Brad Warner’s Blog Sucks?

Shhhhh.....Godzilla hides as Zen Rock

Shhhhh.....Godzilla hides as Zen Rock

I Kid.  I like Brad’s blog and his writings.  The comment section can annoy the hell out of me sometimes but I read them anyway. So don’t moderate the comments, let people talk and bitch and be themselves.  

 Something that Brad recently posted and Arun (from Angry Asian Buddhist) commented on.

(From Brad Warner) I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I don’t keep this blog as a way of teaching Zen. Zen cannot be taught via the Internet or on a blog. Same as you couldn’t teach someone how to play basketball via the Internet or on a blog

Sure you could teach a lot about basketball via the Internet, its history, its major players, statistics, descriptions of playing techniques. You could even put up some helpful videos or give advice to people who emailed questions. But you couldn’t really teach basketball that way. You would need to be face-to-face in the same gymnasium. No two ways about it.

People imagine you could teach Zen via the Internet because they imagine that Zen is an intellectual philosophy, they imagine that the words are the philosophy. But they aren’t, not anymore than the words in a blog about basketball are the real act of playing basketball.

Basketball and Zen are hardly the same thing and I’m not surprised when a Roshi insists that they are necessary to the study of Zen when for the most part they aren’t.  I do agree that practice requires some face-to-face at times to deepen the experience but it is hardly necessary for that face to face to be with a “Roshi”.  My small group of practitioners aid in my practice twice a week and I push myself daily.  Zen is not a team sport.  It is more like wrestling (to continue with silly sports analogies).  The only way to really learn is to throw down.

I do agree that Zen is not primarily an intellectual process – it is a process of doing.  So Fuck the Roshi and Fuck the Blogs!  Just sit when you can and if you need help with it go to what resources are available.  If those are only online then go there.  If you have a teacher to focus your practice then fantastic.  Use what you have but don’t attach to it.

You see, Brad, the ACT of Zen does not require you or me or Jundo or Junko or anyone else.  While just reading about Zen (say….in one of your books) or on a blog post is worthless without us actually practicing it.  All that is needed is a person and a desire to practice, nothing else.  Everything else is supplementary – helpful but supplementary.




18 thoughts on “Brad Warner’s Blog Sucks?

  1. I read the entire post on Brad’s blog before coming over here. Nowhere did I get the impression that a Roshi is required. I see his point about the flesh and blood practice being better than sitting in a chair and reading Alan Watts all day, but I don’t think he’s saying that you need an Officially Licensed Zen Master to guide you. You need a cushion, time, and sangha. No simple blog will give you that.

  2. Perhaps I read too much into it but when he makes his analogy of basketball I see a “coach” looming in the background somewhere.

    I do agree, however, that the primary aspects of practice being drive. A cushion, time or sangha not needed.

    Happy Diwali and thanks for your comment!


  3. Yea, i agree with Jack, it is practice, cushion time can be found when you are driving or when you are eating. Cushion time is not limited to a perfect black Soto cushion in an ornate Sangha. If that were true, the Buddha himself would have never realized awakening.

    Good post!

    • Thanks Kyle.
      I go with most Roshis representing “Zen” as an organization while practitioners represent Zen. That being said, I think Brad is one of the better Roshis in the realistic way he frames Zen practice as well as the occassional ireverence that he shows organizational “Zen”.

      Shit, I have to change my name on the comments. I just noticed that it says “Jack”.

      Cheers and Happy Diwali!


  4. I visit brads blog from time to time and find I get caught up in reading the comments as well. I just shake my head and walk away. Brad Warner I think is a writer that had one good book in him and now is trying to make a career out of that forgeting all his years of sitting in the process. The drama that exists between him and Jundo (Treeleaf Zendo) is the stuff of soap operas.

    As Brad has pointed out ” This blog is NOT his forum for teaching, it is his medium for self-promotion” I struggle to see what Brad is “Self Promoteing” other than his SELF. Which I’m not really iinterested in, anymore than I care to know what Brittney Spears had for dinner last night.

  5. I’m totally with Zen River on this and you too John and I liked what you said…

    “All that is needed is a person and a desire to practice, nothing else. Everything else is supplementary – helpful but supplementary.”

    Well said. I don’t see you can’t accomplish most of what is done in a sangha via online and telephones. I think physical sanghas are great and i won”t advocate getting rid of them. It’s just that some people can’t do physical sanghas due to illnesses and such. People learn in different ways. Some people need the physical “feel” of a teacher and some do not. It’s not that one is any better than the other in my view.

    Conversations and seeing your teacher can easily be done online these days.

  6. Zen is about getting face to face with yourself. Not a roshi. Can a roshi help? Yes. But sitting is sitting with yourself. No one else can do that for you.

  7. I find the whole strong emphasis against the e-Sangha ironic to the teachings of Zen. My thoughts are the emphasis is made because it has to do more with institutionalized Zen than anything else.

    I mean, yes, Bodhidharma had teachers, but he also sat in a cave for nine f*$%ing years by himself!!! So apparently if you aren’t a master, you need to get in person with others, but if you are a master then nine years is all good (only masters can be hermits). In other words you need dharmic transmission before you can go it alone (which is also contrary to Zen teachings and the interconnectedness of all things).

    The way I look at it is that whatever karmic force has brought my life to where it is, I can still practice where I’m at. I still have Buddha-nature. Zen emphasizes zazen, not group contact exclusively.

  8. I think that some (not all) of these institutions (physical sanghas/temples) speak of their formal, physical nature to be the “only way” because they want to maintain the institution itself. It’s one thing to say that that they play an important role and can be very helpful for those who have access to it and/or learn better in person. However, to say Buddhism can not survive without physical interaction seems to me to be coming from clinging/attaching to an institution/building and position as a leader in a community. Let’s not restrict the Dharma by putting it in a box.

    Also, I think Jamie makes some excellent points.

  9. Hi,

    I’m one of those “annoying” people who post in the comments section of Brad’s blog 🙂

    I do think it was a big part of what made his blog interesting and I respected the fact that Brad was one of the few “gurus” or “masters” who subject themselves to really unfiltered criticism.

    So i have started a blog called Reblogging Brad Warner, and basically its a place for people to discuss his writings.

    Feel free to stop by!

    • Hey Aaron! I do enjoy the fact that Brad does not moderate like some others and will subject himself to some criticism.

      The comments section of his blog reminds me alittle of Pharyngula in that the comments almost have a life of its own and is reading destination in and of itself.

      Maybe I’ll go back and start commenting too…

  10. I live in a rather remote area in the South East with no easy access to any Zen centers…

    What does Warner suggest for those of us who have nothing BUT the internet to learn about Zen and Buddhism.

    If I follow his prescription, I might as well give up on Zen practice. Or, I could drive two hours to Nashville or 5 hours to Atlanta I suppose… if I could afford to.

    The internet is the one avenue I have which is supportive of my practice, ’cause I don’t see Warner opening shop in rural Alabama.

  11. Yeah and with the economy being what it is not everyone can spend the gas for a two hour trip to meditate with physical practitioners for an hour. I think some of these American teachers sometimes forget that not everyone lives on the east or west coast where most sanghas and temples are located here in America.

    Masters in Asia sometimes forget too that not everyone lives in a predominately Buddhist country where there is a temple on every street corner.

    I’d be much more likely to attend a physical sangha/temple if it was located in my neighborhood or near by. Driving an hour each way to attend sangha is not practical for me. That’s beside the mental illness, which prevents me from being around too much physical stimuli.

  12. While it may be true that you can’t “teach Zen” via the internet, the same, then, is true for in-person as well.

    Ultimately, it comes down to this: Zen can’t be taught.

    What do you get when you go to a Zen center? A group of people sitting zazen for 30 minutes, some kinhin, maybe more sitting, and a dharma talk (if the center has a qualified teacher)? Once and a while you can ask a question and get some advice about practice.

    What is it about that which is special, or better, or more complete than practice at home, sitting zazen, mindfully doing our work, maybe listening to a dharma podcast from one of the large Zen centers, reading a book from a Zen master, and emailing a teacher to ask about an issue?

    Because, to use the words of old dead Zen guys, “it’s all fingers pointing to the moon.”

  13. @Rick,

    Great points. The only thing that I can think of that may be missing is the interview with the teacher (dokusan), but I think Jundo Cohen does this.

    I listen to a LOT of podcasts from various dharma teachers (besides for all the blogs and websites I read), and though I have respect for what some teachers do, a lot of the Zen dharma teachers seem to have huge egos that get their jollies by hearing themselves speak.

    In fact, last night, I was listening to one preeminent Zen teacher discuss a particular koan and environmentalism. I was wondering what the hell he was talking about.

    Though it seems Zen teachers like stroking their cocks while everyone watches, the Vipassana teachers aren’t any better. Apparently, they get their jollies by stroking your cock for you.

    One thing I appreciate about Brad is that, for the most part, he is in to cutting away all the bullshit and getting down to practice.

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