Honestly... I don't know. Maybe? It is a question often on my mind as well. Perhaps we'll come upon an answer in the course of this thread.Lazy_eye wrote:What I'm asking is whether contemplating the drawbacks is appropriate for someone who does not wish (for now) to abandon sexual intimacy.
I'm not sure if the analogy holds too well. Presumably, having sex with one's wife doesn't require training like a professional athlete. Presumably one simply desires to bang one's wife. I suppose one could train to become a "legendary lover", a "superhero in the sack"... but I don't think that's necessarily what we're talking about here.Playing tennis well requires committment, dedication, enthusiasm and practice. Would it make sense, in this situation, to cultivate disenchantment with the sport?
I suppose it depends on what you've decided to do. I decided to get married. That means I put my heart into being kind, supportive, caring... and other stuff too. I suppose there is also the intent (implicit or explicit) to be there for each other physically/sexually as well.*If you decide to do something, you should put your heart into it.
I think we're hitting on the key difference between ordaining and remaining lay. I think the real question you are asking is "What does it mean to be a lay Buddhist?" After all, if we are to move beyond mere merit making and embrace the 4NT and N8P that really does seem to lead to abandoning the householder's life. I think a single, childless lay person has to balance practice with the pressures of job and friends. A married with children lay person has to balance that and more. I recall the Buddha said, more than once:if you think it unwholesome, you should abandon it. No?
"The household life is crowded, a dusty road. Life gone forth is the open air. It isn't easy, living in a home, to lead the holy life that is totally perfect, totally pure, a polished shell."
It isn't easy. He sure got that right.
I am training to be a husband and father who is kind, caring, supportive, patient, wise... and to this end I find developing the path - weakening greed, hate, and delusion - to be helpful. Perhaps our spouses also expect us to train to be good in the sack and fun at parties. I think that's something to discuss, perhaps an ongoing discussion, between you and your spouse.** I think maybe it comes back to the Buddha's teachings on having the right sort of friends. Is your spouse someone who is going to help you become a better person or a worse person? Buddhist or no I think it's an important question.If you're training to be a pianist, would you simultaneously do daily exercises that weaken the fingers?
Sorry. I didn't think you were defending it. I just thought it was a point worth highlighting since it is, as you say, so pervasive.I made the comment about Westerners to demonstrate a problem, not to defend this way of thinking.
A monk once pointed out that in the "east" people are first taught generosity as little children, learn about virtue as they get older, and then maybe once they are much much older do they consider meditating... while here is the "west" we sign up for meditation retreats, are surprised once we get there that we are expected to adhere to precepts, and on the way out we're given a talk on dana and shown where the donation box is. Completely backwards.I think this is probably what it comes down to. But in the West at least, the sequence seems to have fallen apart.In the gradual training of the Buddha...
Yeah... I will tell you this is a question I contemplate very very often. I guess my quick answer is there are times when desire for sensual pleasure arises and there are times when desire to contemplate teachings arises and I tend to indulge both whenever they arise. Maybe this isn't a fruitful way to practice? Maybe it is? Maybe it's a really slow way to practice? I don't know. I know I am a better person now that I was years ago. I know I have given things up along the way as I came to see the harm they caused. I guess I figure it's a gradual path and I'm moving at my own pace.I'm guessing that most of the non-celibates on this and other forums also practice insight meditation, study the sutras, reflect on the drawbacks of desire, etc. How do you do this and later cozy up for a nice snuggle? Isn't there a degree of cognitive dissonance?
Heck the reason I started this thread is precisely because "my heart doesn't leap up at renunciation, doesn't grow confident, steadfast, or firm, seeing it as peace." Isn't this the very thing you are talking about when you say you don't want to give up sex or take up a practice which could lead to the giving up of sex? or give up marriage or take up a practice which could lead to the giving up of marriage? People like you and I just don't feel the urgency or the need... or the danger.
Perhaps we could rephrase your question this way: "Should I take up a practice which will reveal to me my delusion? reveal to me the harm I am doing myself and my wife and others by indulging in sensual desire?" Isn't that what we're talking about? The Buddha says we are like lepers, scratching at our wounds, thinking it feels good to scratch when really we are just causing our wounds to get infected and filled with pus. He says if we took the medicine we would see how we harm themselves, deludingly thinking it as pleasure.
Ugh. Every time I think of that sutta it gives me chills.***
I really don't have a good answer. My answer, good or not, is that I both indulge and practice with the intent of having gradual insights which lead to gradual renunciations. Maybe the real answer is that I'm just not a very good Buddhist. I dunno.
Sorry for the long post. This is a topic very often on my mind.
* It's actualy in my marriage contract.
** On a related note, I recall a conversation years ago with my wife. She expressed fear that one of us would renounce faster than the other, leaving that other feeling abandoned. We got over that fear somehow. I'll have to ask her later if she remembers how.
*** After studying this sutta in class, I went up to Bhikkhu Bodhi and asked him what I should do. And my wife, who was standing nearby, added "short of ordaining". Ven. Bodhi told me "keep the precepts". I said I already do that and so he said "observe Uposatha as well". So there's Ven. Bodhi's answer. Interestingly he did not answer "meditate".