renunciation

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kc2dpt
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Re: renunciation

Post by kc2dpt » Fri Apr 17, 2009 5:58 pm

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.
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. :)
Playing tennis well requires committment, dedication, enthusiasm and practice. Would it make sense, in this situation, to cultivate disenchantment with the sport?
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. :hug: 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.
If you decide to do something, you should put your heart into it.
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 think it unwholesome, you should abandon it. No?
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:

"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. :)
If you're training to be a pianist, would you simultaneously do daily exercises that weaken the fingers?
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.
I made the comment about Westerners to demonstrate a problem, not to defend this way of thinking.
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. :)
In the gradual training of the Buddha...
I think this is probably what it comes down to. But in the West at least, the sequence seems to have fallen apart.
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. :lol:
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?
:lol: 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.

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. :shrug: I dunno.

Sorry for the long post. This is a topic very often on my mind.




* It's actualy in my marriage contract. :lol:

** 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". :lol: 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".
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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Lazy_eye
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Re: renunciation

Post by Lazy_eye » Fri Apr 17, 2009 7:03 pm

Peter,

I think you've articulated pretty much everything that's on my mind regarding this topic. It's helpful actually just to hear from someone else -- especially someone with a lot more training in the dhamma -- who has come up against these questions, and to hear about your approach to them. And yep, I've had some dark nights of the (non-atmanic) soul after reading that particular sutta.

Since I'm practicing and studying on my own without the benefit of a teacher or local community, I often lack a needed perspective. So I'm especially grateful for your comments and insights.
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. :lol:
Yeah, it often strikes me that this is an area where the "Eastern" approach is wiser.
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.
This is pretty much where I'm at. I know that Buddhism, in the short time I've been practicing it, has helped. The precepts have helped. Meditation helps. I have renounced some things and feel happier for it. Perhaps it's good just to do what we can -- what you said above sounds like a reasonable way to proceed.

There's a lot more to discuss, but I have to go pick up a prescription, run various other errands, and retrieve my daughter from daycare. The household life is crowded for sure! :lol:

Metta,
LE

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Ngawang Drolma.
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Re: renunciation

Post by Ngawang Drolma. » Fri Apr 17, 2009 8:59 pm

Hi Lazy_eye,

I think if you're in a marriage or long term relationship, it would be considerate to make sure that a partner agrees to celibacy at any level, or it could really mess things up. That's my two cents.

For example years back I married this nice fellow, but very shortly after the wedding he decided he didn't want sex any more. Like, ever.
I thought he should have told me that before we got married.

Best,
Ngawang
Last edited by Ngawang Drolma. on Sat Apr 18, 2009 5:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: renunciation

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Apr 18, 2009 8:30 am

It is not immoral to have sex with one’s own wife or husband. However, it is not wholesome kamma either. Renunciation of sexual pleasures is wholesome kamma, and chastity is essential for those intent on gaining realisation of the Dhamma. “For as long as the slightest brushwood (of the passions) of man towards women is not cut down, so long is his mind in bondage, like the milch calf to its mother-cow.” (Dhp v.284) A lay person can enjoy sex from time to time, but it will inevitably lead to attachment, grief, and despair in the long term. It is therefore wise to treat it with respect, as one treats a fire in one’s own home.

A devout lay person should observe chastity on the Uposatha days of the full-moon and new-moon. That is the traditional practice. In Wat Pah Nanachat, when I was there, some of the villagers would spend the entire night in the monastery, meditating with the monks. That is the orthodox and traditional way to properly observe the Uposatha — not as is now often the case, taking five precepts in the early evening, and going home to eat an evening meal, and sleep with one's wife/husband as usual. That is called observing the cowherd's uposatha.

Please don't worry about not being able to enjoy sexual relations if you meditate too much. You're very unlikely to become a Non-returner (anāgāmī) after just one-night in the monastery.

In the Noble Eightfold Path, Right Thought includes renunciation of sensual pleasures (nekkhamma sankappa), so renunciation of sensual pleasures is an essential factor of the eightfold noble path.
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Dan74
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Re: renunciation

Post by Dan74 » Sat Apr 18, 2009 11:04 am

A lay person can enjoy sex from time to time, but it will inevitably lead to attachment, grief, and despair in the long term. It is therefore wise to treat it with respect, as one treats a fire in one’s own home.
Do you really think so?

Is it not conceivable that one can develop an attitude of giving in sexual conduct, where instead of craving and attachment, there is kindness and compassion for the other human being?

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kc2dpt
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Re: renunciation

Post by kc2dpt » Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:17 pm

Dan74 wrote:
A lay person can enjoy sex from time to time, but it will inevitably lead to attachment, grief, and despair in the long term.
Do you really think so?
Yes.
Is it not conceivable that one can develop an attitude of giving in sexual conduct, where instead of craving and attachment, there is kindness and compassion for the other human being?
There may be kindness and compassion in addition to craving and attachment, but not instead of. In order for there to be an erection there must be lust. It's biological.

Although I suppose if by "sex" we don't mean "sexual intercourse" but instead other activities then maybe that's another story.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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Dan74
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Re: renunciation

Post by Dan74 » Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:25 pm

Peter wrote:
Is it not conceivable that one can develop an attitude of giving in sexual conduct, where instead of craving and attachment, there is kindness and compassion for the other human being?
There may be kindness and compassion in addition to craving and attachment, but not instead of. In order for there to be an erection there must be lust. It's biological.
Well erections can and do occur for a whole bunch of reasons. I would've thought everyone is of age here.. :?

But do you believe an arahant to be incapable of regulation his bodily function sufficiently to cause an erection? :jedi:

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kc2dpt
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Re: renunciation

Post by kc2dpt » Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:53 pm

See now, I've resisted using that icon in this discussion. ;)

Actually, I just popped in to share a different thought. We've perhaps been talking about a dichotomy between being someone who only makes merit and being someone who strives to give up all sensuality. But Ven. Pesala's post reminded me that a sotapanna has not abandoned sensual desire. And a sotapanna is ariya, a noble one, a goal certainly worthy of any spiritual aspirant. So if as married laypeople we set our sights on sotapanna, I don't think that's selling ourselves short.

And, yes, I have heard it said that an anagami or arahant would not be able to engage in sexual intercourse due to the complete eradication of lust.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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Dan74
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Re: renunciation

Post by Dan74 » Sat Apr 18, 2009 2:01 pm

Thank you for elucidating this.

I guess you know that Mahayana has quite a different approach to this, but it is not appropriate to share it in this subforum.

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Ngawang Drolma.
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Re: renunciation

Post by Ngawang Drolma. » Sat Apr 18, 2009 5:39 pm

Dan74 wrote:Thank you for elucidating this.

I guess you know that Mahayana has quite a different approach to this, but it is not appropriate to share it in this subforum.

_/|\_
Yes, the Mahayana approach is different, Dan :anjali:

But if you're a vajrayana practitioner you shouldn't be having sex with someone who isn't ripened by empowerment also, even if it's your spouse. So Mahayana isn't totally devoid of suggestions about sexual activity.

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Re: renunciation

Post by rowyourboat » Tue Apr 21, 2009 6:34 pm

unless you become a non-returner your desire for sex is not going to go away- it will merely be suppressed by these practicses which contemplate the foulness of the body. these practices are helpful as you say to overcome excessively sexual thoughts.

now the thing about the dhamma is that it is gradual practice- it is not all or nothing - which means that by the very least we should attempt not to go to another's wife- the rest is on a sliding scale- one must decide with his/her partner at what level the sex life continues. The buddha said that to have a peaceful life one's faculties must match that of the partners- so this applies as well- if one is renounced too much there will be difficulties- I often find myself in this situations and have to take 'a break' from practice for a few days. I often try to find other areas I can practice on without causing problems.

I find it helps to know that these sexual thoughts can be overcome, if not now, then in the future -the amount of suffering this thing causes is senseless :cookoo:
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Re: renunciation

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Tue Oct 03, 2017 4:25 am

Even by the falling of water-drops a water-pot is filled; the wise man becomes full of good, even if he gather it little by little.
"Just as the ocean has a single taste — that of salt — in the same way, this Dhamma-Vinaya has a single taste: that of release."
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Re: renunciation

Post by paul » Tue Oct 03, 2017 7:59 am

Dhammapada Chap.9, Evil, v121-122

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