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Letters to a Dead Friend About Zen

Narrated by: Brad Warner
Length: 9 hrs and 3 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Philosophy
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Publisher's Summary

The night Brad Warner learns that his childhood friend Marky has died, Warner is about to speak to a group of Zen students in Hamburg, Germany. It’s the last thing he feels like doing. What he wants to do instead is tell his friend everything he never said, to explain Zen and what he does for a living and why he spends his time “Sitting. Sitting. Sitting. Meditating my life away as it all passes by. Lighting candles and incense. Bowing to nothing.” So, as he continues his teaching tour through Europe, he writes to his friend all the things he wishes he had said. Simply and humorously, he reflects on why Zen provided him a lifeline in a difficult world. He explores grief, attachment, and the afterlife. He writes to Marky, “I’m not all that interested in Buddhism. I’m much more interested in what is true,” and then proceeds to poke and prod at that truth. The result for listeners is a singular and winning meditation on Zen - and a unique tribute to both a life lost and the one Warner has found.

©2019 Brad Warner (P)2019 Brad Warner

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  • Zach M
  • 08-06-2020

thanks

Thanks for writing this. it was very beneficial to me. I appreciate it a lot.

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  • PapaOscar
  • 05-05-2020

Back to basics in the best way

I actually knew enough about Dogen to understand most of what Brad Warner was writing about in some of his previous books. Then comes this one, and I realize how much of Zen I have glossed over in my study. It’s a wonderfully accessible primer on Buddhism, Zen in particular, and I heartily recommend it to students of every stripe.

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  • Roy S.
  • 14-01-2020

An Introduction and and Extension to Earlier Works

Letters to a Dead Friend about Zen succeeds on two levels.

On one level it serves as a great introduction to Zen Buddhism for someone who is new to the subject. On another level, for long time readers of Brad's books it works as a synthesis and expansion of concepts that he has deals with elsewhere.

This is his best book to date. It is the work of someone who is a mature author with deep wisdom.

As an audio, it has the same rough at the edges personal feel that make his books unique in a medium that is increasingly dominated by fully mounted multi-actor plays.

Reading the chapters in front of live audiences adds to this effect. It is the natural extension of what he does given his background as a performer.

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  • Andrew Lenards
  • 23-12-2019

Warner makes great audiobooks

I enjoy the performances that Brad Warner does for the audiobook versions of his books so much that I end up with both the book and audio format.

The in-person reading of the letters is an added intimacy that makes the topics even more resonant for me.

Thank you for making this Brad

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  • T
  • 12-12-2019

Helpful, Funny and Touching

I’ve read almost all of Warner’s books at this point, so I wasn’t sure how much I’d get out of one covering the basics of zen. But I have too many dead friends who I wish I could write to, so I had to check this out. It’s a lovely combination of touching and funny, without the humor coming off as an attempt to suppress one’s feelings of loss. Instead it’s uplifting as the reader imagines being able to carry on with ordinary conversations with our lost friends.

Going over the basics of zen is good for a beginner, with the understanding that you’re a beginner for pretty much all your life. But I actually think I learned more about these fundamentals by hearing him go over them again. Overall, it reads and a travelogue, a correspondence and a reflection on zen. It’s always fun to hear about his little adventures on tour or reflections on early punk life. His other books helped with my practice and my understanding, but I really feel like this helped me think about and handle the death of people in my life.

It seems fitting, and instructive, that this book would apparently interrupt his series of commentaries on Shobogenzo. (I was eagerly awaiting a third!) I like the idea of just being a scholar of Dogen, but life keeps happening and friends keep dying. And it’s important to see such studies as a part of life and not an alternative to it.

As to the audiobook format, Warner is a delightful narrator and his audiobooks always have some small gem that isn’t included in his written books. This is no exception. I was skeptical of the format of live readings, but it really works.