The experience of celibacy for 12 years

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The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby Ben » Sun Sep 29, 2013 12:10 am

Interesting reading.


When we broke up, I felt a huge sense of relief. For the first time in years, I felt free. Within days, I looked more relaxed, my eyes shone and I was calmer. Back in Paris, friends asked if I'd met someone new and assumed I must have fallen in love. But the reason I was so radiant was that I'd decided to be celibate.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle ... CMP=twt_gu
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby Hickersonia » Sun Sep 29, 2013 1:24 am

Interesting indeed, Ben. Thank you. :anjali:
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sun Sep 29, 2013 7:22 am

Thanks Ben :)
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby Sokehi » Sun Sep 29, 2013 9:06 am

Interesting reflection. Thank you for sharing this!
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby SarathW » Mon Sep 30, 2013 12:54 am

Hi Ben
This article will raise some important Buddhist questions!
I do not consider simple observation of celibacy constitute a virtue.
For example a blind person may say that he is not interested about visual stimulus or a beggar may say that he is not sitting in high chairs.
I think virtues come to effect when they are practice with in conjunction with Anicca,Dukkha, Anatta or in terms with Metta,Karuna and Muditha.
I may be wrong but I like to see what others opinion about it.

:shrug:
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby Dhammanando » Mon Sep 30, 2013 10:18 am

SarathW wrote:I do not consider simple observation of celibacy constitute a virtue.


I'm not sure what you mean by simple observance of celibacy. In the suttas it's stated that practising the brahmacariyā is a condition for rebirth in the sensual heavens, even where the person who practises it does so very miserably. This seems to imply that there is something intrinsically good in deliberately undertaken abstention from sex.

Presumably the principle would not apply to someone who abstained solely out of physical incapacity (which would be the proper analogy for your blind man).
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby Mr Man » Mon Sep 30, 2013 11:12 am

Hi Ven. Dhammanando
Do you think that there is something intrinsically good in deliberately undertaken abstention from sex? And why would that be? Does there reverse apply? Is it intrinsically evil to have sex?
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby daverupa » Mon Sep 30, 2013 6:44 pm

There's something intrinsically unsatisfactory about any sensual pleasure, whether it's due to sex organs or otherwise. They form a troubling draw for even once-returners, and must be set aside before jhana is engaged. They are inherently obstructive to the goal.
    "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: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Sep 30, 2013 7:14 pm

One of the most common arguments against celibacy is: "but it's so natural to have sex."

Yes, it is natural to have sex for procreation, but it is not natural and necessary in the way it is necessary to have food to survive. People can survive without sex, but not without food.

Probably a stupid question, somewhat related, but do [other] animals continue to have sex well past menopause? Or is it only humans and other primates?
(Not a rhetorical question, I really don't know for sure. :embarassed: )
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby Mr Man » Mon Sep 30, 2013 9:12 pm

daverupa wrote:There's something intrinsically unsatisfactory about any sensual pleasure, whether it's due to sex organs or otherwise.
Yes, and what is the cause of the intrinsic dissatisfaction?
daverupa wrote:They form a troubling draw for even once-returners, and must be set aside before jhana is engaged. They are inherently obstructive to the goal.
I'm not sure if the "They" is specifically aimed at sexual activity or sensual pleasure in general but I guess you're into the realms of speculation here?
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby daverupa » Mon Sep 30, 2013 9:13 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:do [other] animals continue to have sex well past menopause?


Humans have a menstrual cycle in place of the estrous cycle of most other mammals, so the question as framed isn't something that can be answered, really...

Other animals mostly oscillate between estrus and anestrus states in various ways; age is only partly correlated here as most estrous cycles continue until death.

Humans are reproductive mutants; I think I read a paper that menstruation is the result of a long string of 'junk' DNA which may be the remnant of an old virus. Wild stuff.

:tongue:
Last edited by daverupa on Mon Sep 30, 2013 9:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.
    "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: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Sep 30, 2013 9:21 pm

daverupa wrote:
David N. Snyder wrote:do [other] animals continue to have sex well past menopause?

Humans have a menstrual cycle in place of the estrous cycle of most other mammals, so the question as framed isn't something that can be answered, really...
They oscillate between estrus and anestrus states in various ways; age is only partly correlated here, and most estrous cycles continue until death.
Humans are reproductive mutants. :tongue:


Okay, thanks. Maybe it wasn't such a dumb question after all. Apparently most (all?) other mammals have this estrous cycle all the way till death, so menopause isn't a factor.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estrous_cycle

Wikipedia wrote:Typically, estrous cycles continue until death. Some animals may display bloody vaginal discharge, often mistaken for menstruation, also called a "period".


I noticed that in my cat before she got spayed. I thought it was a period.
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby dagon » Mon Sep 30, 2013 10:29 pm

I would disagree on the conclusion that you draw about the differences between humans and other mammals about the reproductive capabilities.

There is no doubt that human females survive beyond the menopause on a regular basis but other mammals don’t. This in my view may reflect mans “success as a species” arising out of natural selection process. If you take the life expectancy data for early humans it would be seen that few females survived beyond menopause. That would put humans on a par with most other mammals.

When human ‘development’ gave rise to a life span beyond the reproductive capacity of the body and given the social structures the post reproductive humans provided a greater chance of survival of children. The role of the grandparents evolved and this provided additional support to the children through provision of resources and protection from danger. Therefor the effect on longevity through natural selection favored those offspring who had post reproductive grandparents. While the ‘natural effects have seen superseded in most societies they are still evident in certain existing societies with high infant mortality rates such as some of the Aboriginal communities in Australia.

:focus:

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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby Dhammanando » Mon Sep 30, 2013 10:36 pm

Mr Man wrote:Do you think that there is something intrinsically good in deliberately undertaken abstention from sex?


That’s what I take the Cūḷadhammasamādāna Sutta to be suggesting:

“And what, bhikkhus, is the way of undertaking things that is painful now (paccuppanna-dukkhaṃ) and ripens in the future as pleasure (āyatiṃ sukhavipākaṃ)? Here, bhikkhus, someone by nature has strong lust, and he constantly experiences pain and grief born of lust; by nature he has strong hate, and he constantly experiences pain and grief born of hate; by nature he has strong delusion, and he constantly experiences pain and grief born of delusion. Yet in pain and grief, weeping with tearful face, he leads the perfect and pure holy life. On the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a happy destination, even in the heavenly world. This is called the way of undertaking things that is painful now and ripens in the future as pleasure.”


If the living of the brahmacariyā, in spite of one’s “strong lust ... hate ... and delusion”, has rebirth in heaven as its vipāka, then it must be a kusala thing to do.

And why would that be?


When there arises an inclination to act that is grounded in lust, or any of the three unwholesome roots, but this inclination is overcome by a stronger one, such that one refrains from acting, then the counteractive cetanā will generate either sīlamaya puñña (in cases where the prior velleity was directed towards a transgressive act) or bhāvanāmaya puñña (in cases where the velleity was directed towards an act that whose unwholesomeness wouldn’t reach the level of moral transgression).

Does there reverse apply?


Yes.

Is it intrinsically evil to have sex?


Sexual coupling is an act inseparable from defilement; that’s why it’s an impossible act for an arahant. If one is a non-brahmacarī householder but whose sex life is kept within the parameters of the third precept, then one may avoid kilesa at the morally transgressive level; nonetheless one’s couplings will unavoidably supply fuel to the anusaya kilesa of lust.

Having said that, the statement “Sex is intrinsically evil” is perhaps best avoided. Not because it’s actually wrong, but because ‘evil’ in everyday English usage is a rather strong word, making the statement a less than felicitous way of phrasing the position — one that may lead newcomers to mistake the Buddhist view of sex for that of the Manichaeans, Priscillianists, and suchlike.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby faraway » Tue Oct 01, 2013 2:02 am

Dhammanando wrote:
SarathW wrote:I do not consider simple observation of celibacy constitute a virtue.


I'm not sure what you mean by simple observance of celibacy. In the suttas it's stated that practising the brahmacariyā is a condition for rebirth in the sensual heavens, even where the person who practises it does so very miserably. This seems to imply that there is something intrinsically good in deliberately undertaken abstention from sex.

Presumably the principle would not apply to someone who abstained solely out of physical incapacity (which would be the proper analogy for your blind man).


Banthe,

Could you show me the sutta where it's stated explicitly that practising the brahmacariyā is a condition for rebirth in the sensual heavens, even where the person who practises it does so very miserably?

:anjali:
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby Anagarika » Tue Oct 01, 2013 2:14 am

The article that Ben posted is interesting reading. It struck me that the subject had a complex or confused relationship with relationship and intimacy. She wasn't celibate by choice, it seems to me, but celibate due to confusion over the role of sex in her life. She ceased sex only later to resume it, without a concrete sense of why sex ebbed and flowed in her life. I wish her only wellbeing, but she seems not the poster case for mindful celibacy.

Sex is a wonderful thing in the context of metta, love and intimacy. Yet, as I understand from the Dhamma, it is a sense fetter that takes us off the path, like many of the other sense fetters. To have sex in a meaningful way, involves a relationship, with all of its euphoria and inevitable vicissitudes. To really go deeper into the practice, it seems to me, requires this renunciation of the sense pleasures. Food becomes that of sustenance, not a Food Network celebration. Relationships become more geared toward kalyana mitta. Sex is renounced as (in one sense) it tends to obstruct the ability to experience jhana; the experience of jhana is subjugated in favor of the mundane impermanent body sense pleasures. Just not focusing on the next sexual conquest or act might benefit the directed focus of the Dhamma practice.

Being celibate is tough going, but it seems to me easier once the other sense pleasures take second place in one's life, and there is some sense of meaningful, cohesive dedication to the path. I'd be a hypocrite if I advocated that most people on the path be celibate, as there are so many kalyana mitta path who have relationships and partners. Yet, the renunciate path seems best equipped to allow for the uncomplicated, uninhibited, unrestricted and unfettered practice of the Dhamma, and it seems to me that Buddha had it right when he articulated the varied renunciate practices for the monks.

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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Oct 01, 2013 2:16 am

faraway wrote:
Dhammanando wrote:
SarathW wrote:I do not consider simple observation of celibacy constitute a virtue.


I'm not sure what you mean by simple observance of celibacy. In the suttas it's stated that practising the brahmacariyā is a condition for rebirth in the sensual heavens, even where the person who practises it does so very miserably. This seems to imply that there is something intrinsically good in deliberately undertaken abstention from sex.

Presumably the principle would not apply to someone who abstained solely out of physical incapacity (which would be the proper analogy for your blind man).


Banthe,

Could you show me the sutta where it's stated explicitly that practising the brahmacariyā is a condition for rebirth in the sensual heavens, even where the person who practises it does so very miserably?

:anjali:

This is an alternative translation to the Sutta that Bhante quoted above:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"And what is the taking on of a practice that is painful in the present but yields pleasure in the future? There is the case of a person who is normally strongly passionate by nature and frequently experiences pain & grief born of passion; a person who is normally strongly aversive by nature and frequently experiences pain & grief born of aversion; a person who is normally strongly deluded by nature and frequently experiences pain & grief born of delusion. Even though touched with pain & grief, crying with a tearful face, he lives the holy life that is utterly perfect, surpassingly pure. With the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the good bourn, the heavenly world. This is called the taking on of a practice that is painful in the present but yields pleasure in the future.


:anjali:
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby Dhammanando » Tue Oct 01, 2013 2:24 am

faraway wrote:Could you show me the sutta where it's stated explicitly that practising the brahmacariyā is a condition for rebirth in the sensual heavens, even where the person who practises it does so very miserably?


But I have already done so. In the Cūḷadhammasamādāna Sutta the manner of practice is explicitly stated to involve dukkha in the present, but with sukha as its vipāka. The detailed account then describes a man practising the brahmacariyā miserably (= dukkha in the present) but arriving at heavenly rebirth (= sukha vipāka).

Then there is also the Nanda Sutta in the Udāna, where the venerable Nanda is persuaded by the Buddha to continue with the brahmacariyā in the present life (despite his wish to disrobe and take up with his former fiancée), for by doing so he will gain heavenly rebirth and five hundred pink-footed apsaras.

Then there is a sutta in the Aṅguttara Nikāya that describes various secondary defects of the brahmacariyā. One of these consists in living a celibate life motivated only by the desire for heavenly rebirth to which such a life conduces.
Last edited by Dhammanando on Tue Oct 01, 2013 4:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby SarathW » Tue Oct 01, 2013 3:10 am

The link for Cula-dhammasamdana Sutta:


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby Dhammanando » Tue Oct 01, 2013 4:42 am

Dhammanando wrote:Then there is a sutta in the Aṅguttara Nikāya that describes various secondary defects of the brahmacariyā.


Saṃyoga Sutta

Sexual Intercourse

Then the brahmin Jāṇussoṇī approached the Blessed One and exchanged greetings with him … and said to him:

“Does Master Gotama also claim to be one who lives the celibate life?”

“If, brahmin, one could rightly say of anyone: ‘He lives the complete and pure celibate life—unbroken, flawless, unblemished, unblotched,’ it is precisely of me that one might say this. For I live the complete and pure celibate life—unbroken, flawless, unblemished, unblotched.”

“But what, Master Gotama, is a breach, flaw, blemish, and blotch of the celibate life?”

(1) “Here, brahmin, some ascetic or brahmin, claiming to be perfectly celibate, does not actually engage in intercourse with women. But he consents to being rubbed, massaged, bathed, and kneaded by them. He relishes this, desires it, and finds satisfaction in it. This is a breach, flaw, blemish, and blotch of the celibate life. He is called one who lives an impure celibate life, one who is fettered by the bond of sexuality. He is not freed from birth, from old age and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection, and anguish; he is not freed from suffering, I say.

(2) “Again, some ascetic or brahmin, claiming to be perfectly celibate, does not actually engage in intercourse with women; nor does he consent to being rubbed, massaged, bathed, and kneaded by them. But he jokes with women, plays with them, and amuses himself with them….

(3) “… he does not joke with women, play with them, and amuse himself with them … but he gazes and stares straight into their eyes….

(4) “… he does not gaze and stare straight into women’s eyes … but he listens to their voices behind a wall or through a rampart as they laugh, talk, sing, or weep….

(5) “… he does not listen to the voices of women behind a wall or through a rampart as they laugh, talk, sing, or weep … but he recollects laughing, talking, and playing with them in the past….

(6) “… he does not recollect laughing, talking, and playing with women in the past … but he looks at a householder or a householder’s son enjoying himself furnished and endowed with the five objects of sensual pleasure….

(7) “… he does not look at a householder or a householder’s son enjoying himself furnished and endowed with the five objects of sensual pleasure, but he lives the spiritual life aspiring for [rebirth in] a certain order of devas, [thinking]: ‘By this virtuous behavior, observance, austerity, or spiritual life I will be a deva or one [in the retinue] of the devas.’ He relishes this, desires it, and finds satisfaction in it. This, too, is a breach, flaw, blemish, and blotch of the celibate life. He is called one who lives an impure celibate life, one who is fettered by the bond of sexuality. He is not freed from birth, from old age and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection, and anguish; he is not freed from suffering, I say.

“So long, brahmin, as I saw that I had not abandoned one or another of these seven bonds of sexuality, I did not claim to have awakened to the unsurpassed perfect enlightenment in the world with its devas, Māra, and Brahmā, in this population with its ascetics and brahmins, its devas and humans. But when I did not see even one of these seven bonds of sexuality that I had not abandoned, then I claimed to have awakened to the unsurpassed perfect enlightenment in this world with … its devas and humans.

“The knowledge and vision arose in me: ‘Unshakable is my liberation of mind; this is my last birth; now there is no more renewed existence.’”

When this was said, the brahmin Jāṇussoṇī said to the Blessed One: “Excellent, Master Gotama! … Let Master Gotama consider me a lay follower who from today has gone for refuge for life.”

(A.iv.54-7 Bhikkhu Bodhi trans.)
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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