To start with; if you’re not familiar with Brad Warner, then shame on you!
Ok…not really. But he is an excellent writer, and his blog makes me think. If you are, or just think you are, a serious student of Buddhism then you should read him. I had read Noah Levine before, and then came across Hardcore Zen while still working at Borders. I thought ‘wtf; a clone? Really?’ I started to read it on break, and I connected to it very strongly. He takes nothing for granted, questions everything, and the tone/humor of the writing sounded like me and my friends. His thoughts on the dharma also echoed a lot of what I have been thinking over the years.
He recently posted his thoughts about a tweet ‘from’ Thich Nhat Hanh. I won’t go in to great detail; you can read the post for yourself. What surprised me most was the reaction he got. People acted as if he had personally attacked Nhat Hanh. In short; some people took it personally. Quite unmindful behavior from people who profess to cultivate mindfulness.
Getting hung up on the idea of personality vs. personality (Brad vs. Thay) to me misses a larger point we can make here. I think the unspoken issue is that of Buddhism as Product. I used to follow a number of Buddhist daily tweeters, and got some daily/weekly emails as well, until it dawned on me that the whole process was nothing more than a way to make the dharma mass-marketable; a new consumable. I’d read the tweet or whatever, and then go about my day and not give it any more thought.
As a punk myself, I think we’re usually more distrustful of what/who ever is popular in the mainstream. Something becomes popular when people don’t need or want to have to think about it. We buy the brand and continue on our way, feeling as though we’re a part of whatever it is because we spent some form of capital on it.
In thinking about this, I remember how Kristin Hersh described her band Throwing Muses: “I know a lot of bands who are candy or beer. Fun and bad for you in a way that makes you feel good…for a minute. My band is spinach…ragged and bitter, and no one really likes us very much. But I swear to god we’re good for you”.
I think the daily tweets are well intentioned. But do we think about them, or do we read them and feel better, then forget about them? Are they candy or spinach? Most of what is readily accessible, a lot of ‘mindfulness’ training, a lot of yoga tips, promises of enlightenment and so on would fall into the candy category. They are a way to sell a product and make people feel better about themselves… for a minute. Buddhism practiced with honesty and sincerity is pure spinach.