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Letters to a Dead Friend about Zen

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  49 ratings  ·  14 reviews
The night Brad Warner learns that his childhood friend Marky has died, Warner is about to speak to a group of Zen students in Hamburg, Germany. It's the last thing he feels like doing. What he wants to do instead is tell his friend everything he never said, to explain Zen and what he does for a living and why he spends his time "Sitting. Sitting. Sitting. Meditating my ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 8th 2019 by New World Library
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“Zen Buddhism, to me, is an attitude. (…) It’s an attitude that strives for honesty and realism. It rejects superstition. It rejects any kind of rigid belief system. It strives to be ethical because it understands that we are all intimately connected with each other and that hurting others only hurts ourselves. It accepts that rituals are useful but doesn’t believe any ritual has magic powers.”

Is it ironic of me to say, “Amen!” right here?

Brad Warner was in Germany, about to lead a meditation
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Possibly one of his best books. Even though it's fictionalized, there's a real, personal quality to the letters, and it works as a great medium for explaining the concepts he covers. One of the thinks I like most about Brad Warner is that he doesn't try to be an authority - he's just sharing his experience and interpretations, and I think that works much better for getting the message across than ... well, to name a couple of things I've encountered in other people's books, playing word games ...more
Peter Clothier
Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
(This is a review that imitates the author's epistolary style)

Dear Brad Warner,

I have a few thoughts about your new book, “Letters to a Dead Friend About Zen.” (They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I hope you’ll forgive this clumsy appropriation of your letter-writing style!) The dead friend of the title and the one you write to, Marky, is---well, was—a punk rocker like yourself, a black musician who died of cancer at much too young an age. Your letters build an
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I had recently left Shambhala and a Zen group. (I found Shambhala to be a big shit sandwich of deceptions founded by a coke addict child molester) I was very tired of reading Buddhist books and listening to Buddhist teachers. I feel like walking my dogs and picking him up their crap tells me more about the dharma at this point. That being said and having taken time off of reading, I picked up Brad’s books on a whim. I am very glad I did. He has a no nonsense and fun way of explaining Zen. This ...more
Tristy at New World Library
“Warner is unafraid of sharing his own beliefs and doubts and freely questions Buddhism itself. While loaded with pop culture references and dark humor, his explanations of Zen philosophy are steeped in tradition, well researched, and ultimately respectful of the practice. . . . Warner’s voice is much needed in American Buddhism.”
— Library Journal

“Warner provides an intimate, candid reflection of his Zen practice and his career as a writer and speaker in this touching work. . . .
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don't write many reviews of non-fiction books, but in Brad Warner's case I always make an exception. He has done a great job in introducing very complex ideas about zen to English readers, in particular about Dogen.
In this book, he writes a series of letters to a recently deceased friend, in which he goes about introducing a lot of basic information about what Buddhism and Zen in particular are really like, in a way that is not contrived, not preachy, and definitely not boring.
If you haven't
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
No unbiased or fair review here, I love Warner’s work. This is a great addition to his body of work.
Matthew James Herny Barram
Dec 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this book. I have read Brad's other books and this is the most intro one. I could recommend it to someone interested in Zen who hasn't done much or any sitting and I think they could get a sense of it.
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Brad’s original title for this was Zen 101 and it lives up to that billing, being a sort of introduction to Zen and Buddhism in general. There’s no shortage of such books around and even as introductions go it’s not particularly deep, but the format, the engaging writing style and the humor make for an enjoyable read. Reader’s of Brad’s other books might not find much new here but for those who’ve never read him, it could make for a good first book to tackle.
Danny Martin
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Another nice piece of writing by Brad Warner. This one is an interesting approach to taking a look at Zen, and is done in a creative way, as Brad discusses what Zen's all about to a composite of a couple of dead friends. A unique enjoyable approach to the subject.
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of the author's more enjoyable books. That being said, it seemed to mostly rehash Zen Buddhism 101 material
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, moving, useful. Great, great book.
Ron Semerena
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Liked the book very much. I’ve read all of Warner’s books and feel this one to be among his best. I would recommend this to anyone interested in a basic understanding of Zen Buddhism.
Dec 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really really good!

Very easy to read and entertaining as well as informative. Also very unique. I've read all of Brad Warner's books and this is probably my favorite!
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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
“Even if the whole world is nothing but a bunch of jerks doing all kinds of jerk-type things, there is still liberation in simply not being a jerk.” 0 likes
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