Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth About Reality” as Want to Read:
Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth About Reality
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,022 Ratings  ·  301 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 207 pages
Published August 8th 1994 by Wisdom Publications
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Hardcore Zen, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Hardcore Zen

Siddhartha by Hermann HesseThe Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama XIVZen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu SuzukiWhen Things Fall Apart by Pema ChödrönPeace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh
A Buddhist Reading List
9th out of 669 books — 837 voters
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. RowlingTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee1984 by George OrwellThe Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankSiddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Books That Changed My World
497th out of 2,052 books — 2,064 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jul 25, 2010 Matthew rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people wondering if Zen Buddhism is for them
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
Feb 08, 2008 Chris rated it it was amazing
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
Renda Dodge
Apr 25, 2010 Renda Dodge rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 02, 2008 Eric added it
Shelves: zen
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
Feb 25, 2008 Brandon rated it it was amazing
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
Peter Sims
Mar 21, 2010 Peter Sims rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Aug 31, 2013 Scott rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 20, 2010 Heather rated it it was ok
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
Brad Warner seems like a very nice guy who's had an interesting life. I enjoyed Hardcore Zen and I imagine that I would enjoy having a beer with Brad. The book contains some funny anecdotes about life in a punk rock band in Ohio, where he grew up, and life working for a Japanese company making monster movies and cartoons in Tokyo, where he lives now. It also contain a little bit of wisdom from a Westerner who has become a "Zen master" -- just not as much as I was expecting. Part of the problem i ...more
Apr 08, 2007 DRM rated it liked it
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 " ...more
Jocelyn Koehler
Feb 19, 2013 Jocelyn Koehler rated it it was ok
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
Aug 22, 2015 Mark rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Nov 05, 2012 Maddie rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 17, 2016 Mariano rated it it was ok
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
Dave Burns
Aug 17, 2015 Dave Burns rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
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 ...more
Nov 16, 2013 Will rated it it was amazing
I had some understanding of Zen (or so I thought) from reading Hofstader and Pirsig, a short reading through Watts. To me, Zen was about the destruction of ideas; an deconstructionist, almost dada-ist religion where thoughts were meaningless, desire was shunned and even the religion itself "could only be learned by forgetting it." I'd hear stories of people going weeks without speaking in a retreat, trying to answer unanswerable questions, staring into a candle-flame, and trying to eliminate the ...more
Sonya Feher
Nov 03, 2010 Sonya Feher rated it really liked it
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
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 ...more
Bill LaBrie
Mar 03, 2015 Bill LaBrie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: religion, spirituality, Zen, new age, performing arts, rock, music
The strongest part of Hardcore Zen comes in Warner's description of what Zen is almost like, but most definitely is not.

It's most evident in the section anchored by his encounter with Gene Simmons of KISS. Gene Simmons is not a Zen master, but as an artist (yeah, I'll call him an "artist") he comes closer to some apprehension of "that which just is" than do most of us.

Warner himself comes from a background in the performing arts. His description of the punk scene in Akron, Ohio in the early '80s
Jan 09, 2015 Aubrey rated it really liked it
In all my life or, really, especially this past year, I've come to learn that it's the things we don't expect to have as much meaning and placement in our lives as they do. It's the things we don't put stock in that surprise us. This book was like that for me.

Had it not been for meeting my husband I would likely, or it would have probably taken me more time, not be as interested in Buddhist practices. Not Buddhism, not the picture the media paints of Buddhism but the carried down practice of it,
John Collings
Dec 26, 2015 John Collings rated it really liked it
While traveling around Asia, I have thought many times about the culture and what makes the people think like they do. I wanted to do research about this region of the world because it is often ignored by the teachers of world history, as if this part of the world never existed until it was discovered by the people of Europe. I thought that the teaching of Buddha would be a good place to start since I see temples dedicated to him everywhere, but every book I picked up was intimidating. This was ...more
Adam Whitney
Jan 05, 2015 Adam Whitney rated it it was amazing
For this book I'll draw a parallel, which is about wisdom. When Socrates heard that the oracle at Delphi had pronounced him the wisest man, Socrates was astounded and immediately set out to disprove this glaring fallacy. In seeking out the wisest, Socrates eventually had to admit the truth: he was indeed the wisest man in Athens exactly because he professed to know nothing. Brad Warner is kinda like Socrates, but (probably) more punk. Not only does he profess to know nothing, but also like Socra ...more
May 08, 2014 B rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
Behind all the woo-wash about chaos theory and scrubbing the iniquitous scum from the earth with a toilet brush in your broken-down rented loo, Brad Warner got at some good shit in this book, some of which, because it was so relentlessly gritty and relatable, has made more of an impact on me than have the declamations of many other more weighty, pharisaical, and preposterously learned tomes, those paper weights and door stops composed by greying academics who cloister themselves in hermetic libr ...more
Jan 23, 2015 Ronen rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
I'm glad I read this book, even though I didn't always enjoy it.

Most of the reasons I didn't always enjoy it had to do with personal taste. Warner promises that "this is not the same old crap you've seen in a thousand books you don't want to read." That just doesn't apply. I do want to read those books. I've already found the study of koans useful and clarifying.

I probably could have taken the tone of that statement as a hint for the overall tone of the book. Warner makes a lot of declarative va
Aug 26, 2015 Samantha rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 23, 2014 Eduardo rated it really liked it
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
Apr 05, 2011 Michelle rated it really liked it
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!
Jun 11, 2009 Bria rated it liked it
I like Zen Buddhism because it's pretty much what you figure out if you pay attention, and think about things, and have compassion, all backed up by wisdom and experience and practice. I'm a little put-off by selling the book through the shocking dichotomy of Zen and punk rock, but I'll allow it this time.
Sep 07, 2015 HakitoCZ rated it it was amazing
Autobiography with some ideas about life.
Me personally this book got hyped about the whole thing because now I can see when Brad can achieve some decent level of spiritual progress, anyone can. We all struggle and we all suffer, the only difference is our response to it all. Zen is more like applied philosophy than a religion but does that even matter? I like the notion of 'Hardcore Zen' which is basically only zazen. The thing you're left with when you cut all the unnecessary bullshit nonsense
Jordan O'Leary
Jun 09, 2015 Jordan O'Leary rated it it was amazing
Brad Warner is an American who can discuss Zen with us Americans. Extremely practical, plain english with concepts relating to the obscurities of Zen that are well suited for the Western minset. He tears the New Age, energy of the earth, yoga spirituals a new one, which I admittedly enjoy. His writing style seems slightly angry, but, in person, Brad is a very flowy and fair guy. He actually comments how how he notices his angry tone in the books and doesn't know why it comes out this way. Regard ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Heart of the Revolution: The Buddha's Radical Teachings on Forgiveness, Compassion, and Kindness
  • One City: A Declaration of Interdependence
  • Not Always So: Practicing the True Spirit of Zen
  • Hooked!: Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume
  • Taking the Path of Zen
  • Everyday Zen: Love and Work
  • Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki
  • Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice
  • The Empty Mirror: Experiences in a Japanese Zen Monastery
  • The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet
  • What Makes You Not a Buddhist
  • Confession of a Buddhist Atheist
  • Buddhism Is Not What You Think: Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs
  • Zen Keys: A Guide to Zen Practice
  • Blue Jean Buddha: Voices of Young Buddhists
  • The Three Pillars of Zen
  • Moon In a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen
  • A Buddhist Bible
Brad Warner is an ordained Zen Master (though he hates that term) in the Soto lineage founded in Japan by Master Dogen Zenji in the 13th century. He's the bass player for the hardcore punk rock group 0DFx (aka Zero Defex) and the ex-vice president of the Los Angeles office of the company founded by the man who created Godzilla.

Brad was born in Hamilton, Ohio in 1964. In 1972, his family relocated
More about Brad Warner...

Share This Book

“Reality's all you've got. But here's the real secret, the real miracle: it's enough.” 32 likes
“How many Zen masters does it take to screw in a light bulb? The plum tree in the garden!” 16 likes
More quotes…