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

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  3,686 ratings  ·  274 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
ebook, 224 pages
Published June 10th 2005 by Wisdom Publications (first published August 8th 1994)
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  • Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner
    Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth About Reality
    Release date: Dec 01, 2015
    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…more

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    Community Reviews

    (showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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    Jul 25, 2010 Matthew rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
    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
    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
    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  ·  review of another edition
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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.
    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 ...more
    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
    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
    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
    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 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 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
    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
    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,
    Adam Whitney
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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!
    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.
    Jordan O'Leary
    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
    Masoud Valafar
    typical American writer: the whole book is about how ego is nonexistent in Buddhism and the author brag to be a zen master and even "enlightened", however, the book is full of his ego. full of attitude like " I'm so cool" and " I have got it all and everyone else is just an imposter". comparing to other books on zen, I think this guy is so delusional and even hallucinating (ie take a look at the chapter on enlightenment). there is no other zen book similar to this for a reason: because zen teach ...more
    Jesse Brown
    I found this book just when I needed it. I've oscillated with Zen since college. I love the philosophy and the spirit but have a hard time getting past the cultural trappings. Every time a Zen devotee argues for the virtue of a rakusu or a zafu or some flowing robe, I recoil. This stuff just seems to take away from the core teaching and enforce some degree of esoterica. I found out about Hardcore Zen through Brad Warner's blog and thought he seems like a level-headed, no nonsense dude. His booke ...more
    Lonny Salberg
    Jul 03, 2015 Lonny Salberg rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
    Recommended to Lonny by: Desiré Klingensmith
    A friend lent me this book and described it as the first book that got her interested in Buddhism. I can see why since Warner chronicles his own journey, through many random and chaotic ramblings. The book's last half is better than the first half, but if you like books that also give a lot of in-depth background about the author, this may be up your alley. But it's slow going, and there are a ton of inconsistencies in Warner's own life philosophies. But, don't we all have those?

    The one benefit
    Stephen Buchanan
    This book changed my perspective on Zen and allowed me to study the subject of Buddhism more closely. Warner's matter-of-fact manner of speech is charmingly direct. It's an easy read and doesn't make loads of flowery statements about the religion. It is very coarse, at times abrasively so, but Warner remains surprisingly humble through his own humor. There's a lot of wisdom to be found as well. I definitely recommend it.

    Also, he talks about making monster movies in Japan. Hard not to enjoy that.
    The Good:
    This is a voice you're not going to hear much of anywhere else in published books on Zen Buddhism. No stereotypical wise Buddhist master stuff here. The author writes in a very straightforward, very down-to-earth style and that's part of his point: a lot of the new-agey pseudo-Buddhism centering on transcendental whatsit and enlightenment are focusing on the wrong thing, because there is nothing real except what is right now.

    The Bad:
    I rated this book as only OK for a few reasons.

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    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...
    Sit Down and Shut Up: Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, and Dogen's Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate: A Trip Through Death, Sex, Divorce, and Spiritual Celebrity in Search of the True Dharma Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist  Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything In Between There Is No God and He Is Always with You: A Search for God in Odd Places Hardcore Zen Strikes Again

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    “Reality's all you've got. But here's the real secret, the real miracle: it's enough.” 28 likes
    “How many Zen masters does it take to screw in a light bulb? The plum tree in the garden!” 16 likes
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