Do Buddhists believe sex is a negative thing or unskillful?

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Re: Do Buddhists believe sex is a negative thing or unskillful?

Postby ground » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:00 am

alan wrote:"Mere" renunciation?
Are you sure you understand renunciation?

I am not sure whether you understood what I was trying to express with "mere renunciation".

What I intended to express with "mere rununciation" was: There arises the urge but you do just not follow it by means of applying will/intention not to follow it.

Therefore I have written
"Only if understood that it is completely unsatisfactory and that it is only disadvantagous in the context of the path."

That means: Will/intention alone does not do the job.

What "job"?

The question was: "Does the sexual urge eventually subside if not indulged?"


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Re: Do Buddhists believe sex is a negative thing or unskillful?

Postby alan » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:20 am

The Suttas make it clear that sensual indulgences are detrimental.
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Re: Do Buddhists believe sex is a negative thing or unskillful?

Postby ground » Thu Oct 28, 2010 5:06 am

alan wrote:The Suttas make it clear that sensual indulgences are detrimental.


I did not state something contradictory to that.

The question was: "Does the sexual urge eventually subside if not indulged?"

Or do you want to assert that "the sexual urge eventually subsides" because "The Suttas make it clear that sensual indulgences are detrimental"?

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Re: Do Buddhists believe sex is a negative thing or unskillful?

Postby 5heaps » Thu Oct 28, 2010 7:54 am

Kenshou wrote:So how exactly does that address the subject of the thread?
relative to buddhists who understand the desire realm to be suffering, sex is bad as all ordinary objects in the desire realm are bad. relative to buddhists who understand all 3 realms (samsara) to be suffering, sex is bad as all objects in all of the 3 realms (samsara) are bad. relative to a buddhist who understands that only the lower rebirths are bad, being a human is good and sex is good. relative to buddhists who are confused about the realms and follow materialism, sex is "healthy" and "biological".
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Re: Do Buddhists believe sex is a negative thing or unskillful?

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Oct 28, 2010 10:56 am

5heaps wrote:
Kenshou wrote:So how exactly does that address the subject of the thread?
relative to buddhists who understand the desire realm to be suffering, sex is bad as all ordinary objects in the desire realm are bad. relative to buddhists who understand all 3 realms (samsara) to be suffering, sex is bad as all objects in all of the 3 realms (samsara) are bad. relative to a buddhist who understands that only the lower rebirths are bad, being a human is good and sex is good. relative to buddhists who are confused about the realms and follow materialism, sex is "healthy" and "biological".


That's how I understand it too. The question arises, though, as to whether this rules out liberation/enlightenment as a focus of practice for most laypeople.

It seems to me that if one does not wish to abandon sex (or the rest of worldly life, for that matter), it makes more sense to focus one's practice on merit. Because otherwise the practictioner finds himself/herself in a position of cognitive dissonance or even hypocrisy -- i.e. continuing to cultivate something despite having deemed it "negative".

When we continue to do something, it must be because at some level we think it's good. It's a bit silly -- and disrespectful to the other person involved, I'd add -- to regard marriage and sex as an illness, while still being married and having sex.
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Re: Do Buddhists believe sex is a negative thing or unskillful?

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Oct 28, 2010 11:12 am

I think any spritual path that causes its practitioners to view marriage and by extension, parenthood or son or daughterhood as an " illness " needs to have a good long look at itself.
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Re: Do Buddhists believe sex is a negative thing or unskillful?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Thu Oct 28, 2010 11:17 am

TMingyur wrote:That means: Will/intention alone does not do the job.


So presumably you mean that insight is also required? I assume specifically insight into the unsatisfactory nature of sensual desire, and the second Noble Truth?

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Re: Do Buddhists believe sex is a negative thing or unskillful?

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:16 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:I think any spritual path that causes its practitioners to view marriage and by extension, parenthood or son or daughterhood as an " illness " needs to have a good long look at itself.


Seems to me this becomes a problem when people are confused about their goals.

If one wants to be a fully dedicated yogi, intent on applying all efforts towards liberation, practicing as though one's hair is on fire, etc, then presumably the fewer attachments the better. Regarding marriage (and other worldly activities) the way one would regard an illness might help keep an unmarried practitioner focused on the goal. Probably not real useful for a monastic to cultivate a view of marriage and parenthood as desirable -- although if a monk or nun wants to be able to counsel laypeople, it could be helpful to have some understanding of (and compassion for) the layperson's perspective.

If one wants to get married and raise a family, then one should do it properly; otherwise it's a dishonest arrangement. The Buddha has teachings on how to achieve a happier present life and generate merit for future lives, and I don't see any reason why one couldn't take up a meditation practice as well -- understanding that there are some constraints and tradeoffs between one's yogic and wordly pursuits, and that we're going to feel irritated in conversations with the more gung-ho types who seem to look down on us. There might be lucky instances where both spouses are Buddhists and equally committed to seeking arahantship, but whatever the case, marriage is not about unilateral choices.

The trouble arises when the householder decides to be a renunciant (or vice versa) but without leaving home. For instance, we can find some pretty icky stuff in one of the early (but influential) Mahayana sutras:

Jan Nattier wrote: There are numerous generic mentions of women, virtually all of them in reference to the wife of the male lay bodhisattva, and she is consistently portrayed as an object of clinging and as a possible stimulus to wrong action on the bodhisattva's part. The bodhisattva is told to vier her as a "denizen of the Avici hell" and to train himself to conceive of her (together with his other relatives, employees and slaves) as not really "his". Lest he continue to feel any residual attachment to his marital partner even after these personalizing reflections, the lay bodhisattva is given a long list of negative thoughts he should cultivate towards his wife, ranging from a crocodile to a demon to a guardian of hell...In sum, the bodhisattva's wife is portrayed as an object and an obstalce, and the possibility is never even considered that she might be a serious Buddhist practitioner (much less a bodhisattva) in her own right. (A Few Good Men: the Bodhisattva path according to the Inquiry of Ugra)


Misogyny and gender issues aside, this is a wonderfully crappy way to treat those around you -- but again, i'd say the problem here is mainly one of confusing different paradigms. We don't live in ancient India or China where a reluctant husband was required to pay lip service to various socioeconomic obligations. There's no reason, these days, to be married unless one values it. Children and spouses need love and affection; if one doesn't want to be involved with such fetters, better to stay single or get divorced. Many kids, I think, would say an indifferent parent is worse than no parent.
Last edited by Lazy_eye on Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:58 pm, edited 18 times in total.
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Re: Do Buddhists believe sex is a negative thing or unskillful?

Postby chownah » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:25 pm

Alex123 wrote:
bodom wrote:
Those sensual pleasures don't need to include sex. The sutta doesn't include sex, it includes "sensual pleasures" which is pleasure from 5 sense objects that doesn't have to include sex. It could be good food, comfortable bed, good scents, etc.


The preceding passage before the section I quoted of MN 73 alex talks of householders who "observe celibacy and lead the holy life". Then the sutta goes on to say, "There are many more lay disciples of mine, wearing white clothes leading the holy life, while partaking sensual pleasures.." So it would seem from the preceding passage, mentioning celibacy, that sensual pleasures would also include sex in the section I quoted.

Also see Bhikkhu Bodhi's In the Buddhas words pg 376 where Bodhi discusses this sutta and explains that sex falls under sensual pleasures in the sutta.

:anjali:


While sex is included in sensual pleasures, not all sensual pleasures have to involve sex.
Furthermore the phrase "wearing white clothes leading the holy life" suggests that those have taken more precepts (perhaps 8 or more), which would required full abstinence.

With metta,

Alex

Alex123,
It would be great if you could find some reference which indicates that a lay person wearing white clothing and leading the holy life indicates that more precepts have been taken. The modern day practice in Thailand is that lay people will often wear white clothing for a special day or for a short period of time and take the 8 precepts to last for that day or that short period of time....and on that day or for that short period of time they "live the holy life".....but then when the time is up they go back to being ordinary lay people. I'm not saying that this is what the sutta is talking about....I'm just wondering if there is anything to more fully describe just what is meant by lay people wearing white and living the holy life....a concept which seem to be central to your point of view.
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Re: Do Buddhists believe sex is a negative thing or unskillful?

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Oct 28, 2010 3:10 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:I think any spritual path that causes its practitioners to view marriage and by extension, parenthood or son or daughterhood as an " illness " needs to have a good long look at itself.


Seems to me this becomes a problem when people are confused about their goals.

If one wants to be a fully dedicated yogi, intent on applying all efforts towards liberation, practicing as though one's hair is on fire, etc, then presumably the fewer attachments the better. Regarding marriage (and other worldly activities) the way one would regard an illness might help keep an unmarried practitioner focused on the goal. Probably not real useful for a monastic to cultivate a view of marriage and parenthood as desirable -- although if a monk or nun wants to be able to counsel laypeople, it could be helpful to have some understanding of (and compassion for) the layperson's perspective.

If one wants to get married and raise a family, then one should do it properly; otherwise it's a dishonest arrangement. The Buddha has teachings on how to achieve a happier present life and generate merit for future lives, and I don't see any reason why one couldn't take up a meditation practice as well -- understanding that there are some constraints and tradeoffs between one's yogic and wordly pursuits, and that we're going to feel irritated in conversations with the more gung-ho types who seem to look down on us. There might be lucky instances where both spouses are Buddhists and equally committed to seeking arahantship, but whatever the case, marriage is not about unilateral choices.

The trouble arises when the householder decides to be a renunciant (or vice versa) but without leaving home. For instance, we can find some pretty icky stuff in one of the early (but influential) Mahayana sutras:

Jan Nattier wrote: There are numerous generic mentions of women, virtually all of them in reference to the wife of the male lay bodhisattva, and she is consistently portrayed as an object of clinging and as a possible stimulus to wrong action on the bodhisattva's part. The bodhisattva is told to vier her as a "denizen of the Avici hell" and to train himself to conceive of her (together with his other relatives, employees and slaves) as not really "his". Lest he continue to feel any residual attachment to his marital partner even after these personalizing reflections, the lay bodhisattva is given a long list of negative thoughts he should cultivate towards his wife, ranging from a crocodile to a demon to a guardian of hell...In sum, the bodhisattva's wife is portrayed as an object and an obstalce, and the possibility is never even considered that she might be a serious Buddhist practitioner (much less a bodhisattva) in her own right. (A Few Good Men: the Bodhisattva path according to the Inquiry of Ugra)


Misogyny and gender issues aside, this is a wonderfully crappy way to treat those around you -- but again, i'd say the problem here is mainly one of confusing different paradigms. We don't live in ancient India or China where a reluctant husband was required to pay lip service to various socioeconomic obligations. There's no reason, these days, to be married unless one values it. Children and spouses need love and affection; if one doesn't want to be involved with such fetters, better to stay single or get divorced. Many kids, I think, would say an indifferent parent is worse than no parent.

I agree entirely. If one is going forth ...go forth. If one is a householder be a good one . Not a reluctant , resentful, guilty one.
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Re: Do Buddhists believe sex is a negative thing or unskillful?

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Oct 28, 2010 3:12 pm

What you have described is common practice in the UK too Chownah,,people take the 8 precepts for a day, and some of them wear white for that duration.
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Re: Do Buddhists believe sex is a negative thing or unskillful?

Postby Individual » Thu Oct 28, 2010 5:23 pm

Some people here seem to correctly understand the Pali text as it was written, while others engage in penetrative wisdom.
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Re: Do Buddhists believe sex is a negative thing or unskillful?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Fri Oct 29, 2010 9:37 am

TMingyur wrote:The question was: "Does the sexual urge eventually subside if not indulged?"



I'd be interested to hear about this from anyone who has been celibate over a period of time and can comment from experience.

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Re: Do Buddhists believe sex is a negative thing or unskillful?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Oct 29, 2010 10:15 am

Greetings,

Individual wrote:Some people here seem to correctly understand the Pali text as it was written, while others engage in penetrative wisdom.

:|

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Do Buddhists believe sex is a negative thing or unskillful?

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Oct 29, 2010 10:31 am

Spiny O'Norman wrote:
TMingyur wrote:The question was: "Does the sexual urge eventually subside if not indulged?"

I'd be interested to hear about this from anyone who has been celibate over a period of time and can comment from experience.
Spiny

Everything *eventually* subsides/ends/changes. What kind of time-frame did you want to consider?
I'm not celibate but I am old enough to say - authoritatively, from personal experience :tongue: - that a bloke's sexual urge starts subsiding somewhere in his mid-twenties and is far less at 50 than at 20. I don't know this from experience (yet!), but I can foresee that by 80 it will be negligible. :cry:
If you're only looking in the shorter term, my experience still supports the proposition - but you've got to include all sorts of *reminders* of sex under 'indulged'. The impulses will dwindle faster in isolation from the kind/s of people one is sexually attracted to, and in isolation from pictures of them, and from hearing their voices, etc, etc. That's one of the reasons behind the monastic rules.
There's even a really peculiar scientific study out there somewhere, which I read about at least ten years ago. Apparently blokes' beards grow faster when sex is (in this case literally) on the horizon, and an all-male scientific expedition to somewhere like the Galapagos or Antarctica were measuring their stubble to test the effect. Beard growth slowed down during the first few weeks of the trip and stayed slow for a while - but increased in the last week, when the blokes knew they would soon be meeting their wives/girlfriends. That is, the expectation alone was enough.

:juggling:
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