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Hardcore Zen, Punk Zen, and Zen

Punk rocker, film maker, and Zen Master?

by
Charlie Martin

Bio

January 13, 2013 - 11:00 am
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Golly, I feel old sometimes.

I became a buddhist in 1966. It turns out my new favorite Zen Master — boy, he’s gonna flinch if he reads that — is a guy who was about four years old at the time. His name is Brad Warner, and he’s rockin’ the Zen world.

Literally. Brad is a hardcore punk rock bass player, who recorded with hardcore bands like 0DFX (Zero Defex) and started a psychedelic band Dementia 13, and I’m telling you right here and now that my knowledge of punk rock is entirely derived from reading Brad’s books and a couple of Wikipedia articles: when punkers were listening to the Dead Kennedys, I was listening to Styx and Kansas.

I also like Glenn Miller. Sue me.

Brad then moved to Japan, where after a year of teaching English, managed to wangle a job working for Tsuburya Productions, which made Ultraman; he acted in bit parts in a number of Ultraman movies and did promotion in English for the company.  He also married. While he was there, he also started to study Zen with Gudo Nishijima, a teacher in the Soto lineage, and as he tells it in his first book Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth About Reality, Nishijima-sensei decided to confer Transmission, making him an official certified Zen Master and Nishijima’s Dharma heir.  He then moved back to the US, lost his job, got divorced, and began writing for the general public with Hardcore Zen, followed by becoming a columnist for the Suicide Girls website, largely a repository of pictures of young hipster girls with lots of tattoos and few clothes.

Brad has been controversial more or less from the start.  (Not every Zen Master writes for a porn site.)  First of all, he doesn’t look the part.

This guy looks like a Zen Master.

Joshu Sasaki Roshi. Zen Master.

This guy looks like a Zen Master.

Gudo Nishijima Roshi. Zen Master.

And then there’s Brad.

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