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

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  5,492 ratings  ·  397 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
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 ·  5,492 ratings  ·  397 reviews

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Jan 12, 2008 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
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
Jan 31, 2008 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,
Renda Dodge
Apr 23, 2010 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.
Aug 25, 2013 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
Ray Campbell
Jul 08, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2016
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 ...more
Science (Fiction) Nerd Mario
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
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,
Jan 10, 2008 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 15, 2010 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
Jocelyn Koehler
Feb 19, 2013 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
Feb 12, 2008 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!),
Apr 27, 2008 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 ...more
Dave Burns
Nov 30, 2014 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? ...more
Peter Sims
Mar 21, 2010 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 ...more
Mark Robison
Aug 22, 2015 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
Apr 08, 2007 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
Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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,
Feb 17, 2016 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
Oct 25, 2012 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.
Apr 02, 2011 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!
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
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
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Daniel Swensen
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, buddhism
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.
Mar 17, 2014 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
Sonya Feher
Nov 03, 2010 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
Aug 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys learning about the secrets of living a happy fulfilling life
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
Apr 27, 2015 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.
Jun 09, 2009 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.
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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
“Reality's all you've got. But here's the real secret, the real miracle: it's enough.” 39 likes
“Consider this:

1. Would you ride in a car whose driver was on the consciousness-expanding "entheogenic" drug LSD?

And here's a bonus question:

2. Why does an "expanded consciousness" include the inability to operate a motor vehicle?”
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