Thursday, March 08, 2012

Who is Thich Naht Hanh?

Two days ago I put up a piece here called "Thich Naht Hanh is Wrong." It was a deliberately provocative title. I said in the comments to that piece that the title was meant to ask, "Who is Thich Naht Hanh?" Someone said that smelled like fresh bullshit to him. I'd like to ask that guy, "Then who is Thich Naht Hanh?"

Some folks got upset that I was being disrespectful to a man who has dedicated his life to bring peace to the world. But was I? If I had any reason at all to believe that Thich Naht Hanh would ever see what I wrote, then possibly. Although even then I'd say "disrespectful" was not the right word. But let's get real here. Thich Naht Hanh will never see what I wrote about him.

So who was I being disrespectful to?

Who is Thich Naht Hanh?

A few people got bent out of shape that I said I believed that Thich Naht Hanh did not write his own Twitter posts. It turns out I was right. He doesn't. His Twitter profile says, "My twitter account is managed by senior students, both monastic and non-monastic." He probably didn't even write that!

I've also been told by people who seem to know what they're talking about that Thich Naht Hanh doesn't write his own books. His talks are recorded and transcribed. Then senior students edit them into books, which Thich Naht Hanh approves before publication. Of course the covers of these books simply say "by Thich Naht Hanh."

Ask anyone who writes for a living what they think of that sort of thing and I guarantee they'll get a little wrankled by the idea. Writing is hard work. People who claim to be writers but don't actually do the work annoy those of us who really write our own stuff. It's not a big deal. But it irks me enough when I see this very common practice that I like to point it out. I would guess that about half of the "authors" whose books are shelved near mine at your local Book Barn "write" their books in pretty much the same way. I don't think it's disrespectful to say this. I think it's truthful.

Who is Thich Naht Hanh?

One commenter said, "Brad is a wannabe Zen master who is envious of the big boys in the Buddhist world. It's so obvious: His passive-aggressive sleight-of-hand barbs at Dalai and Thich betrays a desire to be the 'bad boy of Buddhism'. Grow up, Brad."

Envious of the "big boys in the Buddhist world?" Moi? Not really. Rather I am amused by the idea that there is a class of people we can call "big boys in the Buddhist world." Zero Defex, the hardcore band I play bass for were not envious of the "big boys in the rock and roll world." Rather, we found them boring and wanted to provide an alternative. While we might have wanted to be a bit more popular than we were, we certainly did not want to be among the "big boys." That would have run completely counter to what we were trying to accomplish. Part of being an alternative to the big rock bands involved staying small. I feel pretty much the same way now about the "big boys in the Buddhist world."

The idea that the "big boys in the Buddhist world" are somehow qualitatively better teachers than the less well-known ones is a very troubling notion to me. And I'm not talking about myself as an example of one of the less well-known teachers. I'm starting to fear that my growing popularity is making me ineffective as a teacher.

The rise of this new class of Mega Masters troubles me. Such teachers cannot possibly have direct contact with the massive numbers of students who claim them as their teachers. I met some people once who talked about feeling some kind of magic mojo when the Dalai Lama walked by them thirty feet away, deep in a crowd of fawning fans, surrounded by secret service guards. Such fantasies are extraordinarily damaging.

It's precisely the same kind of thing a fan feels when he gets to be near a celebrity he admires. I know I felt it when I got to meet Gene Simmons of KISS in person. But I didn't add to that feeling some kind of weird idea that my being in proximity to Gene Simmons conveyed some sort of spiritual shaktipat, or that I got a big ol' ZAP of pure Zen energy or some such nonsense. When Genpo Roshi charges suckers $50,000 to have personal contact with him you'd better believe he's implying that some of his supposed enlightenment will rub off when they're close. I'm not sure I want any part of what rubs off of Genpo Roshi, though!

When I said in the comments that Thich Naht Hanh is no more a simple wandering monk than Bruce Springsteen is a blue-collar working man, some people pointed out that I have an image as well. Why Mr. Holmes, your powers of deductive reasoning are astonishing! Of course I have an image! So do you. So does everyone.

Who is Thich Naht Hanh?

Is it you? Is it your image of Thich Naht Hanh that I've disrespected? If so, why does that bug you? Is it you that I've disrespected? Who are you?

These are important questions.

Someone in the comments section seemed worried that maybe I had some inside dirt on Thich Naht Hanh. He asked, "Do you know of Thay's actions that bring him into disrepute?" The answer is no. I do not. As far as I'm aware Thich Naht Hanh is a totally scandal-free guy. But I don't know that much about him.

Suffice it to say, I am not trying to imply that Thich Naht Hanh is a disreputable teacher who should not be trusted. He seems like a decent guy. I like most of the quotes I see from his books. Even the quote I criticized last time might be fine in context. It might be fine as it is, too. But we all need to be careful how we take things.

Even when someone says something 100% true, sometimes you need to question it. Because your interpretation of what was said may not be correct. It's not the fault of the speaker when his words are misconstrued. Everybody's words are misconstrued. Misconstruing what we hear people say is what we human beings do. This is why we have to be careful.

Jeez, there was even a commenter on my previous blog posting who thought I said that Hitler and Charles Manson were enlightened beings! I never said that Hitler and Charles Manson were enlightened beings. But I can't shut up forever just because some doofus might misconstrue the things I say. As Katagiri Roshi pointed out, "You have to say something." And most of the time what you say will be completely misunderstood.

So I stand by what I said before. Thich Naht Hanh is wrong.

But who is Thich Naht Hanh?


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Anonymous said...

I am Thich Naht Hahn.

Anonymous said...

"Nhat" not "Naht".

Anonymous said...

Who's there?

Anonymous said...

Thich Nhat Hanh.

Anonymous said...

Thich Nhat Hanh who?

Mumon K said...

He's Tetsujin 28...or Ultraman.

Moni said...

This quality vs. popularity question reminds me of that when people are not willing to listen to bands who have more than 30 fans :).

Anyways if we talked about Thich Nhat Hahn, what about Ajahn Brahm for example? His talks get quite many Youtube-views too, and/but he is from the Western world.

Peter Thomson said...

Ever noticed how hard it is to discuss how to not attach meaning to things, without accidentally attaching meaning to the discussion?

Alex said...

I can now understand why Brad is so hesitant to teach via the internet. It's such an open medium, exposing oneself to all sorts of interpretations.

Yet, I had appreciated his last post about Thay. I had never really considered "mindfulness" from the Zen perspective before, and it was a bit of an eye opener for me.

I don't think that there was any insult made to Thay. A person can be respected and wrong at the same time. And I like Thich Nhat Hanh, but the minute he talks or engages in the world, he opens himself to criticism, just as Brad does in his post. To place Thich on a pedestal of absolute correctness, does him no favours.

But I do find the idea that a Buddhist leader must write his own works as somewhat amusing. The Buddha after all wrote no sutra, but many are attributed to him or have him explicitly agreeing to the statement at the end. Just as Thich Nhat Hanh seems to do in his "writing."

Anonymous said...

I don't think this has anything to with Thich. I don't think a lot people know that much about him.

It's really about something else.

It's really very clear.

Its the question he has been avoiding.

Was Brad a writer for "Life" the Zen master detective show?

#1 Thick fan said...

Well then answer me this Mr. Hard Core Zen Booji boy.. You have publicly written that you liked Shunryu Suzuki's book which was transcribed from his talks.. But Thick Not Hand's books annoy you? Why does one man's book bug you but the other is on your list of favorite Bhuddist books.. The answer is you just don't like Thick. You don't like him because his Zen is different from your Zen. What do you say to that Brad? Crum got your tongue?

Grand Camel said...

I'm starting to fear that my growing popularity is making me ineffective as a teacher.

Thank you for your honesty. I was wondering whether you were feeling this aversion to the dualistic effects of focused attention.

In my experience, in the space & time outside of space & time, I realized what the downsides would be of transmitting dharma, even in a "positive" fashion, for the purpose of illumination.

What unfolded in my satori event was an immense empathy for any guru, skillful or not, who took a bit too long to understand the unpleasant side of being exalted by others.

Buddha, Jesus, Genpo, Osho, Hitler, etc.., all of them. It broke my heart to see what they had lost in the process of becoming a "guru" or "leader". All they had desired was to be helpful and they discovered yet another variation of the problem of the flip-side to the confidence trap.

This resolves my decision to write under a pseudonym.

Thank you,
Not GrandCamel

Anonymous said...

Hardcore I is diggin it's

It is brad like. maybe he was a anonymous writer.
This is how I see brad actually. Like Charlie Crews.

Brooks said...

"Rather I am amused by the idea that there is a class of people we can call big boys in the Buddhist world."

Really? What about Dogen? Hell, what about Shakyamuni himself?

Patrick said...

I'm pretty sure that the Thich Nhat Hahn I admire (admittedly the one I've constructed out of reading "his" books) doesn't mind mind a statement of his being questioned by a serious student of Zen.

The order of Interbeing's first precept is, after all "Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth." I've never got the sense that Thich Nhat Hahn exempted his own teachings from this.

He's human, of course, but he seems to have a firm grasp of the idea that we should hold to the dharma and not attach to teachers.

Anonymous said...

I agree this has nothing to with Thich Naht Hanh.

Anonymous said...

Brad: Now you have a real reason to be angry..

Not only does Gniz makes more money than you do online but Thich Nhat Hanh does too.

Body and Mind Are One: An Online Training Course in Mindfulness with Thich Nhat Hanh

Online Course + Audio Download: US $99
Begins Apr 16, 2012

Korey said...

Bradley, check this out:

I've read 4 or 5 of Thich Naht Hahn's wish-washy 70-80 page books that you can practically read in one sitting. They just don't seem authentic in the sense that they're clearly edited very strictly in a way that allows them to be geared to an audience of millions and millions. Not really my thing.

But following your stuff for the past year or so, coupled with at least a few years of daily zazen practice has allowed me to let go of pretty much all of that mysterious, mystical idea I naturally had of Zen in the beginning when I had virtually no clue of what I was getting into. In addition, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to "run from reality", as you have described in the first chapter of Hardcore Zen.

As a result of this I have been able to make many drastic changes around certain things, most notably substance abuse issues. And of course, letting go of things like this are always difficult and not fun, and are especially hard because they've become such a serious part of your own identity over the years.

But at the same time I like a lot of hip hop music that has lyrics that explore mystical, gothic, fantasy, sci-fi related stuff that's just cool to listen to. I know you like reading science fiction books and listening to psychedelic rock so you probably understand this.

Quite recently I have also taken to playing Castlevania on my computer after smoking a little bit of weed (lol). Reality can be harsh sometimes - a realization that I encounter more and more the longer I sit, and sometimes I just like to surround myself with other-worldy stuff just for the experience. Although I do my best not to let it go overboard and take over my psyche, which it really doesn't at all.

Furthermore, I enjoy tuning into certain late night radio talk shows, particularly Coast to Coast AM, a show that - if you're not already familiar - explores topics like religion, spirituality, time travel, occult, cryptozoology, ghosts, space aliens and all types of farfetched shit as if it is 100% reality. I'm not a gullible person and I take everything with a brick of salt when I listen. And while the host and guests seem to have real legit beliefs in all the outlandish tiopics they cover, I just enjoy it for the novelty of submersing myself in that sort of atmosphere for a while, the same way someone would enjoy a horror movie or a sci-fi book.

I like the eerie music that they play throughout and a month or so ago I fell asleep while listening to it and had this strange dream where I was picking these very bizarre worms out of the ground and had a hideous revelation that there was a supernatural force altering the biological make-up of the universe. I woke up in a mysteriously pleasant mood after this pseudo-nightmare and I can't put my finger on why.

What I want to know is if you think it's damaging to do stuff like this when you make sure to do it in moderation and stay aware of the downside this stuff may have?

Anonymous said...

This is a job for charlie Crews

Just Smiles said...

How dare you critically analyse our cute and beloved religious icon.

Satanist! Egotist!

Thich is just a nice old man whose poop reportedly smells like a summer field and has zen abilities to beam rainbows into your brain. Further, he would never be mistaken like us unenlightened folk.

We'll get you for this Brad!

element said...

Why are you defending yourself?
Why can't you ignore critic that is obviously playing with you.
Why are you talking about your image as an author - it doesn't interest me.

Why aren't you answering the questions of people who are confused about the topic - mindfulness.

I would like to read about that too. What is mindfulness or however you will name it, even without a name for it.
Please go more into detail, and cut the personal stuff.

Charlie Crews said...

You don't have to understand 'here' to be 'here.

Anonymous said...

Better question might be, "Who the fuck is Brad Warner?"

biosphere_oli said...

One of his, Thich Nhat Hanh's, books got copied out by hand, over and over, and distributed very widely that way among the Vietnamese. This was whilst they were having the shit bombed out of them - what phrase can do it justice ? - by the Americans.

I think it was 'Peace is Every Step, or possibly 'The Miracle of mindfulness.'

It seemed to me that it was a shit hot book which he honed to a state of ripe fecundity, profundity and power. It was about the furthest thing I can imagine from a casual, or committee assembled peice of work. The authorial intent for the thread and integrity of the whole peice was clear at every stage. He does crack on fairly regularly about various aspects of being a writer, and about writing poetry. So at least the early ones were written by him quite sincerely.

Anonymous said...

"Who is TNH?"

He's jus dis guy y'know!

Mr. Furious said...

I think the last two posts bring up good questions about the concept of "authenticity" and the role it plays in being a spiritual "guru" or "authority" or whatever else it might be called.

Like Brad, I'm pretty amicable to Thich Nhat Hanh's "writing." He's not my favorite writer, but he much more sufferable than most Zen or Buddhist writers out there. However, I do have to admit that it rubs me the wrong way that he is so powerful and is so disconnected from the trials and tribulations of being a real person. Anyone can come off as enlightened when they have other people doing all the hard shit in their life (as in the example of Thich probably not actually writing his own books). But someone who is relatively level-headed and happy in the midst of ordinary life is much more "enlightened" in my opinion, and is much worthier of my attention.

Samsara said...

If he's giving the talks that's basically the same as writing a book, he's just not doing the typing and editing. Who cares. I think you're jealous too. All you do is complain about other people. You're the strangest Zen teacher in the universe. Your hyper-criticism of everything seems highly unproductive in terms of Zen practice. Almost every other post makes some comparison between you doing things correctly and someone else doing them incorrectly. You always make sure to say something like "not that I really care", but that's obviously nor true because you wouldn't be writing it otherwise. I want to like your blog, but every time I check in it more of the same negativity and dualist un-Zen examinations of the Buddhist world.

Samsara said...

Oh and Katagiri didn't write "You Have to Say Something". His students did based on his talks. Let's write him off!

Anonymous said...

"If you open your mouth, you've already missed it." Or so I've heard...

Brad Warner said...

#1 Thick Fan said:

Well then answer me this Mr. Hard Core Zen Booji boy.. You have publicly written that you liked Shunryu Suzuki's book which was transcribed from his talks.. But Thick Not Hand's books annoy you? Why does one man's book bug you but the other is on your list of favorite Bhuddist books.. The answer is you just don't like Thick. You don't like him because his Zen is different from your Zen. What do you say to that Brad? Crum got your tongue?

I'm not saying it's bad that TNH doesn't write his own books. I'm just pointing out that he doesn't.

The comparison to Suzuki isn't quite right, I think. Because Suzuki only "wrote" one book that way (when he was alive). TNH comes out with a new one every few months.

Which is fine. Whatever. More power to him.

William Shatner writes books too!

Brad Warner said...

Samsara said:

If he's giving the talks that's basically the same as writing a book, he's just not doing the typing and editing.

I can tell you've never written a book.

Tom Swiss said...

Could well be that some of the small books were put together from transcribed dharma talks and ghostwritten by students. I'm willing to give some slack on that, especially for someone working in a second language.

But I can't picture Old Paths, White Clouds being done that way. He (or someone) wrote it in Vietnamese and had it translated. He also has a fairly dense book called Zen Keys that I can't see being ghostwritten.

Of course, as Brad points out, what I'm talking about is the TNH inside my head, the mental construction based on what I've read, not the "real" TNH. (If there is such a thing.)

Brad Warner said...

Thanks Tom. I've seen those books and they do seem to be actually written, unlike the bulk of his books.

I'm not saying that transcribed books of talks are without value. Some of my favorite books are transcribed talks. I'm just saying there's a difference between writing a book and having someone take down your dictations and asking them to make a book out of it.

biosphere_oli said...

Plus there's the ones where he analyses sutras. Their structure is so developed and idiosyncratic, with the authorial plan made explicit repeatedly, that it's obvious they're by him.

I've no idea what the proportions are, but have a hunch it's more misleading to say TNH doesn't write his books than that he does.

Unknown said...

an interesting koen

naht is not nhat

nhat is not naht

BTW there are many high status people who use ghost writers - including the Dali Lama. I thought everyone already understood that. Guess not.

Misha said...

Instead of debating whether certain books are authentic, why don't more people spend time reading the suttas/sutras?

I read once that American would rather take a pill to lose weight than diet and exercise. In the same way, so may wish to have dharma spoon fed to them by so-called Zen Masters. It might be more beneficial if people returned to sutra study, and tried to make sense of what Gautama really said, and why he said what he said.

Samsara said...

Well I'm a biologist, and I've written lots of scientific publications, and I've given lots of scientific talks, and they take about the same amount of time for me to prepare when you take in to account how much time is needed to produce the material. The research takes years, but the writing/putting together of the talk is a fraction of that time. True, it takes a bit longer to write something out than to make notes on it and talk about them. But ultimately all that matters is the material. It's very easy to write a meaningless book, and lots of silly people do it every day.

And thanks for proving my point that you can't help but compare yourself to others CONSTANTLY. "I can tell you've never written a book before (because I have)". Very Zen. Why don't you write something positive or helpful for a change.

physicsprof 23 said...

All that I've read of Shakyamunni leads me to believe that he didn't really want to teach what he had learned, even doubting that it could be taught.

I think that we think of the "big boys" of Buddhism from the past in that way because what they said and taught got written down. That might be partially true today as well. There are almost certainly teachers out there who are quite good that nobody has ever heard of except for a handful of students who are working with them.

Doug said...

My opinion is that you're using somebody as an example. To make your points, you could replace the person with somebody else, and make the same points.

The problem comes in however, when you cherry-pick small little phrases or tweets to use as examples, as if they summarize that person as a whole. This wouldn't be fair if somebody did the same to you either. And I'm sure people do that to you a lot.

So, you were able to make your points (and I feel they were good ones), but slightly at the expense of the person you're using as an example. You of all people should know that if somebody did the same using your books, they could very easily be used out of context. Visions of drugs, hookers, sex, come to mind. But does picking one sentence out of one of your books sum up you or your books up properly? Of course not.

I'm not saying I have a problem with what you did... I'm just saying that we should look at it for what it is. Lets not make a bunch of drama out of it. What you did using Thich as an example to make a point, could just as easily been done to you. To anybody. People should simply realize that you saw an opportunity to make a point.

It wasn't about Thich... and yet he got involved somehow :)

I don't presume to speak for you, but this is just my personal take on the whole thing.

One more little point I'd like to make. Sometimes you can't control the fame you become. Should a musician or band be faulted just because people really started to like them? I'm starting to see this a lot in indie music. A band has good indie cred, and what they put out is resonating well with others, and they become popular. Then all of a sudden all the hipsters start to turn their backs on them and say "you sold out" and "you're not indie anymore" -- even if they just wanna make cool music. If the band is Zen enough, they won't buy into all the hype good or bad, they'll just keep on trying to be themselves. Funny how our society likes to build people up then tear them down.

How do we know that this isn't the case with many of the "big boy" Buddhist personalities?

Anyway, I'm done for the time being :)


Jundo Gummo said...

You've actually managed to embarrass yourself with this post, Brad. NO ONE thinks that you said Hitler was enlightened.

You've officially become an old, humorless fogey.

Leah McClellan said...

My question is this: why do you spend your time on topics like these (finding fault with others or fault with what they do or teach) when you have much better to offer? Seems to me, anyway.

Is talking about other people like this considered "right speech?" Not saying it isn't. Just wondering because I haven't felt it's right speech for me--whether anyone will ever read it/see it or not. Doesn't matter.

Not my business, of course; it's your blog. But I wonder. When we find fault with others, it says much more about us than the other person. I mean, while reading this and the last post I find myself wondering what's going on with you rather than Thich Nhat Hanh. So I'd better not come back :)

Also just thought I'd mention that it's very common for busy people to have an assistant handle social media (I've done it, as the assistant that is). No news there, and at least it's fully disclosed in this case. I mean, we all know Pres. Obama or Michelle aren't posting on the presidential FB account, and if we don't, OY :)

Anonymous said...

He didn't teach that Hitler was enlightened? Bullshit! He did and I've been worshipping der Führer for several months, both publicly and privately. I've even grown a mustache like his.

Hitler = God, right Brad?

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me that Brad is using the question "who is Thich Naht Hahn" to bring up the concept of "no-self" in Buddhism. At what point is one not actually writing a book but having it be done by "others." And who are they? A bit like the the care an maintenance of a ship. As it gets old, the wood panels are replaced by new ones. Is it still the same ship?

Mary Paterson said...

Hi Brad,

I have read and enjoyed your first 2 books, so I have a sense of your way of teaching and being in the world I suppose. I have some insight into Thich Nhat Hanh's way of teaching and being because I spent 6 weeks in his monastery in France. From my time there, I have written a book that will be published this Fall in the U.S., Canada, The Netherlands, and Brazil.

It is my opinion that your post is disrespectful to Thich Nhat Hanh, his monks and nuns and students/writers like me, for the following reasons:

1. You didn't take the time to find out the correct spelling of Thich Nhat Hanh's name and it appeared countless times in your article.

2. It is difficult to write insightfully about someone simply from second hand information.

3. Because of decades of Buddhist study and practice, as well as deep commitment to students and endless generosity, along with a capacity to live ethically, there are a few teachers in the world who deserve a basic level of respect. Thich Nhat Hanh is one of those people. That is absent in this post.

4. I can tell you first hand that The Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh is an extraordinary teacher, monk and person. Beyond my first hand experience as a student of his for 40 days, and from talking to many of his monks and nuns, I have also done a lot of research on his life. He is a stellar Buddhist practitioner (in all ways) and teacher. He is also 86 years old and the fact that this humble monk is still teaching when it must be very tiring for him, shows his devotion to everyone's well-fare. He genuinely cares deeply about all life on the planet.

I have to stop this post now or it would be very, very long, but suffice to say, I have left out many more reasons that Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the few stellar teachers that deserves to be recognized as such, valued and respected in print.

I see that you operate in a controversial way. Controversy is useful if you know what you're talking about. In this case, you don't know what you're talking about.

Mary Paterson

biosphere_oli said...

y u all bein so mean?

Anonymous said...

Brad better answer the questions/critics/comments on mindfulness/awareness thats a ton more interesting. Who cares for Nhat he won't even read your stuff man!


Slror Jrors said...

Mary Paterson just SHIT words of wisdom in Brad's FACE!

Mary Paterson follows TNH while the guys here (me included) follow Adolf Hitler.

Who has the right of it? Hell if I know.

Helpless Jerk said...

You gonna take that shit off a fucking yoga teacher, Brad? LOL, she just called you a disrespectful asshole and you do nothing back at her? Wow. I never thought I'd see the day that you pussed out when some hot yoga chick called you out.

You've sold out.

Troll Fancy said...

It's an interesting conundrum...

On one hand, Brad's got the Hardcore image to represent. Pulling tiger's whiskers and whatnot. BUT not SO hardcore that he invalidates his own credentials in a puff of anti-establishment smoke.
Those books wont sell themselves!

That's a fine line to have to walk 24/7.

When I said in the comments that Thich Naht Hanh is no more a simple wandering monk than Bruce Springsteen is a blue-collar working man, some people pointed out that I have an image as well. Why Mr. Holmes, your powers of deductive reasoning are astonishing! Of course I have an image! So do you. So does everyone.

Ahhh that might be so, Brad. But one man's monk is another man's dilettante in today's world.

You are no more a monk than Thich Naht Hanh is. The tragedy is that in today's world being a monk is nothing more than a set of black robes and a bullet point on a resume'.

Unknown said...

I went to the TNH retreat here in Vancouver in August of 2011. My understanding is that in Zen a lot of emphasis is place on experience, rather then intellect. My experience with TNH says that he is not what he projects himself as. I felt it was a lot of staged production and no emphasis placed on meditation. Why do think there would be no emphasis placed on meditation? The name of the retreat was "Awakening The Heart", and the focus seemed to be on joy. Not much said about suffering. And his monastics seemed to be, not very knowledgeable. Some simply seemed like actors.

As far as I can tell Buddhism is more culture specific in Canada. European Canadians aren't that familar with "Buddhism", as opposed to say the large Chinese Canadian population in Western Canada. But my experience with both suggests that "Thay" is out to take advantage of the niave in search of fame and profit. The majority of the people at the retreat were European Canadians.

I in my experience I felt that the lure of "Thay" was that he never asks for money on his on-line videos(during my interest in him anyways), he appeals to many peoples on a basic spiritual level(pan-religous, pan-Buddhist sect), and with his knowledge of PureLand Buddhism he able to dumb down the Dharma to the point that anyone should get it. He appeals to the human nature within us all, which he examplifies through his interaction with childern. All good things in a teacher. Very very romantic, very appealing to me.

I might compare my experience with "Thay" to on line dating, meeting someone on line in hopes of "Awakening the Heart" Then meeting them in person and discovering that all they were ever interested in was getting into your pants. You feel hurt, disgusted, and stupid. "Thay" is also a very good teacher in this way. But I realized afterwards that a good teacher would never refer to themselves as "Teacher(Thay)." A good teacher once taught me that "We teach each other Zen".

Thay's mistake with me was that he left rest periods in my retreat itinary that I took advantage of by meditating in my room.

But, he is still human.

Jason Farrow

Anonymous said...

Who is Thich Naht Hanh?

Is it you? Is it your image of Thich Naht Hanh that I've disrespected? If so, why does that bug you? Is it you that I've disrespected? Who are you?

These are important questions.

It's all right here.
It's all right there.
Don't forget to change your underwear.

Unknown said...

Very true.

jason farrow

Lone Wolf said...

I understand what you meant by "mindfulness would get in the way of the sunrise" in your criticism of Thich Naht Hahn's comment, but I also thought it was a little bit petty to criticize his comment. Perhaps Hahn simply meant to live in the present moment without distraction from thoughts will allow one to see the sun more clearly and to do that takes some awareness and concentration. I totally understand calling out Genpo Roshi, but when you begin calling out all these other teachers over little things similar to this Hahn comment. It comes off like a reality TV celebrity or You Tuber saying something controversial just to increase their media coverage, their views, their "likes," and their popularity. Though I don't think that is your intention.

After reading "I'm starting to fear that my growing popularity is making me ineffective as a teacher," the following thoughts bubbled up in my head. If Brad doesn't believe that Zen can be taught online (which I agree with) and his blog is just a way to promote his books, and as he - along with every other Buddhist teacher - has said, Buddhism cannot be learned from books, then is Brad really teaching at all? I suppose touring and doing retreats could be considered teaching, but does Brad have a group of people in Akron he works with regularly...does Brad have a real student-teacher relationship with anyone? If anything is making Brad and ineffective teacher, it's not popularity growth...but his lack of settling down with a group of people he meets and sits with on a regular basis.

I like Brad, because I like his books and blog and believe they have value, and I'm looking forward to his next book on Buddhism and God. But another reason I like Brad is his character doesn’t make me feel like I’m some piss ant that is going to be burned at the stake or sent to hell if I give him some critical feedback…just a few pokes with a red hot poker from the cult followers (I kid, I kid)…and he shouldn't be burned at the stake for criticizing the "big boys in the Buddhist world" if he chooses to do so.

Mysterion said...

I think that Haiku Dojo (space for about 17) members collected Suzuki's 'dharma' talks and, with SFZC, compiled "Beginners Mind."

This, that, hand also had his talks collected by his followers and, with reworking, compiled into a collection of books attributed to him.

It doesn't matter who he is, who you are, or who I am. If it works, use it. If it doesn't work, discard it.

*He, you, and I might just me manifestations of the one consciousness*. We have know way of knowing that. *I might think that for a while but that doesn't make it true.

I like to remind the people of other faiths that just because the sincerely believe something, it does not make that something true.

Nor is truth a popularity contest (e.g. if more people believe it, then it must be true). Never underestimate the stupidity and gullibility of the average human.

Kōgen 光現 Dito-Keith said...

Your first book was your best book; earnest, thankful, humble, in touch with those who wouldn't read The Sun My Heart. Not quite bone crushing, but good. The last couple read like US weekly for buddhists. Brad, you're a good guy, and the complaints and criticisms are not received as subversive. Instead, they seem to mark practice immaturity. If you don't believe me, look at your comments- are you inspiring us to sit or not?

Your first book inspired me to sit. The last few, with this blog, are thoroughly entertaining, but there is nothing to chew here. This is the drivel of shavelings and seems off the top of your head.

Bilbo Baggins said...


What does your penis look like in terms of size, shape and smell?

Anonymous said...

cutting through spiritual materialism

Glasses don't fit right said...

"If you don't believe me, look at your comments- are you inspiring us to sit or not?"

Ever since Brad's keynote "Hitler's Parinirvana™" speech of 2010, I've practiced shikantaza while standing in the "Sieg Heil" position for 45 minutes per day.

Fred said...

I use to awaken the Kundalini after
sex, but it wasn't "it. It was just
a momentary diversion, candy for
the mind, Mary.

Old Boy said...

Methinks Brad protest too much.

Look Warner, you want to know the Hard Truth? You are too attached to the idea of being "The Bad Boy of Buddhism" or "The Hardcore Punk Bass Monk". To reinforce this image, you have to come off as being cool and disdainful of authorities (or at least perceived authorities). This is just your own ego trip, which you are trying to peddle to your readers as "Hardcore Zen".

Wake up!

Anonymous said...

Every idea can't be a gem. I think you might want to leave these last couple off your "best of Brad" ebook.

Anonymous said...

What possessed Brad to take the stage with Zero Defex (lol) while wearing his monk robes?

Jinzang said...

he Most Buddhist books are transcribed and edited talks. TNH is hardly the only one who does this. The senior students who labor away in obscurity to turn their teachers' talks into something readable deserve some credit. (Yes, I've done a little of this myself.)

My biggest gripe? How so few books these days have an index. Even an index of proper names would be helpful. Julian Winston self-published The Faces of Homeopathy. It has a great index, which was very helpful for this week's talk. You would think book publishers would show a little more care with what they print. If Sit Down and Shut Up had an index, it would be a lot more useful to me.

Jinzang said...

Folks, the TNH you think is great or terrible is just an idea in your head. Likewise for Brad Warner. (Dalai Lama, Pope Benedict, Rush Limbaugh, Barack Obama, etc.) Quit wasting your time chasing phantoms.

ryanbaka said...

this may not be entirely on topic, but i recently attended a retreat lead by peggy and larry ward, who teach in thich nhat hahns zen tradition.

larry was quite open and honest and mentioned that he does some writing for thichs books, and that when thich teaches in vietnam, his teachings are alot different from the states and he sticks more to the zen tradition, and not his guided meditation stuff.

the reasoning, as larry explained it, was that the average buddhist in america doesn't like it. he went on to explain that its deeply engrained in our culture to be go-go, get it done, got shit to do, get out of my way, so he greatly emphesizes the soft slow nice thing, in hopes of some sort of social evolution. at least thats the gist of what he said, i may have missed the mark. correct me if i'm wrong and you are familiar with larry ward.

i completely agree with brad. thich nhat hahn is alright with me, but his celebrity status gets in the way.

I really didn't get much out of that retreat either. larry gave good talks but the whole thing was willy nilly. a lot of people not honoring noble silence, and there was only about 2 hours a day of actual sitting meditation, half of which was guided. I felt like a little kid in kindergarden at best.

this is coming from a guy who has never been on a sesshin(spelling?) and my only other retreat experience has been vipassana. i take what i can get in an area that associates zen with genpo roshi.

Anonymous said...


why do we create it?
why do we chase it?

silly of me.

Anonymous said...

what Brad says in his first post is what i did for the longest time. Then i realized it's because i should be focused on meditation, not "mindfullness". What he's saying makes perfect sense to me. If you're offended then you aren't sitting. And if you aren't sitting then we're talking 2 different languages.

Anonymous said...


In the early 1960s, he founded the School of Youth for Social Services (SYSS) in Saigon. This grassroots relief organization rebuilt bombed villages, set up schools, established medical centers, and resettled families left homeless during the Vietnam War.[2] He traveled to the U.S. to study at Princeton University, and later to lecture at Cornell University and Columbia University. His focus at the time was to urge the U.S. government to withdraw from Vietnam. He urged Martin Luther King, Jr. to publicly oppose the Vietnam War; King nominated Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in January 1967. He created the Order of Interbeing in 1966, establishing monastic and practice centers around the world. In 1973, the Vietnamese government denied Nhat Hanh permission to return to Vietnam and he went into exile in France. From 1976 to 1977 he led efforts to rescue Vietnamese boat people in the Gulf of Siam.

~ from Wikipedia

(This man has been busy!)

Old Boy said...

Brad has been busy too! Promoting himself (if he's honest, he would admit it).

Old Boy said...

Brad, if you are so worried that your "growing popularity" is rendering you ineffective as a teacher, why don't you just, uh, stop trying to promote yourself?

Anonymous said...

Old boy, i've been promoting your mom..

Doug said...

Man, this whole thing has become so negative. Interesting to see how harsh some "Buddhists" can be. Surprising actually.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that I think Brad's original post on this (mindfulness & the sunset) was spot on. One of his best posts ever actually. I really mean that. All I'm really saying, is it's a shame it had to be on the back of another Buddhist in a slightly petty manner. It's too bad because it tainted the post in a way, because the message itself was one of the best, clearest, and profound expressions I've seen. He almost summed up the value of entire books, in a few paragraphs.

Watching all the comments today, has kind of opened my eyes a bit... not all Buddhists are these peaceful nice folks... some of us are down right mean.


Tru Dat said...

I read your blog pretty regularly. When I read the first TNH post, I immediately thought, "Oh noooo...he's not really going to dis' TNH, is he???" He's kind of like the Mother Theresa of the Buddhist world. But I hung in and read the whole thing. I don't think it was disrespectful at all. I'm not sure TNH is wrong, only wrong if you agree with Warner's context. I never got a bad feeling about myself or thought "gosh I'm not mindful enough..." If I had thought that, then yeah...TNH would have been wrong. But there's more than one way to receive someone's writing. Writing is something that we interpret for ourselves, sometimes in tune with the author, sometimes not.

I think the important message in Warner's post, is we should question everything. And when you think you have the answers, you better go back and ask some more questions. I think that's all Warner was trying to say, or at least how I took it. It was meant to be a provocative post, meant to make you think for yourself. He stirred the pot.

I recently attended a workshop on meditation given by a Buddhist monk from the Temple I frequent. I went in feeling pretty grounded after 2 years of daily meditation. I left feeling totally discombobulated. When I relayed this to a friend, he said "Excellent!"'s true...only when we are challenged and taken out of our comfort zone, can we take that next little step on the path. Question, question and question some more. Buddhist monks are people just like ministers or Catholic priests (well, we hope not quite like priests)...but you have to question for yourself. Just because some jerk writes it, it don't make it so.

Anonymous said...

Right, and then when you go to one of his retreats you find out his monastics know nothing. You find out that you've been caught up in a cash grab because someone is always encouraging you to give money or buy something like a TNH watch that says "It's time". Or a piece of paper that that says "PureLand" in black paint inside the Zen symbol>for a couple of hundred dollars.
The worst part is when he does his walk in the PureLand and stops at a grassy spot by a tree and pulls out the tinist little gong you ever saw and looks deep into the many hand picked childern of different races...meanwhile the mothers are standing around crying with their hands in a "Gassho". The walk leads you back to line up for lunch where you pass by the TNH store where one day they were giving out free books on "The Power of Giving",written and looking like a TNH book,but not of his publishing company, not with his name on it, etc etc etc...but does tell you how much of your income you should give to a good "leader'.

I did the deep relaxation with his 'sister' where you lay down on the floor and she speaks a bunch of nonese over the p.a. realy dift off somewhere...then she tells you make sure you make a donantion to the orphans of vietnam...

People need to realize that there are Jimmy Swaggart Dharma teachers out there.

My opinon is that a bad teacher and a good teacher are both teachers. If yoo choose to see it that way.

I got sucked up into it. I feel like a dumbass. But the only reason I publicly say it is so that other people don't have to go through the same grinder.

He is cult leader in my opinon. A f****** genius of a cult leader on a mass scale.

Suck it up, he's gone renaged. I did.

jason farrow

Anonymous said...

Doug, If you see something as negative, What are you really seeing? That's right, you guessed it.

Nick Powell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick Powell said...

On the topic of sensing presence or "shakti," activating and energizing the subtle capacity of the anatomical structure, with a foundation of strong nerves and glands can produce a detectable "radiance" in a person (more detailed description: While it is helpful, it is just a container like any other; a delivery system to convey the projection of one's attitude.

I was once stopped on the street in Santa Monica by an Indian guy in all black with one of the strongest auras I had ever encountered. He told me all about how he was enlightened, and why the heavens called for me to give him 40 dollars for a palm reading. Enough said.

So there's a practical component to someone having a "big aura, etc" that can be understood through yogic systems of subtle anatomy, but this technology can be used for many different reasons, many of which aren't so noble.

It is also very true that being "starstruck" can play a huge factor. Really, any time someone sees another as anything more or less than an equal, it creates a kind of fear which distorts the accurate perception of that person's energy field.

No idea who Thich Naht Hanh is though...

Anonymous said...

my post is in response to ``(This man has been busy!) `` person who is quoting wikipedia.


Anonymous said...

No one is handing out deadly kool aid yet.

anonymous anonymous said...

I would just like to point out that mysterion is a douche. See you next week. Thank you.

Anonymous said...


merciless said...

Jason farrow@9:51 PM,

the word awesome is thrown around pretty lightly nowadays but not by me.

That was awesome.

Old Boy said...

Sometimes, to call out poseurs like Brad, one has to be "negative" (i.e. straightforward) and cut through the self-serving "hardcore" bullshit.

Anonymous said...

A true Dharma teacher teaches that Dharma is empty of self, not full of self.

Sometimes the message is the medium. Sometimes the medium is the message.


Anonymous said...

There is nothing to defend where there is nothing to attack.

But I do get the vibe that there are some Genpo people here looking to attack Brad, because they are trying to defend their beloved con artist. Just a hunch.

Just because Brad has an image, doesn't mean what he writes/teaches is wrong. At least he's not trying to swindle and con people.

End of the day, the message should be able to stand on its own, and Brads words usually do... all packaging and image asside.

mtto said...

Jinzang wrote: If Sit Down and Shut Up had an index, it would be a lot more useful to me.

Actually, there is an index online. SDSU Index

Old Boy said...

Brady's modus operandi is to make some controversial barb about some Buddhist teacher and then act all "who me?" and coy when people call him out. Then he hides behind philosophical and grammar jugglery. His ego trip is so obvious to those whose eyes are open. Most of his blog posts are subtle bragging about how "hardcore" and "authentic" he is, compared to the Dalai Lama or the "Thichster" or Genpo or the Soto establishment. The implication of being a disciple of this kind of "Zen Master" is that one has to end up subsidising his ego trip. Come on, Brady. Wake up!

Moni said...

"There is a destiny that makes us brothers:
None goes his way alone:
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back into our own."
-Edwin Markham

this can be a good guideline how to threat other people with respect. Either it is TNH, or Brad, or anyone else.

Khru said...

OK, I take it all back...

Anonymous said...

"Some folks got upset that I was being disrespectful to a man who has dedicated his life to bring peace to the world. But was I? If I had any reason at all to believe that Thich Naht Hanh would ever see what I wrote, then possibly."

I sincerely hope you’re not implying that it’s impossible to be disrespectful towards / about someone if they are not present or will not hear what you say about them?

proulx michel said...

From what I know of TNH, my overall feeling is, contrary to Jason Farrow, TNH is not a fake. I think he is deeply and sincerely committed to what he has endeavoured.

However, the gist of it is, IMO, that, just the same as for Deshimaru, you have to decide between quantity or quality. Dogen, who has been mentioned as a "big boy" here, emphasised on quality, and had it not been for Keizan, the Sotoshu would never had gone so big, because he did not really look like someone interested in Fame and Glory.

If you decide on quantity, then you get a whole lot of cronies who just dribble with veneration for you, but there are truly much too many to make anything sound out of it (with eventually some exceptions).

As for myself, I was never attracted to the thing because of their lack of interest for meditation, but even more so because of the huge crowds surrounding him. Zen teaching is a one to one relationship. You can't get that when you have to compete with hundreds of bigots ready to kill in order to step in front of you on the row for the benediction. Same applies to DL: who does he have the time to teach to?

What's more, to those offended by Brad's post's title, just realise that he's not talking about THE actual TNH. He's talking about a virtual one with whom he does not agree. They're not the same.

Moni said...

proulx michel: was Deshimaru more this "popular&light" teacher? I only heard about him, but have never read/listened to anything from him.

Anonymous said...

A great commentary Brad, don't worry about people defending TNH (even though the commentary is not really about TNH). It's human nature. I hope I am not as easily deceived by others. I can only imagine trying to "teach" without being worshipped. It's probably not possible, but thanks for your effort.

Anus Randus said...

Who is John Galt?

"John Galt is a fictional character in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged (1957). Although he is not identified by name until the last third of the novel, he is the object of its often-repeated question "Who is John Galt?" and of the quest to discover the answer."
"As the plot unfolds, Galt is acknowledged to be a creator, philosopher, and inventor who symbolizes the power and glory of the human mind. He serves as a principled counterpoint to the collectivist social and economic structure depicted in the novel. The depiction portrays a society based on oppressive bureaucratic functionaries and a culture that embraces stifling mediocrity and egalitarianism, which the novel associates with socialistic idealism."

from Wikipedia

Anonymous said...

I think your feelings about Thich are quite widely shared too.

Charlie Crews said...

Brad Zen is eye ball to eye ball. Mind to mind.Gut to gut. Real time to real time. You do as much disservice to Zen as Genpo because you ad to the clutter culture of Books. I realize Dogen is your god and he wrote. But Dogen didn't have a blog or publisher and editor and proof reader etc. a check from a publisher, albeit a small one it is still a check.

The Beetles were pretty big boys of rock and roll if memory serves me right.I sort of get a mojo feeling when I listen to them.

Suckers pay $50,000 for Genpo or $20.00 for Brad books , a suckers a sucker . One can't put a price on it. If it quacks like a duck.

"I'm starting to fear that my growing popularity is making me ineffective as a teacher. " Hmmmm....I honestly didn't know that you are teacher. An Author that lecturers on Zen Buddhism to sell his books albeit at a small profit is what I gathered.

If you are really a teacher I would quit hiding behind a blog and books and teach. Stop spreading disinformation intentionally. It helps no one.

Anonymous said...

I have tremendous respect for Thich Nhat Hanh, but I think you're right to point out over use of a term, or the misleading misuse of a term.

Even we Buddhists can get caught up in cliches, or even worse we simply repeat the same old cliches instead of pointing out the trap of language.

Part of that trap is "oh I know the word so I know what he's talking about."

And as Buddhists we should respect teachers/human beings like Thich Nhat Hanh, but we should always remember that hey are human too.

Anonymous said... this really that controversial? I like Obama but he's fucking terrible when it comes to education. I shoot from the hip when he talks education because I think he's dead wrong almost all the time on that issue.

Thich Nhat Hanh's "Anger" is probably a book that was ghostwritten, but it seriously saved my life and my 5+ year relationship with my partner. To this day, I open that book up and go "ew, god, this is some syrupy, hokey shit!" But it was what I needed. I loaned the book to a teacher of mine, and she said "He just says the same thing over and over again, but not bad!"

Did we do anything "worse" than what Brad did in his post? Come on guys!


Anonymous said...

Brad Zen is eye ball to eye ball. Mind to mind.Gut to gut. Real time to real time. You do as much disservice to Zen as Genpo because you ad to the clutter culture of Books. I realize Dogen is your god and he wrote. But Dogen didn't have a blog or publisher and editor and proof reader etc. a check from a publisher, albeit a small one it is still a check.

The Beetles were pretty big boys of rock and roll if memory serves me right.I sort of get a mojo feeling when I listen to them.

Suckers pay $50,000 for Genpo or $20.00 for Brad books , a suckers a sucker . One can't put a price on it. If it quacks like a duck.

"I'm starting to fear that my growing popularity is making me ineffective as a teacher. " Hmmmm....I honestly didn't know that you are teacher. An Author that lecturers on Zen Buddhism to sell his books albeit at a small profit is what I gathered.

If you are really a teacher I would quit hiding behind a blog and books and teach. Stop spreading disinformation intentionally. It helps no one.

Anonymous said...

Instead of Brad's comment/question being "disrespectful" I think his honest/sincere questioning of Thich Nhat Hanh is the highest form of respect !!!

It says I take you seriously, we see this often in koans with students and teachers questioning other teachers.


Harry said...

Big part of my old Hardcore existence was observing how 'lame' other people were. This was mostly to do with bolstering/projecting my assumed superiority and not wanting to acknowledge how lame I was being.

It wasn't very Hardcore in other words.



Anonymous said...

Is Brad as popular as he thinks he is?

Is he popular?

gniz said...

Anonymous said: "Instead of Brad's comment/question being "disrespectful" I think his honest/sincere questioning of Thich Nhat Hanh is the highest form of respect !!!"

Then how come I rarely if ever see him questioning Gudo Nishijima or Dogen in such a way?

I think it's a bit disingenuous to label this as a high form of respect. This is Brad poking holes in a style of Buddhist practice and a way of expressing things that he finds troubling.

gniz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gniz said...

Let's take it a step further. I think Brad would earn a lot more respect from readers if he wrote a post titled "Dogen is wrong" or "Gudo is wrong" and took on his own sacred cows instead of everyone else's.

Anonymous said...

This is a quite interesting critical article too..Especially the "Kusen" part ( chapter III./point 4).

Anonymous said...

We ALL should question Dogen and Nishijima and Brad and everyone and everything.

"Therefore, did we say, Kalamas, what was said thus, 'Come Kalamas.
Do not go upon what has been acquired
by repeated hearing;
nor upon tradition;
nor upon rumour;
nor upon what is in a scripture;
nor upon surmise;
nor upon an axiom;
nor upon specious reasoning;
nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over;
nor upon another's seeming ability;
nor upon the consideration, "The monk is our teacher."
Kalamas, when you yourselves know: "These things are bad; these things are blameable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill," abandon them.'

"Let's take it a step further. I think Brad would earn a lot more respect from readers if he wrote a post titled "Dogen is wrong" or "Gudo is wrong" and took on his own sacred cows instead of everyone else's."

But then you must point out a specific example of being "wrong/mistaken" you apparently have never read Dogen and read how critical he is Buddhist teachings and teachers.

But that IS the point, words are always wrong!!

check out:

Dōgen's Use of Koans
ADZG 124: November 12, 2011 - Talk by Griffith Foulk at Bringing Dōgen Down to Earth conference, FIU Miami

Moni said...

I was just seeking exactly for the same quote some time ago, but could not find it. Thanks for posting it!

Brad Warner said...


I'm going to do a post called "Brad Warner is Wrong." Some of the stuff I hear that "Brad Warner" has said is pretty weird!

As for dissing Gudo, there's already a few guys out there doing enough of that.

I wonder how many of the critics (not necessarily you, Gniz) are actually reading the blog posts. Because when I read them, I can't find me saying anything negative about TNH. Even when I say he doesn't wrote his own books, I'm not really saying that's a bad thing. It's just a true thing that I don't think most of his readers know.

The rest isn't critical of TNH at all. As far as I can tell anyway. But what would I know?

Steve B said...

I thought the post on mindfulness getting in the way was a great post. It is something that I struggle with in my sitting periodically although in a slightly different way.

I also thought the use of the "TNH is wrong" trope was deliberately provocative. It is not a statement which is necessarily true, kind or necessary to make the point. But that's just what Brad does. It's adolescent. But so what? He still gets through to me when he does stuff like that. It grabs my attention. Maybe that kind of teacher is not for you.

Finally, without saying that any of you individually are crazy, the collection of comments that follow his posts as a whole are crazy. Maintaining some balance in the face of this ridiculous insanity must be exhausting.

Moni said...

Hi Brad, did you read that darkzen-article which was linked here? I did and I think there is good thoughts about the demystification of masters and critical thinking.

gniz said...

Brad, you said, "As for dissing Gudo, there's already a few guys out there doing enough of that."

There's plenty of people dissing everyone. That wasn't my point at all.

My point isn't that Gudo or Dogen NEED dissing, anymore than TNH needed dissing. My point is that you take on many sacred cows like the use of the term mindfulness or take on people's deification of teachers such as the Dalai Lama or TNH.

But you appear (and I do realize appearances aren't always reality) to take much of what Dogen or Gudo said and wrote as gospel. That's the appearance, and you rarely or never take on your own beliefs and sacred cows the way you take on other people's.

Whether or not you do this in your own mind is a different story. I know that neither Dogen mor Gudo is as famous or well-known as TNH, so I can see why you take on more famous people and misconceptions.

But the way you are being perceived is as a guy who is trying to take down everyone else's views and deep held beliefs while maintaining your own (such as your sitting beliefs and your Dogen recitations and so forth).

Jamal said...

Shit.. No one is offended by the real Brad. Peoples are offended by online Brad. Very few people would say these things to the real Brad. The most insightful thing said by the real Brad becomes bolstering/projecting assumed superiority or disingenuous or even dishonest when the the online Brad says it. That's cause the online Brad ain't who you think he is..

gniz said...

Jamal, It's very true that if you watch (or even listen to) one of Brad's talks, it's a very different vibe than what comes across with his writings.

His tone of voice and demeanor really help soften what he says, and he's clearly joking a lot, which helps.

Brad's writing is intentionally provocative and he has a habit of oversimplifying and making sweeping generalizations that irk people. While it makes for very interesting writing, it doesn't always endear him to his readers.

But I've always said that most of the anger Brad receives from his writing is a self-created problem and he does it pretty intentionally. So it's hard to feel bad when everyone starts attacking him, after all, he sort of tries to get this shit started most of the time.

Mark Foote said...

Brass tacks. ow...

All sentient beings that I am aware of and probably most I'm not aware of are not yet enlightened.

Did Kapleau intend that readers of "Three Pillars of Zen" would learn to sit zazen out of a book? Some of his students and lineage holders say no, some say yes.

Shunryu Suzuki said to Blanche Hartman, "only zazen can sit zazen". Can that zazen be taught through words and books? Can it be taught, in the usual sense of the word?

I stood in a bookstore and read part of one of Thich Nhat Hanh's books. He was going good, until he got to the part about practice, and then there was a misconnect. I had a T-shirt once that showed two mathematicians in front of a chalkboard covered with scribbles, and one was pointing at a particular place in the scribbles and saying, "and then a miracle happens...". I felt like Hanh's explanation worked that way, and that's only par for the course. Most explanations of the teachings of the Gautamid and other amazing teachers work that way.

Brad actually steers away from explanation when he teaches zazen, and takes the safer route of teaching posture. At the same time, he examines what is out there being offered as an explanation of practice, and he has not found anything satisfactory. To me, that's what his blog is frequently about, and I agree.

I don't believe he considers the ANS explanations of his teacher as satisfactory, either, although in a funny way I do.

I'd like to repeat that if anyone has trouble getting back to sleep or waking up in the morning, I would like some feedback on my essay Waking Up and Falling Asleep. You can register to comment on my blog, and leave your results there. A gentleman in New York City who regularly woke up at 3am or 4am and couldn't get back to sleep was able to use the practice as I describe it to get back to sleep seven nights in a row.

Does his success have implications for teaching the practice of zazen?- well I'd like to think so, but I need more individuals who sit to put words to experience as he did. Thank you.


Jake Ritter said...

I think it's fairly obvious you were using an example of today's world, that philosophies like Buddhism are adapting to and turning it into a talk about being mindful of the way this kind of communication works. how cyber communication often takes out context, feeling, and real connection. it can accomplish that, but tends to be fairly informational.

it's pretty lame you even had to write this i think. but as buddha said 'be lamps onto yourself'. people seemed to take it to personally as you said with how they view someone like him.

but a view of someone is always incomplete no matter how well you know someone. you used him as an example, explained it and pretty much dropped him from what you were getting at in the post.

a talk on mindfulness related to communication in the modern world seems to have been wildly misinterpreted.

gniz said...

Mark, That was a great post, IMO. I wish Brad would actually say or write something like what you just did. Maybe you're right.

Brad doesn't do a lot of explaining in that way and I do believe that's a big plus, because the explaining reduces it down to something that the intellect can hold onto. That's a mistake, i think, when we do that.

My teacher almost never talks about things in a way that allows me to explain them or quantify my own experiences against his.

And you're probably right that he doesn't totally agree with the ANS explanation from Gudo, but out of respect to his teacher he doesn't take a big dump on it either....all of that is fine and well and good.

But Brad does intentionally foster a certain perception of himself, and at times it can be an impediment to real discourse. He's a really good writer and an even better provocateur, and thats great.

But sometimes he can appear frustratingly blind to how his provocations annoy or anger his readers. And occasionally he should be willing to flesh his ideas out further and stop speaking in such generalizations. His broad brush takedown of the term mindfulness is a great example of this tendency, because although he makes a point about a certain demographic of practitioners, he's incorrect that this is how most or nearly all Buddhists think about "mindfulness."

I reckon most serious practitioners understand that mindfulness is not just thinking really hard and concentrating on thinking about how cool it would be to be mindful. Most of us know that mindfulness is about coming back to it(whatever you choose to come back to) after finding yourself drifting into fantasy, daydreams, etc.

We can be aware of our thoughts while being mindful, we can be aware of our bodies, the sunrise, all of it. Mindfulness is not meant to be used as a way of simply attaching to thinking about mindfulness.

Old Boy said...

Zen Master wannabe Brad Warner wrote:

I wonder how many of the critics (not necessarily you, Gniz) are actually reading the blog posts. Because when I read them, I can't find me saying anything negative about TNH. Even when I say he doesn't wrote his own books, I'm not really saying that's a bad thing. It's just a true thing that I don't think most of his readers know.

This, coming from the same dude who wrote:

But, whereas I write my own Twitter posts, I doubt that Mr. Hanh sits in front of his Macbook and types his out for the world to see.

Geez, could the "I'm more authentic than the Thichster" ego trip be anymore subtle?

Mysterion said...



some who comment see, some are blinded by some conviction to an odd ideology or belief.

what is it that is gained?

what is lost?
(a way out of that 'mess' of your own making - with help form friends, family, and church.)

so many lost.

leave them spiritually impoverished.

leave them in their wildernesses.

voices crying out from nowhere with nothing to say.


"What's more, to those offended by Brad's post's title, just realise that he's not talking about THE actual TNH. He's talking about a virtual one with whom he does not agree. They're not the same."


it boils down to perception.

except when it doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, and curious... what's an example of when it doesn't boil down to perception?

Anonymous said...

It's true that people don't know that brad is a teacher. I didn't know. Where does he teach?

Dan_Brodribb said...

I always enjoy these threads. I often wonder if they're doing much for me though.

On one hand, I love hearing different perspectives and seeing things I wouldn't have thought of on my own. And I like drama that I'm not personally involved in.

At the same time I wonder if judging or defending Brad, TNH, or the commentors is actually a convenient distraction from looking at my own life.

I guess if I'm honest with myself I read it because I like reading it.

biosphere_oli said...

'The Sun My Heart' - there's another one he totally actually wrote.

Mysterion said...

anonymous asked:

"what's an example of when it doesn't boil down to perception?"

When you habitually sit in approximately the same place at the same time looking at the same wall (or vertical blinds) for a while (for many years, in my case), eventually everything that can stimulate your eye, ear, and brain becomes so common place, so mundane, and - to use Brad's term - boring, that perception is set aside. Then you start to see that things that you thought once mattered - a dent in your car door, &t, are really nothing. You just let the waves dissipate and exist in the calm - still - whatever. Then, you get up and just go live the day - with that somewhat level base as a beginning.

It's not perception, it just is.

Mysterion said...

I would just add:

Zazen is not an attraction.

Zazen is not a distraction.

Zazen can be a discipline, but I stopped thinking of it that way.

I suppose Zazen can be compared to wiping your ass. You do it for a number of reasons. But the bottom line is 'it needs to be done.'

john e mumbles said...

Or not. I initially wrote this just for Mark, who has already seen it, in a continuing response to his Waking Up & Going To sleep essay, but think it is virtually the same thing as Mysterion's "with that somewhat level base as a beginning," see what you think...

"You don't know whether you exist or not in deep sleep; you don't know you are, that is all.* You were not born at existed prior to your birth, your existence is eternal. -pg 85 Final Talks of Nisargadatta Maharaj

Reading this again this morning I understood that it is possible to access this* in the wakeful state, to carry the knowledge of your eternal existence beyond deep sleep into all areas of your life, until these distinctions are meaningless, just like "birth" is an arbitrary assignation for an experience (like all experience that we try to explain away) we do not really understand. Then your life becomes a deep well to draw from always, infinitely deep, rather than "this is birth, this is death, and what's in-between."

Peace, and have a great weekend, -John

anonymous anonymous said...

But a person shouldn't use Brad's blog to wipe it with..

Anonymous said...

zen master needed psicotherapy

Brad ,we need your opinion

Anonymous said...

This is all silly and anyone who takes it seriously is someone who takes it seriously. I don't.

*strikes the 'heil Hitler' pose while standing on zabuton and facing the wall*

Fred said...

"And occasionally he should be willing to flesh his ideas out further and stop speaking in such generalizations. His broad brush takedown of the term mindfulness is a great example of this tendency, because although he makes a point about a certain demographic of practitioners, he's incorrect that this is how most or nearly all Buddhists think about "mindfulness."

The body/mind can be dropped
through choiceless awareness of
what is, and not clinging anywhere.
And you don't have to sit or call
yourself a " buddhist "

Korey said...

Mysterion, gimme your email buddy

Cidercat said...

How's Crum doing? Are you still looking for a new owner?

Anonymous said...

ahahahah, man, people just need to caaaalm doown. Leave the poor cute ol' man alone, and leave Brad alone cuz he's cutter...and you know...right >.<

Anonymous said...

great post: Anonymous said...

zen master needed psicotherapy

Brad ,we need your opinion

Thanks but I don't think at this junction we need brads opinion.

Brad you should try to get into the writing program at the university of Iowa. There are things in your writing that you won't look at or refuse to see. The writing program has great professors and has a long history of great writers.

Chuck the Rifleman said...

Brad, you should shut down your blog and stop trying to be the Hardcore "Zen" Peter Pan, as Mysterion has so aptly pointed out. At this point, even Jundo Cohen commands a more respectable and stable online presence. Your repeated attempts to stay relevant and in the blogosphere news have reduced you to little more than a slightly-entertaining afterthought.

But then again, I'm sure you can write this off as an attack from a "hater."

Anonymous said...

I'm somewhat worried about brad.

Brad we love you.Truly. I think we should be more compassionate towards Brad. I know I should. I've been harsh. I'm sorry and worried about him. Keep well , focused and unrelenting when doing so. Peace

Fred said...

. "What Jeffrey has done is indicate that forgetting the self is not a constructive approach. What one needs to do from a psychoanalytic perspective is remember the self.”

This story is fiction, although
there may be something to the idea
that damaged humans might be
attracted to the negation of self
through spiritual practice.

Captcha: fockies


Anon, I'm not worried about the guy, though it's fairly clear that he's ridden this wave about as far as it can go. Time to get on with life now.

These articles totally suck and the guy has nothing more to say.

Fred said...

Waking up and going to sleep my
fellow fockies. The self is
hypnotized with the sleep of human
culture. To dream or to be awake,
does it really matter. The universe
is imagining it is you.

Anonymous said...

The universe is imagining it is you.

That's a great line if I do say so myself :)

justin said...

My good friend was working at Omega during a tnh retreat, he was so excited to get a glimpse of him he almost ran him over with a golf cart. At the time he beat himself up for his lack of "mindfulness", now he mostly laughs.

Anonymous said...

"Shut up! The number one enemy of progress is questions!"-Jello Biafra

Didn't the original tell his students to both question authority and also be a lamp unto themselves?

Things as they might be, wish they were, or things as they *are*?

It is perfectly fine to question and make up your own mind.

This is why I like Brad and his ideas. It may not be idealistically correct, but it does make some damn interesting and/or humorous reading.


biosphere_oli said...

The universe is imagining it is you.

It is pretty sweet. I'm totally going to use thst to show off with. Just got to inveigle someone into a conversation about the meaning of life and start preaching at them. Shouldn't be hard.

Anonymous said...

yes yes be a lamp unto yourself

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Foote said...

thanks, Gniz.

I'd say it's important for those who take Brad to task to remember that his number one audience is Brad, and his success depends on his ability to speak to Brad, and if you can help him in some way that were well. Of course, you must simultaneously help yourself, or you have helped no one. It's my opinion, and as my father used to say, it's very true.

On mindfulness, I'm reminded of Dogen's "nonthinking", which he said was the pivot of zazen. Is this not waking up and falling asleep? Where the mind goes, how the ability to feel returns to where the mind goes, waking or sleeping.

If we sleep when we see the sunrise, where we sleep we are well; if we wake when we see the sunrise, where we wake we are well.

Good morning, where am I! I like that one.

Anonymous said...

Some of you guys seem to be seriously trippin'. I don't think Brad could be any clearer in his last couple of posts. To me, his writing even has improved. Seems like he is touching a nerve.

It's crazy the assumptions and presumptions that are being made here but I guess you see what you want to see.


Anonymous said...

Please don't e-mail a virus to Mysterion. I understand that it may be very tempting but please exercise some compassion and restraint.

Please don't open any attachments that Korey sends to you. Heed the wise words of Admiral Ackbar: "It's a trap!" (Probably.)

Anonymous said...

"Some of you guys seem to be seriously trippin'. I don't think Brad could be any clearer in his last couple of posts. To me, his writing even has improved. Seems like he is touching a nerve.

It's crazy the assumptions and presumptions that are being made here but I guess you see what you want to see.


I agree whoa !!!!

Anonymous said...

"To me, his writing even has improved"

Really? Lets be real for a moment. 99.9% of all infomercial writers(self help,religious) are pretty much hacks when it comes to writing. They are aren't very well read.They don't have a clue about the craft and really don't seem to care. I'm not saying you have to as one poster said go to the university of Iowa to improve your writing skills but good writing is very very difficult. Anyone can go to the keyboard just start typing. To write well is an endless task

Old Boy said...

"To me, his writing even has improved"

It's not Brady's writing. It's his gargantuan ego that's the problem. Brady wants to take on the "big boys" in his snide, passive-agressive way and when his cover is blown, hides behind flowerly language: "Thich Naht (btw the correct spelling is "Nhat", Brady) Hanh will never see what I wrote about him."/Who is Thich Naht Hanh?"

But you can see just how he couldn't resist the urge to state his superiority to the "Thichster" (Brad's dissrespectful nickname for a Buddhist master): "who claim to be writers but don't actually do the work annoy those of us who really write our own stuff." His envy is so obvious for those whose eyes are open.

Btw, I don't even like Thich Nhat Hanh very much. Nor do I particularly dislike Brady. It's just some hard truths which I offer in return for his blog and books (which I read avidly for years and I've progressed from giving him the benefit o' the doubt to realizing that the ego trip is really getting old). He is actually under the impression that he has some effectiveness as a "teacher". How can someone who is busy trying to prove his "street cred" as the bad boy of Buddhism be of any use in teaching you to jettison your attachments?

You know what they say about the blind leadin' the blind...

Charlie Crew said...

“The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”
― David Foster Wallace

Charlie Brown said...

"To me, his writing even has improved"

Beavis: um er you said, " improved"

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
― David Foster Wallace

Fred said...

"No, Perfectly Enlightened One. A 'Non-returner' is merely a name. There is actually no one returning and no one not-returning."

Who is Thich? No-one, just like You
and I.

Mysterion said...

Charlie Brown said:

"... it’s terror of the flames."

Good description of Christianity.

Wolfgang Brinck said...

We read one of Hahn's books at a class. It was a slightly edited version of a series of talks he had given.
I think the editing consisted of spell checking and making sure sentences were complete and terminated by periods. Other than that, there was no attempt to organize any of the material or turn the verbal rambling into a coherent book. In a way, transcribing audio and passing it off as a book is a kind of fraud. I am sure that hardly anyone cares. Followers of Hanh are probably eager to read anything that comes from him so they won't feel cheated.
But to record whatever the man says and package it as a book is what? not some kind of vanity? Can anyone else go around and record himself and then have that transcribed into books? Maybe Wilber.

john e mumbles said...

Mysterion at 8:46 PM said:

"Choose the other disciplines too, Yoga, Tai Chi, Red Hat**, &t."

By "Red Hat" he possibly means many things, high ranking Tibetan Buddhists, Little Old Ladies Who Wear Purple (and red hats) societies, or perhaps he is alluding to the "red cap" called liberia in the Mithraic rituals, a masonic symbol of the supreme mark of initiation.

Or not.

Anonymous said...

gniz said..."Plenty of writers are making really good money at ebooks. I've been making as much as I made at my old 9-5 corporate gig for the last year. And by the way, that's JUST my Aaron Niz books."

Brad said in an interview on Digression Sessions, "One guy really did tell me and I don't think he was lying that he was making $400 a day. But the thing was he was publishing all these Twilight rip-offs."

Brad, Are you saying that Gniz rips off other writers? Funny you never refer to your own music rip-offs as such.

Brad Warner said...

I didn't mean to imply Gniz was ripping anyone off. I was using very poorly thought-out shorthand to try and say that his books were totally different from mine.

And anyway, I don't think they have anything to do with Twilight.

Sometimes it happens that a writer is able to write sincerely in a genre that just happens to already be popular. If a book sells well that's an indication of some level of quality and some level of real individuality.

Anonymous said...

"Can anyone else go around and record himself and then have that transcribed into books?" - Wolfgang Brinck

I seem to remember reading that was how almost all of OSHO's (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh's) books were written.

Anonymous said...

Brad.. Of course you meant to imply it. Because it was more than implying, it was given as a statement of truth. It was you saying in so many words, "I could make a lot of money with my writing if I wrote more crap."

You might be right as far as that goes, but to say you didn't mean to imply is just spinning away from the truth. Doing that is worse than your original statement.

Moni said...

Well about the e-publishing topic..Money is also just a tool at the end. Some might find it cheap to buy yourself mental freedom from society for money, but for example I do not. I think those people who can write and can earn good money with it, and had a sad and anxious life with their 9-5 daily job, make a good choice when they choose e-publishing and self-employment.

Plus you can use the money you earn not only to support yourself, but also your family and any good cause you think is important according to your values.

Sogyal Rinpoche said at the end of one of his books, that in today's world we need also bodhisattva economists, politicians etc. It is very naive to think that everything which has to do something with money is always bad and people who are financially successful sell themselves off.

gniz said...

For the record, I don't care that Brad described it the way he did. Those books are not the books I am talking about when I say that my Aaron Niz books are making me as much as I used to make at my old corporate gig.

My Aaron Niz books are pretty much adult thrillers, and they are also doing very well for me. I also operate under various under pen names that are pitching in substantially.

But the books Brad refers to are not something I've ever talked about in my blog nor do I intend to as they are collaborative and so they tend to muddy the water a bit.

The reason I can tell Brad that I know ebooks work is because through my various pen names, as well as other people I've advised, I've personally seen that ebooks, when approached correctly, can earn a substantial amount of money.

If Brad does ebooks the right way I'm almost 100 percent he'll make at least double what he's making off of his print books currently.

What I'm not at all certain of is whether or not Brad can or wants to look at ebooks with an open mind and do what needs to be done to have that success.

Anonymous said...

Gniz, The thing that confuses me about Brad is not what he said and what he meant, which seem perfectly obvious.
But whether he really believes that he didn't mean it. He either meant it or mispoke or is now deliberately fudging the truth.

It seems he is able to defend his ego by dismissing what really happened and replacing it with a version of reality that puts him in a better light. I'm wondering is whether this is unconscious or not and what it says about the value of 20 years of sitting and it's relationship to the truth.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that too. If it's true it's probably unconscious. Projection onto others is based on resistance to observing in one's self. I'm speaking from experience. It's hard to see your defects and even harder to have someone else point them out.

Anonymous said...

The sun doesn't really set its just an illusion.
The mind is not full its just an illusion.
who is thich? Don’t know

Anonymous said...

brad have written any fiction?

Fregas said...

One of your best posts yet, and as usual I totally appreciate your anti-establishment slant on things.

But Brad...I have to ask:do you like ANYONE mainstream?

Troll/Moron said...

*puts on monk robes and engages in an activity that is defined as fun by much younger people who typically mock older people who try and act like them*

The Onion Knight said...

"brad have written any fiction?"

He most certainly has. Something called DEATH TO ALL MONSTERS.

The Onion Knight said...

"But Brad...I have to ask:do you like ANYONE mainstream?"

I'm sure he likes TNH just fine. He's merely trying to get attention and blog hits. It's just a ploy to get noticed. He's chasing the idea of doing this.. uh.. whatever he's doing.. for the rest of his life.

But I would bet you that he "likes" lots of "mainstream" people and things.

Anonymous said...

Brad is Very Main stream. Look around? Monster tshirts, punks bands.


Nick cave can actually write :


and Books

Jeckyl said...

Brad, Do you read the Twilight books while listening to ABBA?

Incredulus said...

I thought DEATH TO ALL MONSTERS was his expose on Gempo, Jundo, Lady Gaga fans,everybody he hates, etc.? Its fiction?

Anonymous said...

He hates those people, yet openly professes admiration for Hitler and Charles Manson? Go figure.

Yeah right Brad, Manson and Hitler experienced kenso. LOL, you tool.

Katageek said...

Wow. Such mean people posting mean things meanly proving that a mean existence is still the mean for most meanies.

All Brad said is he thinks a guy is wrong and why.

I think that in ten minutes with Thich Naht Hanh I could give him a multiple choice test with questions out of the World Almanac and I could find he was wrong on a lot of things.

Being wrong is no big deal. Cuz if you are not wrong enough you aren't living enough. I suggest people get out there and be wrong more!

Wrong. It's the new right.

Anonymous #2 said...

"Wrong. It's the new right."

That's right!

And for all the meanies out there who don't think it's possible for Thich to ever be wrong, get real!

john e mumbles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Red Hat Linux, surely??

Pjotr said...

I am never wrong!

Wow this blog is good practice, trying not to get entangled in anger or whatsoever. Or mental tripping about what somebody I dont even know says.
I like this provocative style.
And I am afraid mister Brad is right about that people actually don't properly read his blog posts.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Brad is getting blasted on Treeleaf.

Anonymous said...

Wrong link. Try this one.

Anonymous said...

WTF?!? Fucked up site!

Anonymous said...

"I" am TNH. I am also Brad Warner. Then again, Brad Warner is TNH. Or vice versa.

What I REALLY want to know is: If Brad Warner could have ANY kind of bass, what make and model would it be, and how many strings?

paul said...

Brad, I hope you will take a little time and reflect on your "attitude" and why you are cultivating it to be this way rather than another way. It seems you are quite full of yourself at this stage.

Anonymous said...


Brad is trying to hold on to his writing/speaking career. This direction he has taken is apparently how he has decided he can hang on just a little longer. He's not a prick in real life, but he has traded in his authentic attitude towards others for this online character of his. He always includes just enough of himself in his posts, so that his defenders can hop on and claim that they see the 'truth' in what he has posted and accuse others of being stupid or not reading the post or trolling, etc.

It's quite disingenuous, but subtle. There's just enough of the real guy in there that it's tricky.

Anonymous said...

Time to reinvent yourself, Hardcore Man.

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lineage & community

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