Punk priest takes on tradition-bound world of Zen

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  • Jun
    Member
    • Jun 2007
    • 236

    Punk priest takes on tradition-bound world of Zen

    'Sit Down and Shut Up': Punk priest takes on tradition-bound world of Zen
    The Canadian Press, Oct 20, 2007

    SHIZUOKA, Japan -- As he leads his followers through a ritual at a centuries-old temple deep in the mountains of central Japan, Brad Warner wears the flowing black robes and brown bib that identify him as a Buddhist priest.

    But Warner isn't your typical Zen master.

    He doesn't have a shaved head. Under his robes he wears baggy jeans and a "Kiss Army" T-shirt. He doesn't have the ceremony memorised - he has to read instructions off a piece of paper to help him get through it. And, unlike just about all of his Japanese counterparts, Warner doesn't do funerals.

    "There are already enough people in that business," he says.

    Warner, an Ohio native based in Los Angeles, is one of an eclectic breed of American priests who are finding a new take on the venerable Buddhist tradition of Zen, which not only has a deeply cherished history in Japan, but has taken root abroad.

    A punk rock bassist, Warner came into contact with Zen while a student at Kent State University. A stint in Japan to work teaching English, and then on the set of a Godzilla-like TV show, led to a meeting with the Japanese Zen priest who was to later become his teacher and mentor.

    Warner ended up staying for 11 years, and receiving "Dharma transmission," the Buddhist equivalent of ordainment.

    "If I hadn't been asked by my teacher, I probably would never had done it," he said. "It's not something that I wanted to do before I die."

    But it has become a way of life.

    Along with his day job, for the same Japanese production company, Warner runs a meditation centre in Santa Monica, Calif., joins in annual retreats in the hills near Mount Fuji and has written two popular books - "Hardcore Zen" and "Sit Down and Shut Up." They are about his experiences with punk rock, monster movies and Zen.

    The books have done well, selling in the tens of thousands of copies, and a third is on the way. But getting people to actually come for his sittings is another story altogether, he says.

    "Many people are interested in reading about it, but not in actually practising it," he said.

    Being outside of the mainstream, however, has given American Zen some breathing room.

    Unlike their Japanese counterparts, American Zen teachers are all over the Internet, advertising their meetings, writing blogs and loudly debating everything from the war in Iraq to the involvement of Buddhist monks in the recent unrest in Myanmar.

    Warner's own brand of Zen is a stripped-down, almost secular version of Buddhism that de-emphasizes almost all things religious. Gods, demons and hells, which are commonly referred to in many other Buddhist sects, are looked at not as real or other-dimensional, but merely as "mental states."

    His message, however, is traditional: just sit. The rigorous practice of zazen, sitting meditation, is at the heart of Zen teachings.

    Participants in a four-day retreat Warner recently led at the Tokei-in Temple, about an hour's bullet train ride from Tokyo, were expected to wake at 4:30 a.m., meditate from 5:00 to 5:45, take breakfast, do light work around the temple, meditate again from 10:00 to 11:10, have lunch, then meditate again in the afternoon and evening. Another optional meditation sitting was thrown in on the third day for those who wanted it.

    While meditating, practitioners are expected to fold their legs and remain still while sitting on a hard, round mat and facing a wall. The meditation begins, and ends, with the ringing of a bell.

    "You try to just sit," Warner said. "Let the mind just shut off."

    That's easier said than done.

    Research indicates that people, on average, have somewhere around 20,000 thoughts a day, and for most people the internal monologue is constant.

    But with training, you can quiet it down.

    "I'm reminded of software that says you must close down all other programs before downloading," said Robert Gumley, a former Australian diplomat who joined in the retreat. "It's a lot like that."

    In Japan, where Buddhism is the main religion along with the native animistic faith of Shinto, priests are part of a deeply traditional clergy, replete with colourful robes, golden slippers, elaborate rites and a wealth of chants and sutras. One of the main duties of Buddhist priests in Japan today is performing funerals.

    Warner sees himself more as a follower of the earlier Zen priests, who tried to remove much of the pomp that had accumulated over the years and restore the focus on simplicity and meditation.

    "Zen was founded as a sort of reform movement," Warner said. Other priests probably view him, privately, as a "weirdo," he said.
    Gassho
    Jun
    The life and teachings of Suzuki Shõsan Rõshi - http://kongoshin.blogspot.com/
  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39441

    #2
    I've never heard of him. I'll try to find some information.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    Comment

    • Skye
      Member
      • Feb 2008
      • 234

      #3
      Bass player? Well that explains everything...

      I kid........

      There are tons of holds on my library's copies of his books so good for him on getting the word out there.

      Skye
      Even on one blade of grass / the cool breeze / lingers - Issa

      Comment

      • Jun
        Member
        • Jun 2007
        • 236

        #4
        Originally posted by Skye
        Bass player? Well that explains everything...

        I kid........

        There are tons of holds on my library's copies of his books so good for him on getting the word out there.

        Skye
        The word, or his word?
        Gassho
        Jun
        The life and teachings of Suzuki Shõsan Rõshi - http://kongoshin.blogspot.com/

        Comment

        • thedublab

          #5
          @Jun: Many fingers pointing to the same moon, perhaps?

          @Skye: My practice was beginning to stagnate when I stumbled on Brad's writings. His pull-no-punches style was just the talking to I needed to step away from the books and the chatter and, well, sit down and shut up. I agree that this could be (and is) appealing to many.

          His stance is unorthodox, to be sure, and he certainly raises a few eyebrows (mine included), but how many teachers before him have done the same? Brad helps add a bit of spice to the stew, but his is not the only flavour.

          Gassho,
          Dave

          Comment

          • bayamo
            Member
            • Nov 2009
            • 411

            #6
            Re: Punk priest takes on tradition-bound world of Zen

            thanks for this article.. may be old but very perinent, as most of what i have read has been in his books..
            gassho
            Oh, yeah. If I didn't have inner peace, I'd go completely psycho on all you guys all the time.
            Carl Carlson

            Comment

            • chicanobudista
              Member
              • Mar 2008
              • 864

              #7
              Re: Punk priest takes on tradition-bound world of Zen

              Who is Brad Warner?
              Don't know.
              paz,
              Erik


              Flor de Nopal Sangha

              Comment

              • bayamo
                Member
                • Nov 2009
                • 411

                #8
                Re: Punk priest takes on tradition-bound world of Zen

                Originally posted by chicanobudista
                Who is Brad Warner?
                Don't know.
                author, punk rocker, blogger, buddhist.. he studied with gudo nishijima.. gogle his name tons of stuff should come up.. hes got some vids on you tube too..
                gassho
                Oh, yeah. If I didn't have inner peace, I'd go completely psycho on all you guys all the time.
                Carl Carlson

                Comment

                • Jundo
                  Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                  • Apr 2006
                  • 39441

                  #9
                  Re: Punk priest takes on tradition-bound world of Zen

                  Originally posted by bayamo
                  Originally posted by chicanobudista
                  Who is Brad Warner?
                  Don't know.
                  author, punk rocker, blogger, buddhist.. he studied with gudo nishijima.. gogle his name tons of stuff should come up.. hes got some vids on you tube too..
                  gassho
                  Hmmm. Sounds like an interesting fellow. I will try to google him.


                  tsuku.jpg
                  Last edited by Jundo; 04-29-2023, 08:55 AM.
                  ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                  Comment

                  • chicanobudista
                    Member
                    • Mar 2008
                    • 864

                    #10
                    Re: Punk priest takes on tradition-bound world of Zen

                    Originally posted by bayamo
                    Originally posted by chicanobudista
                    Who is Brad Warner?
                    Don't know.
                    author, punk rocker, blogger, buddhist.. he studied with gudo nishijima.. gogle his name tons of stuff should come up.. hes got some vids on you tube too..
                    gassho
                    LOL.

                    I know who he is. :twisted: I have two of his books.

                    It's my Seung Sahn joke.
                    :wink: :mrgreen:
                    paz,
                    Erik


                    Flor de Nopal Sangha

                    Comment

                    • chicanobudista
                      Member
                      • Mar 2008
                      • 864

                      #11
                      Re: Punk priest takes on tradition-bound world of Zen

                      Originally posted by Jundo
                      Hmmm. Sounds like an interesting fellow. I will try to google him.
                      They say he has has videos up to! :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
                      paz,
                      Erik


                      Flor de Nopal Sangha

                      Comment

                      • bayamo
                        Member
                        • Nov 2009
                        • 411

                        #12
                        Re: Punk priest takes on tradition-bound world of Zen

                        guess i walked into an inside joke, sorry guys.. i did kinda figure Jundo may know him since they both studied with Nishijima..

                        as far as punks go, there is also noah levine, who has a book or two of his own out there..
                        gassho
                        Oh, yeah. If I didn't have inner peace, I'd go completely psycho on all you guys all the time.
                        Carl Carlson

                        Comment

                        • Ryumon
                          Member
                          • Apr 2007
                          • 1706

                          #13
                          Re: Punk priest takes on tradition-bound world of Zen

                          "Turning rebellion into money." Exactly what I thought the first time I heard about Warner. Posturing as some kind of "punk" as if that label (I thought Buddhists didn't like labels) would help get him more recognition...

                          Personally, I think he's a hack and a fraud, and he's an arrogant person as well, full of anger and hatred. (Just read his blog.) But some say that he has introduced a lot of people to Buddhism. Do the ends justify the means?

                          (And, BTW, I don't think anyone can qualify as "punk" after the end of The Clash... But that's just from a musical standpoint. I was into that music back in the 70s; people like Warner just saw it on MTV documentaries.)
                          ---
                          Ryūmon (Kirk)
                          流文

                          SAT/LAH

                          I know nothing.

                          Comment

                          • Jundo
                            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                            • Apr 2006
                            • 39441

                            #14
                            Re: Punk priest takes on tradition-bound world of Zen

                            We have some interesting topic under discussion in the Jukai forum ... worth taking to heart ...

                            PRECEPTS VIII - To Refrain from Discussing Faults of Others
                            viewtopic.php?p=29666#p29666

                            PRECEPTS IX - To Refrain from Self-Praise & Judging Others
                            viewtopic.php?p=30011#p30011

                            ... and who is a teacher, and what is a teaching, may not be so obvious on first glance. Positive, constructive criticism of the benefits and demerits of a certain teacher or teaching can easily turn into something else, ad hominem attacks, personal prejudices, intolerance, deafness (to the message as opposed to the wrapping paper it comes in) and such.

                            We should be cautious.

                            Gassho, J
                            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                            Comment

                            • Ryumon
                              Member
                              • Apr 2007
                              • 1706

                              #15
                              Re: Punk priest takes on tradition-bound world of Zen

                              Originally posted by Jundo
                              We should be cautious.
                              Yes, I agree, but sometimes we need to call things as they are. If anyone used even one tenth the anger and spite that Warner uses on his blog, they'd be out of line here.

                              Not saying such things, under the idea that one shouldn't criticize, ends up, sometimes, with situations such as the ones you describe here:

                              viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2074
                              ---
                              Ryūmon (Kirk)
                              流文

                              SAT/LAH

                              I know nothing.

                              Comment

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