Alan Watts and South Park

Alan Watts (1915 – 1973) was a great entertainer. A “philosophical entertainer” with the emphasis on the entertainer bit. Fortunately for us, his talks are available on YouTube. He was a fascinating person, as you can gather from the wiki page on him (linked above). My interpretation of Vedanta, Zen and Buddhism matches perfectly with his.  I think that at his core he was a Hindu. Wiki says —

Though known for his Zen teachings, he was also influenced by ancient Hindu scriptures, especially Vedanta, and spoke extensively about the nature of the divine reality which Man misses: how the contradiction of opposites is the method of life and the means of cosmic and human evolution; how our fundamental Ignorance is rooted in the exclusive nature of mind and ego; …

Theologically trained, he was an ordained Episcopal minister. He wasn’t overly impressed with the Bible. He wrote —

An ardent Jehovah’s Witness once tried to convince me that if there were a God of love, he would certainly provide mankind with a reliable and infallible textbook for the guidance of conduct. I replied that no considerate God would destroy the human mind by making it so rigid and unadaptable as to depend upon one book, the Bible, for all the answers. For the use of words, and thus of a book, is to point beyond themselves to a world of life and experience that is not mere words or even ideas. Just as money is not real, consumable wealth, books are not life. To idolize scriptures is like eating paper currency.

Therefore The Book that I would like to slip to my children would itself be slippery. It would slip them into a new domain, not of ideas alone, but of experience and feeling. It would be a temporary medicine, not a diet; a point of departure, not a perpetual point of reference. They would read it and be done with it, for if it were well and clearly written they would not have to go back to it again and again for hidden meanings or for clarification of obscure doctrines.

The above is an.excerpt from The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are” (PDF):.

The creators of the TV comedy South Park did a few video animation of his talks. “Trey Parker, one of the creators of South Park, was raised in Colorado, where his father attempted to teach him Buddhism. Now, years later, Parker and his animation pal Matt Stone have brought to life the teachings of Alan Watts, the comparative religion expert and philosopher.” [Source.]

This is getting somewhat long but I cannot resist pointing to an interview of  Trey Parker and Matt Stone by Nick Gillespie of It is from December 2006: “South Park Libertarians: Trey Parker and Matt Stone on liberals, conservatives, censorship, and religion.” Excerpt:

… In the wake of the violent reaction to the Muhammad cartoons that appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, you wrote a story in which the Prophet appeared on the cartoon series Family Guy. Comedy Central refused to air the scene in which Muhammad actually appeared. You also recently produced an episode mocking Tom Cruise and Scientology, which the network refused to rerun earlier this year.

So the first question is, what’s more terrifying, crossing Islam or crossing Scientology?

Trey Parker: They’re really the same people.

This is what happened. I was on my honeymoon in Disney World. I turned on the television, and there were thousands of rioting Muslims, and the caption said, “Muslims enraged over cartoon.” And I said, “Oh, shit. What did we do?”

We actually did an episode five years ago with Muhammad in it. It was an episode called “Super Best Friends,” and Muhammad had super powers and turned himself into a beaver and then killed Abraham Lincoln. I thought, “They finally just saw it, and they’re all pissed off.” But no, it was those other cartoons that they were mad about.

So Matt and I were like, “This is great; we have our first episode.” Comedy Central kept saying, “We’re not going to broadcast a Muhammad episode.” And we said, “You totally have the right, it’s your network, but we’re going to make one, and it’s going to be one of the seven you pay for.”

Incidentally, I have quoted Alan Watts before on this blog. Well, that’s it for now. Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Author: Atanu Dey


%d bloggers like this: