Archive for the ‘Book review’ Category

When I started exploring Buddhism, Brad Warner was one of the first authors I read. The reason being is that he is a musician and played in hardcore punk bands, so I was drawn to him right away.  Being a metalhead, I was able to relate with that hardcore attitude, yet innate and practical discussions of Buddhism. I’ve enjoyed Hardcore Zen and Sit Down and Shut Up, so when I was contacted by the publisher to review Warner’s new book, Sex, Sin and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between, I jumped at the chance.

Sex, Sin and Zen is much of the same attitude and humor that he displays in his other books, and although I’m sure many readers may feel that the puns and sex jokes got old after the first chapter, I didn’t. I have a weird sense of humor, so I thought it was hella punny, and he had me chuckling out loud more than once.

Warner breaks down sex, celibacy, masturbation, porn, BDSM, etc., subjects which – even though there is a precept dedicated to misuse of sex – seem to be a very taboo subject in Buddhism. Warner attempts to define “misuse of sex” but then really, who can define that? What is misuse to one person is just fun for another. The issues of attachment, desire, karma and mindfulness came up of course. What good Buddhist book wouldn’t have those in the discussion?

I did enjoy his rant about the overuse of the word “mindfulness” as it seems to have become a pop culture buzzword. But in discussing being mindful about sex, my favorite quote was “When you’re fucking, just fuck. When you’re not, just don’t.” He also included a chapter-long interview with Nina Hartley, who is a porn star, but also grew up Buddhist. She had some very insightful things to say in this interview and it was really cool to read that and learn from her. And yeah, I think she’s still hot. I’d hit it.

One theme that runs throughout Warner’s books is the stressing of the fact that doing zazen is the best way to answer a lot of these questions for yourself. Toward the end of the book, he gets more serious and discusses AIDS and STD’s, dating and relationships, and relationships between zen masters and students. There’s not a whole lot of footnote jokes in the last 1/3 of the book, but this is where he busts out the Dharma teaching.

Overall, I enjoyed Sex, Sin and Zen. I didn’t want to get too specific because I think it would be good for you to read it for yourself. This is a topic that isn’t really covered much, even though there is a precept devoted to the subject, so it’s worth a read just to get a different perspective on sex and everything that comes* along with it.

*Yes, I said comes.

The Banyan Deer

by Rafe Martin

Illustrated by Richard Wehrman

When I was contacted by Wisdom Publications to review The Banyan Deer by Rafe Martin, I was pretty excited because I had read in their catalog that it was a book to be enjoyed by adults and children alike. Well, since I have an 11 year old son, I thought, “hey, I can do a review and include his thoughts too!” Well, that didn’t work out quite as planned. I had him read the book, but since it didn’t have to do with skateboarding, it wasn’t “his thing” and I had to understand that, him being a pre-teen and all. So I will just share my own thoughts.

When the book arrived, my first thought was that this book was a collectible, not just because of the story, but physically. A hardback with a beautifully illustrated dustjacket, it’s the type of book that could be found near the checkout of a large bookstore, an impulse buy. Anyone who would purchase this impulsively would have a great piece to add to their library.

Martin’s story of one king teaching another king a lesson of compassion challenges the reader to examine his/her own level of compassion for others, be it humans and animals alike. Wonderfully illustrated by Richard Wehrman, The Banyan Deer indeed has the style of a children’s novel, although based on the experience with my son, is more geared to younger children. The book would be a great choice for a bedtime story and is highly recommended for the parent who wants to instill the principles of courage and compassion in the early stages of their child’s mind and heart.