Punk-Turned-Priest Brad Warner to Speak About Hardcore, Meditation, and Hardcore Meditation
by Pete Kotz
on Mon, Nov 5, 2007 at 2:43 PM
Akron’s Brad Warner has returned home for a whirlwind tour of lectures and loud live music.
Warner is best known locally as the bassist for old-school Rubber City hardcore band Zero Defects. Internationally, he’s better known as the author of Hardcore Zen and Sit Down and Shut Up: Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, and Dogen's Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye.
Technically, he’s a Zen master, but he doesn’t trust people who refer to themselves as masters. His combination memoir/spiritual manuals explain the evolution of his punk-like, stripped-down approach to the ancient philosophy -- and how to use it. Sure, Zen sounds pretty weird and dry. But Warner’s a columnist for Suicide Girls, and he’s not above using phrases like “full of shit.”
Warner speaks 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 7 at the Akron Public Library (60 S. Main St., downtown), and again at 7 p.m. Monday, November 12 at Lambert's Tattooing and Body Piercing (348 Ashland Rd., Mansfield). The talks are free, followed by Q&A sessions.
Zero Defects (“0DFx”) performs Wednesday, November 7 after the talk at the Matinee (812 W. Market St., Akron). The band will play live again at the Beachland (15711 Waterloo Ave.) Friday, November 9, with CD Truth and the Cheap Tragedies. Before that show, Warner will screen a new cut of Cleveland’s Screaming, a documentary about the 1980s Akron-Cleveland punk scenes. And 0DFx plays Saturday, November 10 at Cleveland’s Spitfire Saloon (1539 W. 117th St.).
Scene talked to him about the Zen thing.
In his books about basketball, [Lakers coach, Christian, and Zen practitioner] Phil Jackson presents Zen as a mental/spiritual practice that's distinct from actual religion. From your perspective, Zen doesn't preclude any kind of religious practice/beliefs you already have?
I don't know if Zen is a mental or spiritual practice. To me, it's as much a physical practice as basketball. No joke. But as far as religions go, it makes no difference. You can bring whatever beliefs you want to the practice. So it doesn't matter what religion you are. Zen isn't a religion, at least not in the usual sense. The only caveat is that if you do the practice you may find your beliefs challenged by it. That is to say, you'll start to see the true basis of your beliefs. You may emerge from that still believing everything you believed before. Or you may not.
So this it something that can be done without moving to a monastery and selling your plasma screen and X Box?
Yes. I've never lived in a monastery. I've never owned an X Box either. But that's just ‘cuz I'm not interested in them. I still play bass in a hardcore band and live in a normal apartment and have a real job. So I'm not recommending anyone to run off to a monastery. In fact, I'd say running off to a monastery or a mountain is usually just a kind of escapism and completely the opposite of real Zen practice.
A lot of people probably ask you something to the effect of, "Dude, seriously, punk and Zen?" What's the connection?
I got into Zen because of punk. Punk was about questioning everything. Only we punks wimped out on that one. We questioned everything except punk. Zen went further. It even questions itself. It's the total D.I.Y. philosophy because it says the only real wisdom is the wisdom you discover for yourself. Even the received wisdom of Buddha isn't enough. Buddha himself said, "Don't go by what's written in holy scripture." This includes Buddhist scriptures as well. Also, Zen involves real action, right here and right now rather than the pie-in-the-sky concerns of most religions. It's not about Heaven and Hell; it's about real life.
I’m guessing you also get a lot of "The books sound interesting, but I don't know if I want to read a bunch of Dharma and shit." How are your books different?
I hate pretty much everything in the "Eastern Spirituality" section of the book shops. Most of them make me gag. I couldn't write a book like that if I tried. I just write about what concerns me. I'm not really trying to impart any life lessons or teach people to be just like me. Who'd want to do that?
So what does this zazen stuff involve, and what do we get from it?
It's just sitting and letting your real condition present itself to you. By doing that you get to see the true situation of reality and you can act in a way that makes sense.
Can’t we just buy one of those meditation machines they advertise on the internet?
Those machines are crap. Anyone who tries to sell you something that's supposed to give you enlightenment quick and easy is full of shit. It takes hard work and practice. It's like anything worthwhile. You think a machine will give you guns like Arny in The Terminator in a day? Why would you believe a machine can undo all the shit you've put your brain and body through in an hour? -- D.X. Ferris