’s just doing it.
  • One is a great deal less anxious if one feels perfectly free to be anxious, and the same may be said of guilt.
  • Only words and conventions can isolate us from the entirely undefinable something which is everything.
  • Our pleasures are not material pleasures, but symbols of pleasure – attractively packaged but inferior in content.
  • Philosophy is man’s expression of curiosity about everything and his attempt to make sense of the world primarily through his intellect.
  • Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way.
  • Religion is not a department of life; it is something that enters into the whole of it.
  • So the bodhisattva saves all beings, not by preaching sermons to them, but by showing them that they are delivered, they are liberated, by the act of not being able to stop changing.
  • 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 what is discord at one level of your being is harmony at another level.
  • Society is our extended mind and body.
  • Some believe all that parents, tutors, and kindred believe. They take their principles by inheritance, and defend them as they would their estates, because they are born heirs to them.
  • Stay in the center, and you will be ready to move in any direction.
  • Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe.
  • The difficulty for most of us in the modern world is that the oldfashioned idea of God has become incredible or implausible.
  • The menu is not the meal.
  • The moralist is the person who tells people that they ought to be unselfish, when they still feel like egos, and his efforts are always and invariably futile.
  • The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless.
  • The myths underlying our culture and underlying our common sense have not taught us to feel identical with the universe, but only parts of it, only in it, only confronting it aliens.
  • The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
  • The reason we want to go on and on is because we live in an impoverished present.
  • The religious idea of God cannot do full duty for the metaphysical infinity.
  • The style of God venerated in the church, mosque, or synagogue seems completely different from the style of the natural universe.
  • The world is filled with loveplay, from animal lust to sublime compassion.
  • There will always be suffering. But we must not suffer over the suffering.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Unless one is able to live fully in the present, the future is a hoax.
  • Wars based on principle are far more destructive… the attacker will not destroy that which he is after.
  • We cannot be more sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain.
  • We identify in our experience a differentiation between what we do and what happens to us.
  • What the devil is the point of surviving, going on living, when it’s a drag? But you see, that’s what people do.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • When you find out that there was never anything in the dark side to be afraid of… Nothing is left but to love.
  • Words can be communicative only between those who share similar experiences.
  • You and I are all as much continuous with the physical universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean.
  • 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.
  • You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.
  • You are that vast thing that you see far, far off with great telescopes.
  • You don’t look out there for God, something in the sky, you look in you.
  • Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.

5 Consciousness Alan Watts Quotes

Here are some popular quotes on consciousness by Alan Watts: 

  • 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.
  • The ego is nothing other than the focus of conscious attention.
  • Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation.
  • We are at war between consciousness and nature, between the desire for permanence and the fact of flux. It is ourself against ourselves.
  • We must see that consciousness is neither an isolated soul nor the mere function of a single nervous system, but of that totality of interrelated stars and galaxies which makes a nervous system possible.

5 Alan Watts Quotes on Life

Check out these profound Alan Watts quotes on life:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment.
  • 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.

5 Alan Watts Quotes on Love

Check out these beautiful Alan Watts quotes on love:

  • But this is the most powerful thing that can be done: surrender. See. And love is an act of surrender to another person.
  • Everyone has love, but it can only come out when he is convinced of the impossibility and the frustration of trying to love himself.
  • Never pretend to a love which you do not actually feel, for love is not ours to command.
  • 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.
  • 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.

3 Alan Watts Quotes Reality

Here are some Alan Watts quotes on reality:

  • Tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present.
  • 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.
  • Reality is only a Rorschach inkblot, you know.

Alan Watts Money Quote

Here is the famous money quote by Alan Watts: The reason we have poverty is that we have no imagination. There are a great many people accumulating what they think is vast wealth, but it’s only money, and they don’t know how to enjoy it because they have no imagination.

5 Inspirational Alan Watts Quotes

These inspirational Alan Watts quotes are perfect to lift your spirits:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • But to me, nothing the negative, the empty is exceedingly powerful.
  • Faith is a state of openness or trust.
  • Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.


Who Is Alan Watts?

Alan Watts was a British-born philosopher, writer, and speaker known for his lectures and books on Eastern philosophy and its relation to Western culture. He wrote more than 25 books and delivered hundreds of lectures on topics such as self-awareness, the nature of reality, and the human condition.

When Is Alan Watts’ Birthday?

Alan Watts was born on January 6, 1915.

Where Was Alan Watts Born?

Alan Watts was born in Chislehurst, Kent, England.

What Was Alan Watts’ Occupation?

Alan Watts was a philosopher, writer, and speaker, known for his lectures and books on Eastern philosophy and its relation to Western culture.

How Did Alan Watts Become Interested in Eastern Philosophy?

Alan Watts became interested in Eastern philosophy while studying theology in seminary, where he was exposed to the teachings of Zen Buddhism and Taoism. He later traveled to Asia to further study these philosophies.

What Are Some of Alan Watts’ Most Famous Books?

Some of Alan Watts’ most famous books include “The Way of Zen,” “The Tao of Philosophy,” and “The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.”

What Is the Main Focus of Alan Watts’ Philosophy?

Alan Watts’ philosophy focuses on the idea that the Western way of thinking is limited and that Eastern philosophy offers a more holistic and integrated understanding of the world. He also emphasized the importance of mindfulness and the present moment.

How Did Alan Watts’ Philosophy Influence Western Culture?

Alan Watts’ philosophy influenced Western culture by introducing Eastern ideas and practices, such as meditation and mindfulness, to a wider audience. He also helped popularize the concept of “Zen Buddhism” in the Western world.

Did Alan Watts Have Any Notable Students or Followers?

Alan Watts had many notable students and followers, including author and philosopher Robert Pirsig and Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac.

What Was Alan Watts’ Perspective on Religion?

Alan Watts had a unique perspective on religion, seeing it as a way to understand and connect with the world rather than a set of dogmatic beliefs. He believed that all religions offer different paths to the same ultimate truth.

Did Alan Watts Have Any Particular Spiritual Practices or Beliefs?

Alan Watts had a deep understanding and appreciation of various spiritual practices and beliefs, including Zen Buddhism and Taoism. He believed that spiritual practices such as meditation were essential for understanding the true nature of reality and our place in it.

What Is the Legacy of Alan Watts?

Alan Watts’ legacy is his ability to bridge Eastern and Western philosophy and spirituality, bringing a new understanding and appreciation of Eastern practices and beliefs to the Western world.

When Did Alan Watts Die?

Alan Watts died on November 16, 1973.

Asma Ahmed

I identify myself as a quodophile and linguaphile, a lover of quotes and all things language. My eagerness to learn new things has helped me become fluent in several languages and still crave more knowledge. My passion for words, literature, and wisdom is evident in my writing, where I constantly explore the beauty and power of quotes as well as the meaning and context behind them. With India being my home, I am constantly seeking inspiration from its diverse cultures and languages. But my journey goes beyond the borders of the country, in which I explore global cultures and languages to create a connection between the readers and the messages of the quotes I collect. I believe words have the power to change perspectives, evoke emotions, and guide people. In my free time, I can be found scouring books, articles, and social media for new quotes to add to my collection. I am forever on the lookout for new wisdom to share with the world.

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