Buddhism and Sexuality?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Richard Paul Johnson
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Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby Richard Paul Johnson » Sat Aug 04, 2012 4:36 pm

Hey all,

I have spent the past few days doing some research on the place of sexuality in various Buddhist traditions. There is a very wide range of thought, in most Mahayana schools there is an inclusivity around sexuality in practice which brings a sense of being able to practice properly while being a lay person with a family with a job etc. In Vajrayana there is a step further into a Tantric tradition which one might call sacred sexuality, with various Buddha sexual carvings/metaphors and a varied range of practice, the Gelugpa school visualises these things in Tantric and deity meditation, the Nyingma school goes further and actually has, historically, many enlightened Yogi who take consorts, Yoginis/Dakinis and practice sexually together (Yogi/Yogini/Dakini are not ordained Sangha, they are lay Sangha). The Nyingma school of Vajrayana Buddhism really brings the lay community into the practice, and as a result, the lay community are fully integrated into the Dhamma of the Buddha, and have had a very large part to play in the development of Buddhism outside the institutionalised monastic system. Japanese Mahayana Buddhism seems to be unique in that, it has historically had problems with a huge monastic tradition of the... meditation of the repulsiveness of the female body and, as a result, the emergence of full scale institutionalised monastic homosexuality.

The reason why im posting here is because... I have encountered problems when looking into Theravada thoughts around sexuality, I have heard many contradicting statements and, in much of Theravada, there seems to be this great, almost unbridgeable chasm, between the monastic community and the lay community because much of Theravada seems to totally reject sexuality and say it has no place in the practice of the Dhamma, which basically means that there will only ever be a religious elite who can fully practice the Dhamma, excluding the lay community from true spiritual insight, and in some cases, reducing the lay community to unquestioning subservience to a religious authoritarian elite who dictate societal norms and customs. This total exclusion of sexuality seems to be a major source of alienation and disunity and confusion amongst the Theravadan Sangha.

Can anyone provide any information on Theravada thought on sexuality, on why sexuality should be excluded or included in Dhamma practice, if the lay community can practice Dhamma while being fully in the world etc? or just addressing any point I have brought up in this post.

Thank you all :)

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daverupa
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby daverupa » Sat Aug 04, 2012 4:52 pm


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drifting cloud
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby drifting cloud » Sat Aug 04, 2012 5:14 pm

There are no easy answers to these questions, as a householder. The fact is that Buddhism has always regarded celibate monastic life as the ideal. And in practice most Mahayana Buddhist schools are just as strict as the Theravada on this factor - certainly the sect of Chan Buddhism I studied under was! Being a layperson does not exclude you from practice or from the possibility of enlightenment, but it does mean you will often find yourself running against the grain of the broader world. Renunciation is a key virtue of Buddhism, and Theravada Buddhism in particular.

Having said that, and speaking as a lay Buddhist I have not personally found a lot of the emphasis on the disgusting qualities of the body, etc, to be very helpful. And I think a lot of the comments in re: the harmful effects of repressing sexuality to be worth considering. Coming as many of us do from a Christian culture, I think it's very easy to associate sexuality with feelings of guilt and sin, and I think it's also easy for us to carry these assumptions into our relationship with Buddhism.

Rather than getting on some kind of guilt-ridden trip on sexuality, I have found it much more helpful to mindfully examine just what is happening in my mind when I experience feelings of lust and desire, to examine what the results are of sexual thoughts and actions, and whether these results lead to more suffering or to true and lasting happiness. I think introspection, not guilt and condemnation, is a more useful path for the lay practitioner with regards to sexuality.

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Richard Paul Johnson
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby Richard Paul Johnson » Sat Aug 04, 2012 5:23 pm


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Richard Paul Johnson
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby Richard Paul Johnson » Sat Aug 04, 2012 5:28 pm


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Cittasanto
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Aug 04, 2012 5:49 pm



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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Cittasanto
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Aug 04, 2012 5:55 pm



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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Richard Paul Johnson
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby Richard Paul Johnson » Sat Aug 04, 2012 6:00 pm


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Richard Paul Johnson
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby Richard Paul Johnson » Sat Aug 04, 2012 6:04 pm


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reflection
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby reflection » Sat Aug 04, 2012 6:19 pm

Hi!

First I'd like to say that Buddhism is never about 'look at me I'm better than you'. So the monks & nuns aren't ordained to be elitist or to tell others what to do. They are monks & nuns because they want to. That involves no sexuality basically because the Buddha advised against it; it's not in line with the dhamma. When you are involved in sensual pleasures, it's harder to meditate, impossible to let go of attachments (because sensuality is one of the big attachments).

But why would that mean any spiritual progress is not possible for a lay person? A lay person can also let go of sex, decide they don't need/want it anymore. There are quite some lay persons who are celibate. This puts them pretty much on par with monks & nuns on that aspect. I heard about a Buddhist couple who split just so they could practice better. So it's not black and white, being a monastic or having sex. There are people practicing in betweenish also.

So while ordaining is the best way to progress if you can do it, practicing as a lay person can get you very far also. Remember that there were lay people quite far on the path in the suttas.

With metta,
Reflection

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Cittasanto
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Aug 04, 2012 6:41 pm



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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Richard Paul Johnson
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby Richard Paul Johnson » Sat Aug 04, 2012 7:34 pm


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David N. Snyder
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Aug 04, 2012 8:32 pm

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Richard Paul Johnson
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby Richard Paul Johnson » Sat Aug 04, 2012 8:42 pm


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reflection
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby reflection » Sat Aug 04, 2012 8:46 pm


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Richard Paul Johnson
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby Richard Paul Johnson » Sat Aug 04, 2012 9:26 pm


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Cittasanto
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Aug 04, 2012 9:29 pm



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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Richard Paul Johnson
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby Richard Paul Johnson » Sat Aug 04, 2012 9:43 pm


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reflection
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby reflection » Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:01 pm

Last edited by reflection on Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.

rowyourboat
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:03 pm

Hi Richard,

It is possible for stream entrants and once-returners to have sex, but not non-returners and arahanths. So 50% of the path to nibbana ie full enlightenment IS possible while being sexually active. I hope that answers your question to some degree- I don't understand how a person can be so into studying the teachings and not consider themselves as an adherent : maybe it is a need to conceptualise the entire teachings before dipping the toes.. :)

With metta
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha


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