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Zen Confidential: Confessions of a Wayward Monk Paperback – May 14, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Haubner was raised in a Catholic family in Milwaukee. He went on to study philosophy before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a screenwriter and stand-up comic—an unlikely beginning for a Zen monk, he admits. And he found his “true self” not while writing or performing but rather at a Zen Buddhist monastery. In this enjoyably entertaining read, which includes a foreword by songwriter Leonard Cohen, an ordained Zen Buddhist monk, Haubner doesn’t claim to be an expert in Buddhism or Zen. Instead, the Zen he discovered is his antidote to what he describes as capitalistic, individualist, minimall America. He writes about his training with a Zen master, his complex relationship with his parents, and issues regarding his sexuality. At one point, he has a sad revelation: no one “within a thousand-mile radius” genuinely loved him. He had no real home or real friends, “dreams but no goals, credit but no money.” And then his life began to look up. --June Sawyers

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“The author’s search to ‘grow into a true human being’ is described with startling metaphors, acute insights, and humor. . . . Haubner’s unorthodox take on the spiritual search, marked by moments of grace, and his strength as an essayist will win over a specific audience willing to accept his dare.”—Publishers Weekly

“This punk of a monk, who should be tending to his own affairs, has decided to infect the real world with his tall tales, and worse, to let the cat out of the bag. And what a sly, dangerous, beautiful, foul-smelling, heart-warming beast it is.”—Leonard Cohen, from the foreword

“This is the funniest, most genuine spiritual memoir I have ever read. It feels odd to call it a memoir, given how it is chock full of genuine Buddhist insight. A must-read, especially for those of us who have been accused of being in gay porn films.”—Lodro Rinzler, author of The Buddha Walks into a Bar…

Zen Confidential has a virtue rare in spiritual books, it includes the whole of life. Here we have sex, bathroom customs of the monastery, politics, suicide, drugs, meanness, marriage, standup comedy, Las Vegas, koans and a 105-year-old Zen master.  It’s a window into a magical world that pretends to be ordinary and an ordinary world that is magical. Haubner has an acute eye for the ridiculousness of the world and a larger-than-life way of seeing. It’s a fresh, living account of this kind of Zen in America and of living well and serving the way.” —John Tarrant, author of Bring Me the Rhinoceros and Other Zen Koans That Will Save Your Life
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; First Edition edition (May 14, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611800331
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611800333
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #280,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
My husband and I took ZEN CONFIDENTIAL as an accompaniment to our road trip. We took turns reading the stories out loud as the other one was driving. We had many laughs, deep conversations, and a few moments of "can he do that?!". I loved every minute of it. As a person who tries to live a zen life but fails miserably the second the children come home from school, I have to say this book is Modern Zen life in it's rawest form (rawest... yeah you read it first here). It is extremely well written and I look forward to reading more of his work.
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Format: Paperback
Once I started, I couldn't put this book down. Definitely a page-turner to the very end. Think J.D. Salinger as Zen monk. I learned a lot about Zen and a bit about life in general. I feel like I now know as much about the author as I do about my best friend. Very funny, very human, very honest. Haubner isn't afraid to tell the kinds of family secrets every single one of us has and does so in a voice that knows itself to be broken, is trying his best to fix, while making us aware of the beauty behind normal human foibles. I highly recommend it.
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One of my all-time favorite books & I'm only on page 50. I'm slow reading it because I have to stop so often to post quotes of cutting wisdom from the pages. The author uses disturbingly hilarious prose to bring to light our own insecurities by poking fun at himself. I will be buying more copies as gifts.
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I had read Shozan Jack Haubner's pieces in the past in Tricycle magazine and elsewhere and have even assigned some of the pieces to my students in an Introduction to Religious Studies class. For some reason, North Americans view Zen as a serene practice free of complication and, in short, reality. Shozan Jack conveys the challenges of bringing the theories of the mind (and of faith by extension) into the concrete. Meditation looks beautiful on film, but sitting for hours on end has real consequences for the body and on the mind.

Shozan Jack demystifies the practice of Zen and, by extension, makes it more accessible to the potential practitioner. The honesty about the harsh realities of giving one's life over to Zen practice is refreshing. In addition to Shozan Jack's deep understanding of Zen practice and history, his ability to communicate the challenges of the monk life is laudable.

I highly recommend this text as a concrete presentation of the pursuit of enlightenment..
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I loved this book. I loved its honesty, depth and humor.
Clearly a partial view of life at Mt Baldy but in its way a very accurate one.
I asked my husband to read this book because I thought that I might have enjoyed it due to my many years of practice at Mt Baldy. He laughed out loud and did not put it down. You do not have to be a Zen practitionner to see the cutting humor of this book but,it helps!!!
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Spiritual growth is a messy, brutal, hilarious business, and Shozan Jack Haubner doesn't leave anything out in this beautifully personal tale of his journey to monkhood. Studying under one of the oldest living zen masters, Haubner battles his family, his fellow monks, and, most often, himself in his attempt to become one with a world he's always rebelled against.

If you're looking for trite, spiritual platitudes or a soft focus approach to zen, this is not the book for you. There is talk of s***, of porn, of constant human pettiness while trying to find the middle path. It is shocking, blasphemous and profane. It is loving, generous and kind. It does what a truly great memoir does - it brings us to a world few people have experience in and lays bare the author's mistakes and insights, so we can become better people just by reading it.
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This book had me laughing toward awakening. Jack Haubner rips open and lays bare what lies beneath discreet social niceties. Human feces are transformed to compost, bodily discharges are torn from their taboos; there are arms manufacturing, homosexuality, and porn films in this Zen. With each exploration the raw bold awakening is unearthed, and the truth of what Zen practice uncovers is revealed. Haubner says the purpose of Zen practice is not to make you a better person but to awaken you to the truth of your being. Nevertheless, I venture to guess that this author has become a better person as a side effect. I felt his humility taking hold throughout the book, his willingness to let the world become his teacher, and his acceptance of the lessons.

Carl Jung said that one does not become awakened by contemplating images of light but by casting light into the darkness. This author shines his laser beam on the profane with deep honesty, and we witness the enantiodromia—transformation into sacredness, gratitude, and compassion.

This was a page-turner and kept me up both reading and reflecting on the deep wisdom transmitted through the author’s courageous tenacity to see the practice through. Bravo!

Rev. Hannah Rappaport
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"Zen Confidential" is biting, brilliant and insightful. No holding back in this memoir when it comes to describing the internal suffering of this monk of a man. A former stand up comic in Hollywood, Shozan has the raw edge of a Lenny Bruce transformed into Zen preacher. I loved almost every page and in the end felt that I had learned something of the essence of Zen....a truly valuable piece of work. Not for the faint of heart.
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