Alan Watts Introduces America to Meditation & Eastern Philosophy: Watch the 1960 TV Show, Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life

Alan Watts moved from his native London to New York in 1938, then eventually headed west, to San Francisco in the early 1950s. On the left coast, he started teaching at the Academy of Asian Studies, wrote his bestseller Way of Zen, and began delivering a long-running series of talks about eastern philosophy on KPFA radio in Berkeley. During these years, Watts became one of the foremost popularizers of Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism, which made him something of a celebrity, especially when the 60s counterculture movement kicked into gear.

Now, 40 years and change after his death, you can find no shortage of vintage Watts’ media online (including this archive of streaming lectures). And today we’re featuring an episode from a TV series called Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, which aired in San Francisco circa 1960. “The Silent Mind” runs 28 minutes, and it offered American viewers an introduction to the philosophy and practice of meditation, something still considered exotic at the time. History in the making. You’re watching it happen right here. Find more meditation and Alan Watts resources below.

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Related Content:

The Wisdom of Alan Watts in Four Thought-Provoking Animations

The Zen Teachings of Alan Watts: A Free Audio Archive of His Enlightening Lectures

Free Guided Meditations From UCLA: Boost Your Awareness & Ease Your Stress

Meditation 101: A Short, Animated Beginner’s Guide

Sonny Rollins Describes How 50 Years of Practicing Yoga Made Him a Better Musician

David Lynch Explains How Meditation Enhances Our Creativity

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Comments (3)
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  • Toni McConnel says:

    My dear beloved Open Culture: Alan Watts did NOT introduce America to meditation and eastern philosophy! He popularized and elucidated it, that’s an entirely different thing. This isn’t a small mistake, it’s a huge one. Do correct this title so I don’t have to be embarrassed on your behalf.

  • Irene says:

    i strongly appreciate this post. Brought back lessons from teachers i greatly admired in high school on philosophy and the ways of knowing. :)

  • Hardie Karges says:

    Feel free to enlighten us as to who actually did introduce America to meditation and Eastern philosophy, Toni…

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