Buddhism: The Religion of No-Religion

Tuttle. Jun. 2024. 128p. ISBN 9780804856089. $14.99. REL
Watts (There Is Never Anything but the Present) was a well-known voice in U.S. Buddhist circles until his death in 1973. This brief work gathers some of his most important lectures from the 1960s, which showcase his professorial polish and friendly, conversational openness, as well as why his work has been an easy entry point to Buddhist philosophies for so many people. In this book, he dazzles with his familiarity with the texts, art, geography, and practices of Buddhism. If the collection shows its age, though, it is through the religious essentialism that appears at times. He often references other religions and Buddhist traditions, sometimes with insightful critiques. However, even while pointing readers toward the penultimate nature of religious expressions, there is a marked preference for the abstract and elitist as the true or central religious understandings over popular expressions and lay practices. His interpretations can give the impression of being filtered through an American Zen Buddhist lens for modern sensibilities.
VERDICT An approachable set of lectures, especially helpful for readers studying Watts and Buddhism in the U.S. from the 1960s to 1973.
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