The subtitle of Brad Warner’s book, “Sit Down and Shut Up,” is “Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, & Dogen’s Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye.”
It’s a mouthful, but the book really does encapsulate all that. And more. Overall, it was an easy read, entertaining, and doesn’t take itself very seriously.
Warner weaves his experience with Buddhism and its teachings into a travelogue of his return to Ohio to play in a reunion concert featuring Akron’s punk rock bands. You get a sense that he’s somewhat reticent to preach about the virtues of Zen, lest he comes off sounding woo-woo for proselytizing this ancient mystical religion (it’s really a philosophy). It was the mid-2000s when he wrote this book, so his outlook could have changed by now (it probably has).
In any case, Warner frames Zen through his own particular lens and we get an irreverent, humorous, plain-speaking take on a not-so-easy topic. With the book at 250 pages, he neither deludes us nor himself in presenting “Sit Down and Shut Up” as a comprehensive tome about Zen in general and Dogen and Shobogenzo in particular. In his own words, Warner knows that his book is “just the tip of the left big toe in the kiddy pool” about a subject with the “depths of the mid-Atlantic.”
The best part of the book is that nowhere does Warner try to upsell you on anything. Not on Zen, not on meditation, and not even on punk rock. Those are the things that he’s into and he’s open to sharing his experiences with us. But similar to his take on teaching Zen, he’s not willing to bear responsibility for anyone’s actions.
In short, “Sit Down and Shut Up” is a lighthearted, playful, honest, and enjoyable peek into Warner’s experiences with Zen and punk rock and how they both makes sense to him.