The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

Hardcore Zen: Gimme Some Truth

by Brad Warner
January 13, 2016
Wed, 01/13/2016 - 09:00 -- Brad Warner

Excerpt from Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner.

Sometimes the truth hurts.
And sometimes it feels real good.
—Henry Rollins

Nothing is sacred. Doubt—in everything—is absolutely essential. Everything, no matter how great, how fundamental, how beautiful, or important it is, must be questioned.

It’s only when people believe that their beliefs are above questioning, that their beliefs alone are beyond all doubt, that they can be as truly horrible as we all know they can be. Belief is the force behind every evil mankind has ever done. You can’t find one truly evil act in human history that was not based on belief—and the stronger their belief, the more evil human beings can be.

Here’s one of my beliefs: everything is sacred. Every blade of grass, every cockroach, every speck of dust, every flower, every pool of mud outside a graffiti-splattered warehouse is God. Everything is a worthy object of worship. If you can’t bow down before that putrefying roadkill on I-76, you have no business worshiping leatherbound tomes and marble icons surrounded by stained glass.

And here’s one more: everything is profane. “Saving the planet” is a waste of time and preserving the environment is a waste of energy. Flowers stink and birdsong is irritating noise.

On the other hand, nothing is sacred and nothing is profane. Not even your sorry ass. If we hold anything sacred above anything else—ever—we’re riding along in the fast lane to hell. And by “anything” I mean anything—our family, our friends, our country, our God. We cannot hold any of that stuff any more sacred than anything else we encounter in our lives or we’re doomed. I’m not just going for dramatic elocution here. The act of regarding anything at all as more worthy of respect than anything else is the first step down the short and slippery path to the utter annihilation of all mankind.

And what happens if we follow that dangerous path to the end? We’ve had numerous hints that ought to give us a clue. They linger darkly on in our collective memories: the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Final Solution, “9-11.” We might even be able to rattle off the dates of these awful events—but the lesson, we haven’t yet absorbed. And until we really learn it, kids will keep getting new dates to memorize for history class.

When you hold something sacred, you try to hold that thing apart from the rest of the universe. But this really can’t be done. Nothing can be separated from everything else. Red is only red because it’s not green or yellow or blue. Heavy metal is heavy metal because it’s not polka or barbershop. Nothing in the universe has any inherent existence apart from everything else. Good is only good when contrasted with evil. You are only you because you’re not everyone else. But this kind of separateness isn’t really how the universe works.

You cannot possibly honor God if you can’t honor every last one of God’s manifestations. Killing someone in God’s name is ridiculous. If we do that, we are killing God and killing truth.

But what is truth? What is God? How can you see, hear, smell, taste, touch, these lofty ideas?

Truth screams at you from billboard cigarette ads. God sings to you in Muzak® versions of Barry Manilow songs. Truth announces itself when you kick away a discarded bottle of Colt 45 malt liquor. Truth rains on you from the sky above, and God forms in puddles at your feet. You eat God and excrete truth four hours later. Take a whiff—what a lovely fragrance the truth has! Truth is reality itself. God is reality itself. Enlightenment, by the way, is reality itself. And here it is.

And just FYI: even if you run and run and run forever you can’t possibly escape reality. You can fervently deny the existence of an Ultimate Truth or of God, but reality is always right there staring you in the face. And you can search and search for enlightenment, but you’ll only ever find reality.

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