Buddhism and Sexuality?

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

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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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

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

Most of the Suttas on the topic seem to suggest that marriage is workable, there are many ways for spouses to practice together, and obviously they will have some sexual component in that relationship, but there are two points.

First, sex is sensual pleasure - how can it be lauded?

Second,

MN 87 wrote:"That's the way it is, householder. That's the way it is — for sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are born from one who is dear, come springing from one who is dear."


But that householder also did not like hearing that statement:
"That's the way it is, householder [said the gamblers]. That's the way it is. Happiness & joy are born from one who is dear, come springing from one who is dear."

So the householder left, thinking, "I agree with the gamblers."


Practicing the Dhamma while being fully in the world? That's like sitting down while standing up.

:heart:
    "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: 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 this thread 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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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

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

daverupa wrote:Most of the Suttas on the topic seem to suggest that marriage is workable, there are many ways for spouses to practice together, and obviously they will have some sexual component in that relationship, but there are two points.

First, sex is sensual pleasure - how can it be lauded?

Second,

MN 87 wrote:"That's the way it is, householder. That's the way it is — for sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are born from one who is dear, come springing from one who is dear."


But that householder also did not like hearing that statement:
"That's the way it is, householder [said the gamblers]. That's the way it is. Happiness & joy are born from one who is dear, come springing from one who is dear."

So the householder left, thinking, "I agree with the gamblers."


Practicing the Dhamma while being fully in the world? That's like sitting down while standing up.

:heart:



Buddhism seems to accept paradoxes (sitting down while standing up)... or rather, the forms of Buddhism I have come into contact with seem to emphasise the "middle way" concept, a middle way between extreme asceticism on the one hand and extreme nihilistic hedonism on the other. So surely one must be able to fully practice Dhamma while being involved in certain worldly things with a certain Dhamma attitude/viewpoint, worldy things such as family, otherwise the Dhamma would be inaccesable to most people? Shouldnt the Middle Way concept apply to sexuality also? And to taking a Middle Way that is not practicing in a remote monastery, and not practicing while being fully engaged with worldy pursuits, surely there is a middle way between those two? Practicing Dhamma and sexuality, with knowledge on non-self, non-attachment and impermanence etc?

I also forgot to mention in my above post an example of Theravada Buddhism that seemed to be an exception from the 'total rejection' position, it was the Buddhism that existed in Cambodia pre-Khmer Rouge. It was syncretic in nature, adapting things from Cambodian Hinduism. It was a form of Theravada that seemed to embrace sexuality in certain ways. That is the only form of Theravada I have found which seemed to much more fully incorporate laity and sexuality, however Cambodian Theravada has suffered greatly and, was pretty much exterminated by the Khmer Rouge. Buddhism in Cambodia today has some major problems.
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

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

drifting cloud wrote: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 this thread 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.


Thankyou both for your responses btw, I come from a different kind of Christian background, Eastern Orthodoxy, which has a different attitude to sexuality than Catholicism and Protestantism. Eastern Orthodoxy views sexuality as a sacred thing, aslong as it is conducted properly. sin is seen very differently in Eastern Orthodoxy, and guilt is seen as extremely counterproductive. True, Renunciation is a key virtue, but doesnt the Middle Way mean that you must also Renunciate some aspects of Renunciation? Ie: dont go into uber-extremes? Otherwise you become attached to Renunciation?
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

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

Richard Paul Johnson wrote: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 :)

Firstly the object is not a female body specifically it could also be male the main use of the female form is due to the usual form men find appealing.
secondly any vinaya ordained monastic can not have sex (unless completely against their will, and they can not be complicit at any point! this is not a Theravada thing but a vinaya of all traditions, Tantric sex is still breaking the precept for a monastic, period. the monastics you have seen are probably not ordained in accord with the vinaya.

The Buddha has stated very clearly in a number of ways that sexual intercourse is a bridge to be broken, that does not mean it is an easy bridge to break, hence the two forms of eight precepts for keeping all the time (see the Dhammika sutta for the only reference to this I know of) for lay people, but if one wants to liberate themselves from Dukkha of which the five aggregates are an integral part for dukkha to effect us (see the first noble truth) the ways of clinging both course and refined should be let go of, and the most expediant means for this is the mendicant form.

There is nothing wrong with sex, for a lay person, but do not mistake it for something aimed at the true goal of the Buddhas teachings as it is a gross form of seeking pleasuere, and for those who are intent on the goal not advisable.

you should however have a propper look at who used to run, have all the money and set the customs in tibet, it certainly wasn't a democracy it was a theorcacy with a monastics at its head, you also need to look at Korea and other Mahayana monastic institutions such as the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas who although have a large Female Monastic population do not have sexuality as a form of practice.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

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

Richard Paul Johnson wrote:True, Renunciation is a key virtue, but doesnt the Middle Way mean that you must also Renunciate some aspects of Renunciation? Ie: dont go into uber-extremes? Otherwise you become attached to Renunciation?

Renunciation is a path of letting go of things counterproductive to enlightenment, i.e, keeping the precepts, is a renunciant approach, if you do not wish to keep them do not take them up, as it would be dishonest, and key component of the path is honesty, not that we have to be completely forthcoming with information all the time but we do need to be honest.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

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

Cittasanto wrote:
Richard Paul Johnson wrote: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 :)

Firstly the object is not a female body specifically it could also be male the main use of the female form is due to the usual form men find appealing.
secondly any vinaya ordained monastic can not have sex (unless completely against their will, and they can not be complicit at any point! this is not a Theravada thing but a vinaya of all traditions, Tantric sex is still breaking the precept for a monastic, period. the monastics you have seen are probably not ordained in accord with the vinaya.

The Buddha has stated very clearly in a number of ways that sexual intercourse is a bridge to be broken, that does not mean it is an easy bridge to break, hence the two forms of eight precepts for keeping all the time (see the Dhammika sutta for the only reference to this I know of) for lay people, but if one wants to liberate themselves from Dukkha of which the five aggregates are an integral part for dukkha to effect us (see the first noble truth) the ways of clinging both course and refined should be let go of, and the most expediant means for this is the mendicant form.

There is nothing wrong with sex, for a lay person, but do not mistake it for something aimed at the true goal of the Buddhas teachings as it is a gross form of seeking pleasuere, and for those who are intent on the goal not advisable.

you should however have a propper look at who used to run, have all the money and set the customs in tibet, it certainly wasn't a democracy it was a theorcacy with a monastics at its head, you also need to look at Korea and other Mahayana monastic institutions such as the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas who although have a large Female Monastic population do not have sexuality as a form of practice.


The Tantric sexuality in Vajrayana Buddhism is generally not practiced by monastics, but by laity. The mainstream position in Vajrayana is that a Monk/Nun must be fully celibate. I agree that sexuality can be simply a way of seeking pleasure, but it can also be more than that. Indeed, Tibet was a karmically based caste system - which is why a strong Buddhist tradition emerged that was basically 'anti-establishment', anti certain elements of the institutionalised religio-political system of the time. I was not talking about monastics having sexuality as a form of practice, but about laity.

Another thing that has come accross to me is that... institutionalised Theravada claims to base everything it follows from the Buddha, yet Thai Theravada for example does not have Nuns, which is an extremely controversial issue. Institutionalised Theravada in Thailand basically became extremely patriarchal. It seems to me that the Buddhas teaching cannot simply be reduced to rigid institutional forms, but is by nature fluid. I am not rejecting monasticism btw, it is a beautiful practice, I am simply questioning the fact that if Monasticism is the only way one can ever hope to practice the Dhamma fully, then it becomes a religious elitist authoritarian establishment, a Dhamma totally inaccessible to the vast majority of people.
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

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

Cittasanto wrote:
Richard Paul Johnson wrote:True, Renunciation is a key virtue, but doesnt the Middle Way mean that you must also Renunciate some aspects of Renunciation? Ie: dont go into uber-extremes? Otherwise you become attached to Renunciation?

Renunciation is a path of letting go of things counterproductive to enlightenment, i.e, keeping the precepts, is a renunciant approach, if you do not wish to keep them do not take them up, as it would be dishonest, and key component of the path is honesty, not that we have to be completely forthcoming with information all the time but we do need to be honest.


Thankyou for your responses btw :).

Renunciation is indeed letting go of things counterproductive to enlightenment. Two of the things that are counterproductive to enlightenment are extreme nihilistic hedonism, which the Buddha came to reject when he became a mendicant, and extreme asceticism which he came to reject. Then he formed his concept of the middle way between those two poles. Also, the point i was trying to get at before is that one can become attached to renunciation, and attached to enlightenment, thats part of the paradox of the path that you must renunciate attachment to renunciation and renunciate attachment to enlightenment.
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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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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

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

Richard Paul Johnson wrote:The Tantric sexuality in Vajrayana Buddhism is generally not practiced by monastics, but by laity. The mainstream position in Vajrayana is that a Monk/Nun must be fully celibate. I agree that sexuality can be simply a way of seeking pleasure, but it can also be more than that. Indeed, Tibet was a karmically based caste system - which is why a strong Buddhist tradition emerged that was basically 'anti-establishment', anti certain elements of the institutionalised religio-political system of the time. I was not talking about monastics having sexuality as a form of practice, but about laity.

Another thing that has come accross to me is that... institutionalised Theravada claims to base everything it follows from the Buddha, yet Thai Theravada for example does not have Nuns, which is an extremely controversial issue. Institutionalised Theravada in Thailand basically became extremely patriarchal. It seems to me that the Buddhas teaching cannot simply be reduced to rigid institutional forms, but is by nature fluid. I am not rejecting monasticism btw, it is a beautiful practice, I am simply questioning the fact that if Monasticism is the only way one can ever hope to practice the Dhamma fully, then it becomes a religious elitist authoritarian establishment, a Dhamma totally inaccessible to the vast majority of people.

it is confusing how you are talking about the alienation of the lay folk is because of this, this does not make inclusion by any stretch, the laity can practice everything the monastics practice in Theravada - apart from the precepts because they have not chosen to do so if they had they would be monastics - as this inclines toward removing the hindrences not towards developing them further, the laity are not excluded by any means and sex is not a means of exclusion, and in more cases than not used to exploit people.
To become fully enlightened it is easier in the renunciate life, but it is not impossible for a lay person to achieve, there are two in the pali canon who achieved it, but the lay life has concerns the mendicant life does not and so it is distracting.

Regarding your first paragraph on the tibetan monasticism I think you need to explain tha because as it stands it is not representing the facts as I know them, so please explain that further

Richard Paul Johnson wrote:Thankyou for your responses btw :).

Renunciation is indeed letting go of things counterproductive to enlightenment. Two of the things that are counterproductive to enlightenment are extreme nihilistic hedonism, which the Buddha came to reject when he became a mendicant, and extreme asceticism which he came to reject. Then he formed his concept of the middle way between those two poles. Also, the point i was trying to get at before is that one can become attached to renunciation, and attached to enlightenment, thats part of the paradox of the path that you must renunciate attachment to renunciation and renunciate attachment to enlightenment.

as you said it is a middle path between the extreams of sensual indulgence & deprivation.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

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

Cittasanto wrote:
Richard Paul Johnson wrote:The Tantric sexuality in Vajrayana Buddhism is generally not practiced by monastics, but by laity. The mainstream position in Vajrayana is that a Monk/Nun must be fully celibate. I agree that sexuality can be simply a way of seeking pleasure, but it can also be more than that. Indeed, Tibet was a karmically based caste system - which is why a strong Buddhist tradition emerged that was basically 'anti-establishment', anti certain elements of the institutionalised religio-political system of the time. I was not talking about monastics having sexuality as a form of practice, but about laity.

Another thing that has come accross to me is that... institutionalised Theravada claims to base everything it follows from the Buddha, yet Thai Theravada for example does not have Nuns, which is an extremely controversial issue. Institutionalised Theravada in Thailand basically became extremely patriarchal. It seems to me that the Buddhas teaching cannot simply be reduced to rigid institutional forms, but is by nature fluid. I am not rejecting monasticism btw, it is a beautiful practice, I am simply questioning the fact that if Monasticism is the only way one can ever hope to practice the Dhamma fully, then it becomes a religious elitist authoritarian establishment, a Dhamma totally inaccessible to the vast majority of people.

it is confusing how you are talking about the alienation of the lay folk is because of this, this does not make inclusion by any stretch, the laity can practice everything the monastics practice in Theravada - apart from the precepts because they have not chosen to do so if they had they would be monastics - as this inclines toward removing the hindrences not towards developing them further, the laity are not excluded by any means and sex is not a means of exclusion, and in more cases than not used to exploit people.
To become fully enlightened it is easier in the renunciate life, but it is not impossible for a lay person to achieve, there are two in the pali canon who achieved it, but the lay life has concerns the mendicant life does not and so it is distracting.

Regarding your first paragraph on the tibetan monasticism I think you need to explain tha because as it stands it is not representing the facts as I know them, so please explain that further

Richard Paul Johnson wrote:Thankyou for your responses btw :).

Renunciation is indeed letting go of things counterproductive to enlightenment. Two of the things that are counterproductive to enlightenment are extreme nihilistic hedonism, which the Buddha came to reject when he became a mendicant, and extreme asceticism which he came to reject. Then he formed his concept of the middle way between those two poles. Also, the point i was trying to get at before is that one can become attached to renunciation, and attached to enlightenment, thats part of the paradox of the path that you must renunciate attachment to renunciation and renunciate attachment to enlightenment.

as you said it is a middle path between the extreams of sensual indulgence & deprivation.


Thankyou for your response.

The division between Monasticism and Laity im talking about is that... if sexuality and family etc is totally excluded from Dhamma practice then the Dhamma will only ever be available to the religious elite that choose monasticism, while the rest of mankind would have a sub-standard Dhamma. I know that laity can become monastics if they so chose, but the point im making is that for those who do not chose monasticism, if monasticism is the only way to enlightenment, if total rejection of sexuality is the only way to practice Dhamma to achieve enlightenment, then the Dhamma would be inaccesible to the vast majority of mankind. Past, present and future.

With regards to Tibetan Buddhism, there are many schools. One school, the Gelugpa (which the Dalai Lama is the monastic head of) does not practice Tantric sexual experiences with female consorts, rather, the Gelugpa monastics practice a kindof visualisation Tantric meditation of certain sexual symbols with deep meaning, such as the symbol of the sexual union of Tara (who is the primordial, passive female energy embodying wisdom) with Avalokitesvara (who is the primordial, active male energy embodying compassion). These energies - male/female compassion/wisdom stand at opposite polarities in tension, which in Sanskrit is "Tan" (English is linguistically related to Sanskrit, the english word "tension" has its rood in the sanskrit word "Tan"), "Tra" (which in english is present in the word "Transcend") happens when the tension between these polarities, when coming together, are transcended and encompassed by the Nibbana that results (is given birth to) when wisdom and compassion interact with each other, this interaction is referred to as "Yab-Yum". The word "Tra" is also the root of the word "Tara" and the root of the word "Three", which incorporates, in Tibetan Buddhism, the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha) the Three Roots (Lama, yidam, khandroma) the Trikaya (Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya) the three Vajras (Mind,speech, body) and the three mantric seed syllables (Hum, Ah, Om), and the Tripitata (Sutra, Abhidharma, Vinaya) and many other things. Tantra (Tension and creative transcencion) is thus referred to as the "mirror of the Dharma", if one practices it, they practice the entire teaching of the Dharma to such an extent that their very being comes to mirror Dharma. Tantric Buddhism also has much symbology of three in one and one in three. The mandalas also express this as an artform, Mandalas generally comprise of a large circle, with a square in the middle, with a circle in the middle of the square, with four triangles in the middle of the circle, the Triangles are symbols of Tantra, the two polarities meeting and transcending to a point at the top.

In the Tibetan Buddhist Nyingma school, between experienced lay Yogi / Yogini, usually married, this Tantra is re-enacted sexually, sex in the context of the Buddhas teachings concerning laity. Some Monastics have practiced this also, but the mainstream position in Tibetan Buddhism is that Monastics must remain celibate, they visualise this union of wisdom-compassion etc in Tantric meditation, which is one great symbol, while laity can sexually re-enact it aslong as they are mindful of the Buddhas teachings of non-harm, non-self, impermanence, non-attachment etc. So this kindof attitude also gives the family a place in the Dhamma, and it gives Women a place, who in orthodox Theravada cannot become nuns, and in some versions of Theravada, are seen as incapable of achieving enlightenment, which requires a male body. This womans place is also emphasised in Vajrayana through the recognition that the Buddha, and all the Buddhas and Arhants etc were born from a women, and most of them were nurtured at the breast of the woman.

This type of Tantric Buddhism emerged because of Tibets proximity to Indian Hindu culture, in Hinduism Tantra is the sacred union of the shiva-shakti, the primordial male/female energies symbolising compassion and wisdom. Again, in Hinduism "Tantra" encompasses many things, the tension of the primordial energies, the Trimurti of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer, the three mantric syllables (Aum) each symbollising one aspect of the Trimurti, the Trimurti being an emanation of the Brahman, the supreme reality. Three in one and one in three etc, alot could be said abit this topic of Tantra.

I hope that very brief explanation of Tantra helps, i am not a Tibetan Buddhist btw, im not any kindof Buddhist, i just have some understanding of these things.
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

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

Richard Paul Johnson wrote:The division between Monasticism and Laity im talking about is that... if sexuality and family etc is totally excluded from Dhamma practice then the Dhamma will only ever be available to the religious elite that choose monasticism, while the rest of mankind would have a sub-standard Dhamma. I know that laity can become monastics if they so chose, but the point im making is that for those who do not chose monasticism, if monasticism is the only way to enlightenment, if total rejection of sexuality is the only way to practice Dhamma to achieve enlightenment, then the Dhamma would be inaccesible to the vast majority of mankind. Past, present and future.


Did you read Cittasanto's post? There have been at least two lay people who did become enlightened in the Pali Canon. One need not be a monk to attain enlightenment.

Richard Paul Johnson wrote:"Yab-Yum"


It is just sex (in my opinion). Sexual relations are for procreation or for pleasure or both. There is nothing mystical or spiritual about it. And it involves much craving, desire, and a host of other issues, none of which are spiritually high attainments. Lay people can engage in sexual relations, but they are fooling themselves if they think they are practicing some high level of spiritual attainment while doing so. Tantra is from Hinduism and has no place in Theravada.
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

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

David N. Snyder wrote:
Richard Paul Johnson wrote:The division between Monasticism and Laity im talking about is that... if sexuality and family etc is totally excluded from Dhamma practice then the Dhamma will only ever be available to the religious elite that choose monasticism, while the rest of mankind would have a sub-standard Dhamma. I know that laity can become monastics if they so chose, but the point im making is that for those who do not chose monasticism, if monasticism is the only way to enlightenment, if total rejection of sexuality is the only way to practice Dhamma to achieve enlightenment, then the Dhamma would be inaccesible to the vast majority of mankind. Past, present and future.


Did you read Cittasanto's post? There have been at least two lay people who did become enlightened in the Pali Canon. One need not be a monk to attain enlightenment.

Richard Paul Johnson wrote:"Yab-Yum"


It is just sex (in my opinion). Sexual relations are for procreation or for pleasure or both. There is nothing mystical or spiritual about it. And it involves much craving, desire, and a host of other issues, none of which are spiritually high attainments. Lay people can engage in sexual relations, but they are fooling themselves if they think they are practicing some high level of spiritual attainment while doing so. Tantra is from Hinduism and has no place in Theravada.


Thankyou for your response :)

Mm, i read Cittasanto's post that there have been at least two in the Pali Canon. But does that mean that sexuality is totally rejected by these lay people who achieved enlightenment? Or did they have families and wives/husbands etc?

Mm, in Tibetan Buddhism it is just sex also, its just a symbol, thats why Tibetan Monastics practice it as a meditational tool, not as an actual sexual practice. They arent saying that sex is inherently mystical or spiritual, in Vajrayana teaching sex can either involve much craving, desire etc etc, or, if sex is performed by experienced practicioners it can be used as a kindof meditational experience on the nature of impermanence, non self, etc etc. So, in the Vajrayana view, sex can either be a bad thing, or, if practiced in the context of Buddhist teaching, can be Tantra (ie: a meditational experience in sex).

There is Hindu Tantra, and then there is Buddhist Tantra which is Tantra adapted to, in the context of and language of, Buddhist teaching. Just because something has its origins in another religion/spiritual tradition doesnt make it immediately false, it may have both bad and good elements in it, so, from the Vajrayana perspective, they removed the bad parts from Hindu Tantra and adapted it to Buddhism.
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

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

Richard Paul Johnson wrote:
The division between Monasticism and Laity im talking about is that... if sexuality and family etc is totally excluded from Dhamma practice then the Dhamma will only ever be available to the religious elite that choose monasticism, while the rest of mankind would have a sub-standard Dhamma. I know that laity can become monastics if they so chose, but the point im making is that for those who do not chose monasticism, if monasticism is the only way to enlightenment, if total rejection of sexuality is the only way to practice Dhamma to achieve enlightenment, then the Dhamma would be inaccesible to the vast majority of mankind. Past, present and future.

The Dhamma is hard to see. The Buddha didn't start a religion to suit a lot of people. Instead, he found the way to enlightenment and it proved to be difficult to obtain. That's the way the world works. There are numerous quotes in the sutta that point to it being difficult and not for the masses.

And exactly one of the reasons it is hard to see is that most people are not willing to let go of sensuality. They don't see the disadvantages of it, they don't see the suffering in it. That's not wrong or anything, but if one wants to get everything out of Buddhism, it will have to be abandoned sooner or later. And again, lay people can also do that, they can also abandon sexuality. It's not an obligation to have sex, you know :tongue: So it's not just monastics who have this ability.

The basic thing that is common to Therevada is the scriptures, the canons in its various translations. Because these suttas are quite straightforward on sexuality being a barrier, in Therevada there are no sexual meditation practices or something like that. And I don't think any sincere monastic will speak in praise of it. I'm sure the Buddha didn't ever. The dhamma is to take one out of the world, not to enjoy it more. A celibate life is a natural result of practicing the path. It's impossible to be fully enlightened and still be sexually active.

But it needs to be said that everybody should practice at their own rate and with their own problems in practice. Giving up sex is not for everybody, some may become very miserable. That's why there is no precept against sexuality for the lay people. Also, that means the practices are not totally useless without enlightenment. In fact there is a lot of benefit to gain before it already.

:anjali:

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Reflection
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

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

reflection wrote:
Richard Paul Johnson wrote:
The division between Monasticism and Laity im talking about is that... if sexuality and family etc is totally excluded from Dhamma practice then the Dhamma will only ever be available to the religious elite that choose monasticism, while the rest of mankind would have a sub-standard Dhamma. I know that laity can become monastics if they so chose, but the point im making is that for those who do not chose monasticism, if monasticism is the only way to enlightenment, if total rejection of sexuality is the only way to practice Dhamma to achieve enlightenment, then the Dhamma would be inaccesible to the vast majority of mankind. Past, present and future.

The Dhamma is hard to see. The Buddha didn't start a religion to suit a lot of people. Instead, he found the way to enlightenment and it proved to be difficult to obtain. That's the way the world works. There are numerous quotes in the sutta that point to it being difficult and not for the masses.

And exactly one of the reasons it is hard to see is that most people are not willing to let go of sensuality. They don't see the disadvantages of it, they don't see the suffering in it. That's not wrong or anything, but if one wants to get everything out of Buddhism, it will have to be abandoned sooner or later. And again, lay people can also do that, they can also abandon sexuality. It's not an obligation to have sex, you know :tongue: So it's not just monastics who have this ability.

The basic thing that is common to Therevada is the scriptures, the canons in its various translations. Because these suttas are quite straightforward on sexuality being a barrier, in Therevada there are no sexual meditation practices or something like that. And I don't think any sincere monastic will speak in praise of it. I'm sure the Buddha didn't ever. The dhamma is to take one out of the world, not to enjoy it more. A celibate life is a natural result of practicing the path. It's impossible to be fully enlightened and still be sexually active.

But it needs to be said that everybody should practice at their own rate and with their own problems in practice. Giving up sex is not for everybody, some may become very miserable. That's why there is no precept against sexuality for the lay people. Also, that means the practices are not totally useless without enlightenment. In fact there is a lot of benefit to gain before it already.

:anjali:

With metta,
Reflection


Thanks for your responses :)

Indeed enlightenment is very, very difficult to attain... im sure that even gaining a small insight into enlightenment is difficult to attain, and as i said above, im not a Buddhist so i cannot, and am not, speaking from Buddhist experience. I have limited conceptual knowledge of Buddhism and extremely limited meditation experience, and im not saying that sex is a necessary act that must be performed, im simply saying that for those Buddhists who do have sex, what teaching is there?. Indeed i accept that enlightenment will not be achieved by the masses, however, that does not mean that the Dhamma can not interact with, and contribute to, the life of the masses. As you said that there is alot to gain even before and without enlightenment from Buddhist teachings. So why shouldnt there be Buddhist teachings on sex and sexuality? I think to reduce it all down to "sex is inherently bad because its sensual" is a betrayal of the middle way concept, which is balanced in nature and able to look at things and say, sex is not inherently good or bad, there are bad elements and sometimes it can be bad because of x, there are good elements and, with Buddhist practice, it can be good because of x. I thought that Buddhism didnt deal in absolutes or dualisms, creating a blanket statement such as, sex is bad because its sensual, period, is an absolute.

Indeed, lay people can choose to become celibate, but the vast majority of lay people will never choose that. So what does the Dhamma have to contribute to those who will not become celibate, that is, the vast majority of the human species in regards to sex?

You stated that its impossible for one to be sexually active and fully enlightened, shouldnt you reserve judgement on that? How do you know that there are not enlightened Buddhists out there, lay Buddhists or Buddhists from other traditions, that are sexually active and also enlightened?

Celibacy is a natural progression on the path for some people, though i dont think it is for all.
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

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

Richard Paul Johnson wrote:Thankyou for your response.

The division between Monasticism and Laity im talking about is that... if sexuality and family etc is totally excluded from Dhamma practice then the Dhamma will only ever be available to the religious elite that choose monasticism, while the rest of mankind would have a sub-standard Dhamma. I know that laity can become monastics if they so chose, but the point im making is that for those who do not chose monasticism, if monasticism is the only way to enlightenment, if total rejection of sexuality is the only way to practice Dhamma to achieve enlightenment, then the Dhamma would be inaccesible to the vast majority of mankind. Past, present and future.

this is the dust spoken about in the texts, and celibacy can be practiced by lay people (see the eight precepts) but it is up to the individual to decide what is important in their lives. This particular fetter in not completely removed until non-return and many people disrobe due to it.
you seam to think that monasticism is simply a rejection of sexuality, when it is far more than just that, it is the quickest form to get to the end result for a number of reasons, but it is not the only form of living that awakening can be realized in, lay people can progress toward enlightenment, but that does not mean that sex is conductive to it, or lack thereof is a sign of the superiority all it is, is a signal of determination to reach the goal!

Family etc? you would need to clarify what you are referring to here as family could refer to several types of relationships, and so far you have only been talking about sexual relations.

the Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader but not the head of the Gelugpa school that would be the Ganden Tripa.
Tantra within Buddhism does have its origin in Hinduism and that should be the big clue as to how Buddhist it is, people will always try to get around the guidelines like precepts, but everything in moderation is a silly principle when it comes to the precepts, because I am not going to kill in moderation so why follow any of the others in moderation? if one wants to take the five, eight or celibate eight precepts, 10 or 227 precepts then it is their choice to do so and it is a choice to be taken up seriously or not at all.
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"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

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

Cittasanto wrote:
Richard Paul Johnson wrote:Thankyou for your response.

The division between Monasticism and Laity im talking about is that... if sexuality and family etc is totally excluded from Dhamma practice then the Dhamma will only ever be available to the religious elite that choose monasticism, while the rest of mankind would have a sub-standard Dhamma. I know that laity can become monastics if they so chose, but the point im making is that for those who do not chose monasticism, if monasticism is the only way to enlightenment, if total rejection of sexuality is the only way to practice Dhamma to achieve enlightenment, then the Dhamma would be inaccesible to the vast majority of mankind. Past, present and future.


this is the dust spoken about in the texts, and celibacy can be practiced by lay people (see the eight precepts) but it is up to the individual to decide what is important in their lives. This particular fetter in not completely removed until non-return and many people disrobe due to it.
you seam to think that monasticism is simply a rejection of sexuality, when it is far more than just that, it is the quickest form to get to the end result for a number of reasons, but it is not the only form of living that awakening can be realized in, lay people can progress toward enlightenment, but that does not mean that sex is conductive to it, or lack thereof is a sign of the superiority all it is, is a signal of determination to reach the goal!

Family etc? you would need to clarify what you are referring to here as family could refer to several types of relationships, and so far you have only been talking about sexual relations.

the Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader but not the head of the Gelugpa school that would be the Ganden Tripa.
Tantra within Buddhism does have its origin in Hinduism and that should be the big clue as to how Buddhist it is, people will always try to get around the guidelines like precepts, but everything in moderation is a silly principle when it comes to the precepts, because I am not going to kill in moderation so why follow any of the others in moderation? if one wants to take the five, eight or celibate eight precepts, 10 or 227 precepts then it is their choice to do so and it is a choice to be taken up seriously or not at all.


Thanks for your response,

Im definately not stating that monasticism is simply a rejection of sexuality, i know that its much more than that and is a beautiful and great practice, however i was just stating the downside that any human organisation where there is instituionalised power will become in some ways corrupt, the example i gave being the Theravada Nun controversy, the fact that Theravada claims to be the purest form of Buddhism, yet orthodox Theravada does not ordain Nuns even though the Buddha did, this is obviously because within the system patriarchy has taken hold. Im glad that you make clear that its not the only form of living that enlightenment can happen in. Im not saying that sex, or lack of sex, are intrinsically good practices for lay people, its different for each individual. Im just asking about what Dhamma teaching is there for those married people who do have sex? Sorry for my lack of clarity about family, when i say family what i meant specifically is, someone with a sexually active married partner (wife,husband).

And sorry for my misunderstanding of the Dalai Lamas position in relation to the Gelugpa school, i thought he was the head of it, but he is just a practicioner of it.

Just because something has its origin within another religion doesnt make it inherently unBuddhist. Thats like saying that the Cambodian Reamker is unBuddhist because it has its origin in a Hindu myth. The Cambodian Reamker is a distinctly Buddhist version of the Hindu myth Ramayana. It is adapted to Buddhist teaching. Similarly, the way Vajrayana sees it, Tantra has its origin in Hinduism, but it has been adapted and is now a distinctly Buddhist Tantra, adapted to Buddhist teachings.Or it would be like trying to argue that the entirety of modern science is inherently unBuddhist because it developed as a JudeoChristian enterprise in JudeoChristian Europe and America.
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

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

I'm not saying sex is bad or wrong in a judgemental kind of way. It's important to know that. I tried to say it's not in line with the Dhamma, because the Dhamma includes leaving sexuality behind. When the Buddha taught the middle way, he meant the way between sensual indulgence and ascetisism. The middle way is the way that's not indulging in sensuality and not self-mortification. It's not an excuse for everything goes or that there's good in everything. So in Therevada there are no specific practices to enrich ones sex life, because that would not be the middle way.

This is the very first part of what is generally believed to be a description of the very first sermon of the Buddha.
"There are these two extremes that are not to be indulged in by one who has gone forth. Which two? That which is devoted to sensual pleasure with reference to sensual objects: base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable; and that which is devoted to self-affliction: painful, ignoble, unprofitable. Avoiding both of these extremes, the middle way realized by the Tathagata — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

(By the way it's interesting that this sutta talks about "one who has gone forth", while there was no monks order yet at the time of the very first teachings, so that's another indication of what is said not only applying to manostics.)


Still the path can hugely benefit one by being more content in life, more stable emotionally, happier, more generous, more alert etc. This is all possible while in a sexual relationship also. Eventually the practice will affect all aspects of life, so also sexuality. Sexual relations may become less focussed on greed for example, which will influence it in a positve way. I know for myself that when I meditated a lot when I was in a relationship, the need for sex went away. That's one of the reasons I say what I say. Of course, take or leave whatever you want. But with more practice the benefits will show themselves for you too!

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

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