Q&A with Brad Warner

Tonight I attended Angel City Zen Center’s Q&A with Brad Warner. Of course, Brad likes to say that the Q&A is only as good as the questions. I thought there were some good ones tonight. Here are quick notes on some of them.

Words: Are they frenemies?
Brad had a good comment that the words spoken by people are only approximations of what people really mean. As such, he tries to not use words that people say against them. That’s an admirable amount of compassion and understanding there.

Is Zen Buddhism what our society needs right now, or does Zen not care about society?
My take on this is, “How does Zen address capitalism?” The concept of ownership has never sit well with me. We were born without owning anything, literally. Then we die without being able to take anything with us. In between those two events, we are supposed to amass as much materialistic belongings as possible? I don’t recall so much what Brad had to say…

What’s the difference between desire and attachment? (This was my question.)
This part of Brad’s answer was most memorable for me: he said that desire arises, like emotions and thoughts, whereas attachment is the refusal to accept what is. Brad also shared that his teacher, Gudo Nishijima, used to disagree with one of the Four Noble Truths that eliminating desire will end suffering. It’s such a fundamental part of Buddhism to disagree on. I thought that was interesting.

After the talk, I purchased three of Brad’s books: Sit Down and Shut Up, Don’t Be a Jerk, and It Came from Beyond Zen. Just some light reading.