February 10, 2009

Book Review: Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate (Brad Warner)

How would someone considered to be a “master” of Zen Buddhism handle what is likely one of the most difficult years of anyone’s life, let alone a disciplined teacher?  The subtitle for this incredibly readable book is A Trip Through Death, Sex, Divorce, and Spiritual Celebrity in Search of the True Dharma, which is a fairly good summary of 2007 for Brad WarnerZen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate is my first exposure Warner’s writings, and my first impulse has been to go out and buy his two other books, Hardcore Zen and Sit Down and Shut Up.  Warner writes in a style that is not only conversational and fun to read, but is thought inspiring as well.  He has a unique style and tends to call things like he sees them, giving his words an irreverant (though never disrespectful) tone at times.  His self-deprecating humor has a genuine point, demonstrating to the reader that while he may be given all sorts of honorifics and whatnot, at the end of the day, he is still just a man, with his own foibles and weaknesses as well as his own particular gifts and strengths. His honesty about the “warts” of his life is a refreshing reminder that even the most “enlightened” (not that he would claim to be such) are just as human as the rest of us.  The point of the book is that regardless of how much training one might have, there is still the real world to deal with, and sometimes the real world hurts.  Warner admits that while Buddhism can’t provide all of the answers or take the pain away completely (no religion/philosphy can), what he has learned through his studies certainly have made it at least easier to deal with and understand. The nod given to Waylon and his Elevision interview in chapter 26 made for a nifty fanboy “Hey! That’s us!” moment, and his observations about Boulder led to a reflection that should encourage the reader to think outside their bubble of self-assumptions (even the Boulder one), but then, isn’t that the point of Buddhism in the first place?  New this month from New World Library and available at your local, independent bookstore, and destined to be on my “best of ’09” list.  (Tell ’em you saw it on Elephant Journal!)
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