Brad Warner teaches his Zen students ancient wisdom — Don’t be a jerk |311| by Alex Tsakiris | Apr 12 | Spirituality Please Share Share on Twitter Zen teacher and author Brad Warner uses the ancient teachings of Dogen to reinforce a simple idea — don’t be a jerk. photo by: Michelle Grimord Eggers There is a Zen monastery not too far from where I live in San Diego. It was established by the wonderful and venerable, Thich Nhat Hanh quite a few years ago and it’s still going strong today. I have visited a couple of times. It’s a great experience. You can enjoy the beautiful grounds while doing the walking meditation Thich Nhat Hanh is famous for. This is usually followed by a question and answer period with some of the senior monks. But the last time I was there the Q & A was preceded by an announcement that questions should not be philosophical, but only practical matters of applying the meditation practice. This peeved me for a couple of reasons. First, most of the questions I have in life are philosophical questions. And secondly, it just seemed like bad form. Why a question and answer period by limiting questions? I sat there and listened for a while and there were some really bad, non-philosophical questions, so I think they could have lightened up and allowed me to ask some of my dumb questions too. The takeaway for me — Zen isn’t my path. Of course, it’s not like I was going to go join the Deer Park Monastery and sit on a cushion for the next 20 years of my life, but on another level it’s exactly this kind of spiritual/quasi-scientific decision that defines our lives. We’re all opening and closing down paths of inquiry as we try and untangle the who am I, why am I here, questions. This process of exploring, sampling and questioning is what keeps Skeptiko alive for me and keeps bringing me back to these interviews like the one I have today with Zen teacher and ex-punk rocker, Brad Warner. What makes this particular conversation so interesting is that in talking to Brad I encountered someone who’s trying to make similar distinctions in his pursuit of the biggest of big picture questions. Give a listen and you might discover why he chose Zen and I didn’t. Brad Warner: The irony of it is, if you want to believe in reincarnation and I’m kind of an agnostic about it myself, but if you want to believe in reincarnation, this is your future life right here. So if it is about your next life, well, here you are in your next life as viewed from your past life. Are you any less confused now than in your past life? You don’t remember it but I would say you’re just sitting around being confused about everything and getting reincarnated didn’t really relieve that. So obviously, even if there is reincarnation that is not the answer. Alex Tsakiris: I like the way you just put that. At the same time, let me jump over to the other side. I do take the scientific method that drives us towards reincarnation. The best evidence we have suggests there’s this very strong case for reincarnation. Jim Tucker at the University of Virginia who’s followed up with the work of Ian Stevenson. Are you familiar with that body of work? Brad Warner: No. Not at all.