I don’t always try to be a journalist, but apparently I’m trying to be one today.
There was not a big announcement, as there usually is for things like this. But in the world of modern American Buddhism this could be seen as a big event. Brad Warner has been a famous Buddhist teacher for nearly 20 years. His books have inspired many people who thought Buddhism wouldn’t be for them. I wanted to be a Zen Buddhist for many years mainly because of his books “Hardcore Zen” and “Sit Down and Shut Up”. He even has a Wikipedia page.
He founded Angel City Zen Center in 2016 because he thought there was a need for Soto Zen in the Los Angeles area.
And in a throw away line on his blog he mentioned that he had left this center that he started. The article is called “So You Want to Be a Dharma Teacher”
He said, “The Zen center I attempted to establish ended up being a big drain on my personal finances, and the Board of Directors treated me more like a mascot than a teacher. Maybe someday I’ll start a little sitting group, but I’m finished with trying to run a Zen center.”
That’s it. The people that go to ACZC probably knew a while ago. And maybe it’s kind of a small center and really not that big news for the rest of us. I know someone who was planning to go visit ACZC so he could meet and learn from Brad. That’s probably not happening now. Also, he implies in the blog that he’s not a Dharma Teacher which is incredibly silly. If he’s not a Dharma Teacher, then no one is.
Maybe it’s not our business. Maybe Brad isn’t the celebrity I think he is. Maybe he felt mistreated there, like he was a mascot.
But there’s something else going on with Brad, and there has been for a while.
Brad Warner has, in the last few years, spent a whole lot of time criticizing things like Black Lives Matter and state governments (specifically California) trying to mitigate the danger of covid-19.
I remember when he said on Twitter that his Governor is the worst in the nation. (as someone that lives in Missouri, I would disagree)
At some point a few years ago Brad started criticizing American Buddhism as being “left wing” or “too liberal”, something like that. I think that’s an argument that could be made. There should be room in American Buddhism for people that want to be apolitical, for sure. And many Buddhist teachers do come from a liberal, or even left wing, perspective. That is true and there should be room for centrists and conservatives in Buddhism. We should have a big tent.
But it also seems like he may have over-corrected a little. Or wrote aggressive things to try to get attention. I’d have to argue that writing about other people talking about politics too much is…talking about politics. It reminds me of the people who complain about how other people are snowflakes these days. If you’re complaining about what someone else is doing…are you a snowflake too?
Now, I don’t know if his right leaning articles and videos had an impact. I don’t know if he started arguing with the Board of Directors of Angel City Zen Center or if they asked him to knock it off in order to maintain a clean image or something.
I only know there’s been no big announcement, like when Ethan Nichtern left Shambhala or when the old Against The Stream dissolved.
I just know that he used to be going around criticizing authority figures and saying how weird it is that some people call themselves “zen master” and somewhere along the way that evolved into criticizing people that support Black Lives Matter and opposed President Trump.
As I’ve said, a case could be made that American Buddhist leaders have gone too far in telling people how to vote and what causes to support. I don’t know if Brad has been right about that or not. But I think if he’s thinking other people talk about politics too much, he needs to do something we probably all need to do.
Be careful not to become what you hate.
And maybe I’m wrong. I’m just some guy on the internet. Brad Warner is a Zen Master.