In The Way of Zen, Alan Watts introduces us to Zen Buddhism and to some extend Taoism to the average John and Jane. Alan Watts If you are curious about Zen, this is the book to start with.
This book is easily as good as anything I've read on spirituality, and probably the very best.
In Zen a man has no mind apart from what he knows and sees, and this is almost expressed by Gochiku in the haiku: The long night; The sound of the water Says what I think. Sabi is, however, loneliness in the sense of Buddhist detachment, of seeing all things as happening by themselves in miraculous spontaneity. With this goes that sense of deep, illimitable quietude which descends with a long fall of snow, swallowing all sounds in layer upon layer of softness.
Actually, an online friend years ago had mentioned Watts among several other recommendations on the subject of Buddhism, so as I was searching this one immediately popped out. I'm glad I got this book, because now I feel much more knowledgeable and conversant on the subject of Zen, along with feeling a little more confirmed on my opinion of Buddhism in the general sense. What I like primarily is that Watts very clearly lays out a history of Buddhism, its historical foundations in Vedantic religion/philosophy, and its travel through China to Japan.
I would think Jesus himself might have been influenced by a Zen philosopher who got off at the wrong airport.
Philip Kapleau went out of his way to denounce it in the introduction to his Three Pillars of Zen for downplaying zazen.
Thus the Sanskrit root dva- from which we get the word 'divide' is also the root of the Latin duo (two) and the English 'dual.' To say, then, that the world of facts and events is maya is to say that facts and events are terms of measurement rather than realities of nature. Definition, setting bounds, delineation--these are always acts of division and thus of duality, for as soon as a boundary is defined it has two sides." Thoughts like this are echoed in the "Perennial Philosophy," another book by a westerner deeply interested in the mystical and non-rational. As soon as you measure or mark off, you create an "other." This can lead to all kinds of linguistic conundrums, like the fist/open hand parable Watts gives, but ultimately the real danger is something deeper--confusing symbols, such as words, with whatever it is they are trying to describe. Watts points out that language is ultimately a convention society agrees upon. It is complex and takes generations to build, but in the end the reason we call a tree a "tree" in English is because we have collectively decided that it is, and not "boojum." It could have been boojum, theoretically, because there is no such thing as a word that is inherently "tree-ish." Here the Middle Path is again useful.