Sex, Sin and Zen cover

Buddha loves babes

Author Brad Warner

Things You Might Like

  • A realistic, adult (heh) look at the ethics of sex
  • Warner’s self-effacing jokes
  • Interview with a porn star
  • Legit look at how sex has been treated within Zen
  • Warner’s inclusive discussion of GLBTQ individuals

Things You Might Not Like

  • Warner ain’t the most scholarly writer out there
  • Brush-offs of most Western religion as Puritanical
  • Footnotes are not in MLA format


Warner’s book on sex hits all the right spots for a not-quite-academic discussion on ethics. Great for Zen newbies as well as practitioners.

4 out of 5 BDSM Clubs

Aaron Simon


I used to worry a lot about being a horrible person. (Then I started loving the bomb. Sorry.) This was around the time I was first hitting puberty. That few years was a huge blast. Luckily, the neuroses have subsided quite a bit, but it’s translated into a big fixation on ethics.

Where you find ethics is a pretty tricky question. Do you look to The Bible with all of its insanity? Do you look to philosophy, with all of the horrible—yet brilliant—writers involved therein? It’s a tricky question, and really, you have to look to what works for you. What works for me is a mishmash of a bunch of stuff. In that mishmash is Zen Buddhism.

I’ve reviewed one of Brad Warner’s books before—Zen Wrapped In Karma Dipped In Chocolate—and talked about how great it was. If you read it, then you saw how Warner went about equating his personal life to lessons in Zen philosophy.

His follow-up—Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between—takes a slightly more academic approach to an ethical concern. (I don’t think it’s in Warner’s make-up to be strictly academic. I mean, his footnotes aren’t in MLA format.)

The question follows concerns raised by one of the precepts in Buddhism, which is: Do not misuse sexuality. Well, okay, but what exactly does that mean?

Warner attempts to flesh out (heh I said flesh out) both the precept and the question by looking at the history of sex in Buddhism, how it was treated by priests, and how that’s resulted in Japanese society. In addition, Warner looks to take a look at the way Western society treats sex and what, if anything, we could be doing differently to make ourselves chill out.


I don’t really think you can go wrong with Warner. (At least, that is, if you don’t mind having jokes along with your philosophical discussion. This, strangely, is a failing in a lot of philosophy. I dare you to find a good joke out of Nietzsche.) The man’s got a clear head on him and he’s willing to put himself in unpopular positions if it means that he’s telling the truth

As far as discussion on the naughty dance goes, this is a pretty handy mindset to have. Warner’s candid about his own often-embarrassing past, and is willing to hold himself up as an example of the exact wrong way to behave, and, further, say exactly why it was the bad thing to do.

Apart from that, the most interesting parts of the book deal with sex within modern Zen, specifically what the community has done in relation to scandals.

Oh, and there’s an interview with a 1980s porn star. Which is cool.

So, like a lot of writing about ethics out there, what you’re getting is one interpretation of the right way to live, but the trick is that the right way to live in this case boils down to don’t be a jerk to others, and know yourself well enough to know what you need. It’s a simple lesson, and one that doesn’t seem like you’d get from a Zen-centric book, but the devil’s in the details.

Buy, Rent, or Pirate? Buy this book from Amazon now! (NOTE: Bullet Reviews does not condone piracy. Aaron Simon is quite mad, and, if you pirate, may your karma be forever tarnished.)


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