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Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth about Reality

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This is not your typical Zen book. Brad Warner, a young punk who grew up to be a Zen master, spares no one. This bold new approach to the "Why?" of Zen Buddhism is as strongly grounded in the tradition of Zen as it is utterly revolutionary. Warner's voice is hilarious, and he calls on the wisdom of everyone from punk and pop culture icons to the Buddha himself to make sure This is not your typical Zen book. Brad Warner, a young punk who grew up to be a Zen master, spares no one. This bold new approach to the "Why?" of Zen Buddhism is as strongly grounded in the tradition of Zen as it is utterly revolutionary. Warner's voice is hilarious, and he calls on the wisdom of everyone from punk and pop culture icons to the Buddha himself to make sure his points come through loud and clear. As it prods readers to question everything, Hardcore Zen is both an approach and a departure, leaving behind the soft and lyrical for the gritty and stark perspective of a new generation. The subtitle says it all: there has never been a book like this.


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This is not your typical Zen book. Brad Warner, a young punk who grew up to be a Zen master, spares no one. This bold new approach to the "Why?" of Zen Buddhism is as strongly grounded in the tradition of Zen as it is utterly revolutionary. Warner's voice is hilarious, and he calls on the wisdom of everyone from punk and pop culture icons to the Buddha himself to make sure This is not your typical Zen book. Brad Warner, a young punk who grew up to be a Zen master, spares no one. This bold new approach to the "Why?" of Zen Buddhism is as strongly grounded in the tradition of Zen as it is utterly revolutionary. Warner's voice is hilarious, and he calls on the wisdom of everyone from punk and pop culture icons to the Buddha himself to make sure his points come through loud and clear. As it prods readers to question everything, Hardcore Zen is both an approach and a departure, leaving behind the soft and lyrical for the gritty and stark perspective of a new generation. The subtitle says it all: there has never been a book like this.

30 review for Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth about Reality

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    True story : I met Brad Warner when he came to Montreal to give a talk about Buddhism and he drew a stegosaurus in my copy of “Hardcore Zen”. He’s a lovely guy! When I started studying Buddhism years ago, a teacher suggested I look into Zen Buddhism more specifically. I think he understood that I had no interest in frills and just wanted a no-nonsense, straightforward approach – which is essentially what Zen Buddhism is. As I was looking for some literature on that specific school of thought at t True story : I met Brad Warner when he came to Montreal to give a talk about Buddhism and he drew a stegosaurus in my copy of “Hardcore Zen”. He’s a lovely guy! When I started studying Buddhism years ago, a teacher suggested I look into Zen Buddhism more specifically. I think he understood that I had no interest in frills and just wanted a no-nonsense, straightforward approach – which is essentially what Zen Buddhism is. As I was looking for some literature on that specific school of thought at the bookstore, I stumbled upon a copy of “Hardcore Zen”. It caught my eye because not unlike Brad Warner, the punk subculture has been a hugely influential part of my life and the idea of approaching Buddhism through a punk lense – question authority, question society, question yourself, question everything! – was very appealing. Maybe this resonated with me because I have a problem with arbitrary authority figures, whether they are parental, governmental, professional or spiritual (and by that I mean that authority figures have to show me that they deserve my respect, and that I won’t just bow and scrape to someone without a good reason) and this dude was clearly not thinking of himself as an authority figure. Maybe it was because he was a simple, down to earth, self-deprecating guy who has had real modern life experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I have tremendous respect and admiration for a lot of Buddhist writers, but monks and nuns who have spent their lives in an ashram are sometimes very difficult to relate to, and their advice often hard to apply to the horribly mundane realities of daily Western life. Whatever the reason, I bought the book, brought it home and read it in a day. I decided to re-read it because life has been a bit of a mess lately, and I wanted to re-sharpen my focus to deal with the mess in a healthier way. It helps sometime just to be reminded that some of the things our mind does make life seem complicated, but that its ultimately a trick we play on ourselves, and books like this one are perfect reminders. Of course reading that kind of stuff stirs some internal dust, but that’s usually a sign that its doing something good! This book contains quite a few stories about Warner’s life, mostly about how he discovered Zen Buddhism, but also often moments in his life that he began to look at differently after he started practicing Zen. I feel like these anecdotes serve to show you how Warner’s life changed with his practice and study of Buddhism. Warner also wants to make it very clear to the reader: his book is not a manual on how to live your life or how to reach enlightenment. It’s a book about reality because that is the ultimate aim of Zen practice. “Hardcore Zen” was originally published a long time ago now (2003), and Buddhism has become a lot more mainstream since, which is great, but this book is still incredibly informative, because as with anything else that becomes mainstream, a lot of bollocks is written on the subject - and Warner wants his readers to know that not all the pop-Buddhism out there is actual tradition or practice. His chapter on Buddhist morality (gloriously titled “No sex with cantaloupes”) is a wonderful text about what it means to apply the philosophy of action that Buddhism is to your life, and is worth the price of the book on its own. Highly recommended for people who don’t mind a bit of irreverence, who are looking for accessible literature on Zen or who are simply interested in Buddhism but are deeply annoyed by hippie-wishy-washy writing about it. However, if you are looking for a set of instructions on finding enlightenment and can’t handle crass humor and geekiness, I suggests you look somewhere else. And finally, if you like this book, his other works are also well worth reading!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    I was telling Joanna about this book, and she said something about how ugly the cover was. And it's true, the cover is terribly designed. In the final chapter, the author mentions, "vapid, syrupy tomes with the word Zen in the title and some serene image on the cover." Okay, so ha ha, you put a toilet on your cover! Very funny, Brad Warner! Still, if you can get past smartass stuff like that, this is a pretty good introduction to Zen Buddhism. Warner's style can be a little annoying, especially w I was telling Joanna about this book, and she said something about how ugly the cover was. And it's true, the cover is terribly designed. In the final chapter, the author mentions, "vapid, syrupy tomes with the word Zen in the title and some serene image on the cover." Okay, so ha ha, you put a toilet on your cover! Very funny, Brad Warner! Still, if you can get past smartass stuff like that, this is a pretty good introduction to Zen Buddhism. Warner's style can be a little annoying, especially when he's trying to prove he's one hardcore ex-punk who never did believe in authority figures and that you should question everything, even this book. After the first 40 or 50 pages, though, he gets down to the really interesting stuff. Warner writes in a very conversational, straightforward manner, mixing in his own experiences with the concepts he's trying to get across, specifically the tenets of Soto Zen Buddhism. Warner's interpretation of Buddhism is stripped down and grounded in reality, and he's not very interested in "enlightenment," chanting, ceremonies, or reaching transcendental states.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    It's a book about Zen, obviously, from the point of view of an American who went from punk rocker to zen master over the course of many years. It's very different from most other zen books out there in that Warner doesn't try to affect the "wise and learned sage" voice in his writing. I imagine him more as a jittery skinny guy, chain-smoking cigarettes and telling you about the time he saw the entire history of the universe unfold around him in a dream. Any book on Zen that quotes South Park, Phi It's a book about Zen, obviously, from the point of view of an American who went from punk rocker to zen master over the course of many years. It's very different from most other zen books out there in that Warner doesn't try to affect the "wise and learned sage" voice in his writing. I imagine him more as a jittery skinny guy, chain-smoking cigarettes and telling you about the time he saw the entire history of the universe unfold around him in a dream. Any book on Zen that quotes South Park, Philip K. Dick and Bart Simpson is a book worth reading. Zen interests me, for many reasons, and a lot of them were addressed in this book. The idea that the past is the past and the future doesn't exist is one that I picked up years ago and has made life a lot less stressful. He does drift into the "We are all one" vein of Buddhist philosophy from time to time, which I'm still not entirely down on, but he's a lot of fun to read. Go give it a look.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Renda Dodge

    This is one of the best books I've read on Buddhism. At first the author started off with a real punk, "screw off if you don't like it" attitude, but by the end of the book he had changed. Because of the progression, it felt like, as the reader, I was going on this journey with him. I'd originally written Zen Buddhism off as the sect that "meditated all the time, and didn't care about ethics", but I was wrong. I quickly learned as I flipped the pages that I needed to take a second look at Zen. No This is one of the best books I've read on Buddhism. At first the author started off with a real punk, "screw off if you don't like it" attitude, but by the end of the book he had changed. Because of the progression, it felt like, as the reader, I was going on this journey with him. I'd originally written Zen Buddhism off as the sect that "meditated all the time, and didn't care about ethics", but I was wrong. I quickly learned as I flipped the pages that I needed to take a second look at Zen. Not only did the book reaffirm a lot of things for me about my own morality, it taught me a lot of things too. The author may be a Zen Priest, but he's also a regular guy, with a regular job, who grew up in Ohio, and honestly there needs to be more Buddhist books written for Western society - books that cover actually Buddhism and actual meditation by actual Western practitioners. Some of the things covered in this book, I knew. Some, I couldn't believe I'd finally found someone else that agreed with me. I recommend this book for anyone who's interested in a look at Zen or Buddhism in general that doesn't live in Tibet or Japan. This book makes the philosophy so accessible. Something to note, this isn't a "how-to" book, there's no such thing. This is Brad's story of his life and what led him to Buddhism, with teachings thrown in. The hope is that you'll read it and start down your own spiritual path, not copy his. So if you're looking for a "teach me how to get there" type book, this isn't it, but this is a great start if you're interested in learning what Zen is all about.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    i've seen this book in the buddhist section at barnes & noble for years now. i never bothered to give it a try, because frankly, it looked stupid. "he doesn't get it," i would think. "he's just trying to make a joke out of zen and exploit it for money, fuck him and fuck his book." and then i'd get some other mystic book written by some other dude who shared the intention that i mistakenly placed on Brad Warner. about 2 weeks ago, i came across Warner's second zen teacher (i didn't know it was his i've seen this book in the buddhist section at barnes & noble for years now. i never bothered to give it a try, because frankly, it looked stupid. "he doesn't get it," i would think. "he's just trying to make a joke out of zen and exploit it for money, fuck him and fuck his book." and then i'd get some other mystic book written by some other dude who shared the intention that i mistakenly placed on Brad Warner. about 2 weeks ago, i came across Warner's second zen teacher (i didn't know it was his teacher at the time), Nishijima, i was reading his quotes, and some quotes about him. obviously Warner's were in there, and i did a little bit more reading, and found that this was his teacher. Warner learned legitimate zen from a legitimate zen source. my curiosity rose. i looked up Warner, and found his youtube page where he talks about big questions westerners have for buddhism. all of them were sound and simple, it blew me away. i watched an interview about one of his books, i was laughing because of how unconventional he was. he sat there with unkempt hair and a fucking god-zilla t-shirt while talking about the necessity of zazen to have a better life. i was out the door quickly to go buy one of his books. even if it was poorly written, i thought, his personality is genuine, i'd enjoy anyway. in a nutshell: easily the best zen book i've ever read in my life.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Hardcore Zen was a fun book, and a quick read. I liked the author; he seemed to be very keen to make sure the reader understands that Zen does not condone drug use, nor do real Zen practitioners chase after wild enlightenment experiences. He eagerly exhorted me to challenge all authority, including his own. A lot of the book was about authority, the spiritual quest, and the mistakenness of chasing enlightenment. These topics don't feel very relevant to me personally. Hardcore Zen didn't really hi Hardcore Zen was a fun book, and a quick read. I liked the author; he seemed to be very keen to make sure the reader understands that Zen does not condone drug use, nor do real Zen practitioners chase after wild enlightenment experiences. He eagerly exhorted me to challenge all authority, including his own. A lot of the book was about authority, the spiritual quest, and the mistakenness of chasing enlightenment. These topics don't feel very relevant to me personally. Hardcore Zen didn't really hit its stride until around page 130. I felt like Warner was dancing around the core of Zen (despite his title). He refers to "reality" a lot but doesn't talk about the reality of deep suffering, real disappointment, and emotional confusion, and how those things can be the gateway to understanding Zen practice. I guess I am still comparing Zen books to my favorite, Everyday Zen, Love and Work. This was Warner's first book. I've heard his subsequent book (books?) get better, so I might try him again.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mario the lone bookwolf

    Autobiographical journey to gain insight, cheap movies and Far Eastern life training Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested. Once an entirely different approach to the Asian mentality that Warner has operated in his life. From an original punk musician to a Zen student and finally master in Japan as well as a profession in the form of designing monster films. After a relatively long introduction, including entertaining, autobiogr Autobiographical journey to gain insight, cheap movies and Far Eastern life training Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested. Once an entirely different approach to the Asian mentality that Warner has operated in his life. From an original punk musician to a Zen student and finally master in Japan as well as a profession in the form of designing monster films. After a relatively long introduction, including entertaining, autobiographical anecdotes, the path of insight begins for the Westerners seek for meaning. Nor does it lack a certain irony that a punker who rejects all conventions and social regulations mutates into an avid monkish student. In the form of a typical 180-degree change, this is part of the attraction of this reading. Also how difficult and frustrating it is for the highly unconventional young man to submit to the rigid and sometimes seemingly meaningless practice. What stands out in contrast to sometimes too confident and lightly brimming literature on Buddhism, meditation and Asian philosophy in this work, is the predominantly non-corroding confirmation of a circumstance. That apprenticeship years are not men's years. Moreover, this is particularly evident in zazen, the concentrated, and as far as possible motionless, sitting and meditating on the total focusing and extinction of all disturbing internal and external influences. An activity is typical of Zen, with which the primary character of this faith is well illustrated. Where the emphasis is placed on active meditative practice or mindfulness in other orientations of the teachings, Zen is a slightly quirky character head. Full of puzzles and sometimes difficult to understand requirements such as zazen. The hardships, setbacks and sometimes tristesse to the path of knowledge are relentlessly and honestly explained. This contrasts nicely with the public, no-requirement feel-good quest that is continuously rampant in this genre category. The description of the motives of his search for meaning and the necessary requirements, practice rituals, and practices are handled by the author. The advantage of this combination of insertions from the Vita and passages describing philosophical and practical aspects increases the flow of reading in comparison to the purely theoretical literature on the subject. Which, however, also brings with it the negative point of the interim inserts, which in principle are fiction. Although these partly explain the motivation for change, in the majority they are not directly connected with the practical chapters. For those interested, the explanations from the musical phase or the affinity of the author to cheap Japanese monster movies may be entertaining. However, readers who have been beaten with other preferences are left out and can not generate practical added value from these sections. The tendency, however, to pack a relatively heavy food like Zen in a handy and quite attractive form, may find imitators in this form. It is quite likely that one or the other interested reader has been deterred by too dogmatic, esoteric or merely dull works to the topic block. This form of performance has the potential to mitigate concerns over complexity and inaccessibility. Because the mixture of sometimes artificially casual language and the detailed portrayal of the life of the author's lows aroused the interest and basic voyeuristic needs are satisfied too. Overall an, although not overly substantial, entertaining way to approach the complex issue and lay the foundation for a change in the philosophy of life. Younger readers, in particular, will respond much better to this type of portal opening and find motivation than in too systematic or unrealistic mediation attempts. Moreover, now please look at the wall and call the sound that comes from clapping a hand. Autobiografische Reise zu Erkenntnisgewinn, Billigfilmchen und fernöstlicher Lebensschulung Einmal eine gänzlich andere Herangehensweise an die asiatische Mentalität, die Warner in seinem Leben betrieben hat. Von einem ursprünglichen Punkmusiker zum Zenschüler und schließlich Meister der in Japan Liebe sowie Arbeit in Form der Gestaltung von Monsterfilmen findet. Nach einer recht langen Einführung samt unterhaltsamen, autobiografischen Anekdoten beginnt der Weg der Erkenntnis für den Sinn suchenden Westler. Es entbehrt auch nicht einer gewissen Ironie, dass ein sämtliche Konventionen und gesellschaftlichen Vorschriften ablehnender Punker zum eifrigen Mönchsschüler mutiert. Das macht in Form eines klassischen 180 Grad Wechsels einen Teil des Reizes der Lektüre aus. Auch wie schwer und frustrierend es für den höchst unkonventionellen jungen Mann ist, sich der rigiden und mitunter sinnbefreit anmutenden Praxis zu unterwerfen. Was im Gegensatz zu mitunter allzu positiv und vor Leichtigkeit strotzender Literatur zu Buddhismus, Meditation und asiatischer Philosophie an diesem Werk auffällt, ist die überwiegend unbeschönigende Bestätigung eines Umstands. Dass Lehrjahre keine Herrenjahre sind. Und das zeigt sich besonders im Zazen, dem konzentrierten, auf die totale Fokussierung und Auslöschung sämtlicher störender innerer und äußerer Einflüsse konzentrierten, möglichst bewegungslosen Sitzen und Meditieren. Eine für Zen typische Tätigkeit, mit der der Grundcharakter dieser Glaubensrichtung gut verdeutlicht wird. Wo in anderen Ausrichtungen der Lehre mehr auf aktive Meditationspraxis oder Achtsamkeit Wert gelegt wird, ist Zen ein recht schrulliger Charakterkopf. Voller Rätsel und mitunter schwer nachvollziehbar anmutender Anforderungen wie eben dem Zazen. Die Härte, Rückschläge und mitunter Tristesse zum Weg der Erkenntnis werden schonungslos offen und ehrlich dargelegt. Das hebt sich angenehm von der stark verbreiteten, keine Anforderungen stellenden Wohlfühlsinnsuche, die permanent heftig in dieser Genrekategorie grassiert, ab. Die Beschreibung der Motive seiner Sinnsuche und die grundlegenden Anforderungen, Übungsrituale und Praktiken gehen dem Autor gelungen von der Hand. Der Vorteil dieser Kombination aus Einschüben aus der Vita und Passagen der Beschreibung philosophischer und praktischer Aspekte steigert den Lesefluss im Vergleich zu rein theoretischer Literatur zu dem Thema. Was aber auch den negativen Aspekt der im Prinzip Belletristik darstellenden Zwischeneinschübe mit sich bringt. Diese erläutern zwar teilweise die Motivation zur Wandlung, sind in der Majorität jedoch nicht direkt mit den praktischen Kapiteln verbunden. Für Interessierte mögen die Erläuterungen aus der musikalischen Phase oder die Affinität des Autors zu billigen japanischen Monsterfilmen unterhaltsam sein. Mit anderen Vorlieben geschlagene Leser bleiben jedoch außen vor und können aus diesen Abschnitten keinen nutzbaren Mehrwert generieren. Die Tendenz hingegen, eine relativ schwere Kost wie Zen in eine handliche und durchaus attraktive Form zu packen, darf in dieser Form gern Nachahmer finden. Es ist durchaus anzunehmen, dass doch der eine oder andere interessierte Leser bisher von allzu dogmatisch, esoterisch oder schlicht langweilig anmutenden Werken zu dem Themenblock abgeschreckt wurde. Diese Form der Darbietung hat das Potential, die Bedenken bezüglich allzu großer Komplexität und Unzugänglichkeit zu mindern. Da mit der Mischung aus mitunter gekünstelt lässiger Sprache und der detaillierten Schilderung der Lebenstiefs des Autors das Interesse geweckt und voyeuristische Grundbedürfnisse befriedigt werden. Insgesamt eine zwar nicht übermäßig gehaltvolle, aber kurzweilige Art, sich der komplexen Thematik anzunähern und den Grundstein für eine Änderung der Lebensanschauung zu legen. Speziell jüngere Leser werden auf diese Art der Pfortenöffnung wesentlich besser ansprechen und Motivation finden als bei allzu dogmatischen oder realitätsfernen Vermittlungsversuchen. Und jetzt bitte Wand anschauen und das Geräusch nennen, das beim Klatschen einer Hand entsteht.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ray Campbell

    The word that comes to mind, surprisingly, is: crude. Warner is apparently a former Punk Rocker who has found Zen and written a book about it. He isn't the first to find Zen in the world of the mundane, nor the last to write a book about his discovery. I think of "The Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and the "Tao of Pooh". It is always cool to explore the experience of one who has reached a place of bliss in the real world, but the grotesque and obscene make this book not for the faint The word that comes to mind, surprisingly, is: crude. Warner is apparently a former Punk Rocker who has found Zen and written a book about it. He isn't the first to find Zen in the world of the mundane, nor the last to write a book about his discovery. I think of "The Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and the "Tao of Pooh". It is always cool to explore the experience of one who has reached a place of bliss in the real world, but the grotesque and obscene make this book not for the faint of heart. Warner has attempted through his own journey, to share the principals of Zen with his fellow human beings. In his youth, he was a Punk Rocker and as he matured, he discovered that he had a soul. He tells his story and teaches Zen with Punk Rock and monster movies as analogies. I think the lectured of Allen Watts or Joseph Campbell might provide equally valid insight, but Warner is speaking to an audience that relates more to being spit on than lectured. In the end, this is a solid introduction to Zen for folks who turn off anything that doesn't bring them back to the mosh-pit. I wouldn't have thought it possible to make a point about the Buddha with a Monster Movie analogy, but Warner does it quite well. If you are curious about Zen and have no problem with leaving concerts with serious injuries, this book is for you! I thought his writing was clever, reasonably accurate but crude.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jocelyn Koehler

    This book was given to me by a very well-meaning, music-centric friend (who handed copies out to many peeps as appropriate). So I had very high hopes. Unfortunately, the author's personal story got in the way of the Zen stuff for me. I found it extremely difficult to absorb any lessons on Buddhism or zen practice or even punk rock, because the author's voice kept getting in the way. The back of the book urges the reader to "Question Authority. Question Society. QUestion Reality. Question Yoursel This book was given to me by a very well-meaning, music-centric friend (who handed copies out to many peeps as appropriate). So I had very high hopes. Unfortunately, the author's personal story got in the way of the Zen stuff for me. I found it extremely difficult to absorb any lessons on Buddhism or zen practice or even punk rock, because the author's voice kept getting in the way. The back of the book urges the reader to "Question Authority. Question Society. QUestion Reality. Question Yourself." All excellent questions that should be explored. But this book, well-meaning and intentional as it no doubt is, didn't help me question. Your mileage may vary.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Very nice straightforward book. Unlike the Mathieu Ricard book, I don't feel the least bit embarrassed or guilty for liking it. I enjoyed the emphasis on reality. Trascendental nothing. Was also somewhat reassured to learn that Buddhists do not believe in reincarnation (that's asking the wrong question). Enjoyed the author poking at his own past misconceptions about Zen; or showing the kinds of places where you'll think you've got something down pat, but not really because you've only got it on Very nice straightforward book. Unlike the Mathieu Ricard book, I don't feel the least bit embarrassed or guilty for liking it. I enjoyed the emphasis on reality. Trascendental nothing. Was also somewhat reassured to learn that Buddhists do not believe in reincarnation (that's asking the wrong question). Enjoyed the author poking at his own past misconceptions about Zen; or showing the kinds of places where you'll think you've got something down pat, but not really because you've only got it on a superficial, intellectual level; and especially showing the many "ah-hah!" moments that turned out to be fundamentally empty (haha). Nice warning signs. Don't be fooled by yourself, and especially do not be fooled by anybody who purports to be a master. Eat a tangerine and know reality. Probably not going to prevent me from getting it horribly wrong and thinking I know something. But I'm happy to have some advance warning. Seems like the kind of book I'm glad to own because I might want to go through and reread bits of it again, bits that I might not have really understood the first time around.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mariano

    Too much about Brad Warner, not so much about Zen. For someone who criticizes a lot the concept of an "authority figure", the author spends too many pages being one, patronizing the reader and throwing shit to other authors / Zen masters / musicians / whatever. He speaks way too much about himself and his life, which (to me at least) is completely irrelevant, quite ordinary and mostly uninteresting. And he tries really hard to be funny in his writing. And (again, to me) he's not. But if you can co Too much about Brad Warner, not so much about Zen. For someone who criticizes a lot the concept of an "authority figure", the author spends too many pages being one, patronizing the reader and throwing shit to other authors / Zen masters / musicians / whatever. He speaks way too much about himself and his life, which (to me at least) is completely irrelevant, quite ordinary and mostly uninteresting. And he tries really hard to be funny in his writing. And (again, to me) he's not. But if you can cope with that, make an effort and put that aside, there are quite a few interesting concepts and ideas for someone who is trying to learn a bit about Zen and Buddhism from a layman, secular point of view.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

    Just finished Brad Warner's Hardcore Zen. It was excellent. I'm sure I'm biased a bit since I have Buddhist leanings, but I thought it was incredibly interesting to gain the perspective of a Zen master who sits firmly outside the mystic bullshit that often gets dragged in to things. If you want to learn anything about Japanese Soto Zen, while ignoring all the nitty-gritty ceremonial stuff, and as it looks through the irreverent eyes of a punk rocker/Japanese monster movie maker (Go Ultraman!), gr Just finished Brad Warner's Hardcore Zen. It was excellent. I'm sure I'm biased a bit since I have Buddhist leanings, but I thought it was incredibly interesting to gain the perspective of a Zen master who sits firmly outside the mystic bullshit that often gets dragged in to things. If you want to learn anything about Japanese Soto Zen, while ignoring all the nitty-gritty ceremonial stuff, and as it looks through the irreverent eyes of a punk rocker/Japanese monster movie maker (Go Ultraman!), grab this book. In the words of Brad Warner: "Question Authority. Question society. Question reality. Question yourself."

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dave Burns

    Well written and enjoyable. I'm not sure why I didn't give it 5 stars. I liked the author's basic approach of trying to avoid jumbo-jumbo. Maybe I'm disappointed that you can't really completely avoid jumbo-jumbo when writing about zen, or explain why you might want to try it, maybe because supposedly the experience can't be described in words. Will it make you happy? Probably not. Will it help you understand the world or yourself better? Kinda sorta maybe. Will it make me rich or get me laid? V Well written and enjoyable. I'm not sure why I didn't give it 5 stars. I liked the author's basic approach of trying to avoid jumbo-jumbo. Maybe I'm disappointed that you can't really completely avoid jumbo-jumbo when writing about zen, or explain why you might want to try it, maybe because supposedly the experience can't be described in words. Will it make you happy? Probably not. Will it help you understand the world or yourself better? Kinda sorta maybe. Will it make me rich or get me laid? Very unlikely. Will getting started be difficult, and will practicing be boring and kind of a chore forever? Almost certainly. So it's a fun book on a topic that is hard to talk about or make sense of, and maybe makes no sense. Let me illustrate by quoting a passage I like, from page 10: "If you don't do that the truth can never appear. And if it doesn't appear in the way that you can personably grasp it without reservation, this whole world hasn't got a chance in hell. But if you really thoroughly question everything, if you pursue your questions long enough and honestly enough, there will come a time when truth will wallop you upside the head and you will know. But let me offer you a warning, which like everything else I say, you are totally free to disregard: the truth won't be what you imagined. It won't even be close. And you may well wish you hadn't chased it so long. But once you find it you will never be able to run away from it again, and you will never be able to hide. You'll have no choice but to face up to it."

  14. 4 out of 5

    Peter Sims

    The first time I saw this in my bookstore, I figured it was another gimmicky work and skipped it. When I went home I realized it was by the person whose website (now changed to the Hardcore Zen blog) I read and re-read because of its clear language and avoidance of the flowery aspects of Zen writing that have irritated me for years. The next day I picked it up, read it as quickly as I could, and completely found new inspiration for Zen practice. Here was an example of the feeling that someone wa The first time I saw this in my bookstore, I figured it was another gimmicky work and skipped it. When I went home I realized it was by the person whose website (now changed to the Hardcore Zen blog) I read and re-read because of its clear language and avoidance of the flowery aspects of Zen writing that have irritated me for years. The next day I picked it up, read it as quickly as I could, and completely found new inspiration for Zen practice. Here was an example of the feeling that someone was writing just for me. Brad Warner has a gift for cutting through the aforementioned flowery stuff and actually presenting something useful and lucid. For someone that is interested in Zen as an active process and not just a vague new age concept, this is a strong, strong recommendation. I almost feel like I should apologize for not giving it five stars, but the strongest work of Warner's (to me) is his next book. But easily the best introduction to Zen written since Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mark Robison

    I’d read this when it came out a dozen or so years ago and really liked it, and I just reread it via audiobook because I thought my nephew might get some value from it and I wanted to make sure. It was both better and worse than I remember it. It was worse because some of the writing is clunky — it feels like a first novel. And it was better because there is so much brilliance contained amongst goofy stories of playing punk rock and making a TV show about giant monsters. Warner talks like a real I’d read this when it came out a dozen or so years ago and really liked it, and I just reread it via audiobook because I thought my nephew might get some value from it and I wanted to make sure. It was both better and worse than I remember it. It was worse because some of the writing is clunky — it feels like a first novel. And it was better because there is so much brilliance contained amongst goofy stories of playing punk rock and making a TV show about giant monsters. Warner talks like a real person, not like a Buddhist teacher who is all lovingkindness or all Zen inscrutability. He’s just a guy, and yet he cuts through all of the b.s. that often surrounds meditation and Buddhism. He explains like no other writer I’ve read the concepts of no-self, reincarnation and enlightenment. Simply great. The audio version is a kick. He’s just reading it aloud in his apartment and occasionally gets interrupted by his cat jumping on the keyboard and the refrigerator starting to hum. Grade: A

  16. 5 out of 5

    DRM

    This book should have really sucked in theory. Buddhism for punks, arggh! But Warner's self-effacing humor works nicely for his "this is zen for those who don't give a rat's ass about zen" and "question everything...including this book" approach. He weaves in his own life experiences without getting whiny and offers one of the more lucid explanations of the essence of zen buddhism out there. More than just some lame "alternative" marketing scheme, this book really makes you appreciate what the " This book should have really sucked in theory. Buddhism for punks, arggh! But Warner's self-effacing humor works nicely for his "this is zen for those who don't give a rat's ass about zen" and "question everything...including this book" approach. He weaves in his own life experiences without getting whiny and offers one of the more lucid explanations of the essence of zen buddhism out there. More than just some lame "alternative" marketing scheme, this book really makes you appreciate what the "sit down and shut up" approach has going for it. I'm not meditating or anything after reading it but I did find alot of truth in Warner's notion that enlightenment is realizing that there is nothing to realize. I also feel I have a much clearer idea about how to become involved with Japanese monster movies should I get the urge.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I got this book as a gift from my mum. She apparently thinks I need more balance in my life or whatever. But in a punk kinda way, because my mum is kinda awesome. The issue with this is that I've never been especially interested in Buddhism. I mean, the ideas do appeal to me, and the basic idea explained in this book seem like something I sort of try to do as it is (without the zazen, that is), but I just... am not as interested as to actually start practicing, you know? It was funny at times, an I got this book as a gift from my mum. She apparently thinks I need more balance in my life or whatever. But in a punk kinda way, because my mum is kinda awesome. The issue with this is that I've never been especially interested in Buddhism. I mean, the ideas do appeal to me, and the basic idea explained in this book seem like something I sort of try to do as it is (without the zazen, that is), but I just... am not as interested as to actually start practicing, you know? It was funny at times, and managed to make me think for a moment or two, but I assume "a moment or two" was not what it was aiming for. I probably am not part of the group this book was aimed for, not really. It wasn't bad, but it did not change my life in the way I assume the author hoped it would.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Maddie

    This is not your stuffy, bookish treatment of Zen Buddhism. It is a real expression of one man's circuitous journey to the heart of Zen. His matter-of-fact style coupled with a healthy sense of humour make this book not only enlightening, but entertaining as well. For people who have read a great deal on Buddhism and are looking for a new perspective or for those who are just beginning to explore the area, this is a definite must read. This is not your stuffy, bookish treatment of Zen Buddhism. It is a real expression of one man's circuitous journey to the heart of Zen. His matter-of-fact style coupled with a healthy sense of humour make this book not only enlightening, but entertaining as well. For people who have read a great deal on Buddhism and are looking for a new perspective or for those who are just beginning to explore the area, this is a definite must read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    A very honest, down to earth and in your face discussion of Zen. Part memoir, part explanation, totally refreshing. I wasn't a huge fan of the personal stories about punk rock and making monster movies, but the rest was highly readable. It's rare to find a book on Buddhism this bullshit-free. Well done! A very honest, down to earth and in your face discussion of Zen. Part memoir, part explanation, totally refreshing. I wasn't a huge fan of the personal stories about punk rock and making monster movies, but the rest was highly readable. It's rare to find a book on Buddhism this bullshit-free. Well done!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ignacio

    As a bass player and hardcore punk fan with an interest in zazen and eastern philosophy, I connected to the author in so many levels. This book is my favorite Zen book so far. I loved Warner's no-bullshit approach and disregard of the more dogmatic aspects, and his focus on the core values of Soto Zen. It made me want to re-read other more classic Zen books in a different light. As a bass player and hardcore punk fan with an interest in zazen and eastern philosophy, I connected to the author in so many levels. This book is my favorite Zen book so far. I loved Warner's no-bullshit approach and disregard of the more dogmatic aspects, and his focus on the core values of Soto Zen. It made me want to re-read other more classic Zen books in a different light.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    Brad Warner's Hardcore Zen is the author's story of his journey from his young years as a punk to his first zazen sessions, to moving to Japan and fulfilling his dream of working for Tsubaraya's company, to becoming a Zen master. Nothing more straight-forward and easier than that. Not! It probably goes without saying that this is not your normal Zen book. Throughout the whole book, Brad keeps up his down-to-earth way of telling his story. In the beginning, I wasn't sure how serious I could take a Brad Warner's Hardcore Zen is the author's story of his journey from his young years as a punk to his first zazen sessions, to moving to Japan and fulfilling his dream of working for Tsubaraya's company, to becoming a Zen master. Nothing more straight-forward and easier than that. Not! It probably goes without saying that this is not your normal Zen book. Throughout the whole book, Brad keeps up his down-to-earth way of telling his story. In the beginning, I wasn't sure how serious I could take a book that adresses readers' sorry asses... I certainly had to get used to the style. And I wasn't sure someone who spoke like that, who uses that language, could legitimately be anything even close to a Buddhist teacher. However, the more I read, the more it grew on me. Brad has a past. He loves Nirvana and The Beatles and The Ramones and KISS. He loves Japanese Comic books and monster movies. He's made mistakes. He's had thoughts and fantasies that do in no way correspond with the idea of a "good" human being. He refuses to fit in, he's never been fond of belonging to groups, and only accepted his teacher Nishijima's Dharma Transmission (making him a Zen master) very hesitantly. For Brad, Buddhism has nothing to do with all the rituals and robes and temples. It doesn't have anything to do with (fake) gurus who think themselves incredibly important. It doesn't mean you have to save the world. According to Brad, even trying to reach enlightenment is not what it's all about. Oh, and wondering about what happens after death, wondering about reincarnation, is simply the wrong question (after all, the Self doesn't exist the way we perceive it). What is Buddhism about though? What is Hardcore Zen? The answer is plain and simple. It's giving your best in everything you do, be it your everyday chores, your job, greeting the neighbors, etc. (as opposed to "big" heroic deeds). Don't waste your life waiting for something to pass or to happen, or dreaming about the past. Don't live in a fantasy world, because reality is all you've got. In one of his videos, Brad states that Buddhism/Zen is accepting a set of basic morals, and to sit. A lot. Even if it's boring. Even if you don't feel like it. Meditation/zazen is what it's all about. Do it every day. Do it for months, and years, and decades, and slowly, you'll learn. Brad makes it very clear that Buddhism is not the feel-good pop-religion so many Westerners think it is. There's nothing fancy about it. That's Hardcore Zen. Although I think the I-used-to-be-a-tough-punk talk is a bit over the top, at least in the beginning, I must say that I really liked the book. My favorite chapter is the one on the Heart Sutra – Brad does a great job explaining it step by step. The book as a whole is actually pretty neat. It shows that you don't have to fit in in order to follow the Buddhist path. You don't have to suddenly speak and dress any differently. There's no need to stop listening to your favorite band, or to restrict yourself, or to expect that you won't make any mistakes anymore. After all, we're all human. We all learn, and all we can do is do what we do in the best way possible.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    I'd been wondering about Zen, mostly due to my practice of aikido. Not sure why. Actually I just don't feel like writing a book here. Anyway, I enjoyed this book. I know the author practices one version of Zen, and there are other opinions. The connection to punk rock is what got my attention. I was happy to see that he doesn't take that connection any further than appropriate, and quickly notes that punk usually creates the same kind of Authority that he believes Zen is against. Which I've been I'd been wondering about Zen, mostly due to my practice of aikido. Not sure why. Actually I just don't feel like writing a book here. Anyway, I enjoyed this book. I know the author practices one version of Zen, and there are other opinions. The connection to punk rock is what got my attention. I was happy to see that he doesn't take that connection any further than appropriate, and quickly notes that punk usually creates the same kind of Authority that he believes Zen is against. Which I've been thinking about for many years now. He mostly lays off the mystical mumbo jumbo, and when he talks about "God" you know he is not talking about what Joel Osteen is talking about, at least I don't think so. This book got me thinking about a number of things, articulated some ideas that have been floating in my head for a while better than I've managed to say or write them, and overall was a really fun read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I love Brad Warner's Buddhist teachings, and I enjoyed it even more in the audiobook format. I particularly enjoyed this DIY, punk rock production, complete with punk music, monster movie sound effects, and Brad's cat jumping into the middle of recording a couple of times. Brad Warner makes Zen Buddhism accessible and easy to understand without diluting the message or condescending to the listener. It's palatable and profound and most of all, it's punk. I love Brad Warner's Buddhist teachings, and I enjoyed it even more in the audiobook format. I particularly enjoyed this DIY, punk rock production, complete with punk music, monster movie sound effects, and Brad's cat jumping into the middle of recording a couple of times. Brad Warner makes Zen Buddhism accessible and easy to understand without diluting the message or condescending to the listener. It's palatable and profound and most of all, it's punk.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Swensen

    A life-changing book. Warner cuts to the heart of what Buddhism really is with wit, passion and some great anecdotes about punk and monster movies. I knew there had to be a reason everyone kept talking about this one, and they weren't wrong. A life-changing book. Warner cuts to the heart of what Buddhism really is with wit, passion and some great anecdotes about punk and monster movies. I knew there had to be a reason everyone kept talking about this one, and they weren't wrong.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jesse Bray

    I need to preface this that I personally did not finish this book. I put this book down after only a few chapters and here's why: I. Firstly, I so wanted to like this book. The author has many exciting idioms and has a wonderful way with words. However, as the author does clearly state at the beginning of this book to not feel compelled to finish reading it if the book loses its resonance with me, the reader. II. Personally I felt the authors attempt at shocking phrases began to erode throughout t I need to preface this that I personally did not finish this book. I put this book down after only a few chapters and here's why: I. Firstly, I so wanted to like this book. The author has many exciting idioms and has a wonderful way with words. However, as the author does clearly state at the beginning of this book to not feel compelled to finish reading it if the book loses its resonance with me, the reader. II. Personally I felt the authors attempt at shocking phrases began to erode throughout the book and from my opinion started to feel contrived. The author was riding two horse between trying to connect with the reader all while undermining his own voice. This gave the book as sorta of decarbonated feeling. Which pulled me out of the book. III. I felt the author's anecdotal evidence for experiences with "organized religion" to be poisonous at best. And it lacks intellectual and spiritual integrity. The author is so adamantly against all religion that he fails deeply on even a surface level to possess empathy; which is a universal requirement for all good teachers. The author comes across like a pompous back alley preacher. VI. As a student of Buddhist teachings I believe the author misses certain marks within the Eight Fold path - particularly within right thinking, right speech and right actions. Sure I believe the author attempts to state he's not an authority and to question authority; yet he is a living contradiction by absolutely believing in no absolutes. As I mentioned above I only read a few chapters. Now that's not to say there isn't poignant truth within those few chapters. Unfortunately to me there was less meat and more bones from my point of view. This is not to say that others cannot find value in this authors work. I was pulled out from the authors carelessness to try and undervalue people's spirituality. A true mystic is after an experience that connects them with God, The universe, themselves, others etc... I felt the author wasn't ready to share such this from his writing style. His humility felt artificial.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sonya Feher

    Not being a huge fun of punk rock or monster movies, I wouldn't have picked up this book. When a good friend who I'd been trading books about faith with all summer told me I had to read it, I went to the library. Hardcore Zen chronicles Warner's path from punk rocker to Zen priest with humor and the irreverence I truly appreciate in books about faith or spiritual practice. That is to say, it doesn't take itself or its subject too seriously. As its cover copy proclaims, "This is Zen for people who Not being a huge fun of punk rock or monster movies, I wouldn't have picked up this book. When a good friend who I'd been trading books about faith with all summer told me I had to read it, I went to the library. Hardcore Zen chronicles Warner's path from punk rocker to Zen priest with humor and the irreverence I truly appreciate in books about faith or spiritual practice. That is to say, it doesn't take itself or its subject too seriously. As its cover copy proclaims, "This is Zen for people who don't give a rat's ass about Zen." Or punk rock. Or monster movies. Warner covers the fundamentals of all three by interweaving personal stories and decidedly un-koan-like explanations. He is not trying to be mysterious or enlightened. Still, I finished the book with a greater understanding of Zen than many purportedly serious texts have ever given me. Hardcore Zen is refreshing and worth a read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Eduardo

    This is a better, smarter way of writing "Zen Buddhism for Dummies". So many books about Zen fall into one of two categories, either new age variations or dense, scholarly books. Either can be difficult to work through for different reasons. Warner avoids both of these categories by being himself, which is to say that he is irreverent while being accessible and honest. Warner lays out the maddening contradictions of Zen but pairs it with his insight. He doesn't answer the questions for you, he le This is a better, smarter way of writing "Zen Buddhism for Dummies". So many books about Zen fall into one of two categories, either new age variations or dense, scholarly books. Either can be difficult to work through for different reasons. Warner avoids both of these categories by being himself, which is to say that he is irreverent while being accessible and honest. Warner lays out the maddening contradictions of Zen but pairs it with his insight. He doesn't answer the questions for you, he leaves you to fight with the dissonance on your own, which appears to be his strategy. I like his strategy. He gives the reader some references to classic texts, which motivates me to hunt them down to see if i can understand them better after having read his explanations. Overall, I found this book to be a great way to build one's confidence and interest in moving further down the path of Zen. (Thanks to my good friend Sam for lending me this book.)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    This book really encouraged me to review my life and question whether I was truly living the way I wanted to be living. It focuses on living in the moment and not worrying about the past or the future or those things that we have no contol over - for everything exists in this moment. "All imagination pales into nothing compared to what your real life is right here and right now. There’s not a single dream you can have, no matter how pure or beautiful, that’s better than what you’re living through This book really encouraged me to review my life and question whether I was truly living the way I wanted to be living. It focuses on living in the moment and not worrying about the past or the future or those things that we have no contol over - for everything exists in this moment. "All imagination pales into nothing compared to what your real life is right here and right now. There’s not a single dream you can have, no matter how pure or beautiful, that’s better than what you’re living through right now no matter how lousy you think right now is… everything exists in this moment"

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cody

    This was a great book. It introduced me to a branch of Buddhism I was very ignorant of until very recently, it covered the very basics, and it didn't try to sell me anything. I think that was my favorite part of Warner's whole narrative. Through the whole time you're reading, you're kept engaged because he's not trying to sell you something. He basically presents it as "Hey, here's Zen, it doesn't give a fuck." and I found that really enjoyable. A very down-to-earth book for down-to-earth people This was a great book. It introduced me to a branch of Buddhism I was very ignorant of until very recently, it covered the very basics, and it didn't try to sell me anything. I think that was my favorite part of Warner's whole narrative. Through the whole time you're reading, you're kept engaged because he's not trying to sell you something. He basically presents it as "Hey, here's Zen, it doesn't give a fuck." and I found that really enjoyable. A very down-to-earth book for down-to-earth people interested in knowing more about Zen.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    Loved this book. It's honest and real and doesn't dress itself up as a mystical adventure that will forever change you. Warner reminds you that only you can change anything for yourself. He says, "Find the beauty of the smoke clouds billowing out of a tire factory, enjoy the sunset over the city dump." Life is dirty, sad, beautiful, meaningless and meaningful. It makes perfect sense that the cover of this book is of a toilet. Loved this book. It's honest and real and doesn't dress itself up as a mystical adventure that will forever change you. Warner reminds you that only you can change anything for yourself. He says, "Find the beauty of the smoke clouds billowing out of a tire factory, enjoy the sunset over the city dump." Life is dirty, sad, beautiful, meaningless and meaningful. It makes perfect sense that the cover of this book is of a toilet.

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