Wednesday, June 30, 2010


First and foremost, please check out the brand new HARDCORE ZEN PODCAST. This was put together by John Graves of Dogen Sangha Los Angeles. Be sure and listen all the way to the end, or better yet, skip directly to the very end of the Podcast (after the closing theme & thank yous and all that) to hear the best part.

The featured talk is from my tour of Finland last year. John decided it was best to go with a very basic theme for the first episode. So he chose a talk in which I pretty much give a live version of Hardcore Zen, the book whose Finnish translation I was promoting on that tour. So, yeah, you've probably already read most of these stories. But I'm surprised sometimes at how they change in front of an audience.

OK. So yesterday I arrived back from my European tour in Durham, North Carolina, where I'm now at a subterranean location known locally as "The Lady Cave" in which I hide from the heat whenever I'm here. As you may recall from previous episodes, I am currently homeless. My great friend Catie Braly has been allowing me to use her couch to sleep on and her floor to throw my suitcases all over whenever I stop moving around the world for more than 20 or 30 minutes. That's where I am until such time as I figure out where to go next.

I spent much of my long flight back to the US and many extended layovers yesterday writing a long, long description of my recent trip to Israel. But it was so overwhelming and badly written I'm not even looking at it right now, let alone posting it. Instead, here's what highlights I can recall...

In the photo above I am standing in a tourist trap known as the Garden Tomb overlooking what the owners of said tomb very weakly claim may be the site of Christ's crucifixion. But even they admit the evidence is pretty weak. Still, the rock formations do look kinda sorta like a skull and Jesus was said to have been nailed up at "the Place of the Skull," which no one is quite sure the location of. Plus there's a tomb nearby with a groove in front of it in which a rock could have rolled to seal it up, as was said to be the case of Christ's tomb. So maybe this is the spot.

More people accept the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as being a more likely location. But the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is dark and depressing and clogged with tourists, whereas the Garden Tomb is quiet and bright and has much cleaner toilets. Therefore I vote for the Garden Tomb as being more authentic.

Outside the tomb a small group of Filipino guys (I think they were Filipino) were trying to make some kind of movie, probably for their church back home. The subject of the film appeared to be a bright red robe that they were alternately holding up and shouting about or else kneeling with and making big overwrought gestures while scowling a lot. The very proper British woman who took tickets at the entrance kept telling them to knock it off. They would comply, then wait for her to leave, then start all over again. Quite entertaining.

Hint: Do not go here looking for a fun time. It is not fun.

But it's one of those places you have to see and I did. It's impossible not to be moved by such a place. But it also has a numbing effect. At least it did on me. After a while you've seen more Nazi war atrocities than you can possibly process.

I'm trying hard not to come off as cynical. I know the thing Zen people are supposed to do when they go visit places like this is write a very dry essay that details what they saw in a matter of fact way and concludes with some kind of profound thoughts. But I just don't have that in me right now.

Me, I kept looking at the little displays of famous Nazis. All along the walls you have these black boxes with a photo of a Nazi on the front. If you open them up you get to see what that Nazi did and where he ended up -- whether he was tried at Nuremburg and hanged, caught in South America in the Seventies, never found or whatever became of him.

I kept thinking, I want to hear from these people. I know you probably couldn't do that. It would be too much like allowing them to justify their actions. Still, I do not think the Holocaust was just a case of bad Germans killing innocent Jews. That's what happened, superficially. But there's also something far deeper going on.

For example, at the beginning of the museum you're led through the history of how the Jews in Europe were ghetto-ized and stripped of their basic rights. Yet I visited the museum while I was staying in East Jerusalem, where the survivors of that horror have ghetto-ized and stripped the Palestinians of their basic rights.

Which is not to say the way the Palestinians are treated comes anywhere close to how the Germans, and many others treated the Jews during and prior to WWII. Yet I think it shows that what happened in the 1930s and 1940s is not something that can be attributed to one particular race or culture. It is a human problem.

I think hearing what the Nazis had to say for themselves would be very instructive. I once saw a documentary in which a very old Japanese man who had been a soldier during the Rape of Nanking told his story of what happened. It was chilling. He was so matter-of-fact about the whole thing. It's important to understand these atrocities are committed by human beings like ourselves, not by monsters, and not even by what most of us would recognize as insane people.

I understand you could probably never allow such a thing in the Holocaust Museum. But without it visitors are left with the impression these horrible acts were performed by creatures from another world. They were not.

Most of my time in Israel was spent on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem. This is not part of the Palestinian Territories. But it is an area of Israel in which the population is almost entirely Palestinian. You rarely see any Jews up there unless they're on some kind of a tour, in which case they want to get in and get the Hell out as quickly as possible. There appear to be a few Jewish... I don't know if they're exactly settlements... but they seem to be exclusively Jewish buildings up on the mountain with gigundous Israeli flags on top. I never did figure out what these were.

My host while I was on the Mount of Olives was Ibrahim Ahmad Abu El-Hawa, a 60-something year old Palestinian who travels the world talking about peace. He opens his home to visitors to whom he preaches his message of unity and understanding. He's a truly amazing guy. The article I've linked to tells his story better than I can. It's too bad the photo of Richard Gere visiting his house doesn't seem to be there anymore. I wonder how Richard Gere felt about the lack of hot water in the showers, though. Or about being woken up every morning at 4 by the prayer call from the nearby mosque. "Prayer is better than sleep," the call said in Arabic. Says you! Even at Zen monasteries they let you have another half hour in the sack!

The last place I visited in Israel was Tel Aviv. The contrast between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is so sharp you can hardly believe they're part of the same country. Where Jerusalem is a hotbed of religious tension, Tel Aviv seems to be as secular a city as Los Angeles. In fact, I'll bet there were more observant Jews in the area I lived in, in West Hollywood than there are in Tel Aviv.

Just about the only evidence of anything religious I saw during my two days in Tel Aviv was this crazy Hassidic guy who drove around in a van blasting loud rave type music. Every time he got to a stoplight, he'd open his door, jump out, and dance around the street. When the light changed, he'd jump back in his van and drive to the next light to dance some more. My host, Yuval Ido Tal, told me this was part of a new movement that's gaining some popularity in the city.

It was Yuval who set up a talk for me at the Psycho Dharma institute. In spite of its name, which conjures up images of Tony Perkins slashing meditators with a kitchen knife, it is, in fact, a really interesting organization set up to teach Buddhism in an academic setting but incorporating real practice into the curriculum. I recorded the talk and hopefully one of these days we'll get the Q&A segment up on the podcast.

OK. That's all I got to say about Israel for now.

But I have to get a couple more plugs in before I go. One is for this article by one of this blog's regular readers W. Blake Wilson of Kansas City. It's pretty funny.

Also, the 2010 Great Sky Zen Sesshin is still short of full capacity. This is one of the best Zen sesshins offered in this country. You really should check it out if you want to do a very simple, but extremely powerful week of practice. I'm there, but it's not a Brad Warner sesshin. I'm one of five Zen teachers, the others of whom are far more traditional and orthodox in their ways. It's an amazing sesshin that I would go to myself even if I were not teaching it. It's not too easy but it's not too hard.

Be there! Sign up today!


Here is a video I found about Ibrahim Abu El-Hawa. I don't know anything about Enlightening Entertainment or Supreme Master TV, who put this video up. Their graphics and their name make me feel a tad bit icky. But the video really gives you a good look at Ibrahim and where and how he lives.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Here's the flier for the gig in Israel. I can't read it. But I'm guessing the complete location and suchlike are contained here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Here is a photo of me in Jerusalem touching a rock that I think maybe Jesus was supposed to have prayed on. But I'm not entirely sure I got the right rock. It's in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I'm not sure what the deal is with my eyes in this photo. The Power of Jesus was messing with them, perhaps?

I am slowly acquiring dribs and drabs of information regarding the location and suchlike of my talk on Saturday. The Book Tour 2010 site has been updated with the most recent information I have been able to uncover. The biggest change is that the venue is not in Jerusalem as I had thought, but in Ramat Aviv, north of Tel Aviv.

I gotta run now. More when I get a chance again...

Monday, June 21, 2010


I just arrived in Jerusalem and am piggy-backing on a WiFi signal I shall surely lose in mere seconds.

Just enough time to post the photo that should have gone with the previous posting.

This is some graffiti I spotted in Belfast.

Ironic, n'est pas?

Sunday, June 20, 2010


This may be my last posting for a while. I’m at a hotel near London’s Heathrow Airport. Tomorrow morning I have a 7 AM flight to Tel Aviv via Leonardo Da Vinci Airport in Rome. There’s a link over to your left that will tell you where and when I’m speaking in Jerusalem. I’ve yet to get the full address and whatnot. So you may have to look it up. Sorry about that!

It’s been a long strange trip through Europe. I’ve been to France, Poland, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and Northern Ireland. This has been the most extensive tour I’ve done so far. I’ve met amazing people and seen amazing things. I’ve talked Zen in places I had never even heard of before setting out on this journey.

I want to thank all my hosts; Arnaud Peuch in France, Slawek Piela in Poland, Dirk Grosser and the folks at Aurum Publishing in Germany, Regina Oberndorfer in Frankfurt, Markus Laitinen in Finland and the lovely woman who lent me her Helsinki apartment whose name I’m totally unable to recall at this moment (I’m sorry! I’ve been so many places the brain is totally scrambled), Hanny van de Weerdt in The Netherlands, Gary and Julian in Northern Ireland and Andrew Deakin in London when I first arrived in Europe this year.

I gotta be up at 5 tomorrow morning so this will be a short entry. I have a longer one planned on “what is Buddhism” that will partly be a response to all the trolls who like to leave sarcastic comments about how I never quote Buddha himself, only my own teachers and sometimes Dogen. There’s actually a really important point to be made about that. So all you trolls, hurry up and get your sarcastic remarks in while there’s still time!

I’m not sure if I’ll have Internet access in Israel or not. And even if I do, I’m not sure I’ll have any time to post till I get back to North Carolina in about a week and some days.

I’m working on my Autumn Tour to promote the release of SEX, SIN AND ZEN (due out in September). I have a few tentative dates in the SF Bay area, New York, Montreal and Saskatoon. Anyone who wants me to come to their neck of the woods this Autumn should write to me and we’ll see what we can do. The address is

So till then, stay sick, turn blue, scratch glass, climb walls and do it while you can but don’t get caught!

(bonus points to the first one who recognizes where that last line comes from)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

See You in Ballymena and Talk in Wuppertal Videos

Today, June 17, 2010 (Thurs) I'll have a public talk and Q&A at 7-9pm hosted by the Ballymena Zen Group at St John Hall, 11a Corlea Gardens, Ballymena, Northern Ireland BT43 7AR, near the Old Library.

Hanny Van de Weerdt, who kindly hosted me in The Netherlands, posted videos of my talk in Wuppertal, Germany on YouTube. Here's the first one:

And for those of you who aren't seeing the embedded video, here are links to the four parts she posted:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

So now you know what I've been doing in Europe. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Here I am, in beautiful Belfast, Northern Ireland! Yesterday's Belfast Telegraph had an article about me titled Meet Brad, the Bad Boy of Zen. I'm also called an enfant terrible, which I don't even know how to pronounce. I think that's a type of suppository.

I had my first talk here yesterday at the Black Mountain Zen Center downtown. It went swimmingly. It was kind of trippy to speak to a native English-speaking audience for the first time in two months. When I lived in Japan and worked with mainly people from other Asian countries who spoke English as a second language I got used to having to speak to people in ways that could be easily translated. That is to say, I knew that the things I said were being translated into Chinese or Korean or Thai or Japanese in their minds, so I had to phrase things in a way that would make sense when transferred into another language -- usually a language I did not know at all myself (other than Japanese).

I'm still doing that even in Northern Ireland. So I probably sounds like a kindergarten teacher.

Yesterday I led off my talk with a discussion of attachment. The discussion was based on an email I wrote to a friend of mine who has been having some rocky times with her boyfriend. She asked me if I could say something about attachment. So I wrote the following (I hate quoting myself, but I'm also lazy. Suck it.):

Basically the Buddhist view of a person is not that each of us is a fixed object. A person is a set of general tendencies. And those tendencies change.

Attachment is when you start to believe that things can or should remain one way forever. That way you always relate to the same "person" as time passes.

But the people you relate to change, as you change. So your relationship with them changes. And this is never easy. But if everyone involved can accept the fact that these changes are occurring, the transitions can be easier.

Sometimes it's irreconcilable. But I think in most cases you can somehow accommodate or acclimate to the changes and carry on.

So it's not that you are attached to Allan. The "Allan" to which you are attached doesn't exist. That "Allan" is a figment of your imagination. It's an image in your mind based on past experiences and filled in with your own inventions (assumptions like "if his expression in like this he must be sad" etc.). These accumulate over time and form a picture that is easier to relate to than the real person is.

It's not easy to drop this stuff because you've been conditioned to do this. This is how you navigate your way thru the world. The brain has evolved specifically to do this kind of thing. So it's not just like you can say "I now drop this" and be done with it.

But at each moment, when an idea appears of how things "should be," you can remind yourself that this is just an idea and not necessarily a fact.

Ugh. What a pretentious wanker I am as a friend!

I raised a stink on this blog a while back with my ideas about attachment. So maybe people will get upset with me again. But I really feel this idea is deeply misunderstood. The word "attachment" is particularly loaded and prone to misunderstanding. I really hate the way lots of people who are "into Buddhism" these days make great efforts to be as aloof and "detached" as possible in order to fulfill what they see as Buddhism's demands for "non-attachment."

Anyway, blah-blah-blah....

It's a sunny day in Belfast and I ain't gonna waste it on the Internet! Neither should you, wherever you are and whatever the weather is like there!

Tonight June 16, 2010 (Wed) from 6.30-8.30pm I'm at Bookfinders Bookshop and Cafe in Belfast near the university. See you there, I hope!


Saturday, June 12, 2010


Tomorrow, June 13, 2010, is my last stop on the European continent this tour. Details are:

•June 13, 2010 - Zazenkai in Nijmegen 9am - 5 pm: Kapelruimte, Erasmusiaan, Nijmegan. Contact:

After that I'm off over the sea to Northern Ireland. That info is all at

Our stealthy entry into Germany was a success. We used clever disguises and made it across the border without being spotted by the enemy. Once in Germany we commenced undercover operations in Wuppertal, then headed back across the border to our secret location.

Yesterday I visited Amsterdam where I took the photo posted above. An adequate description of your humble correspondent, I think.

In Amsterdam I did four interviews. 8 AM with English Breakfast Radio, 10 AM with Bodhi TV, 1 PM with Vorm en Leegte magazine (aka Form & Emptiness) and 3:30 PM with the Buddhist Broadcasting Organization for radio. They have a Buddhist radio station in the Netherlands. Hippies!

Then today I did a noon to six pm zazenkai. Tomorrow it's 9 am to 5 pm zazen-ing. That's enough Zen for anybody!

I'm getting tired of being known as "the guy who criticizes Big Mind®," which is what a couple of the interviewers yesterday wanted to talk to me about. But such is life, I suppose. I got what I deserved, blah, blah... I am glad to be the guy who criticized Big Mind®, so I guess this is what I gotta be known as. But I'm fed up with the topic at this point and don't want to discuss it further. I've said what I have to say already numerous times.

OK. It's noisy here. The house I'm staying at is full of international Zen refugees. I can't write well unless it's quiet, so I'm stopping here. I will report more when I get to Ireland. But for those who asked, here is what a heavy metal store looks like.

ALSO OF NOTE: A new Dimentia 13 download is available now. From the ancient year 1990 it's our final LP for Midnight Records, Flat Earth Society! Yay! The permanent link is to your left (or just click on the title of the LP right in this paragraph). Get it now! Collect 'em all! (Let God sort 'em out)

I'll write some about this album soon....

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Amsterdam. But No Hamsters. Damn!

NOTE: The email address I had for the Nijmegen event before was wrong. It has now been corrected.

This is a photo of me in front of a porno shop in Helsinki owned by the father of the lead singer of HIM. Note the HIM logo in the window.

I arrived in Amsterdam last night and am now safely ensconced in a secret location near the German border. Below are the events I'll be doing while stationed in this location. First I will undertake a dangerous and highly secretive border-crossing into Germany under cover of night (or possibly by train in the morning) for a talk in the city of Wuppertal. Then I will attempt to return the Netherlands under heavy enemy fire, crouching to avoid the barbed wire for a day of Zenning in Nijgemen. Here is the schedule and pertinent contact info:

•June 12, 2010 - Wuppertal "talk and zazen afternoon" from 1 to 6 p.m. Talk from 1 to 2 p.m. 6-8 € for the talk or 20-25 € for the whole day info at

•June 13, 2010 - Zazenkai in Nijmegen 9am - 5 pm - Kapelruimte, Erasmusiaan, Nijmegan. Contact:

As always, the full schedule of my tour can be found at

The Internet Gods are being bitchy and refuse to allow me to update my page at the moment. But the only important thing missing right now is that the first upcoming date is in Wuppertal, Germany. I left out the name of the city, so that on the current version I just appear to be doing a gig in "Germany" without any specific location (though there is a webpage listed where you can get that info).

Of course, as an American, I am inclined to believe that Germany is a city somewhere near Australia (also a city) and that they drink lots of beer there and dress in yak fur while using giant axes to fight off packs of ravenous wolves. Holland is where lesbians come from.

Some have asked why there's no event planned in Amsterdam. That, my dear Grasshopper, is a tale in itself.

The folks who invited me to The Netherlands did set up a day of Zen for me at a Zen place in that sinful city of hash smoking and prostitution. However, it turned out that the Zen place was run by a dharma heir of Genpo Roshi. I didn't know this until I posted my recent piece of criticism about Big Mind®. That's when the folks who were setting things up told me.

I said I was a little apprehensive about running a Zazen-kai at the place but that I would still do it. I told the folks who were organizing the event, though, that they ought to tell the people who run the center about who they were dealing with (i.e. me, a person who is known to hate Big Mind®). I had no intention whatsoever of using the event as any kind grandstanding tirade against Big Mind®. I'd have just done my normal thing, which people who've seen me live and in-person can assure you, is rarely* any kind of forum for Big Mind® bashing.

My understanding is that the aforementioned dharma heir himself was not too fussed about my using his place (I could be mistaken, I'm just relating what I was told, please don't take what I'm saying here as authoritative concerning his opinions). But some of the folks who go there thought it was just horrid that someone who so disrespected Mr. Genpo would be allowed to set foot in their space. As a result the people who had arranged the Zen day for me -- and not the folks from the Zen center in question or its teacher -- canceled the event so as not to hurt anyone's feelings.

This is an interesting example of how an idea can control people in much the same way a domineering and authoritative leader can do so, thus allowing the leader himself to seem above such things. Which is my way of saying that while Genpo Roshi himself does not appear to have given any orders to his followers to ban me from Amsterdam, the results have turned out quite the same as if he had. In other words the idea that I might offend someone succeeded in barring me from a place to run a standard-issue zazen-kai in Amsterdam. I'm not barred every place in town, certainly. But in the real world you don't have access to every place in town. And when you set something up & it gets canceled at the last minute it's hard to get something else together. This is something the folks who complained about me understood.

Now please understand me. It is their place. They have every right to decide who can and cannot use it, for any reason they choose. They owe no one any explanations. Absolutely none. If Genpo wanted to run a Big Mind® thing at a place I owned I would certainly say "No." If, on the other hand, he wanted to give a talk or run a standard zazenkai there, I would probably have no problem with that. I say "probably" here because I do not have such a space to offer Mr. Genpo or anyone else. So this is purely hypothetical. Problems like this are a big part of why I do not have any permanent Zen center of my own.

In the end the zazenkai I'm running in Nijmegen is actually filling up so fast it helps make up for the lack of a venue in Amsterdam. We're already way over the number of expected sign-ups and quickly nearing capacity for the space that has been rented (so sign up soon if you want to come). Even so, I do not attract anywhere near the crowds that Mr. Genpo does when he hosts an event in The Netherlands. I am told he gets literally thousands of people at his Big Mind® events and retreats here. I don't even get a tenth of that.

Which is to be expected. Fantasy sells. Excitement sells. The promise of Enlightenment sells. Actual Zen practice is hard to sell. And that's a fact.

I mention this not because I'm jealous of Mr. Genpo's popularity. If you want to assume that I am, I can't stop you from assuming that. I'm saying it to point out that I am just a little lap dog yapping at a line of tanks here. Nobody really cares much what I think, which is why I'm not weeping big tears whenever someone makes a comment about how awful it is that I would dare criticize such an eminent master. What I say about Big Mind® will make no difference at all to Mr. Genpo's bank account. There's no need to worry about him. It's just me expressing my opinion to an audience that in his world counts as "nobody" (i.e. you nice folks)**. And, by the way, I am right.

I've explained what I feel about Big Mind® enough already. So I'm not gonna do that again. If you think you can get Enlightened just like Buddha in a single day for a bunch of money, I can't help you very much anyhow. I would prefer not to have to deal with people who entertain those kinds of fantasies.

And I also want to point out that my problem is with Big Mind® and how it presents Zen in a deceitful way, not with how Genpo and his lineage practice when they aren't doing Big Mind®. Being a strict Soto guy I'll admit I also have some minor quibbles about that, too. But those I consider to be relatively unimportant and not worthy of discussion. It's when you try to dishonestly sell Zen as spiritual fast food that you incur my impotent and largely meaningless wrath.

Anyway, a couple people are trying to set up a small scale talk or some such thing in Amsterdam on Thursday. I'll keep you posted as to whether that happens.

Oy! Can you believe it took me all God damned day to write this piece of shit? I really need to get going. My host said there's a cool heavy metal shop nearby that I just have to see! Bye!


*The word "rarely" here equals never, ever.

**I was told once by someone who knows about the spiritual celebrity business that I "don't even show up on the radar" as far as the "big boys" are concerned.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Sex and Zen on the Swedish Morning Zoo in Helsinki

A couple days ago I was the guest on the morning drive-time show on YLE Radio XM3, "Extreme FM Helsinki." Kindo of a "morning zoo" type show with a couple of hip, young DJs and all the requisite sound FX and stuff. I was billed as "Zen and Sex Expert, Brad Warner." Well, I dunno about that. But they wanted to talk about my upcoming book "Sex, Sin and Zen" so that's how they promoted it. (The cover they're showing on Amazon is a dummy version, by the way. The real one is much better!)

This was one of the city's Swedish language stations. The southwest of Finland has a large Swedish speaking population. The Swedes kept invading the place, it seems, and a few people got left behind.

The cute girl DJ asked me what I think about sleeping around. I wasn't sure if that was a come-on or not. I just said that in situations where a person tries to have more than one sexual partner it's necessary to be very careful and very respectful of everyone involved. Obvious stuff, I think. But sometimes the obvious stuff has to be said again and again. My view on such things in Buddhist terms is that there is nothing that is expressly forbidden. But there are some activities that tend to cause a person more mental stress and confusion than others. If you choose to engage in such activities, you're going to need to be that much more careful with yourself and all the people you're interacting with.

The Zen, Punk and Politics talk went really well. It was a packed house. I guess a lot of people actually do enjoy talking about religion and politics! I taped the talk and one of these days I'll put it up somewhere.

It's interesting to see such interest in Buddhism. But I was asked at a later talk how many people I thought actually started doing zazen after hearing me speak. I had to say, "Not many." But that's OK. If they're just coming for entertainment, I can provide that as well. And maybe years later a couple of the people who come to a talk will suddenly get the urge to start the practice without even remembering having seen me speak.

As for politics, Tom Henriksson, the guy who set up the punk and politics event kept insisting that I am a "political person" even if I don't feel like I am. Well, maybe. Depends how you define "political."

Yesterday I went to Tempere, which is about 2 hours drive north of Helsinki. I did a talk at their library and led zazen at a "laughing yoga" studio. I didn't get to actually participate in the laughing yoga. But I did tell a couple jokes. So I think it was OK.

Tempere is also where I got the photo at the bottom of this page. I never got to find out if this was truthful advertising or not.