Book Review: The Way of Zen

The Way of Zen - Alan W. Watts

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It was by far the best explanation of Zen that I have come across, written by and for westerners.  I particularly appreciated the first section of the book, which provided cultural background for Taoism and Buddhism and the resulting combination to form Zen Buddhism.

As with the last Zen book, I thought I would post some excerpts that I liked:

According to convention, I am not simply what I am doing now.  I am also what I have done, and my conventionally edited version of my past is made to seem almost more the real "me" than what I am at this moment.  For what I am seems so fleeting and intangible, but what I was is fixed and final.  It is the firm basis for predictions of what I will be in the future, and so it comes about that I am more closely identified with what no longer exists than with what actually is!
The perfect man employs his mind as a mirror.  It grasps nothing; it refuses nothing.  It receives, but does not keep.
The idea is not to reduce the human mind to a moronic vacuity, but to bring into play its innate and spontaneous intelligence by using it without forcing it.  It is fundamental to both Taoist and Confucian thought that the natural man is to be trusted, and from their standpoint it appears that the Western mistrust of human nature-whether theological or technological-is a kind of schizophrenia.  It would be impossible, in their view, to believe oneself innately evil without discrediting the very belief, since all the notions of a perceived mind would be perverted notions.  
Their "unconsciousness" is not coma, but what the exponents of Zen later signified by wu-hsin, literally "no-mind", which is to say un-self-consciousness.  It is a state of wholeness in which the mind functions freely and easily, without the sensation of a second mind or ego standing over it with a club.
When he came to Seng-ts'an he asked, "What is the method of liberation?" "Who binds you?" replied Seng-ts'an.  "No one binds me."  "Why then," asked Seng-ts'an, "should you seek liberation?"
There is no place in Buddhism for using effort.  Just be ordinary and nothing special.  Relieve your bowels, pass water, put on your clothes, and eat your food.  When you're tired, go and lie down.  Ignorant people may laugh at me, but the wise will understand... As you go from place to place, if you regard each one as your own home, they will all be genuine, for when circumstances come you must not try to change them. Thus your usual habits of feeling, which make karma for the Five Hells, will of themselves become the Great Ocean of Liberation.