The experience of celibacy for 12 years

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby Mr Man » Wed Oct 02, 2013 6:46 pm

Thanks for the reply Daverupa, Now I am certainly not advocating not being celibate or trying to justify sexual activity but I would think that there is a possibility that the practice could be grasped wrongly or it's significance (for the lay follower) could be overstated. Evan if we reflect on the life of the bodhisatta we can see how practices intended to subdue sensual pleasures can be grasped wrongly.

On a side note I read today that 1% of the population are asexual. For the remaining 99% of us I'm sure there are vast ranges in sexual desire and activity and also a fair number of different emotions presented and acted upon in relation to sexual activity.
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby SarathW » Thu Oct 03, 2013 4:49 am

Mr Man wrote:Hi Ven. Dhammanando

The perspective I was thinking of was as a practice for monastics as part of a wider code of practice and way of training - not that lay people should be obliged to partake in sexual activity though.

I personally think the benefits of celibacy may be overstated and in some instances may be inappropriate (for the non monastic). Sensual pleasures are wide and varied. Some appear gross and some more subtle. Giving up the activity of sex is not synonymous with giving up sensual pleasures, It is just giving up one particular activity.

I do not regard the whole doctrine of kamma and rebirth as a superstition. I regard them as things to be investigated, considered and known. What I regard as superstition is that by performing (or not performing) a particular act one will be reborn in heaven. I'm not sure if this is your belief or not.

I do not agree that celibacy is intrinsically beneficial.

:anjali:


Hi Mr Man
I see where you coming from.
What I think is the intensity of action should be considered.
I am not sure whether the intensity of desire( Eat) for an apple or chocolate is the same as intensity of desire for having sexual intercourse.
Some people may say the vice versa.
In that case if a person abstinence from eating chocolate may lead to rebirth in heavenly places.
:shrug:
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby beeblebrox » Fri Oct 04, 2013 4:44 pm

daverupa wrote:I think the cultural trappings gave an emphasis to the benefits of the practice, whereas earlier exegetical treatments emphasized the utter danger of sensual pleasures generally, sex being simply one among them.

The simile of bait-hook-escape describes benefits in a way that doesn't require reference to heavenly realms, while at the same time being in agreement with the general attitude of dispassion and the rejection of enmeshment with sensuality. The cultural motivation of heaven may no longer be appropriate for some, but the bait-hook-escape approach remains valid.


Hi Dave,

I've been pondering over this "bait-hook-escape" approach... is that similar to what was described in the Lotus Sutra, where the Buddha (or so claimed) said that it wouldn't be proper to charge him with falsehood, since there is always this concern for him to lead us to liberation?

A couple metaphors were used to illustrate this: a wealthy merchant tells his children that he has various go-karts for them, to draw them out of the burning house; and a doctor sends his children the news that he's dead, so that they would be frightened into taking the medicine.

Another point: a recent news in the lounge (about sex abuse), and someone's response to it by sharing that the temples would hold beauty contests every year reminded me of what was shared in here... that if we practice celibacy we will go to sensual heavens, such as the one with 500 footed apsaras.

It seems like (ironic or not) these beauty contests are akin to being in the apsara heaven. When one goes celibate, it's inevitable (and I know this from experience) that the person will find himself in a situation like that sooner or later, and not only that, his perception would be altered in some ways (i.e., certain qualities will stand out in the women, such as their beauty, the desirableness, etc., due to the unresolved sexual energy).

That is just how it is when one goes celibate... and I think the Buddha described it. I doubt that he was offering it as a reward, but as a caution... albeit it's couched.

Do you think the Buddha bait anyone like that? I think the interpretation is inaccurate.

:anjali:
Last edited by beeblebrox on Fri Oct 04, 2013 5:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby daverupa » Fri Oct 04, 2013 4:53 pm

beeblebrox wrote:Do you think the Buddha bait anyone like that?


Baiting them with tales of pink-footed nymphs?

I'm not sure I see it as baiting; I could see that this young man, already believing in such things as post-death divine nymphs, being amazed that he hadn't ever considered that it would be better to avoid these here-and-now pleasures if greater pleasures are a result of that restraint.

This structural approach then holds valid for every pleasure that can be considered, up to nibbana, which would be the Buddha's pedagogical goal in this case. The content of the lines "nymphs > earth women" sets up a velocity toward "nibbana > sensuality" or even "form/formless > sensuality". I don't see a problem other than with taking that as a perfectly verbatim dialogue, which I don't think is fair for very much of the Nikayas.
    "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 beeblebrox » Fri Oct 04, 2013 4:59 pm

Hi Dave,

When a person is in sensual heaven, do you think it's easier or more difficult to stay with one's practice? If it's more difficult, then why is it called a heaven? If the Buddha called it heaven, then is that a lie?

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

Postby daverupa » Fri Oct 04, 2013 5:56 pm

beeblebrox wrote:Hi Dave,

When a person is in sensual heaven, do you think it's easier or more difficult to stay with one's practice? If it's more difficult, then why is it called a heaven? If the Buddha called it heaven, then is that a lie?

:anjali:


I'm not really sure what you're asking, but I've been looking at these three questions for a while now.

What I think you're aiming for is that you're wondering if the Buddha, in offering this nymph-gambit, wasn't perhaps opening the door for that man to enter into an even more difficult practice situation. Indeed, you seem to assume that if it is called 'heaven' and yet things aren't easier there, it must not be heaven at all, and if this is the case, the Buddha saying it's a heaven of any kind is simply wrong.

Yes/no/other?
    "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 Mr Man » Fri Oct 04, 2013 6:06 pm

My perception of heaven is a place of refinement and happiness but lacking in wise reflection (do heavenly beings possess Sampajañña?). To call it heaven isn't a lie because it is pleasant.
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby beeblebrox » Fri Oct 04, 2013 7:24 pm

daverupa wrote:I'm not really sure what you're asking, but I've been looking at these three questions for a while now.

What I think you're aiming for is that you're wondering if the Buddha, in offering this nymph-gambit, wasn't perhaps opening the door for that man to enter into an even more difficult practice situation. Indeed, you seem to assume that if it is called 'heaven' and yet things aren't easier there, it must not be heaven at all, and if this is the case, the Buddha saying it's a heaven of any kind is simply wrong.

Yes/no/other?


Kind of.

Venerable Dhammanando seems to be saying that since the practice of celibacy will lead one to heaven, that must mean it's a good thing. I wanted to challenge that assumption.

The way I understand it myself, I think celibacy only leads to that kind of appearance... no more, no less. That seems to match my experience.

If the Buddha was saying only this, then I don't think he was being deceitful.

He wasn't dangling a piece of carrot, either... like a donkey trainer.

If I recall correctly, when the Venerable Nanda found out what being in the heaven would entail, he became frightened and then begged the Buddha to take it back. What does that say about the heaven?

Anything that is constructed is always going to be unsatisfactory, and then it will turn into a burden. It will also degrade.

I think Mr Man's view makes sense, for sensual heaven at least.

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

Postby boris » Fri Nov 08, 2013 5:31 pm

beeblebrox wrote: Venerable Dhammanando seems to be saying that since the practice of celibacy will lead one to heaven, that must mean it's a good thing. I wanted to challenge that assumption. The way I understand it myself, I think celibacy only leads to that kind of appearance... no more, no less.


You are perfectly right. Drinking alcohol leads to hell, but it does not mean that it is a bad thing. :smile:
The man who wants to avoid grotesque collapses should not look for anything to fulfill him in space and time.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila
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Re: The experience of celibacy for 12 years

Postby Alex123 » Tue Jul 29, 2014 5:57 pm

Here is what the suttas say about sensual pleasures:

"Now there are these five cords of sensual pleasure, student. What are the five? Forms cognizable by the eye that are wished for, desired, agreeable, and likeable, connected with sensual desire and provocative of lust. Sounds cognizable by the ear...Odours cognizable by the nose...Flavours cognizable by the tongue...Tangibles cognizable by the body that are wished for, desired, agreeable, and likeable, connected with sensual desire and provocative of lust. These are the five cords of sensual pleasure.

The brahmin Pokkharasati is tied to these five cords of sensual pleasure, infatuated with them and utterly committed to them; he enjoys them without seeing the danger in them or understanding the escape from them.
That he could know or see or realise a superhuman state, a distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones - this is impossible." - MN99 Bhikkhu Bodhi translation

"One should not pursue sensual pleasure (KÂMA-SUKHA), which is low vulgar, coarse, ignoble and unbeneficial; and one should not pursue self-mortification, which is painful, ignoble and unbeneficial. So it was said. And with reference to what was this said? The pursuit of the enjoyment of one whose pleasure is linked to sensual desire - low, vulgar, coarse, ignoble and unbeneficial - is a state beset by suffering, vexation, despair and fever, and it is the wrong way. Disengage from the pursuit of the enjoyment of one whose pleasure is linked to sensual desire - low, vulgar, coarse, ignoble and unbeneficial - is a state without suffering, vexation despair and fever, and it is the right way. The pursuit of self-mortification… is the wrong way. Disengagement from the pursuit of self-mortification… is the right way… The Middle Way discovered by the Tathàgata avoids both these extremes… it leads… to Nibbàna."

(Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation of the Buddha's words in The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, p.1080f)



To forestall possible objection that some people can use:
    "I engage in sensual pleasures but I do not cling to them"


MN22 says:
    "For a person to indulge in sensual pleasures without sensual passion, without sensual perception, without sensual thinking: That isn't possible."


Also:
"In the same way, Magandiya, sensual pleasures in the past were painful to the touch, very hot & scorching; sensual pleasures in the future will be painful to the touch, very hot & scorching; sensual pleasures at present are painful to the touch, very hot & scorching; but when beings are not free from passion for sensual pleasures — devoured by sensual craving, burning with sensual fever — their faculties are impaired, which is why, even though sensual pleasures are actually painful to the touch, they have the skewed perception of 'pleasant.' MN75



With best wishes,

Alex
”Even the water melting from the snow-capped peaks finds its way to the ocean."
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