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Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth About Reality Paperback – August 8, 1994
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
From Publishers Weekly
There's a Zen story about a teacher who holds up his finger, then reminds his student to look beyond the finger itself, to what the finger is pointing at-the moon. That's what this book does: it transcends itself-and with outrageous style. Warner, an early-'80s hardcore punk musician, discovered Zen in college, moved to Japan to make B-grade monster movies, and eventually became a bona fide Zen master by formally receiving "dharma transmission." Yet true to his punk spirit, he relentlessly demands that all teaching, all beliefs, all authority-including his own-must be questioned. ("Why should you listen to me? Who the hell am I?... No one. No one at all.") By turns wickedly funny, profane, challenging and iconoclastic-but always with genuine kindness-Warner devotes chapters to some common Zen notions such as the oneness of reality ("Why Gene Simmons Is Not a Zen Master"), reincarnation ("In My Next Life I Want to Come Back as a Pair of Lucy Liu's Panties") and the vital importance of the present moment ("Eating a Tangerine is Real Enlightenment"). Yet this is no litany of Zen orthodoxy designed for study. By liberally sharing anecdotes from his own life as a down-and-out punk rocker and maker of monster movies, Warner constantly focuses on the importance of a direct experience of reality in all its rawness over adherence to any set of beliefs-even Zen ones. Entertaining, bold and refreshingly direct, this book is likely to change the way one experiences other books about Zen-and maybe even the way one experiences reality.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School--Warner has appropriated the phrase "Question authority," a longtime battle cry for the punk-rock aesthetic, for use as a Buddhist mantra. Much of his book is laid out like a memoir. Readers follow the author from high school and his interest in '70s rock music and philosophical thought through his musical career under names like Zero Defex and Dimentia 13 and finally to his dream job with the Japanese television studio that produces the popular live-action children's show, Ultra Man. The common threads throughout are a rabid interest in transcendental meditation and enlightenment. A conversational tone and endless streams of pop references to everything from Minor Threat to TheMatrix movies make this a readable and even fun book. Warner stresses that enlightenment and meditation do not come easy, which separates his writing dramatically from many other Western books on Buddhism. It's nice to see someone with strong ties to rock coming down so hard on people like Terence McKenna or even the Beatles, who promoted drug use as a way toward higher thought. Although some of Warner's connections between Buddhism and the various pieces of pop culture are simplified, his idea of questioning is particularly striking. Not just questioning authority, but friends, oneself, and, yes, him. This wonderfully engaging primer just might get those more dubious, less willing readers to look at the world a bit differently.--Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
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* His explanation of the ecstacy of the ordinary, of being illuminated in the present, was excellent and offers a good path to counteract spiritual fluff out there. This isn't dissimilar from other Zen authors but his descriptions of the path and growth was engaging and descriptive for people who are curious about the process. It's easy to mistake meditation as some gateway to other realms full of crazy visuals and Godlike visions of grandeur and he does great grounding to the reader to make it clear that that stuff is a distraction to the true result of being happy and aware where you are. Above all he makes the process approachable.
* He definitely knows his field and has put in his work. I don't think many people could find fault in the core teaching he imparts here and his understanding of Zen practices and principles is comprehensive. When you get down to the technical discussions about what Buddhism actually is in practice he is one of the better authors I have read that can really bring the experience of meditation and to life to a very understandable level. If someone I know was interested in Zen, particularly Soto Zen, and the way to practice then I would put this on the list of recommended books. He definitely hits moments of clarity somewhere in the level of Shunryu Suzuki. Anyone who would judge his understanding of Dharma based on the more outrageous aspects of his persona would be sorely mistaken.
* His explanation of the Heart Sutra is one of the best I've ever read. All meat, no potatoes. No hyper-technical discussions of the five skandhas and aggregates and blah blah that you can find elsewhere but just the straight scooby about what the passage actually means. As a devotee of that sutra I almost wish he had a pure shastra to share on it and other passages over the more biographical stuff he typically does.
* As other reviewers have stated before, he continually says you need to question authority but then anyone who doesn't follow his authority is really stupid or some phony fraud. This is still The Brad Warner experience and Brad Warner stopped experiencing the ordinary world in the late 80s/early 90s Akron and then Japan with interests and ideas that haven't really changed much since then, and anyone who doesn't understand the world on those terms or later on in the terms of Nishijima is an idiot. A lot of his teaching and image (which it's a problem when a Zen teacher has an 'image') is rooted around playing punk bass for two years in Akron, Ohio for a semi-well-known hardcore band. However you'd think that brief period in his biography was 20 years playing for Black Flag and he was some official representative of punk and core to his schtick. Underneath the robes is a person who probably wouldn't have been terribly expansive aside from his encounter with Zen. If he hadn't put on robes he'd be the angry old guy in the battle jacket at some dive bar complaining loudly about the punk scene and kids today to the nearest victim.
* Zen has no sins or sense of evil but anyone who doesn't hate drugs (particularly psychedelics) absolutely hopelessly deluded idiot that talks like an archetypal long-haired Woodstock refugee record store employee that Brad met and really didn't like. Buddhism is pretty unambiguous about intoxicants not being a path to true wisdom but most authors just sort of leave it at "even if the peak is fun and you learn stuff it's not the path" but for Brad you're highly suspect on a personal level if you have anything positive to say about drug-related experiences and what you've experienced. This was another Brad's ego moment because the tone changes completely and you can hear some straight-edge punk guy ranting about hippies instead of a Zen teacher advising against drug-based wisdom. He took acid four times in Akron and became an expert in psychedelics which seems like talking to a guy that had a layover in a big city and hates the whole city because the Auntie Annie's pretzels in the airport gave him indigestion and the weather was rainy instead of saying "I had a layover there, didn't see the city itself but didn't care for what I saw and I'm glad I arrived at my final destination." He can certainly have his stated opinion on these things and in light of the precepts he isn't wrong but he kind of postures himself as an expert in alerted states throughout his body of work where I think at best he should say "I tried them, didn't like them, found Zen, became happy" and leave it at that. If other clergy like Jack Kornfield or Roshi Joan Halifax, both of whom have a long record of experience with psychedelics from their previous lives, speaks on the good and bad of drugs then I will definitely offer them more gravity than Brad with four trips under his belt talking like a judgmental DARE pamphlet that doesn't really add much to the discussion other than "I hate hippies".
Overall this is an excellent read but the anger that pops up throughout knock two stars off in the context of a Zen work.