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Sit Down and Shut Up: Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, and Dogen's Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye Paperback – April 13, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews
Book 2 of 4 in the Hardcore Zen Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Warner, a Zen priest, author (Hardcore Zen) and former punk rock bassist, has a very distinctive voice. It may be off-putting to some to think about Buddha and a bunch of Zen masters, including esteemed 13th-century Japanese Zen master Dogen, as dudes riffing on "whiz-bang-with-cheese-on-top-enlightenment." But for the patient, curious and those for whom Warner's slash-the-crap style is their cup of green tea, this Zen punk book offers provocation and reward. Warner ambitiously presents something close to textual commentary on a key text by Dogen while teaching on anger, sex, loving-kindness, dependent arising and other familiar Buddhist themes. The topical chapters are tied together by Warner's narration of a punk band reunion. The author's knowledge of Japanese from his years of living in Japan adds to his credibility, since it allows him to better explore the nuances of Japanese Zen. Though he might be disappointed to hear it, Warner is probably less provocative than some of the first-generation Asian teachers who transplanted Zen to America. Still, Buddhism has long enjoyed baffling "crazy-wisdom" teachers and paradoxical koans, and Warner's punk iconoclasm fits in nicely. (May)
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From Booklist

Warner takes up where he left off in Hardcore Zen(2003), though not without reminding us, in the opening sentence, that before he was a Zen monk, he played punk rock bass. The teachings of hardcore punk--no drinking, no drugs, hard work, "and a commitment to what was true"--meshed remarkably with the teachings of twelfth-century Zen master Dogen, he found. Like Zen, punk rock asked questions rather than provided pat, comfortable answers, and like his band mates, the Zen teachers he knew seemed real. As before, Warner writes in an open, appealing, and friendly manner. He seems about as honest as they come, and he shares his personal history and opinions freely. And he discusses the principles of Dogen. "Buddhism is not a philosophy you just read about," he says. "It is a philosophy you do." Part autobiography, part Buddhist philosophy, part punk rock memoir, Sit Down and Shut Up is as unique as the man who wrote it. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: New World Library (April 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1577315596
  • ISBN-13: 978-1577315599
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,841 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I like most of what Warner has to say. Lord knows we need more Buddhist authors who don't seem totally clueless about contemporary culture. Warner has a lot of good insights about zen, spirituality, and how to deal with yourself. The only thing that makes his work less than ideal is that he has too many childish asides that come across as unnecessary schtick. He is also a pretty divisive voice in that he keeps talking about all these "fake teachers" and "wannabe Buddhists." He needs to learn how to inspire people to practice, instead of trying to be the one "keeping-it-real" voice in a supposed sea of "posers." I hope his writing matures this way in future pieces. If it does, he will be a rare and beneficial voice in the desert of not-so-relevant, not-so-fun-to-read buddhist writing.
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For all you Dogen fans who are fascinated by what the guy writes but never have any clue what he is saying, you have found the right book. I liked Brad Warner's first book, but I read it once and did not want to read it again. This book, however, is very different. He is attempting to explain, in simple language, one of the most profound books of time, and he does a really good job. It is not a book to read on the beach, but one you carry with you, to read a few chapters at a time and ponder.
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How much do I envy Brad Warner? Hard core punk rocker. Japanese monster movie work. Lived in Tokyo. A Zen Buddhist master. One hot book already ("HardCore Zen" and now this one.) A column in Suicide Girls. And in one of his recent Suicide Girl columns he reveals that his well-known master Gudo Nishijima has asked him to be his sucessor ... and Brad has accepted. This from a guy who reveals in this book he hates being a Zen master, hates the challenges, the assumptions of his authority. Yes, I shouldn't envy him, I don't know his actual condition or what awaits him (or me) but it's hard not to envy a guy whose accomplished so much...yet is telling me to just go and sit facing a blank wall. Here's a guy who I expect might next show up on Entertainment Tonight having been spotted clubbing with Paris Hilton (could that be, Brad? Probably not) and yet he's the successor to Gudo Nishijima, who along with Chudo Cross, translated Dogen's masterwork Shobogenzo into English. So impressive it is distracting. Rather than sit down and shut up, I want to fly to Tokyo, I want to enter a cool-sounding rap into my word processor. Did Nishijima have sales of the translations of Shobogenzo in mind when he asked Brad to be his successor? No, I'm too cynical. And Brad's power to explain Zen, to the extent it can be explained, shouldn't be slighted.

Remember the Fuller Brush Man? One used to come lugging a suitcase to our neighborhood periodically when I was young. My Mom would always be glad to see him and he's spend time showing her his latest products. She's always buy at least one. He was well-trained, could explain each product convincingly and was polite with her.
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11 Comments 33 of 41 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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By wahzoh on September 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
Like author Brad Warner, I practice a form of Buddhism which has its roots in Japan. Unfortunately, the school with which I have been associated for the past 20-some years has ZERO ability to laugh at itself, even when the group or its leader says or does something absurd. We in the SGI (soka gakkai international) take our mission for world peace VERY SERIOUSLY and although we can make jokes about others, we never, ever joke about our sect or its leader. Never. Ever. We can only strive joyfully together and warmly encourage each other to unite with the heart of our leader in Japan. A recipe for boring prose if ever there was one.

What a huge relief it was, then, to encounter this book, where Warner actually uses his own, clear, funny, insightful voice to discuss Buddhist perspectives on life, death, compassion and consciousness. He interweaves these topics into a sort of travelogue of his return to Akron, Ohio to appear with a reunion show of punk-rock bands from the 80's. This helps to "ground" the concepts being addressed, but in a day-to-day way which is more interesting than a typical corporate cube experience.

I and a few friends have been on a bit of a Dogen "kick" for awhile, and "Sit Down and Shut Up" is an extremely valuable commentary to support that effort. All the other commentaries I have read have been earnest but plodding, and I have had about all the earnest, plodding prose I can handle for the next fifty lifetimes. Warner takes his subject seriously, but he doesn't take himself too seriously, and that is a huge relief.

With all this praise, I must point out that Warner does make a few errors. For example, in his discussion of the Lotus Sutra's parable of the Burning House, he does not mention the super-dooper-cool prize (i.e.
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First, a word about New World Library. It is a socially and environmentally aware company that "walks its talk," using soy-based ink, recycled paper, solar energy, and generous employment practices. It is dedicated to publishing that inspires and challenges us to improve our lives and the world.

This book by Brad Warner is a fine followup to his 2003 Hardcore Zen. Warner is an unusual combination of punk-rock-band bass player, marketer for Japanese monster movies, and Zen priest. He brings his straight-talking, playful punk to his crystal clear explanation of Zen, in this instance the writings of ancient Zen master Dogen. When Warner explains Dogen's admonition to "practice wisdom," he notes that "Real wisdom is the ability to understand the incredible extent to which you bullshit yourself every single moment of every day. . . At some point, if your practice deepens enough, . . you'll discover that you were never, ever, not for even a nanosecond in your whole entire life the least bit unaware of the truth. And you'll see that you couldn't possibly be unaware of the truth because the truth is what sustains you. . . But just because you get this doesn't mean you're enlightened. You have to live it every moment of every day. And if you think that's effortless, think again." And one more admonition from Warner: "How many once-in-a-lifetime experiences have we missed completely because they were just ordinary once-in-a-lifetime experiences and not supercool kick-ass once-in-a-lifetime experiences? Everything you ever do, no matter what it is . . is always, always, always a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Don't miss your life."
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