Zen Sex

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What is Zen Sex?

Excerpted from the introduction to

Zen Sex: The Way of Making Love


In life, there are many paths to attaining true wisdom.

Zen is one of them.

Sex is another.

This is where the two paths converge.

On first hearing the term Zen Sex, you may wonder what could possibly be zen about sex. Zen is supposed to be quiet, tranquil, still as a rock garden. Imagine: Minimalist sex! Making love without moving! Sounds like a real turn-on . . . .

And aren't zen monks supposed to be celibate? They take strict ascetic vows. Technically, can there even be zen sex?

Zen Sex: The Way of Making Love explains that Zen Sex does exist, and it's more than minimal--in fact, it's mind-blowing. For those who want the truth, Zen Sex is the best sex you can possibly have.

How to get it, and what it can mean for your life, is what this book is all about.

We live in an age obsessed with sex. From news accounts of politicians' sex lives to Internet pornography to Viagra to sexual harassment to the latest perversity on "trash TV" talk shows, we're inundated with sexual messages and imagery. Sex has been politicized, criminalized, sensationalized, sold as entertainment, even, in the AIDS crisis, equated with death. Confusing messages abound: Sex is immoral. Sex is dirty. Sex is dangerous. Sex is supposed to be super-orgasmic or something's wrong with you and this magazine/product/lifestyle will correct it.

Lost amid this blather is a simple truth:

Sex is sacred.

For all our obsession with sex--who's getting it, how often, how good--we forget sometimes that sex connects us in the most basic way to the source of Creation. All of us began as a combination of sperm and egg, man and woman. At its best, sex takes us back to that beginning, transcending the mere fulfillment of our animal desires to reveal our inherent divinity as Creators; it becomes a spiritual endeavor, as profound as any religious rite or ritual, each act symbolizing the origin of life.

Like sex, the study of zen takes us back to our origins as well. It says we can awaken to the divine source at the core of our being, the source from which all things are born, and in so doing, transcend the limits of space and time.

The ideas of zen date back thousands of years, with origins in India and China. Although often considered synonymous with Zen Buddhism, "pure" zen is not a religion, but a spiritual philosophy. The word zen itself is Japanese and means "meditation" or "absorption." Traditional zen practice emphasizes sustained meditative breathing, but in the largest sense, zen is simply an absorption in life-the essence of life. Quietude and meditation may be aspects of zen, but zen itself is vibrantly alive. Its way is the way of nature, changing like the seasons.

To say that zen has nothing to do with sex would be to say that sex is unnatural. Nothing could be further from the truth. The way of zen is to allow nature to express itself through all of our actions, whatever they are, in the same way the cherry blossom blooms naturally in the spring.

Religious adherents sometimes renounce sex as an earthly desire to be transcended, and zen monks are no different. These monks, typically Zen Buddhists, have formalized an approach to zen using a Buddhist system of strictures and rules. Entering the monastery, they take strict vows of asceticism as a means to self-purification. But "pure" zen decries attachment to religious orthodoxy or any doctrinaire pursuit of enlightenment. One of the most revered zen masters in history, Ikkyu Sojun (1394-1481), mocked the rules of monasteries and their extremes of self-denial. In poem after poem, he sang the praises of wine and physical love, of taking a lover and frequenting brothels. A famous example of his poetry follows:


Ten days

In the monastery

Made me restless.

The red thread

On my feet

Is long and unbroken.

If one day you come

Looking for me,

Ask for me

At the fishmonger's,

In the tavern,

Or in the brothel.


To Ikkyu, cutting off relations between men and women so as to attain enlightenment made no sense. In his philosophy of "red thread zen," sex deepened the experience of enlightenment. No one can enter this world without being born of both a man and woman, he said; we are connected to sex by the "red thread" of blood at birth. Back and back the red thread goes, long and unbroken, to the origin of all being. We're of sex. That fact should be embraced, not avoided, Ikkyu said. He openly wore his priest's robes to the pleasure quarters to signify the spiritual nature of his activity:


Me, I am praised as a general of Zen,

Tasting life and enjoying sex to the fullest!


Every moment, be it in sex or quiet meditation, offers a chance for zen realization, Ikkyu said. Let anything and everything be your source of absorption, for zen truth applies to all things at all times. No matter how you come to zen-through archery, motorcycle maintenance, flower arranging, martial arts, guitar playing, or love-making--the progression toward enlightenment is the same. In Ikkyu's words,


Many paths lead from

The foot of the mountain

But at the peak

We all gaze at the

Single bright moon


Just awaken to the truth; how and where do not matter. Sex offers the same opportunity for enlightenment as anything else.

So many of us go through life searching for sex, bored with sex, ashamed of sex, addicted to sex--whatever--never realizing our potential to awaken and change. But if we apply the principles of zen philosophy to love-making, we come to understand the possibilities of spiritual sex--the potential for a transcendent communion to take place. Through this communion, the eternal principles that govern the universe and our lives within it reveal themselves. We come face to face with Ikkyu's truth and see its daily workings inside the bedroom and out. In this way, Zen Sex gives life its very meaning.

Be warned, this book is not a modern-day Kama Sutra. It will not teach you ancient love secrets or exercises, it will not detail sexual techniques to drive your lover wild in bed. It does not advocate an "anything goes" or "do whatever gives you pleasure" approach, nor does it suggest conservatism in your sexual frequency or behavior. Whether you make love twice a month or twice a day is up to you. Because zen sex is simply this: "Ordinary" sex-but done with zen awareness. As the legendary master Rinzai (a.d. ?-866) put it, true zen is earthy, natural, and nothing special: "Shit and piss, wear your clothes, eat your meals, and in all things be ordinary."

Do not think there is anything wrong with being ordinary. Quite the contrary. If we look deeply enough into the ordinary, as zen proscribes, we discover something extraordinary. This life we've been given, this love within us, our capacity for feeling ecstasy and giving joy--it's nothing short of divine. The problem is, too often we take it for granted. Life can seem so "ordinary" that our senses become dulled. We keep looking for some extra zip to our lives, some glass of champagne, when all around is pure drinking water. Coursing through every living thing is a vibrant energy, by its very nature a sexual life-force. We're all born of it, we all manifest it. The more acutely we become attuned to this "ordinary" energy, the more we begin to marvel at its dimension and wonder, the more we feel it and express it in our lives and love-making.

The challenge of zen is to become so absorbed that we feel this energy at every moment. In zen thinking, anything can be the source of meditation, a chance to lose one's self in absorption, whether praying or, as Ikkyu preferred, frolicking in bed with your lover. As he wrote,

The autumn breeze of a single night of love is better than a hundred thousand years of sterile sitting meditation.


Thus, what makes Zen Sex mind-blowing is not its promise to deliver a superorgasm, but its potential to rescramble our brains-to change the way we look at ourselves, our love-making, and the world. What makes it the best sex we can possibly have is not its capacity to fulfill our fantasies, but to so deeply absorb us that all thinking is forgotten and we feel the perfection of Divine Love.

We arrive at this truth through the Way of Making Love. The Way of Making Love takes the same transcendent principles that apply to all zen arts and applies them to sex. The Way is available to anyone--man or woman, young or old, married or single, gay or straight. It does not require a lifelong partner. It can take place anywhere, any time, with anyone, because zen truth is available at all times, for any person willing to practice. Realizing that truth is strictly up to the individual: You.

No words can teach you how to make love, they can only guide you. The actual learning will be up to you, for Zen Sex is all in the doing. As the zen saying goes, "Paths cannot be taught, they can only be taken."

For the purposes of this book, the Way of Making Love is organized into three sections: mind, body, and spirit. Each can be identified by its own symbol--the geometric shapes of the square, triangle, and circle. The use of those shapes is based on a classic painting by the zen master Sengai Gibon (1751-1837), whose primordial Circle, Triangle, Square evokes the eternal mystery of zen.

Although Sengai never explained the meaning of his painting, Zen Sex employs his symbology to represent the three aspects of the Way of Making Love.

The mind is denoted by a square, which represents the box from which our thinking needs to escape.

The body is denoted by a triangle, which represents the temple of our physical form.

The spirit is denoted by a circle, which represents its all-encompassing nature, with no beginning and no end.

Do not be mistaken, though. What applies to one applies equally to the others, for there are no divisions in the Way. To be truly absorbed in love-making, the whole of you must be present.

Just make love in the fullest sense of those words, feeling the Power of Love in all its glory. Then, when you've achieved sweet release, you can lie back in bliss on this spinning globe, breathing deeply, and from the core of your being whisper in your lover's ear:

I felt the earth move.

To order your copy of Zen Sex, click here.

Zen Sex

Table of Contents

Introduction: What is Zen Sex?

I. The Seven Ways of the Mind

The Way of Desire

The Way of Fantasy

The Way of Discovery

The Way of Initiating

The Way of Anticipation

The Way of Surprise

The Way of the Familiar


II. The Seven Ways of the Body

The Way of Entering

The Way of Accepting

The Way of Touch

The Way of Scent

The Way of the Eyes

The Way of the Mouth

The Way of the Cry


III. The Seven Ways of the Spirit

The Way of Interplay

The Way of Giving

The Way of Clouds

The Way of Union

The Way of Release

The Way of Creation

The Way of Birth and Rebirth


Epilogue: The Way of Making Love


For readers interested in more detail on the source of quotations used in the book, click here.