The Keys To A Happier Life Through the Eyes of Alan Watts

Keys To A Happier Life Through the Eyes of Alan Watts


In the vast landscape of philosophical literature, few works have managed to challenge and reshape our understanding of reality and selfhood as profoundly as “On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are” by Alan Watts. Published in 1966, this book ventures into the intricate fabric of human identity, consciousness, and the interwoven nature of existence. Watts, a luminary philosopher, author, and speaker, beckons readers to reexamine societal norms, plunge into the depths of Eastern philosophy, and embrace a revolutionary perspective on the essence of self. In this comprehensive blog post, we shall embark on an intellectual journey, delving into the central tenets and key takeaways from this extraordinary opus.

1. The Illusion of Separation: A Mirage in the Desert of Identity

At the nucleus of Watts’ discourse resides the radical notion that the prevalent concept of a solitary, ego-bound self is a grand illusion. He calls into question the Western construct of an isolated, egoic entity and introduces the Eastern principle of the interconnectedness of all life forms. Watts posits that our proclivity to perceive ourselves as discrete entities, detached from the larger cosmos, is a cultural imprint that shackles our comprehension of the true nature of existence.

Takeaway: Acknowledging the web of interconnection that underpins existence can potentially engender a more inclusive, empathetic, and environmentally conscious way of life.

2. The Game of Hide and Seek: The Cosmic Ballet of Self and Universe

In a stroke of metaphorical brilliance, Watts employs the imagery of a game of hide and seek to illustrate the dynamic interplay between the individual and the universe. He articulates that life is akin to a cosmic dance of consciousness, where the universe tantalizingly veils itself in myriad forms and experiences, only to momentarily unveil itself through instances of self-awareness.

Takeaway: Viewing life as a playful intermingling of the concealed and the revealed invites a profound appreciation for the enigmatic tapestry of existence.

3. The Doctrine of No-Self: A Fluid Symphony of Being

Watts embarks on an exploration of the Eastern precept of “anatta” (Sanskrit) or “anatman” (Pali), which translates to “no-self.” He unveils the concept that the self is not an immutable, fixed entity but rather an ever-shifting, fluid process. Watts encourages us to relinquish the rigid confines of self-concept and embrace the notion that the self is an unfolding phenomenon in constant flux.

Takeaway:¬†Embracing the doctrine of no-self can facilitate liberation from attachments, paving the way for greater resilience and adaptability in the face of life’s unpredictable path.

4. The Paradox of Control: The Futility of Grasping the Ungraspable

Delving into the enigmatic nature of control, Watts unveils a paradox: our relentless pursuit of control over life’s intricacies often begets frustration and anxiety. He contends that the universe, inherently unpredictable and uncontrollable, renders our quest for mastery a futile endeavor. Watts proposes that authentic liberation emanates from relinquishing the illusion of control and surrendering to the organic rhythm of existence.

Takeaway: Releasing the grip on the illusory reins of control can lead to a profound sense of liberation and inner tranquility, enabling us to harmonize with life’s ebbs and flows.

5. The Art of Wu Wei: Navigating the River of Existence

Drawing from Taoist philosophy, Watts introduces the concept of “wu wei,” signifying “non-action” or “effortless action.” He underscores the significance of attuning oneself to the innate cadence of existence rather than striving against its currents. Watts posits that by aligning with the principle of wu wei, we can attain a state of symbiotic equilibrium and spontaneous authenticity.

Takeaway: Practicing wu wei beckons us towards a life of equilibrium, where actions emanate organically from an inner wellspring of understanding, facilitating a harmonious interplay with the cosmos.

6. The Playful Nature of Existence: Rediscovering Childlike Wonder

Watts advocates for the cultivation of a playful and light-hearted approach to life. He underscores that excessive self-seriousness can breed suffering and rigidity. By infusing our experiences with an aura of playfulness, we can navigate challenges with heightened resilience, unbridled creativity, and boundless joy.

Takeaway: Embracing a playful perspective offers a potent elixir for enhancing overall well-being and infusing existence with an infectious zest.

7. Embracing the Now: Reveling in the Eternity of the Present

Watts emphasizes the significance of immersing oneself in the present moment, asserting that past and future are mere constructs of the mind. True reality unfurls in the eternal now. By unshackling ourselves from the burdens of regrets and anxieties, we can forge an intimate connection with the tapestry of existence as it unfolds moment by moment.

Takeaway: Nurturing mindfulness and embracing the present engenders a heightened, visceral experience of life, anchoring us to the profound richness of the present moment.


Alan Watts’ magnum opus, “On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are,” serves as a clarion call to challenge our ingrained perceptions of self and the universe. His exploration of Eastern philosophies and thought-provoking insights beckon us to embrace a more fluid, interconnected, and whimsical understanding of both ourselves and the cosmos. Through relinquishing the veneer of separation, releasing the stranglehold of control, and adopting an attitude of unbridled wonder, we embark on an odyssey of self-discovery, traversing uncharted realms of authenticity. As we continue to grapple with the enigmas of existence, Watts’ wisdom serves as a guiding star, reminding us that the voyage towards true wisdom commences with peering into the depths of who we genuinely are.

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