The sound of the rain needs no translation

black and white, Christian Calzone

“I had a discussion with a great master in Japan, and we were talking about the various people who are working to translate the Zen books into English, and he said, ‘That’s a waste of time. If you really understand Zen, you can use any book. You could use the Bible. You could use Alice in Wonderland. You could use the dictionary, because the sound of the rain needs no translation.'”

– Alan Watts

Alan Watts quotes Zen roshi Morimoto in his autobiography titled In My Own Way.  Watts (1915-1973) was a British-born philosopher, writer and speaker, best known as an interpreter and popularizer of Eastern Philosophy for Western audiences.  He moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York. Pursuing a career, he attended Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, where he received a master’s degree in theology. Watts became an Episcopal priest then left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies.  Watts gained a large following in the San Francisco Bay Area while working as a volunteer programmer at KPFA, a Pacifica Radio station in Berkeley. Watts wrote more than 25 books and articles on subjects important to Eastern and Western religion, introducing the then-burgeoning youth culture to The Way of Zen (1957), one of the first bestselling books on Buddhism.  (Source: Wiki)

Credits: Photograph by Christian Calzone via Black and White.  Quote via Whiskey River.


  1. “…the rain needs no translation” – beautiful – and yet, don’t we all interpret it differently? Sometimes it feels like it’s tickling, other times assailing. Perhaps I’m thinking too much for this time of the morning.


  2. Well said “the sound of Rain needs no Translation.
    The soothing sound of Nature is perfect.
    So also, philosophy does not call for translation alone, it is the mind to mature.


  3. This is lovely….I like all of the moods that rain has…sometimes startling and violent, and at other times a soporific….


  4. Soporific (love this word). So captures it. Def. tending to induce drowsiness or sleep: the motion of the train had a somewhat soporific effect.


  5. Last night the rain was insistent, pounding on the roof–there were no gentle raindrops–reminds you of the strength of nature and a power completely outside ourselves


  6. The rain is pattering right now against my window as I type onto my keyboard. Rain is such a soothing sound.


  7. Love this! You’ve a wonderful, funny, inspirational, … site. Came here through Seeker’s blog. Nice to meet you. 🙂 Paulette


  8. Animals relate to the sound of rain. If I’m spraying water from a hose and birds or deer are near, they let down their guard and I can approach much closer. They seem to accept that I must be part of a natural thing because of the sound of the water. It’s a great camouflage.


  9. Simple yet full of meaning. How beautifully he has made a connection between what he is trying to say and the words he chose which needs no further explanation.
    P.S. Its raining here 🙂


  10. Thank you Ray


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