Mr Man wrote:Don't we still need to keep celibacy, in perspective.
Well, yes, but in what perspective do you want to keep it? I myself keep it in the perspective of those benefits (attha
) at which the Buddha’s teaching aims. Now it’s customary to divide these into three: (1) benefits obtainable in the present life, (2) benefits obtainable in future lives, and (3) the highest benefit (paramattha
) — synonymous with the noble paths, fruits and Nibbāna.
From the perspective of the first two atthas
, the difference between a celibate life and a sexually active life constrained by the third precept is the difference between a higher good and a lower one. But from the perspective of the third attha
sex doesn’t even qualify as a lower good. It stands in absolute opposition to Buddhism’s highest attha
, for the highest attha
is all about dispassion, whereas...
“...it is impossible that one can indulge in sensual pleasures without sensual desire, without the perception of sensual desire, without the thought of sensual desire!” (MN. 22)
From this perspective sex, along with all other sensual indulgences, doesn’t merit a single word of praise.
The idea that practicing celibacy removed from a broader context will result in a higher rebirth sounds to me like superstition,
Could you clarify your position? Do you regard the whole doctrine of kamma and rebirth as a superstition? If not, then which part of my previous post would you regard as a superstition: that rebirth in heaven is due to the ripening of puñña
, or that resisting unskilful urges creates puñña
as do ideas like celibacy will cause one to look more radiant and be more relaxed.
This is not of course the Buddha’s teaching. In the Suttas the radiance of certain bhikkhus is attributed not to their celibacy but to their success in bhāvanā
, while the Vinaya frankly recognizes that celibacy can lead some to look thin, yellow-skinned and ugly on account of sexual frustration.
For your average Joe how important is celibacy
It depends on which of the atthas
he is principally concerned with. If it’s with the third, and if his concern with it is an ardent one, inspired by a sense of urgency, then the avoidance of sensual indulgences will be of great importance. One practising as if his turban were on fire is unlikely to have much use for “the rubbing of a piece of intestine, followed by a convulsion and the spurting of some mucus” (M. Aurelius, Meditations
and how beneficial is the practice going to be?
The degree of benefit that celibacy will confer in different cases depends on too many variables for any generalization to be possible.
How about if we remove celibacy from a Buddhist (or religious context)? Does is still remain intrinsically beneficial?
Yes, in particular for the second attha
Note that the words in the Saṃyoga Sutta: “By this rule or vow or austerity or holy life, I shall become a deva...” are the stock phrase used in the Suttas for expressing the fetter of adhesion to habitual and vowed observances (sīlabbataparāmāsa
). So, in effect the passage is describing something to be expected among brahmacarī outsiders who practise celibacy while lacking the Buddha’s right view guidance. Such persons' enfetteredness by sīlabbataparāmāsa
and lack of right view will be obstructive to their attainment of the third attha
, but may still yield the second, in the form of rebirth as a deva.