The first thing you need to know is that the subtitle of Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate is: A trip through death, sex, divorce, and spiritual celebrity in search of the true dharma.
The second thing is: you want to own this book.*
In 2007 Brad Warner wrote the (absolutely delightful) Sit Down and Shut Up , which I enjoyed immensely, despite not being a Buddhist, or an aficionado of punk rock. The same year that book was published Warner’s life went, basically, to hell. His mother (who’d been getting very strange) dies, but not until after the whole family takes the Zen Death Trip. His absolutely bizarre job (not because of what he does, but because of what he is paid NOT to do) changes, but doesn’t become a great deal less strange than it was before. His love life morphs in odd ways. He leads a retreat. He teaches Zen in prison. He comes to new understanding about his practice.
It was an eventful year for Warner, and I am pleased he brings us along for the ride.
You don’t have to be a Buddhist to appreciate a spirituality that helps you get through tough times. Warner doesn’t put down non-Buddhist traditions, they just don’t work for him. And this isn’t a “How To” or “Buddhism 101” book: it’s one man’s year. He’s candid and human, despite the odd celebrity that’s arisen as a result of his writings – a trait I appreciate. His writing voice is provocative and enjoyable. And he’s certainly honest in his opinions, especially of others who get caught up in their own power trips.
I laughed, I cried, I laughed again. I read portions out loud and out of context to my long-suffering sweetie. And I’m strongly considering giving Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate to everyone in my coven as necessary reading.
5 mala beads out of five.
~review by Lisa Mc Sherry
Author: Brad Warner
New World Library, 2009
pp. 288, $14.95
* The footnotes alone are worth the cover price.