Pornography

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Re: Pornography

Postby ground » Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:30 am

AnonOfIbid wrote:
TMingyur wrote:
AnonOfIbid wrote:Can one "use" it non-harmfully?

From a worldly perspective you may certainly find arguments in favor of pornography like e.g. sexually enriching a boring relationship.
Kind regards

:smile:

How many folks would consider looking at naked or sexual pictures or videos of their spouse as a pornographic act? Would it bee harmful?


Regardless whether this may meet the demand caused by desire and lust transforming a living sentient being into an object may be harmful, yes.

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Re: Pornography

Postby AnonOfIbid » Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:35 am

even consensually?
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Re: Pornography

Postby ground » Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:37 am

AnonOfIbid wrote:even consensually?


I think so because it is all about your own mind.

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Re: Pornography

Postby AnonOfIbid » Wed Apr 20, 2011 4:02 am

TMingyur wrote:
AnonOfIbid wrote:even consensually?


I think so because it is all about your own mind.

Kind regards


If it's all about your own mind, then it's not about the object or it's images.
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Re: Pornography

Postby ground » Wed Apr 20, 2011 4:58 am

AnonOfIbid wrote:
TMingyur wrote:
AnonOfIbid wrote:even consensually?


I think so because it is all about your own mind.

Kind regards


If it's all about your own mind, then it's not about the object or it's images.


The object is the object of your mind. There is no other object that is accessible to you. The way you are perceiving is your mind. It is also volition that causes further effects.

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Re: Pornography

Postby AnonOfIbid » Wed Apr 20, 2011 5:44 am

TMingyur wrote: The object is the object of your mind. There is no other object that is accessible to you. The way you are perceiving is your mind. It is also volition that causes further effects....


This reminds me of George Berkeley.
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Re: Pornography

Postby Dan74 » Wed Apr 20, 2011 7:42 am

AnonOfIbid wrote:
Dan74 wrote:What are you looking for in this thread, Anon?


Are you familiar with the notions of Socratic method for arriving at "truth" the "nature of reality," civil debate, intellectual discussion, where people engage you INTELLECTUALLY without wasting time determining your "motives," "agendas," "reasons," etc.... Is that so much to ask?


Interesting comparison, Anon. Socrates used to question people to show the absurdity of their views and step by step make them arrive at a predetermined conclusion. His conclusion.

I thought you had a genuine enquiry in your OP: "Can one "use" it non-harmfully?" My answer was "no." I gave my reasons.

You say:"CLINGING to, GRASPING for, CRAVING, DESIRING, etc... porn CAN BE harmful IF one acts on them." This makes no sense to me at all - why would anyone look at porn if they did not crave it, desire it, etc?

You ask: "What are you looking for in replying to this thread, Dan?" I am looking to share my view on this question and hope that it is of some use in this discussion for people who are interested in exploring it.

You also say that the second citation is too old. Does that mean that the research in it has since been debunked by new research?

As a practitioner, to me it is clear that however you use porn, it is unwholesome. This may not be a huge deal for some casual browsers or it may be a major problem for addicts. But it does no good to anyone. Can you give an example of a wholesome use of pornography that doesn't fan the flames of passion, but cools them? Maybe looking at naked sick and old people, lepers having sex? Is this what you have in mind? ;)

AnonOfIbid wrote:
TMingyur wrote: The object is the object of your mind. There is no other object that is accessible to you. The way you are perceiving is your mind. It is also volition that causes further effects....


This reminds me of George Berkeley.


Well, whether we believe the world is real and existing independently of our mind or not, our current mental states are causally connected to our future mental states. You think unwholesome thoughts now, you will likely think unwholesome thoughts later. This doesn't help liberation, it hinders it.

Looking into motivation is very important in a thread like this. Often people come with "Christian" guilt about these things or the post-modern embrace of all things taboo. Both are unhelpful. Rather it is worthwhile to examine mental states accompanying the action. Are they helpful, useful, cultivating the Paramis, conducive to practice, etc?
_/|\_
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Re: Pornography

Postby Nibbida » Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:08 pm

AnonOfIbid wrote:
Nibbida wrote:Pornography is one of the more perplexing issues in modern interpretations of the dharma.... On one hand, pornography done by consenting adults and viewed by consenting adults doesn't seem to fit that description. If a person wants to view it an engage in that as a form of sexual activity, I'd have a hard time saying that it's unacceptable when sex with a partner is acceptable for a layperson.... On the other hand, the porn industry is rife with problems like drug abuse, sexual addiction, histories of sexual abuse, etc. In many ways, it could be seen as exploiting people who are in a vulnerable position. While legal, it has a scuzzy side to it....The other downside of pornography is that it is intensely stimulating and can very easily be used as a drug, as a way to numb unpleasant emotions. Many people do develop addictive patterns of using pornography. Sexual pleasure activates many of the same brain areas and releases many of the same chemicals as addicting drugs. So it's not hard to imagine how that could (but not necessarily inevitably) turn into a pattern of abuse. The potential for self-deception is large....So of course I have no "answer" for you. There is no clear cut answer to my thinking, but porn is a tricky issue. I have no interest in passing judgment on others, but to me this is at least a topic to approach with caution.


I basically agree with this, with one addition. Harmfulness is difficult if not impossible to measure, but it has to start with the individual. Porn in and of itself is not harmful. The harm comes from how we behave in to relation to it. Saying the PRECEPTS forbid illicit sex, and pointing to canonical texts, is a NOT a HELPFUL/SKILLFUL response.


Quite true. If only we had a "harmometer."

I agree that porn is not a priori harmful in and of itself, and that it's how one relates to it. Absolutely. The second noble truth points out that it is craving that is the source of suffering, not the external events to which they refer. Or we could look at the 12 nidanas. If the cycle is cut between vedana and tanha, or between tanha and upadana, then the illusory sense of self is not created.

I'll point out two potential caveats here:

1. To go reductio ad absurdum with this, neither chocolate cake, lollipops, porn, Judy Garland movies (just kidding), heroin, ice cream, sex with a spouse, stamp collecting, or crystal meth are not harmful in and of themselves. However, I guess we could say that some have a much stronger draw than others, making them much riskier to engage in. So rather than conceptualize things as forbidden, I see them on a continuum of risk. Sex between persons seems to have some built in limitations in terms of how much one can do, and even then people do develop sexual addictions on occasion. Porn opens the floodgates in many ways. It is ubiquitously and freely available in every imaginable variation (and then some). It is extremely easy to engage in it in a way that is compulsive. Our evolutionary past never prepared our ancestors to deal with a number of intense stimulation that we have today like casino gambling, intense drugs (crystal meth, etc.), abundant high calorie/high palatable food, unlimited sexual stimulation from porn, etc.

2. The beauty of the Buddhist approach to ethics, to my mind, is its simplicity. Whereas Western ethics gets embroiled in elaborate schemes and legalistic categorization of every possible sin, the Buddhist basis rests heavily on intention. The intention to harm itself creates harm, so we don't need to have a precise measure of the harm created. When acting from a mindset of compassion, kindness, and intention to not harm, we will sooner or later gravitate toward more skillful actions.
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Re: Pornography

Postby Nibbida » Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:09 pm

Nibbida wrote:AnonOfIbid,

It's not my habit to intrude (furthermore I hope my meaning won't be lost or misconstrued...)



P.S. this was my homage to Paul Simon (50 Ways to Leave Your Lover).
"Dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body, acquire strength by exercise." --Thomas Jefferson

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Re: Pornography

Postby chownah » Thu Apr 21, 2011 1:30 am

Dan74 wrote: You think unwholesome thoughts now, you will likely think unwholesome thoughts later. This doesn't help liberation, it hinders it.


Dan74,
Is thinking about having sex with someone an unwholesome thought?
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Re: Pornography

Postby daverupa » Thu Apr 21, 2011 1:52 am

I found what I was looking for, in connection with pornography, cannabis, and so on:

MN 22:
"Yes, indeed, lord. I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, and those acts the Blessed One says are obstructive, when indulged in are not genuine obstructions."

"Worthless man, from whom have you understood that Dhamma taught by me in such a way? Worthless man, haven't I in many ways described obstructive acts? And when indulged in they are genuine obstructions. I have said that sensual pleasures are of little satisfaction, much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks. I have compared sensual pleasures to a chain of bones: of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks. I have compared sensual pleasures to a lump of flesh... a grass torch... a pit of glowing embers... a dream... borrowed goods... the fruits of a tree... a butcher's ax and chopping block... swords and spears... a snake's head: of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks. But you, worthless man, through your own wrong grasp [of the Dhamma], have both misrepresented us as well as injuring yourself and accumulating much demerit for yourself, for that will lead to your long-term harm & suffering."
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Pornography

Postby Guy » Thu Apr 21, 2011 2:04 am

Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: Pornography

Postby octobersun79 » Thu Apr 21, 2011 7:24 am

AnonOfIbid wrote:
TMingyur wrote:
AnonOfIbid wrote:Can one "use" it non-harmfully?

From a worldly perspective you may certainly find arguments in favor of pornography like e.g. sexually enriching a boring relationship.
Kind regards

:smile:

How many folks would consider looking at naked or sexual pictures or videos of their spouse as a pornographic act? Would it bee harmful?


Hey AnonOfIbid

I have thought of sexual pictures and videos to be associated with the ego (self), which is in root associated with clinging to the self and in turn suffering. Nothing wrong persay in looking at porn, but if you're a compassionate person (I think you are, or you would not pose the question - which is a brave one!) have you considered where the porn is sourced from? If its done in a way that the people involved are not being exploited, abused, or are suffering I think its relatively guilt free - but how can you be sure? I don't think I could unless I knew the person involved and their background. So what your saying about your partner is probably a better option. But then what is the motivation of that person? Its all a bit deep for matters that are base.

Going off topic, if the person(s) in question have a strong sexual drive, perhaps this can be transformed? I've heard many people express good things about tantra. Maybe redirecting sexual energy to something thats developmental and appreciative of another persons beauty might be a guilt free choice that could bring you very close to your partner.
:-)
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Re: Pornography

Postby Ben » Thu Apr 21, 2011 7:31 am

octobersun79 wrote:Going off topic, if the person(s) in question have a strong sexual drive, perhaps this can be transformed? I've heard many people express good things about tantra. Maybe redirecting sexual energy to something thats developmental and appreciative of another persons beauty might be a guilt free choice that could bring you very close to your partner.
:-)

There is no tantra in the Theravada.
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Pornography

Postby octobersun79 » Thu Apr 21, 2011 7:36 am

Ben wrote:
octobersun79 wrote:Going off topic, if the person(s) in question have a strong sexual drive, perhaps this can be transformed? I've heard many people express good things about tantra. Maybe redirecting sexual energy to something thats developmental and appreciative of another persons beauty might be a guilt free choice that could bring you very close to your partner.
:-)

There is no tantra in the Theravada.


Hi Ben

No you are quite right, but Buddhism and sex, how does it sit? I would imagine that most Buddhist to Buddhist relationships are one of deep understanding, love and compassion - surely thats extended to sex? Which in principle is what Tantra is about?
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Re: Pornography

Postby Bugleberry » Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:08 am

I suck at analyzing sutras but I can't see a difference in this one from daverupa between reasons to avoid porno and reasons to avoid sex in general, even in marriage. I'm married and new to Buddhism. Are a lot of Buddhists married? It's kind of hard to be intimate without sensual pleasure. Does this mean I won't get awakened as fast as I could if I was celibate? Am I making any sense? I searched for marriage and sex and this came up. Has this been covered here already?
:anjali:
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daverupa wrote:I found what I was looking for, in connection with pornography, cannabis, and so on:

MN 22:
"Yes, indeed, lord. I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, and those acts the Blessed One says are obstructive, when indulged in are not genuine obstructions."

"Worthless man, from whom have you understood that Dhamma taught by me in such a way? Worthless man, haven't I in many ways described obstructive acts? And when indulged in they are genuine obstructions. I have said that sensual pleasures are of little satisfaction, much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks. I have compared sensual pleasures to a chain of bones: of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks. I have compared sensual pleasures to a lump of flesh... a grass torch... a pit of glowing embers... a dream... borrowed goods... the fruits of a tree... a butcher's ax and chopping block... swords and spears... a snake's head: of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks. But you, worthless man, through your own wrong grasp [of the Dhamma], have both misrepresented us as well as injuring yourself and accumulating much demerit for yourself, for that will lead to your long-term harm & suffering."
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Re: Pornography

Postby Bugleberry » Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:13 am

Guy wrote:

:jumping:
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Re: Pornography

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:14 am

Bugleberry wrote:I suck at analyzing sutras but I can't see a difference in this one from daverupa between reasons to avoid porno and reasons to avoid sex in general, even in marriage. I'm married and new to Buddhism. Are a lot of Buddhists married? It's kind of hard to be intimate without sensual pleasure. Does this mean I won't get awakened as fast as I could if I was celibate? Am I making any sense? I searched for marriage and sex and this came up. Has this been covered here already?
:anjali:
You've Been Bugled (it's a nice thing, i promise)
Bugle
daverupa wrote:I found what I was looking for, in connection with pornography, cannabis, and so on:

MN 22:
"Yes, indeed, lord. I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, and those acts the Blessed One says are obstructive, when indulged in are not genuine obstructions."

"Worthless man, from whom have you understood that Dhamma taught by me in such a way? Worthless man, haven't I in many ways described obstructive acts? And when indulged in they are genuine obstructions. I have said that sensual pleasures are of little satisfaction, much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks. I have compared sensual pleasures to a chain of bones: of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks. I have compared sensual pleasures to a lump of flesh... a grass torch... a pit of glowing embers... a dream... borrowed goods... the fruits of a tree... a butcher's ax and chopping block... swords and spears... a snake's head: of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks. But you, worthless man, through your own wrong grasp [of the Dhamma], have both misrepresented us as well as injuring yourself and accumulating much demerit for yourself, for that will lead to your long-term harm & suffering."
Keep in mind that the problem child in this text is a monk, not a layperson. Sex becomes a real problem for some Buddhists, but I would not worry so much about it. You do your practice and there is no need to tie yourself up in knots.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Pornography

Postby Ben » Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:30 am

Hi Caroline,
octobersun79 wrote:Hi Ben

No you are quite right, but Buddhism and sex, how does it sit? I would imagine that most Buddhist to Buddhist relationships are one of deep understanding, love and compassion - surely thats extended to sex? Which in principle is what Tantra is about?

The subject is 'pornography' - not sex. But since you asked...
but Buddhism and sex, how does it sit?
One cleaves to sila, one seeks clarification on matters of the Dhamma from Dhamma teachers and kalayanamittas.
I would imagine that most Buddhist to Buddhist relationships are one of deep understanding, love and compassion - surely thats extended to sex?
Let's be honest with ourselves and say that relationships involving Buddhists are also ones where lust has not yet been abandoned (the vast majority of practitioners). And one cannot be successful on this path without eradicating our mental defilements (which includes both lust and attachment) and abandoning sense desires. Practitioners within my own tradition who are in long-term-relationships talk about a natural attenuation of the influence of sense-desires as a result of practice.
If we are to engage in sexual activity, as practitioners we should be clear as to what is going on within ourselves. Pleasant sensations are present, lustful thoughts are present, a desire for the continuation and intensification of pleasant sensations is present. Mental and physical phenomena are rising and falling.
Does that mean that I am advocating that as a householder you become celebate? No, I am not. Just be aware of what is going on when lust arises or when you engage in sexual activity.
But back to the question...
Is utilising pornography a breach of the third precept?
Irregardless whether one justifies, or how one justifies, one's usage of pornography, to engage in an activity which precipitates a state of near-intoxicating lust - it doesn't seem consistent with the practice of eradicating lust (as well as the other mental defilements).
kind regards

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Pornography

Postby plwk » Thu Apr 21, 2011 3:25 pm

Boy what a hot thread.... :tongue:
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

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