Sex Sin & Zen: Yet another Review of Brad Warner’s new book! It’s new! It’s Shiny!

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It took me longer this time around, but another Brad Warner book is in the bag, so to speak. It was a good read as always. I enjoyed his juvenile humor and his potty-mouth. This book was not a retread. It was new and different and…ok some ideas are the same, but it’s a zen book from a zen teacher. You have to realize that that Brad or any other teacher worth their salt is going to keep smacking you with the same stick over and over until you get it or at least until you bother to sit and realize it for yourself.


This was Brad’s longest book, clocking in at 274 pages & topping Sit Down & Shut Up by about 25 pages.  It was also a new angle for Brad. It’s not nearly as narrative as his past books. Instead he focuses almost exclusively on sexual interaction, as the title suggests. No more Ultraman or stories about Japan or digs at certain members of Maezumi Roshi’s lineage, but that’s OK. That stuff is great but it just wasn’t at home in this new book.


The amazing thing about this book is how full of dharma it is. There’s a lot of teaching done here and I really appreciate that.  There’s lots of Dogen stuff. I dig Dogen and Brad makes his stuff relatable to just about any topic. Brad’s depth of study is apparent, he’s read a lot from the Dhammapada to Shobogenzo.


Some highlights:


Brad points out over and over throughout the book that any concept of sin that we find in Buddhism, we brought to the party.


The interview with Nina Hartley was good. I’m not going to quote from it, but suffice it to say she has a different view on sexuality and marriage than most Americans raised with even a nominal Christian background. I thought a lot of what she said was very applicable to Buddhist practice and the precept of not misusing sexuality. Her views (and Brad’s) are very spot on with my own regarding this.


He also talks about monogamy a lot. Brad’s always been a big supporter of monogamy and honestly so am I. It’s the best situation for raising children and it can be the least stressful type of relationship if communication is good. Brad doesn’t back down from this stance, but he does clarify that it might not be the best situation for everyone and while pair-bonding does make great evolutionary sense (see previous statement) monogamy creates a lot of artificial restrictions that can cause stress, and thus dukkha, for the partners involved.


I like Brad’s chapters on the sexual angles on Buddhist concepts. They make a lot a of sense to me and they’re funny. They also provide practical advice on aspects of the Buddhadharma as they are applied to an area of life that we all have to (if not want to) deal with on a nearly daily basis.


Who should read this book: Questioning Questioners, anyone interested in Buddhism, Zen Practitioners, Fans of Brad Warner, people who want to be responsible about their sexual interactions


Who should avoid this book: Those attached to the Buddhadarma, Those who can’t take a potty-mouth and juvenile humor, my mother (but not my Zen mother she already read it)


If I had to grade this book 1-10: 8.5 – It does give lots of practical Buddhist advice. Brad sometimes goes overboard with iconoclast motif, even if that is who he is it can bit trying at times. I’d recommend reading it even if the sex thing isn’t important to you. There’s loads of Dharmic goodness to be had in this book.





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