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Book Review - Sex, Sin and Zen by Brad Warner
The subtitle for Brad Warner�s latest book, Sex, Sin, and Zen*, is 'A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between', and that pretty much sums up the contents. In this book, Mr. Warner explores Buddhism's views on sex, both historical and contemporary. Although Mr. Warner is a Soto Zen priest and teacher, and so is most interested in Zen's attitudes regarding sexuality, he covers the perspective of all the major branches of Buddhism.
Mr. Warner is known for his outspoken, irreverent, at times 'in your face' teaching and writing style. His earlier books, Hardcore Zen, Sit Down and Shut Up, and Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate have attracted a young, hip crowd to Buddhist teachings. He includes many personal stories in his books, sharing details of his life, and holds nothing back in terms of opinions or content. In many ways, this makes him the perfect candidate to author a book on Buddhism and sexuality, as he is willing to take on almost any topic directly and explicitly. And on the topic of sex, this book is explicit - in tone, content and language - so if that is not what you are looking for, this book is not for you.
While Mr. Warner's main focus in this book is Buddhism, he takes a look at other religion's views of sexuality also, and the ways these have seeped into our general culture and impacted our attitudes towards sex. He compares modern Western and Eastern attitudes about sex in general, different religion's attitudes about it, modern spiritual 'new age' trends regarding sex, and even many cultural attitudes regarding gender. His main focus is to help readers analyze our own views on sexuality, and how these views impact our life and practice. He doesn't claim this is an academic or sociological analysis, and in fact points readers to two other excellent books if that's what you are looking for (Lust for Enlightenment by John Stevens and The Red Thread by Bernard Faure.)
In my review of Mr. Warner�s last book, Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate, I criticized his judgmental tone towards other Buddhist and spiritual teachers, most of which he had no first-hand experience with. He seems to have toned that down a bit, although he does note the major sexual scandals that have occurred in Western Buddhist communities, and gives his own take on them. And he gives a rather hilarious account of his visit to see Amma, the hugging guru. I have also seen Amma, and love her, but could appreciate his take on the 'show' surrounding her.
Mr. Warner is a keen observer and holds no punches. That's really what makes him the perfect person to take on the subject of sexuality and Buddhism - he doesn't shy away from any aspect of human sexuality, or leave any theme unexplored. So, if you are interested in this topic, and can handle Mr. Warner's unique style and tone, this is an insightful and entertaining read.
* This book was sent to me free for review by the publisher. I am disclosing this per BellaOnline's Ethical Review policy.)
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