Tuesday, April 10, 2018

30 Days 30 Posts: Day 2

"How I Got Into This Zen Stuff"

or "How I Ramble On And On About Something I Could Have Said In One Paragraph"


Please read my disclaimer

The subject of Zen is guaranteed to come up often here. Zen meditation (zazen), books about Zen practice, academic books about Zen, and dharma talks by Zen teachers are a big part of my life. It might be good to address how this came to be so. I will do my best to keep it simple and flesh out the hows and whys later on.
My parents became born again Christians when I was five or six. I might have been younger but I was old enough to vaguely remember when they started going to church and being sort of confused as to why we were suddenly going somewhere on Sunday mornings. My Mom and Dad went to a Baptist church that friends of theirs went to. My Dad died when I was eight of lung cancer and people at the church were very kind and helpful to both me and my Mom.
At some point I became angry as all hell when I was teenager. I fell away from the church for a couple of years but came back and got involved with one of the praise teams. I was thumping bass strings for the Lord during the contemporary services. I started bouncing around to different churches in my late teens and early twenties but kept playing in the praise bands almost wherever I went. I wound up pretty much identifying as a Lutheran theologically even though I was attending a Presbyterian church (PCA for those in the know).
At some point I started having serious doubts about what I was supposed to believe. I started watching debates between Alister McGrath and Richard Dawkins and multiple debates between Christopher Hitchens and various people (including Dinesh D'Souza and Christopher's brother Peter Hitchens). I wasn't ready to abandon my faith yet though and started exploring the theology of N.T. Wright and other people the conservative Lutheran and Reformed big shots looked down on.
Then while watching the documentary Jesus Camp I had a visceral "Oh my God, there is no God" moment. It was as much an anti-conversion experience if there ever was one. God was just suddenly taken off the table and all belief in the supernatural suddenly seemed absolutely ridiculous. 
I read a little Richard Dawkins and some Sam Harris. I watched as many lectures by Dawkins, Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett as I could find on YouTube. I was fairly angry at anything that had to do with faith, the supernatural and spirituality. I was never angry at God because I didn't believe in him/her/it anymore. It seemed silly to be angry at a fictional character even though I knew quite a few people who seemed to do just that.
After a few years of identifying as an atheist I felt like I had been neglecting my weird monkey need for ritual and the numinous. I also missed the sense of community that came with being involved with church. So, I started poking around any "spiritual" group that seemed like it might be a good fit for a skeptical atheist. This was mostly a fruitless endeavor.
Then I picked up the Vol. 19 No. 1 issue of Skeptic magazine in 2014. There was a book review for Brad Warner's Hardcore Zen Strikes Again. I cannot remember what the review exactly said but it was positive enough for me to go check out this Brad Warner guy. I am almost sure this was the first video of Brad that I watched:
I was pretty much immediately hooked and started watching and listening to anything Brad Warner related. Although I explored other forms of Buddhism (more on that in another post) I always came back to Brad and the Soto lineage of Zen.

Ok. That should be enough rambling for today.

This is the book that was reviewed in Skeptic:


This is the first book of Brad's that I read:

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