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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