Brad Warner is known around the Buddhist world as the proprietor of the rollicking blog Hardcore Zen (hardcorezen.blogspot.com), and a contributor to the alternative adult site Suicide Girls (suicidegirls.com), as well as the author of irreverent and very personal books about Zen practice, most recently Sex, Sin, and Zen.
Warner was introduced to Zen Buddhism in the early 1980s at Kent State University in a noncredit course offered at the school’s Experimental College. In 1993 he moved to Japan and worked for several years at Tsuburaya Productions, a studio that produced monster movies. In Japan, Warner met Gudo Nishijima Roshi, who gave him dharma transmission in 1999. While studying under Nishijima Roshi, Warner began his blog and published his first book,Hardcore Zen. On his return to the United States in 2004, he started a sitting group at the Hill Street Center in Santa Monica, California. Since then, Warner has relocated to his hometown of Akron, Ohio, but he is a frequent guest speaker and teacher at dharma centers around the world. He’s also a bassist for the punk rock band 0DFx and appears in the independent film Shoplifting from American Apparel, produced by Sangha Films.
Tricycle’s Philip Ryan got a taste of Warner’s maverick approach to Buddhism when they spoke in July 2011. Whether you agree with Warner or disagree with him or just can’t figure him out, you can rely on him to call things as he sees them. And can’t we all use more of that?
You talk about being a Zen teacher, not as a profession, but as someone with experience who tells you what they know. Well, yeah. It’s pretentious to start likening it to art, but if somebody has been painting for 50 years, and they understand a thing or two about how to make a picture look a certain way, they can convey that to you, and you can absorb that and use it. But the picture that you draw is going to be different, because you’re a different person. So if somebody who’s had experience with meditation can convey her or his experience, maybe you can use that as a guide for yourself. But the idea of a profession— for one thing, you’re getting involved in money, which I think is a whole huge topic.
At the Hill Street Center in Santa Monica, you had people coming regularly, but while lots of people showed up for talks, not as many people showed up for actual sitting. Yeah. The Hill Street Center was not my center. It still exists, and there’s a guy—I didn’t give any transmission or anything, but this guy John Graves is out there running the same Zen class that I used to run. I suppose “the same” is a weird phrase to use, but anyway, same time, same day.
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