Here is an interview with Mahathera Henepola Gunaratana (only google-translated from
Here's an interview from the "What is Enlightenment?" Magazine, issue entitled 'What is the relationship between sex and spirituality? "
The interview cuts general topics about the 'Buddhism' in the same way as very direct personal experience with the Bhante Gunaratanas celibacy and the subject of sex in the life of a monk. For this one should know is that Bhante Gunaratana age of 12 entered the Sangha, and 20 received the higher ordination.
WasIstErleuchtung magazine: When we planned this interview, we meant in jest, that we ideally actually had to have an interview with the Buddha himself, but it is certainly the next best thing to be able to talk to you about what the Buddha taught.
Bhante Gunaratana: I would hope that we all sit together with the Buddha, and discuss with him these questions could!
AS: It's a fact, can lose track of the no one nowadays interested in Buddhism, the Buddha was a monk and founded a monastic tradition, and this tradition is also to their dissemination in the West for yourself as much time have invested and energy. Why the Buddha celibacy was so important? Why did he think that it is of such great importance?
BG: Because people who want to find relief from suffering, the suffering, must follow certain principles. In fact, celibacy is essential for people who wish to lead a monastic life. Because if they are sexually active in every possible way, they are no different from lay people who put in the most diverse problems that are due to the sexuality. And a person who is interested in a monastic life seeks, even a very simple life - that is the purpose of all monastic traditions - because, ultimately, we can solely by the fact that we get rid of greed, lust and longing find relief from suffering. See if we have the intention to get rid of our suffering, we must remove the cause of suffering, and desire is clearly the cause of suffering. So who wants to lead a monastic life, they must overcome in order to live so that he, the roots of desire no longer nourishes.
AS: It would therefore be correct to say that for a man who lives no monastic life, so for a layman, much more difficult, or even impossible, to do that?
BG: Even laymen must follow a discipline in life, they must exercise a certain restraint. Therefore, there are also rules for laymen, but ordinary laymen do not have to be celibate. Lay people can reach certain stages of enlightenment - we call them "entrained" or "one-Recurring" - before they see for themselves that sexual activity inevitably brings difficulties and problems. Lay people can even reach the third stage of sainthood, we call them "never Returning". But once they have reached this stage, they will decide from their own realization that an involvement in sexuality blocked progress in their spiritual practice, and when they realize that they will stop voluntarily, to be sexually active. As you can see, celibacy is not something that can be imposed by force or through a bid.
AS: Could you describe in more detail why sexuality must be transcended in itself, so that progress can be made on the spiritual path?
BG: Because the mind clouded in confusion, and confusion is, as long as you get busy, and because people in jealousy, fear, hatred, tension, etc. involved - in all of these problems that arise from the desire. So if you want to be freed from all this, you must first desire to be eliminated.
Now many people like to "remove" the word is not, some prefer words "transcend" or as "transform". "Sure," they say, "you can feel like 'in, non-fancy' Transform!"
AS: And where is the difference between "transcend" and "remove"?
BG: Some terms of the actual significance a little closer, and others could be called euphemistically, ie terms that are not as negative. These people say "transcend" or rather "transform" "eliminate" than because they need words that have a sugar glaze and therefore they are more comfortable from the feeling.
AS: But what we're really talking about is the removal of the desire?
BG: Right. But if "eliminate" one says, that's so strong, so negative that people ask: "How do I fix something" But if you say: "We transform it into something else", then they can do something with it.
HOW: If the doctrine of the Buddha viewed sexuality as fundamentally negative?
BG: The Buddha taught that as long as man is sexually active, he has no interest in the practice of the spiritual life, the two things do not match easily. But in his teaching on the progressive enlightenment, he also said that includes the feeling of pleasure and enjoyment of sexuality. He did not deny the enjoyment. Enjoyment is. But, you see, then changes this pleasure in displeasure, and gradually, slowly, once the initial fire of lust wears off, people start to fight. Because of lust arises fear, lust arises from greed, lust arise from jealousy, anger, hatred, confusion and struggle, all these negative things grow out of lust. And that's why all these negative things are included in the content. And, you know, if we want to see, then we need look no further than our own society. Just do your eyes and look around. How many millions of people struggling? And this is justified only in their lust and greed - husbands with wives, friends with friends, friends of friends, friends of friends - and so on, right? It makes no difference whether people are heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual, that does not matter. As long as you're involved in it, it's inevitable that you have these problems - struggle, disappointment, anger, hatred, killing - all that goes with it.
Therefore, because the Buddha saw the problem inherent in sexuality, he said that it is better to discipline and control the senses, to be a calm and peaceful life. But this must be done gradually, slowly, founded on understanding, not abruptly. It can not be forced. It must be done gradually and with deep understanding. If people do not understand it and try to make all of a sudden that's that, they will have even more frustration, fear and so on. And that's why he said in his progressive doctrine that it first gives pleasure to be sexually active, but there are disadvantages, there are problems. And only then, when you see the problems that are beginning to realize that these inherent disadvantages of this negativity and sexuality - they are not to part with it. The lust includes these difficulties and problems.
AS: Especially in this day and age would be considered a very radical position.
BG: Oh, sure. But you know, only when people turn away from these things only when they are of this type of teaching away and spatially and temporally millions of miles away and turn around then and see the roots of their problem, it seems radical. They have turned away so long and in space and time so far away that they think when they look back: "For heaven's sake, how can I eliminate this now I got involved so far this and I am now is so entangled?. " Therefore, it seems to them radically. Sure, it's radical!
HOW: While you spoke, I found myself thinking that the enjoyment of sexuality as short discussed, but all their disadvantages such detail, a lot of people -
BG: Yes, exactly! So much pain for a little pleasure, right?
BG: But you're right. The people do not want to think about it. People always want to hear what they want to hear. But say we do not want! Whether it's the people like it or not, we want to tell the truth. And we should not be afraid to tell the truth. If the world does not accept it now or ... that's something else again. What can you do?
AS: When we were looking for a quote from the Buddha, which reflects his attitude to sexuality, we came across this passage from The Life of Buddha: "misleading Guided man who you've been gone for so long, it would be better for you, your link would into the mouth of a vile venomous viper penetrate than a woman. It would be better for you, your member would enter into a pile of burning, hot and burning coals as a woman. Why is that? In the first case you would result in death or a deadly risk suffering, but you would not know when the body disintegrates after death, be reborn in a state of misery. in an unhappy destiny, in perdition, even in hell "
I think it gives it a very distinct impression was that the Buddha attitude toward sex. But as you know, are in the west today, many variations of Buddhism taught and practiced, and many practitioners in the West seem to assertion of the Buddha does not share that desire - which he, as you said just now saw as a manifestation of desire - by definition must be transcended in order to attain enlightenment. Moreover, the liberal climate of America today tends sexuality as something very good, very healthy and to be seen as not only a very natural expression of our humanity, but even our spirituality. What the Buddha would have said you think about this?
BG: Before I answer that, I want this translation are going to attach a small footnote. They know that the Buddha, when he spoke of celibacy, not only from celibacy for men but also for women spoke. So if he, for example, said it was better to swallow a red-hot iron ball, as to be sexually active, then the same applies to women. It must be clear, otherwise women would feel snubbed. Otherwise they would think, perhaps, that the Buddha hated women, for that reason wanted to keep men from women and therefore men demanded to be celibate. But if a woman wants to be celibate, they must stay away from men for the same reason. That's the first point I wanted to make sure the.
The second point is that life has been in the family with a spouse, etc. are not condemned by the Buddha, a healthy sex life within marriage is permitted laymen, even though it, like I said, can never lead to full enlightenment.
To answer your question, not only in the society of today, but just as in Buddha's time, there were people who believed that sexuality is sacred, noble, Sanctified and wonderful. So this is not just a social phenomenon of the twentieth century. The mentality of the people has not changed since time immemorial, to this day, and they will not change in the future. There are always people who think that they could find liberation through sexuality, we call it a distorted view, a distorted thinking.
HOW: This "distorted view", as you call it, is indeed timeless, but seems unable to prevail especially. I mean the increasingly popular view that sexuality in and of itself, when it is pursued to the end, which is actually an expression of enlightenment - and that you really can not really hope to achieve the ultimate goal when sexuality in any way out of the way is because it is the path to liberation. If it is possible, I would ask you to portray us as clearly as possible, as the Buddha would have reacted to this position.
BG: So I'm pretty well acquainted. He said - I'm translating from the Pali, "No matter what you do or erlangst - you can in a cave or live in a remote place, and you like all the sutras memorized have, you like a learned orator, you may also morality practice, and so on and so on - no matter what else you may do, as long as you're not rid of lust, hatred and ignorance, you will never attain enlightenment. " The Buddha teaches.
The more one is sexually active so, the deeper one goes into lust, confusion and jealousy. When a man, woman or man, at the same time want to have sexual intercourse with more than one person, then he or she will suffer in the same way in different ways: from jealousy, anxiety, stress, grief. This is a very unhealthy, very unhealthy life. If anyone is thinking of all kinds of people all the time in various ways to have sexual intercourse, then that person will be as a result of such unhealthy behavior very soon dead. Now, however, one must also understand that in the same way a moderate, intelligent and healthy sexual activity is highly defensible. But to reach enlightenment through sexuality nothing other than one indulges in sexual activity so long until you die! And you will be dead before you have attained this enlightenment!
HOW: How will all this comes in the context of real spiritual exercise to wear?
BG: I am a Theravada Buddhist - you know that is not true?
BG: Well, sometimes I am sorry to have to say these things, but from Theravada Buddhist Tantra is not regarded as Buddhism. In the Buddhist original literature can be found anywhere else, "Tantric Buddhism". Tantra is a later development. In Buddhism, there is nothing original in the sense of tantric Buddhism. There was never such a thing as Tantric Buddhism. Tantra Tantra, Buddhism is Buddhism, and those two things will never go together. But some people who were very involved in sexuality, and visibility was very distorted wanted to glorify the sexuality by it gave Buddhism. And therefore, they combined with Tantra Buddhism. I'll probably hate it that I say this, but I have to say it anyway.
AS: We have found in the course of our research that enjoys not only the concept of sacred sexuality increased popularity, but also that people from Western cultures to celibacy often face with a lot of fear and distrust. What do you think the reason could be?
BG: strictly abstemious to be useful only to those who do it. You can not open an Institute of abstinence. Abstinence can not be institutionalized. It can not be organized. We can not have a society of celibate men. It is an absolutely personal and individual practice. So if people have objections to the objections directed against perhaps the organization of abstinence.
AS: But it seems that would be organized every monastic discipline to a certain degree. In fact, we were intrigued, so shocked when we discovered while reading the Patimokkha rules for training of monks that the Buddha had apparently set up a series of rules that forbade his monks, with sexual contact - just a few examples to mention that you are certainly familiar - skulls, corpses, animals ... so it's going to have. To our knowledge, this behavior is no longer - or so I assume, although that do not necessarily need! - Therefore, we wondered just: Responded to the Buddha with the decrees of these rules on things that people did in fact? - Even his own disciples and followers?
BG: Right. If the Buddha introduced a rule that monks found time soon is another way to do the same thing again. They wanted to operate somehow sexually. So when the Buddha put up a rule, they broke this rule, but they found another way for sexual activity. And then had to Buddha up another rule to stop them. It's like the police and the criminals - where there is a law, criminals will find a way to work around it and to commit the crime, and then we need a new law. This also happened in Buddha's time. As more and more people came into the order, they began to do everything possible, and for all these things he had to set up rules. Therefore, these rules exist. He reached with these Rules of the future.
AS: And now we're here in the future, and since you have set out to bring the monastic tradition of the Buddha to the West, I wonder how you see the people from the West who come to your theory's sake. How modern Western people behave a monastic life over? Do you think they more trouble than, say, people from your own or another culture?
BG: That's a good question, you know. We screen the people thoroughly before we accept them for the monastic life. We ask for two years on a kind of test to see if they are really sincere and sincerely interested to engage in it. Because sometimes people come just for fun, and because it is in our very quiet, peaceful, etc., they believe that they might like here and they might want to become monks. But later they will change their opinion. And that's why we do not want to deal with it lightly, we want to know if they are really sincere and serious. If they are serious, then we take it on. But those are just a few. Many come, many write to us - and nowadays they even send us e-mails! - And ask us to allow them to become monks and live here in the monastery. But we do not accept it all, because we know that they'll be losing interest.
But there are a few honest people who actually want to be a monk or nun. And this is not a new phenomenon. Also formerly of millions of people, only a few went to the monasteries. Even today in Buddhist countries do not all go to the convent. In some countries, such as Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, etc., there is a custom in the tradition: one goes to the monastery for a short time. But of those who go to the monastery for a short time, put most of the robe off again and go back. Only a handful of people really remains. In Western countries, where there are no such traditions, there are even fewer who come to the monastery. And they are even less stay with the monastic life. But that's more or less the same everywhere in the world and was at all times Sun
You know, in the West, fewer and fewer people to tolerate the pressure that society exerts on them, they are tired - really, really tired - and so they want to get away. But remain only very few of them are, and most will go back into society. But we knew that when we built our center, because that is always and everywhere been the case.
HOW: If possible, I'd like to know a little more about your own life as a monk. Possible impacts of such celibacy on your spiritual development?
BG: My friend, it gives me tremendous peace. And I say this in all honesty, you know. Because I can live with all people without any problem. Not one woman or a special girl, a special boy or a special man, for my celibacy helps me to accept all the other people in the same way. And it helps my mind to peace. And I believe that the Buddha wanted it for us - a friendly, peaceful relations with all living beings. That is why it has such a positive effect on my life.
AS: As I understand it, you were a monk at the age of -
BG: Twelve. And now I'm seventy. Fifty-eight years since I wear this robe!
HOW: If you were to give advice to people who are thinking, drop the celibacy, what would you say?
BG: I would say, "If you want honest, sincere and serious to have a peaceful life, a mindful life, a life without problems, a life that is marked by the indiscriminate serving for others, is a celibate life is a very good life, because you can if you live in celibacy, it really true love and kindness practice, true compassion. One can appreciate everything that meets a. The mind can be calm and without bias. But if bound by one or two people is all that is not possible. Therefore, if you practice seriously and sincerely want these things, then celibacy is to seriously consider it. "
But it should never be such that it will be accepted on faith or because it is imposed by someone. You must truly understand it and think very carefully about celibacy before you get out gets involved.
HOW: You must go with open eyes.
AS: And man must also could face multiple challenges?
BG: Sure, sure. If you practice abstinence, we encounter again challenges. There are so many people who want to be with you, so many who are approaching and you want to break your celibacy. Because the others know that you are not corrupt. You fall not fall for every trick you let not the wrong things do not get any diseases etc. People understand that you are a very decent man, a decent man. And some people are happy with a very decent person together, and that is a challenge. Which will have to adapt.
AS: You said you have been doing for fifty-eight years abstinence. How their experience with regard to this decision has changed over time or depth?
BG: You know, at first it was very difficult, very difficult, especially when I was younger, as a teenager and into my late twenties. It was really a challenge. But through the training I received, I developed a certain sense of responsibility for my duties, my work, my commitment to the Dharma, and also had respect for my teachers and parents. Teachers and parents, we love her very much, and we do not want to be disobedient or disrespectful to them. This went on for years until I was really gets fully matured. And then I began to understand the true meaning of celibacy out of myself.
Interview by Simeon Alev