masturbation what's wrong?

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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Aug 10, 2009 4:57 am

Pannapetar wrote:
Ben wrote:At the very least, its unskilful and unwholesome as it creates powerful sankharas of lust that are difficult to eradicate.


mikenz66 wrote:It's not "wrong" but it's a time-wasting and rather useless activity.


Dhammakid wrote:I can attest to the scourge that sensual desire - particularly sexual - is on the development of sila, panna and samadhi.


I would be very careful with such statements. There is a good reason why the Buddhadharma gives few explicit rules about sexual misconduct and masturbation. It is certainly not up to us to retrofit the dhamma by generalising our opinions. What skilful practice with regard to the 3rd precept is, depends on largely the psychophysical makeup of the individual. Celibacy can be the best path for some, but it can be disastrous for others. It is not required for lay people.

Cheers, Thomas


I agree with your response to the quotes. We are, after, sexual beings. Self pleasuring has its place as a sexual response to one's sexual impulses. It is far better, as a layperson, to have a healthy appreciation and enjoyment of one's sexuality rather than taking a grim Calvinistic or Catholic approach that causes unnecessary and unhealthy shame and guilt. Like anything we do self-pleasuring can be misused, overdone and can become a problem, but in and of itself it is not a problem. As Woody Allen so rightly said: “Don't knock masturbation, it's sex with someone I love.”
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Aug 10, 2009 5:27 am

That quote from me had nothing to do with guilt, just time wasting. Like playing video games, or watching TV, or ... umm ... surfing the internet... :coffee:

Obsessive behaviour with any of the above can be, as Tilt points out, a serious problem.

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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby Dan74 » Mon Aug 10, 2009 5:29 am

The question "Is it wrong?" is in a sense a wrong question. Ultimately any type of desire is to be discarded as unskillful, but this teaching can be harmful to someone already plagued with guilt and self-loathing.

In general, tilt's approach above is the healthiest one, I think. I would also add that accepting who we are is the necessary first step for going forward. And acceptance is by nature non-judgmental. If you experience strong desire, bring awareness to it, notice the consequences, think what role it plays in your life, read what the suttas and wise people say about it, do purification practices if you are so inclined, but don't obsess over it. Eventually we discard desire because it is no longer relevant to us.

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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Aug 10, 2009 5:41 am

Dan74 wrote: Eventually we discard desire because it is no longer relevant to us. Most of the time I don't even realise it happened until quite some time afterwards.

Good point. Personally, I notice that I am calmer and not so tired if I don't masturbate. The same goes for "real" sex. So if I was not actually in a relationship (or when I am separated from my partner, as at this moment) I prefer to abstain. Frankly, for me at this point. it's actually more enjoyable to sit in meditation for a few minutes and build up enough concentration for the desire to fade. However, complete abstinence is not always easy, and if it were something one were doing out of shame or guilt then it would probably be counter-productive.

If I can compare this with alchol, my experience in my first retreat was that the clarity of mind was superior to any pleasure I could get from alcohol, so I have not drunkalcohol since. I don't abstain to uphold the precept, I just have no interest.

Similarly, I could imagine losing all interest in sex, but I would not force it.

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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby cooran » Mon Aug 10, 2009 5:43 am

Hello all,

What do you think?

Buddhist Sexual Ethics by Winston Higgins
http://www.buddhanet.net/winton_s.htm

- with a Rejoinder by Ajahn Brahmavamso and
Ajahn Nanadhammo

http://www.buddhanet.net/rejoiner.htm

metta
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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby Pannapetar » Mon Aug 10, 2009 5:50 am

Ben wrote:Could you please elaborate?


Yes certainly.

I agree with you that sila/morality is required for the development of samadhi/concentration, and I can say this from my own experience rather than just echoing a book teaching. But, the Buddha was deliberately unspecific what concerns the 3rd precept for lay people. The reason for this is that generalisations are simply impossible. What is skilful behaviour for one person may be unkilful for another, depending on the situation the individual is in.

At a certain stage of development, when one has made a serious commitment to the practice, any sexual activity including masturbation can become an obstacle. That's why monks -who are expected to commit themselves to the practice- must be celibate. But the same cannot be said for lay people. It is important to remember that masturbation does not cause physical or emotional harm to anyone including the self. Masturbation may therefore even be thought as a skilful practice. For example, it is more skilful than engaging in casual sex, seducing women for selfish reasons, paying prostitutes, or other more harmful behaviours.

Of course, it can also become unskilful if it leads to compulsion, excess, perversion or abusing the body, but these cases aren't the norm. On the contrary, these are deviations from the norm. Hence, I disagree with the statement that "it creates powerful sankharas of lust that are difficult to eradicate". That is a rudimentary vilification of sexuality that is inaccurate and unnecessary. People are perfectly capable of leading normal sexually active lifes while keeping their sexual relationships harmless to others and themselves. This can be done simply by being mindful and responsible, and in my understanding nothing else is required from Buddhist lay people.

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Aug 10, 2009 5:55 am

What Thomas said.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Aug 10, 2009 6:12 am

I am beginning to like Ajahn Brahmavamso less and less the more I read of him. His “rejoinder” failed to mention that much of texts he quoted are addressed to monastics, not laity. That is a significant distinction.

If we are talking to laity, then Winston Higgins’ article is more reasonable, and we do not need to make Ajahn Brahm’s fallacious distinction: To some, it offers wise and compassionate advice on how to lessen the suffering of modern lay life. To others, it is the path to Enlightenment which ends all suffering.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby cooran » Mon Aug 10, 2009 7:17 am

Hello Tilt,

Tilt said: I am beginning to like Ajahn Brahmavamso less and less the more I read of him. His “rejoinder” failed to mention that much of texts he quoted are addressed to monastics, not laity. That is a significant distinction.


In India at that time, any discourse by the Buddha was addressed to the most "important" personages present. There were always lay people of various social levels as well as Bhikkhus. For example, if a king was present one could mistakenly read the sutta as only applying to him - but this would not be correct. All Suttas not pertaining to the Vinaya can be seen, and ought to be seen, as being applicable to lay persons.

This, of course, can cause aversion in those who see it as restricting there daily activities or way of life.

karuna,
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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Aug 10, 2009 7:43 am

Chris,
Chris wrote: All Suttas not pertaining to the Vinaya can be seen, and ought to be seen, as being applicable to lay persons.


Not necessarily:

SN II. 231: He [the monk]sees women there lightly clad or lightly attired and lust invades his mind; invaded by lust he gives up the training and returns to the hiina life.

SN IV.191: When a bhikkhu is conducting himself thus and dwelling thus [with mindfulness well-developed], kings or royal ministers, friends or colleagues, relatives or kinsmen, might invite him to accept wealth, saying: 'Come, good man, why let these saffron robes weigh you down? Why roam around with a shaven head and a begging bowl? Come, having returned to the lower life, enjoy wealth and do meritorious deeds.' Indeed, bhikkhus, when conducting self thus and dwelling thus [with mindfulness well-developed], it is impossible the he will give up the training and return to the hiina life.

Ud 21: Thus have I heard. At one time the Lord was staying near Savatthi in the Jeta Wood at Anathapindika's monastery. On that occasion the Venerable Nanda, the Lord's (half-) brother, the son of his maternal aunt, informed a number of bhikkhus thus: "I am discontented with leading the holy life, friends. I am unable to endure the holy life. I will give up the training and return to the hiina life." ...

"But why, Nanda, are you discontented with leading the holy life?"

"On departing from home, revered sir, a Sakyan girl, the loveliest in the land, with her hair half-combed, looked up at me and said, 'May you return soon, master.' Recollecting that, revered sir, I am discontented with leading the holy life... I am unable to endure the holy life. I will give up the training and return to the hiina life."

AN III.393: This one, monks, who disavows his training, returns to the hiina life of the world.

DN iii 49: ...[he] does not approve of such harming, ... he does not crave for sensual pleasure ... Through this restraint, through making this his austerity, he takes an upward course and does not fall back into hiina things [hinaya avattati].

M I.459-460-1: In the same manner four fears should be expected by a person leaving the household to become a homeless. What four?. The fear of waves, fear of crocodiles, fear of whirlpools and fear of alligators. …

When I was a householder, I advised others, here I have to abide by the advice of those who are like my sons and grand sons. Then he gives up robes and returns to the hiina life, out of fear for waves, it is said. Bhikkhus, fear of waves is a synonym for anger and aversion.

...

Then it occurs to him, when I was a householder, I too partook these five strands of sensual pleasures, possessed and provided. I have wealth in my clan, to enjoy these sensual pleasures. I could do merit, too. Then he gives up robes and becomes a layman. He gives up robes and returns to the hiina life out of fear for whirlpools, it is said. Bhikkhus, fear for whirlpool is a synonym for, the five strands of sensual pleasures.

SN II 271:Drunk with the intoxication of youth, a monk leaves the training and returns to the hiina life.

Sn p 92: What if I were to return to the hiina life and enjoy sensual pleasures?

SN IV. 103: "Friend Sariputta, a bhikkhu who was my co-resident has given up the training and returned to the hiina life." "So it is, friend, when one does not guard the doors of the sense faculties, is immoderate in eating, and is not devoted to wakefulness."
This is not addressing the Vinaya, as such, and there is no reason why any of the above needs be considered appropriate for the laity.

This, of course, can cause aversion in those who see it as restricting there daily activities or way of life.

There is no reason to think that the Buddha ever considered restricting the laity in the terms as spelled in the above passages. Of the two essays you linked Winston Higgins' showed, in my considered opinion, a far better grasp of the Dhamma than did the Ven Brahmavamso, and he made a far better argument for his case.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby Macavity » Mon Aug 10, 2009 8:14 am

Chris wrote:Hello all,

What do you think?

Buddhist Sexual Ethics by Winston Higgins
http://www.buddhanet.net/winton_s.htm

- with a Rejoinder by Ajahn Brahmavamso and
Ajahn Nanadhammo

http://www.buddhanet.net/rejoiner.htm


I think that the two monks are unfair to Winston. With their line of thinking, if it were followed consistently, the Buddha himself wouldn't escape criticism. One would expect them, for example, to find fault with him for teaching the householder's ethics of the Sigalovada Sutta and failing to tell Sigala that it would actually be better if he wasn't a householder at all.
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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby cooran » Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:26 am

Hello Tilt and Macavity,

Perhaps. But don't you think frequent or habitual masturbation (akusala sankharas) simply strengthens unwholesome latent tendencies?

Tilt - have you met Ajahn Brahms? I have a photo of he an I taken in 2006 packed away somewhere. What of all the wonderful work he has done in spreading the Dhamma, establishing monasteries for males and females, tirelessly working for good of the Sasana .... and you disparage him just because you and he disagree over mastrubation? I am surprised.

metta
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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:46 am

Chris wrote:Hello Tilt and Macavity,

Perhaps. But don't you think frequent or habitual masturbation (akusala sankharas) simply strengthens unwholesome latent tendencies?


No body is talking about frequent and habitual anything except in terms that that is agreed to be not a good thing. Higgins was talking about healthy sexuality for laity in Buddhist terms. The monastic article did not reflect good reasoning, and it did not use the texts well, and if we follow the monstics’ reasoning, it is a basis for laying a lot of guilt and confusion for laity.

Tilt - have you met Ajahn Brahms? I have a photo of he an I taken in 2006 packed away somewhere. What of all the wonderful work he has done in spreading the Dhamma, establishing monasteries for males and females, tirelessly working for good of the Sasana .... and you disparage him just because you and he disagree over mastrubation? I am surprised.

metta
Chris


I have not disparaged him. I am simply not a fan, and I am finding his writings are not for me. It is not a matter of disagreeing with him over masturbation. His take on lay sexuality in general leave something to be desired, especially in contrast with Higgins’ well done article. The article Ven Brhamavamso co-wrote is an example of really bad argumentation, whatever other virtues the he may have. These two monks are not above criticism, are they?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby cooran » Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:49 am

Hello Tilt

No - no-one is above criticism. Just that I've been brought up 'to play the ball, not the man'.

metta
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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:54 am

Chris wrote:Hello Tilt

No - no-one is above criticism. Just that I've been brought up 'to play the ball, not the man'.

metta
Chris


I have not played the man.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby Pannapetar » Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:11 am

Chris wrote:But don't you think frequent or habitual masturbation (akusala sankharas) simply strengthens unwholesome latent tendencies?


No, probably not in most cases. At least not in any other sense than frequent/habitual dinners strengthen unwholesome tendencies.

Wikipedia sheds some light on the current mainstream views on masturbation:

A 2008 UK study "The Gossard Big M Survey" revealed that masturbation is on the rise and that 92% of women who were in the study (18 to 30 yr olds) masturbated. Further, 2/3 masturbated at least 3 times a week and those in London reported at least 4 times a week. [5]. In it, marital status and frequency of sex with a partner had little relationship with the frequency of masturbation. That is, the women who masturbated were just as likely to also enjoy sex with a partner during the week as those who did not. Masturbation was used to augment regular sex and is often used in sex therapy to treat sexual performance problems, not substitute for sex. In 2009, the U.K. Government joined Holland and other European nations in encouraging teens to masturbate at least daily. An orgasm was defined as a right in its health pamphlet. This was done in response to data and experience from the other EU member states to reduce teen pregnancy and STIs (STDs), and to promote healthy habits. [6].

[...]

It is held in many mental health circles that masturbation can relieve depression, stress and lead to a higher sense of self-worth.[37] Masturbation can also be particularly useful in relationships where one partner wants more sex than the other – in which case masturbation provides a balancing effect and thus a more harmonious relationship.[38]

[...]

In 2003, an Australian research team led by Graham Giles of The Cancer Council Australia[39] concluded that frequent masturbation by males appears to help prevent the development of prostate cancer. The study also indicated that this would be more helpful than ejaculation through sexual intercourse because intercourse can transmit diseases that may increase the risk of cancer instead.

[...]

A study published in 1997 found an inverse association between death from coronary heart disease and frequency of orgasm even given the risk that myocardial ischaemia and myocardial infarction can be triggered by sexual activity.


Cheers, Thomas
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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby Ben » Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:47 am

Hello Thomas

Pannapetar wrote:That is a rudimentary vilification of sexuality that is inaccurate and unnecessary.


I was not 'vilifying anything or anyone. I was just calling it as it actually is. I don't particulary care nor am I interested in yours or any other member's sex lives.
When someone responds to the arising of lust through masturbation that person not only maintains a behaviour response (sankhara) to lust, but through habituation, strengthens that behaviour response:
: the active sankharas generated by volition perpetually create passive sankharas,
-- Bhikkhu Bodhi in Introduction to Samyutta Nikaya

Lust is, by its nature, an akusala dhamma. So in engaging in masturbation, one perpetuates and habituates a response to lust.
As to masturbation's relative kammic weight in comparison to other akusala activities - I can't agree with you more. casual sex, sex with prostitutes, animals, rape, children - more kammically deliterious.
As to the current western thinking with regards to the so called health and psychological benefits - its completely irrelevant to this discussion.
Kind regards

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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby Macavity » Mon Aug 10, 2009 12:56 pm

Chris wrote:Perhaps. But don't you think frequent or habitual masturbation (akusala sankharas) simply strengthens unwholesome latent tendencies?


Hi Chris,

I would expect it to strengthen some of them, but not all. No doubt the latent tendency to lust (rāgānusaya) and the latent tendency to ignorance (avijjānusaya) would be stengthened by masturbation, but I doubt the other five anusayas would be much affected.

Having said that, I don't see any reason to single out masturbation for special opprobrium. The same observation would apply to every kind of pleasure-seeking activity; and after all, setting aside that portion of time that we spend on activities concerned with bodily survival, and with the study and practice of the Dhamma, it is to pleasure-seeking activities that the entire waking life of householders is devoted.

Kind regards,
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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby Individual » Mon Aug 10, 2009 3:25 pm

Pannapetar wrote:
Chris wrote:But don't you think frequent or habitual masturbation (akusala sankharas) simply strengthens unwholesome latent tendencies?


No, probably not in most cases. At least not in any other sense than frequent/habitual dinners strengthen unwholesome tendencies.

Wikipedia sheds some light on the current mainstream views on masturbation:

A 2008 UK study "The Gossard Big M Survey" revealed that masturbation is on the rise and that 92% of women who were in the study (18 to 30 yr olds) masturbated. Further, 2/3 masturbated at least 3 times a week and those in London reported at least 4 times a week. [5]. In it, marital status and frequency of sex with a partner had little relationship with the frequency of masturbation. That is, the women who masturbated were just as likely to also enjoy sex with a partner during the week as those who did not. Masturbation was used to augment regular sex and is often used in sex therapy to treat sexual performance problems, not substitute for sex. In 2009, the U.K. Government joined Holland and other European nations in encouraging teens to masturbate at least daily. An orgasm was defined as a right in its health pamphlet. This was done in response to data and experience from the other EU member states to reduce teen pregnancy and STIs (STDs), and to promote healthy habits. [6].

[...]

It is held in many mental health circles that masturbation can relieve depression, stress and lead to a higher sense of self-worth.[37] Masturbation can also be particularly useful in relationships where one partner wants more sex than the other – in which case masturbation provides a balancing effect and thus a more harmonious relationship.[38]

[...]

In 2003, an Australian research team led by Graham Giles of The Cancer Council Australia[39] concluded that frequent masturbation by males appears to help prevent the development of prostate cancer. The study also indicated that this would be more helpful than ejaculation through sexual intercourse because intercourse can transmit diseases that may increase the risk of cancer instead.

[...]

A study published in 1997 found an inverse association between death from coronary heart disease and frequency of orgasm even given the risk that myocardial ischaemia and myocardial infarction can be triggered by sexual activity.


Cheers, Thomas

As Pannapetar points out, there can be positive effects to masturbation, but I don't see how this refutes Chris's point that masturbation strengthens latent sensual tendencies.

For every case I can think of, masturbation is an obect of craving and it is pursued, not out of necessity, but out of sensual desire. Kamma is intent and nobody, when they are masturbating, thinks, "I am improving my self-esteem, curing my depression, and preventing prostate cancer." Instead, they are focused intently on lust and so masturbation is a mechanism for further expressing lust... Let's say you're masturbating and the phone rings, somebody knocks on your door, and what happens? You become angry and upset. You want to have sex with your partner and they're not in the mood, and you're angry and upset. Or you're old and can't have sex anymore and unless you get viagra, you're angry and upset. These aren't extreme or peculiar circumstances, but relatively common among anyone who engages in sexual activity. Unlike speaking or eating food, all sexual activity is not really something that can be done with equanimity; the nature of the activity is such that a ravenous nature of mind is necessary for the activity to even occur.
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Re: masturbation what's wrong?

Postby Macavity » Mon Aug 10, 2009 4:28 pm

Macavity wrote:I would expect it to strengthen some of them, but not all. No doubt the latent tendency to lust (rāgānusaya) and the latent tendency to ignorance (avijjānusaya) would be stengthened by masturbation, but I doubt the other five anusayas would be much affected.


On second thoughts, given that people often masturbate not when they are inflamed with lust, but when they are bored or unhappy and looking for an escape from this, it's an activity that's as much concerned with pain-avoidance as it is with pleasure-seeking. If it is being indulged in for that reason, then it would also tend to strengthen the latent tendency to aversion (paṭighānusaya). So that makes three out of seven.

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