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The Beer O’Clock Interview 2005

Poster for my speak in Montreal in 2005 that later grew to become the quilt of my ebook Sit Down and Shut Up

The next is a radio interview I did in Montreal in 2005 with Thibault DuChene. Thibault was then a grad pupil in psychology who was very all for Zen. He was a pupil of Albert Low, a Zen trainer and creator primarily based in Montreal. Thibault additionally ran a radio present known as The Beer O’Clock for a neighborhood faculty station.

I don’t normally like my very own interviews. However this one got here out sorta good. Thibault requested some higher questions than radio interviewers normally do. That gave me an opportunity to attempt to clarify what this Buddhist stuff is about as finest I might. I initially transcribed this interview to make use of it in my ebook Sit Down and Shut Up. However I lower it from the ebook earlier than publication. So, though it’s now 15 years previous, I’d prefer to current the interview to you right here. Get pleasure from.

This system begins off with an introduction by a man who feels like both a grizzled previous cowboy on the vary or a clever, however drunk-off-his-ass previous man in a nook bar. So think about that as you learn the introduction he gave me:

Brad Warner is simply one man however he wears a complete lot of strange-ass hats. He’s a Zen priest, a punk rock front-man and he’s additionally the creator of the hipster handbook ‘Hardcore Zen’ And the way does he discover the time to slide into Godzilla costumes and make Japanese monster films? Tune in to search out out. Maintain your ears on it’s gonna get unusual

Thibault: So tonight our visitor is Brad Warner. Brad Warner is a punk rocker, Monster Film maker and creator and Zen priest. He’s right here in Montreal for the Fantasia Movie Pageant. So, Brad, what’s Zen?

Brad: What’s Zen? Ooooh that’s a troublesome query. An American I met final week was saying it’s like Buddhism with out all of the hoo ha, with out all the large trappings and spiritual wanting issues. 

It’s a really austere follow, very quiet, centered on a form of meditation. I don’t even like to make use of the phrase “meditation” as a result of I believe it’s fairly completely different from what individuals normally consider as meditation. Nevertheless it’s known as zazen. In zazen follow you sit within the lotus posture together with your toes up crossed and have a look at a wall for a very long time. 

Zen is a department of Buddhism which tried to get again to the unique instructing that Buddha taught 2500 years in the past, earlier than quite a lot of different issues obtained layered on prime of it, making it into one thing extra like a faith than a philosophy. 

It’s onerous to make use of the phrases appropriately, as a result of while you say the phrase “faith,” individuals have quite a lot of completely different pictures what that phrase means. However to me, it strips away all of the non secular features and will get down to the core of the philosophy.

Thibault: Now, you simply mentioned you have got a reluctance to make use of the phrase meditation. What’s the distinction between meditation and zazen? 

Brad: Properly, typically meditation means you’re sitting in your lotus posture together with your legs all twisted collectively and also you’re making an attempt to realize some type of particular psychological state which is normally described to you by your trainer or by books, or no matter. You would possibly chant, otherwise you would possibly repeat in your thoughts some type of phrase time and again otherwise you would possibly type of visualize one thing. There are numerous completely different practices. 

In zazen you’re mainly sitting in the identical posture together with your legs crossed and your again straight and also you’re looking at a wall, however you’re not making an attempt to “get” something out of that follow. You’re simply sitting there, not notably making an attempt to cease your ideas however not notably making an attempt to have ideas or take into consideration one thing in particular. It’s not actually a psychological follow, whereas, I believe, meditation normally entails quite a lot of psychological gymnastics, quite a lot of tips together with your mind. I believe the method of zazen is much more invaluable ultimately as a result of what you see is what’s actually there, what’s actually your life and what you actually are with out the entire trappings that you simply’ve laid on prime of it in your thoughts and your ideas.

Thibault: What’s the finish level of zazen?

Brad: Ah, the top level is the start level. That feels like a great “Zen” saying, however it actually is that approach. There’s nothing you’re making an attempt to attempt for, nothing you’re making an attempt to realize. It’s true that in the event you do that follow for a number of years there may be some type of readability of thoughts that you simply obtain. It took about fifteen years of every day zazen for me earlier than I began to essentially see this. So it’s fairly gradual. However, I might additionally say that in the event you’re doing the follow appropriately you possibly can obtain a type of readability of thoughts proper from the very starting. Solely you could not discover it, which is a humorous type of factor about zen. 

You’ll want to study to be happy with modifications which you can’t discover. Like while you’re rising up, you don’t discover that you simply’re rising up. Instantly you’re fifteen years previous and 5 years later you’re twenty and also you didn’t “attempt” to turn into twenty from being 5. However quite a lot of modifications happened throughout that point and after the modifications have taken place you possibly can look again on it and say, “Ah, issues have modified.” It’s a bit just like that form of course of.

Thibault: Some individuals have criticized quite a lot of Buddhism within the west — that they’ve diluted it. I’ve heard of a Zen centre within the U.S. that taught their college students to meditate whereas watching TV. Is there such a factor as sofa potato Zen? Is there simple Zen?

Brad: No (chuckles) I’m afraid not. I’ve by no means heard about doing Zen whereas watching TV however it sounds fairly ridiculous to me. I’ve seen quite a lot of issues. After I see a few of what’s occurring in America in Buddhism and Zen, quite a lot of it’s fairly unhealthy. There isn’t actually a straightforward approach and that’s in all probability one of many causes that actual Zen will not be ever going to be actually massive. Finally it might turn into well-liked, however it received’t turn into well-liked till individuals cease in search of for straightforward methods out. 

However, however, you could possibly additionally say, in one other approach that Zen is very simple, as a result of all you actually need to do for the follow is simply sit there taking a look at a wall, and it’s nothing notably complicated to that.

Thibault: Then why do individuals discover it so tough?

Brad: They discover it tough as a result of they wish to obtain one thing. They need a outcome. I believe that’s quite a lot of what occurs. 

In case you can study to be happy with what you might be proper now at this second, then Zen is extraordinarily simple. However I believe most of us attempt to run away from no matter we’re at this second. We’re looking for one thing higher — it doesn’t matter what it’s

Thibault: So are you saying that we must be complacent?

Brad: No, no, not complacent. Complacency is while you type of surrender no matter you’re making an attempt to do — there’s no hope and nothing is ever going to alter. And that’s not what Zen is about. It’s a really energetic factor, however it’s energetic in that you’re making an attempt to actually see what you might be at this explicit second proper now and never run away from it — which is tough to do. So it’s not one thing you possibly can take very flippantly.

Thibault: What’s awakening? As a result of a lot of individuals assume that to follow is to turn into woke up, to be enlightened, to see what different Zen masters have seen previously

Brad: You are able to do that. You’ll be able to see what different Zen masters have seen previously. What different Zen masters have seen previously is seeing what they honestly had been at that second. And that’s the necessary factor. Folks type of romanticize it. They assume that the good Zen masters of the previous had some nice, great expertise of enlightenment, or awakening, or no matter they’re gonna name it and so they wish to obtain that expertise. Which means they wish to really expertise this factor they’ve learn and heard about, which is totally completely different from experiencing your actual life simply as it’s. 

You’ll be able to’t obtain any individual else’s expertise. You’ll be able to solely obtain your individual expertise, and in the event you study to try this, what you’ll discover out is that your individual expertise and your individual life is de facto one thing common, one thing that features the whole universe in addition to your self, which sounds mystical, however that’s the way in which it’s.

Thibault: What differentiates a great actor from a Zen grasp?

Brad: That’s a great query. Really I’ve seen a couple of good actors masquerading as Buddhist masters and what differentiates them is type of within the high quality of what they are saying. As a result of in the event you’re appearing at it you’re all the time pointing someplace else. You wish to obtain this expertise of “over there.” It’s not the place you might be proper now. “In case you do that, then you’ll have the good expertise sooner or later,” or “I, the Zen grasp, have had this nice expertise previously and now you possibly can imitate that nice expertise in the event you comply with my steps.” I don’t agree with that strategy in any respect. Zen is rather more straight-forward than that, rather more practical or in tune with what’s actually occurring at this explicit time on this explicit place.

Thibault: So what are a number of the qualities of a great Buddhist trainer?

Brad: I don’t know…. honesty…it’s tough to say as a result of after I … when I first encountered my present trainer — who’s a  man named Gudo Nishijima — I went to his lectures, and I believed he was horrible. I believed he was simply terrible, and didn’t like him in any respect. However, for some motive I saved going again. 

On the time he did lectures each week. And, so I might go to his lectures and I might hate them after which I might come again the subsequent week and go to a different one and I saved doing this time and again till I lastly realized that what he was saying was one thing very significant and essential. However I used to be resisting that. 

So it’s tough to present any type of simple reply to what makes a great Zen trainer. It’s not like one thing you possibly can see visually. It’s not like you possibly can…you recognize…if he’s obtained a shaved head and he’s obtained the right robes he have to be a great trainer. It’s form of an intuitive matter. In case you come throughout a great trainer and you’re feeling… (pause)

In my case — so far as my mind was involved, so far as my pondering thoughts and pondering equipment — my present trainer was horrible. However I had type of an intuitive understanding that what he was saying was extraordinarily honest and intensely necessary, so even when I couldn’t agree with any of it, I might nonetheless see that there was this sense of sincerity coming from him. I didn’t discover that type of sincerity fairly often from different individuals. 

Thibault: What precisely do you wish to talk together with your ebook, Hardcore Zen?

Brad: I had two completely different academics — I had a trainer after I was in America after which after I went to Japan I discovered a unique trainer — and each of them instructed me “you need to write a ebook.” And I believed, “I can’t write a ebook — particularly I can’t write a ebook about Buddhism as a result of I don’t know something about Buddhism.” However I saved being inspired to jot down a ebook. 

So I simply began writing a ebook about Buddhism and I believed that what I used to be writing was so unusual, was so completely different from what I’d ever learn that had the phrase Buddhism on the quilt that there can be no viewers for this and there can be no approach anybody would ever publish this or would ever wish to learn it. So, I did what lots of people do lately cuz it’s low-cost and simple — I put up an internet site. And I obtained quite a lot of good response from that web site which shocked me. I didn’t anticipate anybody to learn it and right here I used to be getting emails from readers virtually day by day who — a few of them didn’t prefer it in any respect — however most of them did. So I continued on with that and I made it right into a ebook.

So – I assume what I’m making an attempt to say within the ebook is: be trustworthy and be honest and have a look at what you actually are actually and sincerely, which is one thing fairly tough. I believe most of us miss that and I believe quite a lot of the difficulty on the planet is as a result of individuals can’t have a look at themselves actually. They’ve quite a lot of illusions about themselves and so they have quite a lot of illusions about different individuals and people illusions are in battle. And when these illusions are in battle individuals struggle with one another over nothing, over what ultimately is simply two completely different interpretations of the of the very same actuality. They’re combating over the interpretations — which is a foolish factor to struggle over. It’s lots higher to only have a look at the true scenario and take care of the true scenario  than to struggle over numerous interpretations of it.

Thibault: However I believe it’s much more than tough — it’s simply not understanding find out how to do it, not understanding find out how to be trustworthy and honest

Brad: Hmm…it’s tough ..I imply the follow of zazen is sweet since you’re sitting there quietly and simply observing no matter comes up. And quite a lot of issues will come up in the event you’re sitting there. You’re not directing your ideas otherwise you’re not making an attempt to do something specifically besides simply see what comes up. You’ll see that your thoughts is stuffed with quite a lot of actually…. quite a lot of nonsense that you simply don’t want and it may be a really tough course of to study to acknowledge the nonsense that your individual thoughts comes up with.

I even wrote about that within the ebook in a chapter, which I known as I Consider Demons’ however, you recognize, I used to be simply making an attempt to dramatize it a bit. Whenever you really begin seeing the issues in your thoughts which can be simply full nonsense, that you simply’ve held onto very, very tightly and also you don’t wish to let go of, it may be actually, actually tough. I really assume it’s harder to let go of these illusions. 

I believe this is the reason individuals have wars and struggle and do all these horrible issues — take medicine or no matter they’re doing with their lives, these horrible issues that they do. As a result of it’s simpler to try this than to face what you actually are, and say, “I’m simply stuffed with nonsense and a lot of the issues I care most about are simply nonsense and I have to allow them to go.” That’s tough to do.

Thibault: So how does one follow extra sincerely, with extra need? How does one actually query?

Brad: Properly actually questioning is…. you simply need to maintain questioning and it’s a must to maintain wanting and you may’t be happy with any reply that your thoughts comes up with. And that’s type of the tough factor as a result of typically your thoughts will provide you with nice solutions that appear to be actually improbable and hit the mark precisely. Nevertheless it’s simply what your ego is coughing up at you — all of the stuff you’ve heard earlier than. So it’s worthwhile to query all the things even when you recognize that one thing is completely proper and completely true it’s a must to query that as nicely, you possibly can’t be afraid of questioning.

Thibault: What I discovered most fascinating about your ebook is while you had been speaking about desires. You made it fairly clear {that a} dream stays only a dream and you may have the right job, the right lady, the right no matter in your dream, however in the event you really do get it you then notice all of the hassles that include having a job, even having the so and so excellent lady.

Brad: Yeah, I believe that’s actually necessary since you all the time have an phantasm that there’s going to be some excellent world someplace else and in the event you can solely get to that excellent world all the things will probably be excellent. 

In my very own case — my very own desires had been type of foolish. I needed to work in Japan in an organization that made these silly monster films and I dreamed of doing that since I used to be a child and I lastly obtained that job. And when I obtained that job I discovered  it didn’t repair all the things. It didn’t resolve all the things. 

I assume that this occurs to lots of people. Whenever you hear about these well-known individuals who have some huge cash and quite a lot of energy killing themselves or performing some loopy factor it’s as a result of they’ve realized that their dream is only a dream. When it’s a dream it appears great. When it’s your actuality it’s one thing else completely. 

I used to have this concept that if individuals had some huge cash they may turn into safer and that is the explanation to have cash since you need safety and a secure scenario. And I might encounter individuals, as a result of I used to be within the leisure enterprise, who had been extraordinarily wealthy and who must be very safe and really joyful and so they weren’t. In reality they had been struggling much more than the opposite individuals — the peculiar individuals I knew — as a result of they had been all the time making an attempt to venture, they had been all the time making an attempt to enlarge no matter it’s they’d obtained and it simply appears to by no means cease.

Thibault: Is life an issue to be solved?

Brad: Life is to be lived and it’s probably not — there are issues and also you encounter these issues and also you resolve them one after the other and that’s the one solution to reside your life. So life itself will not be an issue to be solved. Life is only for residing.

Thibault: How is it that I’m liable for all the things?

Brad: How is it that you simply’re liable for all the things? That’s a tough query. It’s actually onerous. I keep in mind after I was 12 years previous I used to be fascinated with that music  ‘Sympathy for the Satan’ by the Rolling Stones and there’s a line that claims, “Who killed the Kennedys? Properly in any case it was you and me.” And I keep in mind having this dialogue with my good friend “How did I kill the Kennedys? Different individuals killed the Kennedys – I didn’t have something to do with it.” 

What he mentioned — and he was smarter than me — was that by making the Kennedys celebrities we contributed, everyone contributed, to their dying, by type of placing the highlight on them. So that you’re type of liable for all the things that occurs. 

In some stuff you’re liable for it in a really direct and private approach and a few issues that occur to you might be extra imprecise, or much less private. However you all the time have to simply accept that you’ve some accountability and in the event you can settle for that you’ve some accountability for all the things that occurs to you, your life turns into higher. Since you don’t blame different individuals otherwise you don’t enter the fantasy, “If solely this didn’t occur or if solely these individuals weren’t so unhealthy I might be joyful now”. In case you simply say to your self, “OK, I don’t perceive how I’m liable for this example. However I’m liable for it.” Then you have got much more freedom to behave and make a distinction and to enhance your scenario.

Thibault: However you continue to stand as not understanding what to do.

Brad: No person ever is aware of what to do. There’s a type of an phantasm that some individuals know what to do at each second and there are people who find themselves extraordinarily assured and act like they know what to do however they don’t know what to do any higher you then do. 

So not understanding what to do is usually a wonderfully superb scenario. I don’t know what to take action I’m simply going to do one thing. And in case your motion is honest and never motivated by some type of greed or anger or another adverse high quality or emotion then what you do will probably be proper. It is probably not excellent. It’ll by no means be excellent. It might’t be excellent. Nevertheless it received’t be the flawed factor to do. You simply do one thing that’s not motivated by greed or anger or ego, for need of a greater phrase.

Thibault: What’s there within the relationship between punk rock and a follow similar to zen?

Brad: Hmmm…for me the connection was the type of sincerity. The factor that attracted me to punk was that it was trustworthy. It wasn’t making an attempt to place some type of gloss on issues and making an attempt to make issues appear higher than they had been. 

Sometimes punk has the tendency to make issues appear worse than they are surely. However one of the best of the punk rock that got here out when I used to be concerned in it, and I believe nonetheless right this moment, is seeing issues actually and simply being simple about it and never falling into the trimmings. We didn’t wish to be rock stars. We weren’t making music to attempt to turn into well-known or to attempt to make some huge cash. We had been doing it as a result of we had been musicians and this is how we expressed ourselves and that is what it was.  And so, to me punk rock isn’t simply the style – you recognize, the loud, quick three chord rock music. It may be only a state of sincerity, a state of really being trustworthy with your self. With everybody.

Thibault: What does it imply to ‘stink of Zen’ and as a author, how do you keep away from that pitfall?  

Brad: What do you imply? The pitfall of simply faux terrible zen? 

Thibault: Yeah

Brad: Yeah …ummm…. I don’t know…I did it by simply saying what…. when individuals …academics instructed me I ought to write a ebook about Buddhism I checked out different books about Buddhism and thought “these are all horrible.” Properly not all of them, however quite a lot of them had been actually……..

Thibault: What made them horrible? 

Brad: Uh…they had been simply, er……dreamy…idealistic… idealistic will not be the phrase I would like…simply type of this dreamy, far-off high quality and gave the impression to be dwelling in quite a lot of fantasies about, you recognize, far-off lands and the Buddha. And so they had been very…they might be making an attempt to venture a picture. It will seem to be the author would normally be making an attempt to indicate everyone how splendidly Zen and the way calm he was and, “Don’t you assume I’m great and don’t you wish to imitate me and be great like I’m?”  

And I all the time felt that what Buddhism confirmed me was how silly I used to be and by extension how silly everyone was. And all I’m making an attempt to say in my books is, “Look, we’re all silly, so simply reside with it. Simply take care of it.” And so avoiding the pitfalls was….I couldn’t write a ebook just like the books I’d seen. That’s why I used to be reluctant to do it, as a result of I believed, “I can’t write a ebook like that.” So I simply wrote and no matter got here out was it. And that is the ebook. I simply wrote about my life and mentioned “right here it’s” and perhaps any individual’ll prefer it or perhaps they received’t however, anyway it’ll be on the market.

Thibault: However is there any approach out of this stupidity?

Brad: The best way out of the stupidity is to appreciate your individual stupidity. My trainer’s Buddhist title means ‘the way in which of stupidity.’ All people once they turn into a Buddhist, when you turn into initiated into Buddhism formally, you get a Buddhist title and the one his trainer gave him was “the way in which of stupidity.” 

So, when you notice that you might be silly you have got whole freedom as a result of the opposite facet of your stupidity is that you simply’re additionally God. I don’t like to make use of the phrase God, as a result of it’s such a loaded phrase. However you’re additionally the sum whole of the universe. You’re additionally the middle of the universe and the middle of the universe is stupidity itself. And to grasp that is to be fully free from ever having to attempt to reside as much as some type of fantasy you’ve created for your self, and simply be the place you might be.

Thibault: So, to complete it off, do you have got any final phrases?  

Brad: Final Phrases! Well-known final phrases. Yeah — I don’t know….. What do you normally say on the finish of an interview…?

Thibault: What’s all of it about ?

Brad: What’s all of it about? I don’t know. Who is aware of? No person is aware of?

Thibault: You’re a Zen priest

Brad: Yeah

Thibault: Don’t you recognize what it’s all about?

Brad: There’s a joke that goes like that, however it’s not fairly the way in which you mentioned. A man goes as much as Zen grasp — it’s really a really previous Zen story. A man goes as much as Zen grasp  and says, “What occurs to an individual after he dies?”  And the Zen grasp says, “I don’t know.” And the man says, “Whaddaya imply you don’t know? – you’re a Zen grasp.” And he says, “Yeah – however I’m not a lifeless one.” 

So, understanding what all the things is…understanding what it’s all about is what you’re residing now. That is what it’s all about and you may’t put that into phrases. So typically “I don’t know” is the easiest way to place it into phrases. As a result of “I don’t know” is the admission that you possibly can’t put it into phrases. 

Any time you attempt to put what it’s all about into phrases, you’re limiting it. And your actual expertise is past phrases. Which doesn’t imply that it’s one thing mystical or improbable, it’s simply past phrases. Like in the event you go to the bathroom within the morning and take a pee, you possibly can’t describe that in phrases, though it’s a standard, on a regular basis act that everyone goes by means of, you possibly can’t presumably put that act into phrases. And that’s the reality of each expertise, from an peculiar expertise like that to essentially the most great, mystical expertise any individual’s ever had – it nonetheless can’t be put into phrases.



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