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Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between Paperback – August 31, 2010

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Frequently Bought Together

Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between + Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate: A Trip Through Death, Sex, Divorce, and Spiritual Celebrity in Search of the True Dharma + Sit Down and Shut Up: Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, and Dogen's Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: New World Library; Original edition (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1577319109
  • ISBN-13: 978-1577319108
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #404,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

There's not exactly a large shelf of books on this subject, so leave it to the iconoclastic ex-punk-rocker Zen teacher Warner (Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate) to plunge in, double entendres in footnotes and all. The subject is as fundamental as the human sex drive, which does not go away as one spends time on the cushion. Since most Buddhists are laypeople (yes, the author intends that pun), Warner offers practice- and experience-based analysis and reflection over a wide range of sex-related topics and flavors, from vanilla (traditional hetero) to kink. A mind-opening interview with Zen-influenced porn star Nina Hartley is included, as is discussion of a difficult topic in Buddhism: student-teacher sexual involvement. Warner is as usual at his best in confessional-analytic mode; he's been romantically involved with a student and written a Buddhist column for a sex-positive Web site. A few chapters seem dry or even unnecessary: a chapter on Amma, for example, is unwarranted. Some women readers will object to the inescapability of the male viewpoint, though the author is aware of his biases. Kudos to Warner for tackling the subject.
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“Bitingly funny, unapologetically honest, razor-sharp, and the most useful and healing book about sex (and Zen) you'll find. Warner's most insightful and hilarious work to date effortlessly translates our desires for sex and happiness into something nourishing, while slightly skewering the nirvana-seeking, post-Nirvana generation. Sex, Sin, and Zen shines right out of the gate.…It's great to get wonderful storytelling from an unabashed Zen master horndog that might actually help you heal a few sore spots along the way. Whenever anyone tells me that sex is the key to happiness, or the key to damnation, I'm handing them this book.”
Violet Blue, blogger and sex columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle

“I loved this book! It's so refreshing to read such an engaging, insightful, accessible book on sex and Buddhism, two subjects that don't seem to go together at first glance. He's successfully bridged the gap between two very different cultures, each with its own notions of right, wrong, and proper moral behavior. Bravo, Brad!”
Nina Hartley, sex activist, author, educator, registered nurse, and Zen kid

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Customer Reviews

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A very interesting book, could not put the book down.
Nancy Choing
Brad Warner is a great writer for the unconventional zen/buddhist student (whatever that even means, lol).
There's nothing special here, which is exactly what makes the book so valuable.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Martin Z. on August 30, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A big fan of Brad Warner's other three books, I was a bit skeptical about this one. I worried that it might have too much sex and too little of Brad's take on Zen Buddhism. I was wrong. There is a great mix of sexual specific content and Zen, as well as how one trying to live a better life through zazen practice might approach sex. For me, the book's main focus was how to deal with doing and thinking 'bad' things. Since this is a book about Zen Buddhism, the answers (well, maybe suggestions) all touch on how to use zazen practice and Zen precepts to manage the normal crazy experiences and choices that life brings.

For those how haven't read a Brad Warner book, article, or blog, his writing style is crisp. For someone writing about philosophy, this should be commended. The book is peppered with anecdotes from his life as well as from the cast of characters he has encountered in his times as a Zen student and Zen teacher. He is almost always self-deprecating about himself, even though he has accomplished a great deal and has an international position as a Soto Zen Buddhist monk.

He also makes a point to cover Zen basics in his usual accesible way. Thus, if you've never read a book about Zen Buddhism there is lots of great information here. That said, if, like me, you've read books on the subject before, Brad Warner's explanations of Zen concepts are fresh, funny, and insightful and I finished the book with a better understanding of Zen Buddhism than I started.

Finally, to reference the title of my review, the book has been helpful in that I have already applied some of the things I read in the book and avoided a situation that looking back would have been trouble!
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Nate DeMontigny on October 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
Sex, Sin and Zen answers the question that everyone has been asking Brad for a long time, how can sex and Buddhism come to some sort of reconciliation? As a guest writer for Suicide Girls many questioned his choice to join their writing team. And I think we should have, because if anyone had the answer, it was Brad.

We know of all the vows we take, and accept in our lives, but as Brad explains, never do any of them say do not have sex. Brad breaks this misconception down, simplifies in the easiest of ways. It's not the act of sex, but how we act about sex. Like any other attachment, it is our grasping at sex that can cause us, and others, damage.

What I really loved about this book is Brad's brazen explanation of mindfulness:

"I'm not sure what most people in the West these days mean when they say "mindfulness." Near as I can tell, the general population uses the word to mean something like "thinking really hard about stuff." Or at best it's sometimes a synonym for paying attention to what you're doing. But if that what you mean, why not just say "pay attention"?

Another high point is his points about sex being one of the most immersive acts we partake in. And what he says makes perfect sense, minus a few people out there, when one is engaged in sexual activity, are we thinking about anything else really? No, we are just being there, having sex. Of course there are emotions within that, but for the most part, sex is just sex. Sex is not what we were doing at work, the plans we have later, or anything else, it's sex.

He makes the case, from my understanding, that if we could harness that ability to pay attention to one thing, the goals we are hoping to achieve may be that much easier.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Heather Trahan on March 15, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The only reason I am taking time out of my life to write this review is because I want to save at least one person from feeling the total frustration I have felt. Don't waste your money on the book I am about to review!

Let me further preface this review by saying that I pride myself on usually seeing books to their bitter end--no matter what. Sometimes it happens that a book looks super awesome: perhaps this book got great reviews on Amazon, or maybe a friend said "you just gotta read it!" But, as it sometimes happens, a few pages or chapters in, I realize that the book is causing more confusion, stress, anger, irritation or some other negative emotion rather than helping me gain insight. Yet, even when this happens, I often force myself to finish the book. Why, you ask? Why would I torture myself in that way? Well, because I'm a writer. Thus, I have this complex feeling of empathy for other writers; I finish their books because I hope that, one day, when I get a book out there into the world, that my readers will be as gracious as I am. Also, another reason I often finish books that I don't like is because I think it's a good practice not to insulate myself from ideas that I might find wrong, stupid, annoying, misguided, etc.--so I finish the books because I want to keep an open mind...and one of the ways to do that is to practice considering other viewpoints, to not keep feeding myself words that I already agree with. What I am trying to say is that I have thought long and hard about why I think it's important to read books in their entirety, and why I often do so.

But, for the love of all that's holy, I had to stop reading Brad Warner's Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between by page 66. I just had to stop.
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