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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

Book 4 of 4 in the Hardcore Zen Series

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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 + There Is No God and He Is Always with You: A Search for God in Odd Places
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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 (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,756 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“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

Customer Reviews

Thus, if you've never read a book about Zen Buddhism there is lots of great information here.
Martin Z.
What's even worse is, he makes so many disclaimers about how little he knows about all this it makes you wonder why he's even writing a book on it.
arielvioletsmith
Warner sets these myriad misled notions about Buddhism and sets them straight in his often very funny and idiosyncratic tone.
Christian J. Jarquin

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 26 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By arielvioletsmith on August 14, 2013
Format: Paperback
You know that one band that had that really good song and then never wrote another hit afterwards? That's the music equivalent of Warner.

I really enjoyed Hardcore Zen and Sit Down and Shut Up, in fact I'd say I was a fan of his prior to reading this book. His latest works have been sadly devoid of any value. It seems like Brad has run out of useful things to say so instead he's just publishing whatever random musings were in the last 100 pages of his journal to take cash from people who liked his other books enough to give him the benefit of doubt on the rest.

What's even worse is, he makes so many disclaimers about how little he knows about all this it makes you wonder why he's even writing a book on it. He could've done more research on the subjects and made himself familiar enough to speak with some level authority. I'm not polyamorous myself, but he seems less experienced with it than even the most casual observer. Being an authority on one subject does not make you an authority on how it intersects with all other subjects. I.e. just because you know zen, doesn't mean you know about zen and polyamory, or zen and heart surgery. His writing isn't casual, it's lazy.

Don't buy this book unless you want to help Warner pay for rent. Alternatively you can just send him a check but make sure you address it to Zen Master Brad Warner or else the post office will return it.

I know this may seem harsh, but I have a real distaste for artists that take advantage of their fanbase to shell out shoddy art for money.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Donna Quesada on September 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
You either like his irreverence or not. He has been described in other reviews as iconoclastic, snarky, in your face, critical, and even egotistical (but that would be the ultimate form of irreverence in Zen). As he himself admits, he takes a certain pleasure in being oppositional. You'll either find it humorous and refreshing, or off-putting.

But who says he's got to be soft and mushy? Faux mushiness is just one more thing he's got a gripe with, anyway. The point is the book; In it, Warner explores the place of sex within the context of Zen and whether normally suspect transactions like prostitution are reconcilable within genuine Buddhist practice as a whole.

The real intent of the Buddhist vows are often missed. With funny personal anecdotes as a vehicle and mature responsibility as an anchor, he navigates easily through issues like pornography and stripping and braves the waters of abortion, revealing the truer sense and subtler flavors of those precepts (does Zen approve of such things?).

The peripheral question has to do with why he even needs to be addressing these questions in the first place. And the answer lies partly in our own inbred assumptions about the notion of sin and what constitutes evil. In the end, I appreciated his casual, no-nonsense treatment of these kinds of grandiose issues, which are so often needlessly convoluted.

The absence of an all-encompassing, universal ideal that applies in all times and all places, for all persons and in all situations, doesn't mean anything goes. As Warner himself - clearly liberal and comfortable in the domain of such discussions - admits, (the sex industry) is "a cesspool of nastiness that needs reform." But as he cleverly and humorously reveals, condemnation is trickier.
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Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between
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