LentBooks #8 and #9: “Hardcore Zen” and “Sit Down and Shut Up,” by Brad Warner

One thing I find as I read through my LentBooks is that I keep making links and connections between them. In The Year of Living Biblically, there’s a point where Jacobs starts to study the New Testament and wonders if he can get anything meaningful out of it if he doesn’t believe in the divinity of Christ. He asks several Christians, from whom he gets, predictably, different answers, but he concludes there are probably some valuable things he can learn from Jesus’ teachings even if he doesn’t accept the whole theological package.

I guess that’s kind of where I’m at with reading books on Buddhism, such as Hardcore Zen. I don’t believe in (or even understand really) the teachings of Zen Buddhism, especially the whole idea that “self” is an illusion, which Brad Warner is very big on as a cornerstone of his worldview. But I keep wishing I could learn to be more “zen” (small-Z zen, perhaps?) in my approach to life — that I could learn more about stillness, mindfulness, meditation, acceptance of reality as it is. Can I benefit and learn from those things without accepting the teachings upon which they are based? Are there things I, as a Christian, can learn from Buddhism that will enhance my own spiritual practice and my everyday life?

That’s the question I brought to my reading of Hardcore Zen and its sequel. This was not, however, the question that Brad Warner set out to answer, so there was a little bit of a disconnect between us. Even so, I found this to be a good explanation of a lot of basic Zen concepts. Brad Warner is a little bit too much with the “I’m such a bad boy” routine, but then I thought that about Shaine Claiborne too, and I loved his book.

Former punk rocker Warner strips Zen philosophy down to the basics: the ultimate reality is what you’re experiencing right now.  Deal with it.  I doubt I’ll ever understand or agree with half the Zen concepts he introduces (especially in the sequel, Sit Down and Shut Up, which is really his commentary on a particular Zen text) but I can get into the fact that where I am now is where I need to be.  Right here; right now.  For getting that much Zen across to this hardcore Christian, Brad Warner gets a thumbs-up from me. 



Filed under LentBooks, Nonfiction -- general

2 responses to “LentBooks #8 and #9: “Hardcore Zen” and “Sit Down and Shut Up,” by Brad Warner

  1. I’m first fascinated by Jacob’s wonderings if he should bother reading Jesus since he doesn’t believe in his divinity. At least 99% of what Jesus said is not directly connected to his divinity, and much of it is taught by non-devine prophets and saints worldwide. His disciples at the time didn’t understand that he was of divine nature, so I don’t think believing in this one point would in any way impact one’s interest in His message. But, this is not the point of your post and I’m preaching to the choir. That just…interested me.

    Then…I’m totally studying buddhism and Zen right now!!! (As a Christian gaining awareness of other religions, that is). So, I found your take on this very fascinating…

  2. You don’t have to understand the “no-Self” doctrine to begin a meditation practice. And a Zen meditation practice has no goal, no ritual, no chanting — nothing to make you feel un-Christian about it. You sit, and you work very hard to be in this moment. You follow your breath. (That means you just observe it.) When thoughts come, you let them flow through you (don’t hang on to them and obsess about them).

    If you follow this practice daily, eventually, things happen. It’s hard to explain because it’s probably different for each of us.

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