“On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are” Puts No-Self Against Identity

In this book talk on On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, puts the Buddhist ‘no-self’ concept against identity. From a uniquely passionate yet reasoned perspective, Alan Watts distils and adapts the Hindu philosophy of Vedanta to highlight the importance of understanding what identity means. And, it means putting the super ego on the back shelf.

Where does identity fit in the Buddhist concept of ‘no-self’ and Watt’s taboo against knowing who you are?

The Buddhist concept of no-self is part of Watt’s thesis which goes something like this:


…the sensation of oneself as a separate ego enclosed in a bag of skin is a hallucination which accords neither with Western science nor with the experimental philosophy-religions of the East–in particular the central and germinal Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism…

Alan Watts


Yet, my thesis is that at the root of mental health and well-being in this world, here and now, is our fundamental understanding of who we are. This involves losing the illusion that we are isolated beings, unconnected to the rest of the universe.

This only leads people to view the “outside” world with hostility, and has fuelled our misuse of technology and our violent and hostile subjugation of the natural world.”

Alan Watts

Identity in the energy of connection

To help us understand that the self is in fact the root and ground of the universe and an integral part of our identity, Watts has crafted a revelatory primer on what it means to be human. This is the mind-opening manual of initiation into the central mystery of existence which he calls The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.

The creative voice inspiring this Book Talk On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

Alan Wilson Watts was a British writer and speaker. Much of his writing focused on interpreting Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism for a Western audience. He began Zen training in New York and received a master’s degree in theology, becoming an Episcopal priest in 1945. In 1950 he left the ministry, moved to California, and joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies.

Watts wrote more than 25 books and articles on religion and philosophy, introducing the emerging hippie counterculture. These included The Way of Zen, In Psychotherapy East and West (in which Watts argued that Buddhism could be thought of as a form of psychotherapy) and Nature, Man and Woman to be, “from a literary point of view—the best book I have ever written.”

To know the creative mind behind the writing gives us a better understanding of the book’s main ideas. Then, with an open mind, we build a world view with the parts that disrupt a little bit but not enough to cause us to lose the authenticity of our core values, identity (yes, I actually mean that:) and voice. Differences stimulate reflections and transformation with a healthy growth mindset and intentions.

namasté, Leah

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