HARDCORE ZEN: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth About Reality

Brad Warner, Author . Wisdom $14.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-86171-380-6

There's a Zen story about a teacher who holds up his finger, then reminds his student to look beyond the finger itself, to what the finger is pointing at—the moon. That's what this book does: it transcends itself—and with outrageous style. Warner, an early-'80s hardcore punk musician, discovered Zen in college, moved to Japan to make B-grade monster movies, and eventually became a bona fide Zen master by formally receiving "dharma transmission." Yet true to his punk spirit, he relentlessly demands that all teaching, all beliefs, all authority—including his own—must be questioned. ("Why should you listen to me? Who the hell am I?... No one. No one at all.") By turns wickedly funny, profane, challenging and iconoclastic—but always with genuine kindness—Warner devotes chapters to some common Zen notions such as the oneness of reality ("Why Gene Simmons Is Not a Zen Master"), reincarnation ("In My Next Life I Want to Come Back as a Pair of Lucy Liu's Panties") and the vital importance of the present moment ("Eating a Tangerine is Real Enlightenment"). Yet this is no litany of Zen orthodoxy designed for study. By liberally sharing anecdotes from his own life as a down-and-out punk rocker and maker of monster movies, Warner constantly focuses on the importance of a direct experience of reality in all its rawness over adherence to any set of beliefs—even Zen ones. Entertaining, bold and refreshingly direct, this book is likely to change the way one experiences other books about Zen—and maybe even the way one experiences reality. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/14/2003
Release date: 08/01/1994
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