One's spiritual calling can come in odd and strange ways. For many it emerges at a moment of divine connection - perhaps through meditation or via communing with nature whilst for others it can occur in the blink of an eye.
For some it only arrives after years of personal searching and introspective analysis which shows that there are no rules that govern the process but when the Universe calls you had better make sure that you are ready.
Down in the Basement
Brad Warner, author of Harcore Zen, describes in the opening to his book how his 'calling to spiritual action' was initiated in a crummy basement bar in Ohio one night in midwinter.
As a punk rock musician he was used to the privations of being on the road and toting one's art from one dive to another but on that fateful night he openly questioned the very meaning of life and his own place in it.
From that questioning position - one that most of his contemporaries chose to avoid through drink and alcohol, he began a process of personal unfoldment that led his life in totally new and exciting directions.
Hardcore Zen is the account of that journey and the people that he met along the way.
Finding a Spiritual Home
Warner was ultimately to find his path led him into Buddhism. He is currently an ordained Buddhist priest who received Shiho (a Dharma transmission ceremony in which a student inherits the Dharma and is entrusted with the work of transmitting its lineage).
As a musician Warner started off his career in an early hardcore punk rock group called Zero Defex - a band that was contemporaneous with other acts at that time such as the Dead Kennedys, the Butthole Surfers and MDC.
Later on he found a modicum of success playing Syd Barrett-influenced, neo-psychedelia under the band name Dimentia 13 but it was his strengthening connection to the Buddhist tradition that ultimately led him to Japan to make a living creating B-grade Japanese monster movies (his description and not mine!)
Hardcore Zen is a re=issue some ten years after its original penning but has been updated and refreshed for a new audience. It is available from Wisdom Publications.
Our Review of 'Hardcore Zen' by Brad Warner
We recently reviewed another of Brad Warner's later books 'Don't Be a Jerk' and gave it some praise for its clear, fun and engaging writing style. Hardcore Zen is written with the same healthy sense of irreverence.
As is the case in all the biographical books that we review we have chosen not to include too much of Warner's personal account of his life here for fear of ruining the story for those who might decided to purchase the book for themselves.
However, it is worth commenting on the book's overall tone which we found to be more 'punk' in its attitude than 'Zen'. That is not to say that it is not a good commentary on Buddhism because, as the story deepens and Warner becomes increasingly drawn into the complexities of Buddhist thought it delves into some very deep aspects of the philosophy.
Do the two worlds of American punk and Eastern Buddhism collide or are they strangely mutual bed-fellows?
Oddly enough the sense of anarchy that overlaid the punk rock movement is also reflected in the core tenets of Buddhism. They are both concerned with the freeing of the spirit from the confines of gross materialism and so the screaming feedback of guitars through Marshall amps and the calm transcendent meditation practice of focussing on singing bowls oddly make great companions.
So, in summing up, Hardcore Zen is a great read. It crosses two very different but parallel worlds and takes it reader on a fascinating and rewarding journey of spiritual exploration.