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on 16 January 2011
This is an important but controversial book. Whilst there are a lot of books about Buddhist thought and philosophy, there are not so many books which deal with the practicalities of how to live your Buddhist practice in the modern world. One of the particular areas which are not often properly addressed is the question of sex and relationships. The traditional Pali Canon is pretty negative about the question of sex generally and whilst there is the third precept which asks practitioners "to refrain from sexual misconduct" there is little guidance on how to actually do this (especially if you are a single person out there dating in the modern world).
Brad Warner tries to address this gap in this book. In the course of the book, he takes on a whole load of subjects which are almost never dealt with in a lot of Buddhist books and importantly deals with them in a very practical way. So you'll find discussion of celibacy (and not in the monastic sense), monogamy, dating, being gay, open relationships, masturbation, pornography and how to deal with the end of relationships and the heart break that can often follow. A lot of the subjects are controversial, for example, can being a stripper or prostitute be "right livelihood"? Can meditation be used to support and assist someone with a history of being sexually abused? What about swinging or sado-masochistic sex - is that wrong from a Buddhist perspective? How does a lay Buddhist deal with the normal sexual desire that we all have? Is abortion acceptable?
Not every Buddhist is going to agree or approve of every suggestion and viewpoint that Brad Warner expresses (but it isn't a dogmatic book and repeatedly emphasises that ultimately we all have to find our own way through the difficult cirucmstances of our own individual lives).
This is also a very funny book. As with all his books, Brad Warner writes in a jokey and humourous way and this might make some Buddhists uncomfortable (if you are put off by a chapter heading about the concept of no-self titled "How can I play with myself if I don't have a Self?" you might find this book a bit challenging!). Some of the humour in the footnotes is verging on Beavis and Butthead but even here I think Brad Warner is trying to make a point, namely why are we as Buddhists so uncomfortable with the idea of acknowledging and accepting our natural sexual desire?
A really good book and one which should help to start a very useful and much-needed debate on the topic.
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on 8 May 2011
This is not only one of the very best books I've read, it is also probably one of the very best expositions on spirituality from a true Buddhist perspective. Although sex & sin are primarily discussed in the course of its contents, they are discussed in the light of Zen Buddhism and Buddha's Buddhism. This text is probably currently the most comprehensive available, from a Western Buddhist's perspective, on Western culture's confused, Christian-dominated understanding of sexual desires. Supposedly "spiritual" readers with Catholic upbringing will find the "naked" truths unbearable. :-))

The book is a lot more than about sex, and its title and chapter headings belie the conceptual depth of its contents. The only disappointment is that there are too many silly, puerile puns in the numerous footnotes. If the front cover had a different ("more respectable") image, and those particular footnotes were omitted, it would probably attract a wider audience, and give a better reflection of its contents. The author, perhaps in an attempt to be more humorous than he is already, is also a little too self-belittling. His maverick approach to understanding life's existence has certainly helped enlighten him and, in turn, his readership in a most humorous way.

Included in the 30 chapter titles are -
- Sex & the Four Noble Truths
- Sex & the Bodhisattva Vow
- Attached to Non-attachment
- Sex & Mindfulness
- Is Orgasm the highest form of Meditation?
- Zen & Porn
- Sex & Emptiness
- Women, Evolution, & Buddhism
- Sex & Non-self
- What's Love got to do with it?
- Sex & Metta (Compassion)
- Hug is the drug
- Is Zazen dangerous?
- God knew my soul before I was born
- Sex & Karma
- Zen dating & marriage advice
- When good spiritual Masters go really, really bad
- Sex & Enlightenment
- Happy ending, Buddhist style.

This is a book well worth reading.
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on 15 September 2012
Brad Warner's books sit in an interesting niche in Buddhist literature in general and Zen in particular. His real talent is cutting through the layers of nonsense that have blanketed over modern life and the Buddhist world. This book at first appears to be about sex, but after you read it you realize that its more about Zen, and the fact that the two are one and the same thing.
Why I wish I had been handed this in my adolescence is that more than giving you the physical details and numbing info about STDs that modern schools seem to favour, it plugs in to the whole motherload of cultural expectation, dogmatism, marketing and psychologising that muddies the waters of sex in our culture.
He is no advocate of "free love" - which he doesn't feel is even possible, but neither is he an illiberal stuffed shirt, and most pundits nowadays seem to be one or the other. This is massively illuminating stuff, considering how we have turned sex into the most valuable commodity we think we can get AND simultaneously the biggest demon that we think exists. It considers aspects that you simply will not have even thought about. I still go back to the book and re read sections, although its points are clear, concise and engaging I am still picking up nuggets of wisdom. Am definitely passing this on to any teenager that I think can benefit from this useful prompter in negotiating the minefield of delusions that is sexuality.
Most valuably of all, he takes moral ideas away from the out of touch, lofty realms of some idiot living in a yurt with a shaved head and no frame of reference with your life. He shows you the imminence of proper morality and exactly what this is. I'm really struggling to tell you how good this book is properly.
Some 'Buddhist' internet types are annoyed by warners direct, unvarnished and humorous style, but this is how I like people to talk to me - not full of wishy washy navel gazing and dodging direct answers. Its all framed with his experience - both good and bad. Honest and really refreshing. No Japanese countryside and unanswerable riddles in sight, but pure Dharma. Brilliant.
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on 18 October 2011
This author-Zen master possesses a remarkable understanding and FEELING of Zen, which is unbelievably seldom to be found in the western civilisation. Every page is a surprise even for persons like me, who got involved with Zen 40 years ago. Using humorous language even for very important matters the author "reveals" parts of the hard core of Zen: a phrases like
"A lot of what gets written about Zen is based on abstractions and idealism. Too many people who write about it don't have a clue", are not arrogant at all, they simply and perfectly show the really problem for the understanding of Buddhism.
Or, "But Buddhism is not a form of spirituality": I really feel high seeing that phrase, I know there are people outthere, especially teachers, they know what it is about.
Or "real Buddhism isn't pessimistic at all": The first noble truth, " All life is suffering", says only that the world WE HUMANS have created is full of suffering! Buddhism WANTS to change that, but it must be realistic, to see what the reason for that is.
Or this: "Nonattachment is not something you can cultivate. In fact, Zen is never about cultivating anything. It's about seeing what's already there and moving on from that."
A deeply great Book!
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on 15 May 2015
In my opinion this is a great subject ruined by a poor waffling author who has very little knowledge or understanding of the subject matter. He may understand Buddhism to a point but he does not understand the subject of sex. That is quite clear as you read through it. He is quite childish at times, has a tendency to come across as a zany punky teenager and he goes off on strange tangents that jar with just wanting to get on with understanding him.
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on 10 February 2015
To read a book on a subject such as Buddhism written in the way it has been by Brad Warner was exciting and refreshing. His bravery In releasing his personal views mixed with his experiences within Zen Buddhism and life in general have resulted in a 5 star read. I applaud his balance of humour and ability to not belittle Buddhism in anyway. If you want a plane textbook style read this is definitely not the book for you.
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on 1 April 2016
A blast, nice to see a bit of honesty
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