Don’t Be A Jerk
I was recently asked in my meditation group what book I was reading or had read recently that inspired me. For me the answer was pretty simple. “Don’t Be a Jerk” by Brad Warner.
This book is such an entertaining and informative read. I laughed out loud many times at the gentle irreverence of the writing. The book is never disrespectful, but always challenges Dōgen’s masterwork Shōbōgenzō to speak to a modern audience. There are plenty of footnotes in order that you can follow your own path of study.
This is clearly a man that knows the subject like the back of his hand. In the same way that a jazz musician must learn the rules in order that she break them, Mr Warner is a learned scholar of Dōgen that reads the text in such a way that makes sense to the modern reader. It is a cover version that finds inspiration in between the notes of the original. His interpretation is offbeat but instantly recognisable as the source.
Mr Warner boils Dōgen down so a singular phrase. “Don’t be a jerk and do the right thing.” This simple phrase is a wonderful way of looking at Zen and indeed any kind of spiritual teaching. I have long argued at those who might listen that the message of all religions is “Don’t be a dick.” The addition of “do the right thing” rounds the whole thing off into a phrase all can live by.
Brad Warner can be found at Hardcore Zen where he regularly posts videos and blog posts. He’s cool, go check him out.