Buddhism and Sexuality?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Richard Paul Johnson
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Post by Richard Paul Johnson » Sat Aug 04, 2012 9:26 pm

reflection wrote:
Richard Paul Johnson wrote:
The division between Monasticism and Laity im talking about is that... if sexuality and family etc is totally excluded from Dhamma practice then the Dhamma will only ever be available to the religious elite that choose monasticism, while the rest of mankind would have a sub-standard Dhamma. I know that laity can become monastics if they so chose, but the point im making is that for those who do not chose monasticism, if monasticism is the only way to enlightenment, if total rejection of sexuality is the only way to practice Dhamma to achieve enlightenment, then the Dhamma would be inaccesible to the vast majority of mankind. Past, present and future.
The Dhamma is hard to see. The Buddha didn't start a religion to suit a lot of people. Instead, he found the way to enlightenment and it proved to be difficult to obtain. That's the way the world works. There are numerous quotes in the sutta that point to it being difficult and not for the masses.

And exactly one of the reasons it is hard to see is that most people are not willing to let go of sensuality. They don't see the disadvantages of it, they don't see the suffering in it. That's not wrong or anything, but if one wants to get everything out of Buddhism, it will have to be abandoned sooner or later. And again, lay people can also do that, they can also abandon sexuality. It's not an obligation to have sex, you know :tongue: So it's not just monastics who have this ability.

The basic thing that is common to Therevada is the scriptures, the canons in its various translations. Because these suttas are quite straightforward on sexuality being a barrier, in Therevada there are no sexual meditation practices or something like that. And I don't think any sincere monastic will speak in praise of it. I'm sure the Buddha didn't ever. The dhamma is to take one out of the world, not to enjoy it more. A celibate life is a natural result of practicing the path. It's impossible to be fully enlightened and still be sexually active.

But it needs to be said that everybody should practice at their own rate and with their own problems in practice. Giving up sex is not for everybody, some may become very miserable. That's why there is no precept against sexuality for the lay people. Also, that means the practices are not totally useless without enlightenment. In fact there is a lot of benefit to gain before it already.

:anjali:

With metta,
Reflection
Thanks for your responses :)

Indeed enlightenment is very, very difficult to attain... im sure that even gaining a small insight into enlightenment is difficult to attain, and as i said above, im not a Buddhist so i cannot, and am not, speaking from Buddhist experience. I have limited conceptual knowledge of Buddhism and extremely limited meditation experience, and im not saying that sex is a necessary act that must be performed, im simply saying that for those Buddhists who do have sex, what teaching is there?. Indeed i accept that enlightenment will not be achieved by the masses, however, that does not mean that the Dhamma can not interact with, and contribute to, the life of the masses. As you said that there is alot to gain even before and without enlightenment from Buddhist teachings. So why shouldnt there be Buddhist teachings on sex and sexuality? I think to reduce it all down to "sex is inherently bad because its sensual" is a betrayal of the middle way concept, which is balanced in nature and able to look at things and say, sex is not inherently good or bad, there are bad elements and sometimes it can be bad because of x, there are good elements and, with Buddhist practice, it can be good because of x. I thought that Buddhism didnt deal in absolutes or dualisms, creating a blanket statement such as, sex is bad because its sensual, period, is an absolute.

Indeed, lay people can choose to become celibate, but the vast majority of lay people will never choose that. So what does the Dhamma have to contribute to those who will not become celibate, that is, the vast majority of the human species in regards to sex?

You stated that its impossible for one to be sexually active and fully enlightened, shouldnt you reserve judgement on that? How do you know that there are not enlightened Buddhists out there, lay Buddhists or Buddhists from other traditions, that are sexually active and also enlightened?

Celibacy is a natural progression on the path for some people, though i dont think it is for all.

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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Post by Cittasanto » Sat Aug 04, 2012 9:29 pm

Richard Paul Johnson wrote:Thankyou for your response.

The division between Monasticism and Laity im talking about is that... if sexuality and family etc is totally excluded from Dhamma practice then the Dhamma will only ever be available to the religious elite that choose monasticism, while the rest of mankind would have a sub-standard Dhamma. I know that laity can become monastics if they so chose, but the point im making is that for those who do not chose monasticism, if monasticism is the only way to enlightenment, if total rejection of sexuality is the only way to practice Dhamma to achieve enlightenment, then the Dhamma would be inaccesible to the vast majority of mankind. Past, present and future.
this is the dust spoken about in the texts, and celibacy can be practiced by lay people (see the eight precepts) but it is up to the individual to decide what is important in their lives. This particular fetter in not completely removed until non-return and many people disrobe due to it.
you seam to think that monasticism is simply a rejection of sexuality, when it is far more than just that, it is the quickest form to get to the end result for a number of reasons, but it is not the only form of living that awakening can be realized in, lay people can progress toward enlightenment, but that does not mean that sex is conductive to it, or lack thereof is a sign of the superiority all it is, is a signal of determination to reach the goal!

Family etc? you would need to clarify what you are referring to here as family could refer to several types of relationships, and so far you have only been talking about sexual relations.

the Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader but not the head of the Gelugpa school that would be the Ganden Tripa.
Tantra within Buddhism does have its origin in Hinduism and that should be the big clue as to how Buddhist it is, people will always try to get around the guidelines like precepts, but everything in moderation is a silly principle when it comes to the precepts, because I am not going to kill in moderation so why follow any of the others in moderation? if one wants to take the five, eight or celibate eight precepts, 10 or 227 precepts then it is their choice to do so and it is a choice to be taken up seriously or not at all.
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
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Richard Paul Johnson
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Post by Richard Paul Johnson » Sat Aug 04, 2012 9:43 pm

Cittasanto wrote:
Richard Paul Johnson wrote:Thankyou for your response.

The division between Monasticism and Laity im talking about is that... if sexuality and family etc is totally excluded from Dhamma practice then the Dhamma will only ever be available to the religious elite that choose monasticism, while the rest of mankind would have a sub-standard Dhamma. I know that laity can become monastics if they so chose, but the point im making is that for those who do not chose monasticism, if monasticism is the only way to enlightenment, if total rejection of sexuality is the only way to practice Dhamma to achieve enlightenment, then the Dhamma would be inaccesible to the vast majority of mankind. Past, present and future.
this is the dust spoken about in the texts, and celibacy can be practiced by lay people (see the eight precepts) but it is up to the individual to decide what is important in their lives. This particular fetter in not completely removed until non-return and many people disrobe due to it.
you seam to think that monasticism is simply a rejection of sexuality, when it is far more than just that, it is the quickest form to get to the end result for a number of reasons, but it is not the only form of living that awakening can be realized in, lay people can progress toward enlightenment, but that does not mean that sex is conductive to it, or lack thereof is a sign of the superiority all it is, is a signal of determination to reach the goal!

Family etc? you would need to clarify what you are referring to here as family could refer to several types of relationships, and so far you have only been talking about sexual relations.

the Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader but not the head of the Gelugpa school that would be the Ganden Tripa.
Tantra within Buddhism does have its origin in Hinduism and that should be the big clue as to how Buddhist it is, people will always try to get around the guidelines like precepts, but everything in moderation is a silly principle when it comes to the precepts, because I am not going to kill in moderation so why follow any of the others in moderation? if one wants to take the five, eight or celibate eight precepts, 10 or 227 precepts then it is their choice to do so and it is a choice to be taken up seriously or not at all.
Thanks for your response,

Im definately not stating that monasticism is simply a rejection of sexuality, i know that its much more than that and is a beautiful and great practice, however i was just stating the downside that any human organisation where there is instituionalised power will become in some ways corrupt, the example i gave being the Theravada Nun controversy, the fact that Theravada claims to be the purest form of Buddhism, yet orthodox Theravada does not ordain Nuns even though the Buddha did, this is obviously because within the system patriarchy has taken hold. Im glad that you make clear that its not the only form of living that enlightenment can happen in. Im not saying that sex, or lack of sex, are intrinsically good practices for lay people, its different for each individual. Im just asking about what Dhamma teaching is there for those married people who do have sex? Sorry for my lack of clarity about family, when i say family what i meant specifically is, someone with a sexually active married partner (wife,husband).

And sorry for my misunderstanding of the Dalai Lamas position in relation to the Gelugpa school, i thought he was the head of it, but he is just a practicioner of it.

Just because something has its origin within another religion doesnt make it inherently unBuddhist. Thats like saying that the Cambodian Reamker is unBuddhist because it has its origin in a Hindu myth. The Cambodian Reamker is a distinctly Buddhist version of the Hindu myth Ramayana. It is adapted to Buddhist teaching. Similarly, the way Vajrayana sees it, Tantra has its origin in Hinduism, but it has been adapted and is now a distinctly Buddhist Tantra, adapted to Buddhist teachings.Or it would be like trying to argue that the entirety of modern science is inherently unBuddhist because it developed as a JudeoChristian enterprise in JudeoChristian Europe and America.

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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Post by reflection » Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:01 pm

I'm not saying sex is bad or wrong in a judgemental kind of way. It's important to know that. I tried to say it's not in line with the Dhamma, because the Dhamma includes leaving sexuality behind. When the Buddha taught the middle way, he meant the way between sensual indulgence and ascetisism. The middle way is the way that's not indulging in sensuality and not self-mortification. It's not an excuse for everything goes or that there's good in everything. So in Therevada there are no specific practices to enrich ones sex life, because that would not be the middle way.

This is the very first part of what is generally believed to be a description of the very first sermon of the Buddha.
"There are these two extremes that are not to be indulged in by one who has gone forth. Which two? That which is devoted to sensual pleasure with reference to sensual objects: base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable; and that which is devoted to self-affliction: painful, ignoble, unprofitable. Avoiding both of these extremes, the middle way realized by the Tathagata — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

(By the way it's interesting that this sutta talks about "one who has gone forth", while there was no monks order yet at the time of the very first teachings, so that's another indication of what is said not only applying to manostics.)
Still the path can hugely benefit one by being more content in life, more stable emotionally, happier, more generous, more alert etc. This is all possible while in a sexual relationship also. Eventually the practice will affect all aspects of life, so also sexuality. Sexual relations may become less focussed on greed for example, which will influence it in a positve way. I know for myself that when I meditated a lot when I was in a relationship, the need for sex went away. That's one of the reasons I say what I say. Of course, take or leave whatever you want. But with more practice the benefits will show themselves for you too!

:anjali:
With metta,
Reflection
Last edited by reflection on Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Post by rowyourboat » Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:03 pm

Hi Richard,

It is possible for stream entrants and once-returners to have sex, but not non-returners and arahanths. So 50% of the path to nibbana ie full enlightenment IS possible while being sexually active. I hope that answers your question to some degree- I don't understand how a person can be so into studying the teachings and not consider themselves as an adherent : maybe it is a need to conceptualise the entire teachings before dipping the toes.. :)

With metta
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Post by Richard Paul Johnson » Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:20 pm

rowyourboat wrote:Hi Richard,

It is possible for stream entrants and once-returners to have sex, but not non-returners and arahanths. So 50% of the path to nibbana ie full enlightenment IS possible while being sexually active. I hope that answers your question to some degree- I don't understand how a person can be so into studying the teachings and not consider themselves as an adherent : maybe it is a need to conceptualise the entire teachings before dipping the toes.. :)

With metta
Im glad that Buddhism sees that progress on the path can be made while being sexually active. Hah, yeah, I want to be able to have a relatively good conceptual knowledge of the teachings before truly dipping the toes, I think its important to know what one is getting oneself into before moving to acting on it.

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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Post by rowyourboat » Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:27 pm

Hi Richard,

Yes, I was like that myself- lately I have come to see that previously learnt material was valid only for a certain 'depth' of practice and that it is not possible to 'pre-empt' higher insight- but as you say it is important to know (as much as possible) what one is getting in to!

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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Post by Cittasanto » Sat Aug 04, 2012 11:06 pm

iRichard Paul Johnson
The Bhikkhuni Controversy is not just a Thai one, it is across Theravada and also within Tibetan Buddhism, the Bhikkhuni line died out and it is a vinaya issue, something VERY IMPORTANT when it comes to the legitimacy of an ordination, which allows them participation in sanghakamma, to make out it is a sign of anything other than that is narrow to say the least. that is not saying some may not be bias against women but to assume it is a patriarchal corruption is misguided without knowing the origins of the problem or the current problems with it.
allot of the Bhikkhunis around today are originally ordained in the Dharmagupta line and although some may argue that they are not Theravadan Bhikkhuni they are still Bhikkhuni, the rest are through single ordination by bhikkhus originally - I think it only happened in Sri Lanka - which has issues due to the prohibition on Bhikkhus ordaining women within the vinaya, and according to tradition the Buddha never ordained women after the first few at most, it was then upto the bhikkhuni to carry on, with the Bhikkhu recognising the new Bhikkhunis, but this is a vinaya problem with no clear answer to resolve the problems currently faced and the vinaya regulations around this, and as this is not something which can easily be discussed the Bhikkhuni issue is not going to be gone over again here by myself.

Even though marriage is unimportant as the definition of marriage can change depending on where you are - the commentaries define four types of wives, I believe, with only one being what we would call a wife - sexual relations does not equate to being off the path, please have a look at the five precepts in particular the third, one can still have sex and meditate it is not banned for a practitioner unless they choose certain precepts but it is certainly not a spiritual endeavour also look up miccha samadhi or wrong concentration where the Buddha advised against sensuality as an object of meditation, thus making the tantric practices you have mentioned un-buddhist, hence the responses you have received initially.

The misunderstanding regarding the Dalai Lama is a common one, due to his fame & power in the tibetan tradition.

any more questions?
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Post by Richard Paul Johnson » Sun Aug 05, 2012 6:32 pm

Cittasanto wrote:iRichard Paul Johnson
The Bhikkhuni Controversy is not just a Thai one, it is across Theravada and also within Tibetan Buddhism, the Bhikkhuni line died out and it is a vinaya issue, something VERY IMPORTANT when it comes to the legitimacy of an ordination, which allows them participation in sanghakamma, to make out it is a sign of anything other than that is narrow to say the least. that is not saying some may not be bias against women but to assume it is a patriarchal corruption is misguided without knowing the origins of the problem or the current problems with it.
allot of the Bhikkhunis around today are originally ordained in the Dharmagupta line and although some may argue that they are not Theravadan Bhikkhuni they are still Bhikkhuni, the rest are through single ordination by bhikkhus originally - I think it only happened in Sri Lanka - which has issues due to the prohibition on Bhikkhus ordaining women within the vinaya, and according to tradition the Buddha never ordained women after the first few at most, it was then upto the bhikkhuni to carry on, with the Bhikkhu recognising the new Bhikkhunis, but this is a vinaya problem with no clear answer to resolve the problems currently faced and the vinaya regulations around this, and as this is not something which can easily be discussed the Bhikkhuni issue is not going to be gone over again here by myself.

Even though marriage is unimportant as the definition of marriage can change depending on where you are - the commentaries define four types of wives, I believe, with only one being what we would call a wife - sexual relations does not equate to being off the path, please have a look at the five precepts in particular the third, one can still have sex and meditate it is not banned for a practitioner unless they choose certain precepts but it is certainly not a spiritual endeavour also look up miccha samadhi or wrong concentration where the Buddha advised against sensuality as an object of meditation, thus making the tantric practices you have mentioned un-buddhist, hence the responses you have received initially.

The misunderstanding regarding the Dalai Lama is a common one, due to his fame & power in the tibetan tradition.

any more questions?
Indeed, I am not stating that the Bhikkuni controversy is just a Thai one, I know full of the problems that surround the female ordination in quite some depth. However, Tibetan Buddhism recently did major research into the Bhikkuni issue and, now ordains nuns and is taking action against the smidgeon of resistance in the Vajrayana school, some of the findings of that research can be found on this website http://www.congress-on-buddhist-women.o ... .php?id=21" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; , Ajahn Brahm ordained nuns after reviewing all the evidence, and after listening over and over again to the Thai orthodox engage in endless circular discussion, and what do the Thai orthodox do? They excommunicate him as opposed to engage in fruitful dialogue, its laughable, they actually think they have the power to remove someone from the Dhamma. its really a very simple issue, its not difficult at all. In the Thai tradition it is particularly bad, the general opinion that women cannot achieve enlightenment in the female form still prevails, the Thai orthodox Theravada have talked endlessly about bringing back Nuns, but yet they have done nothing. The legitimacy of an ordination is really very simple, woman wants to sincerely follow path in monastery, solution? Ordain her, it doesnt take the wisdom of a Buddha to be able to figure it out. There is bias against female ordination within Theravada orthodoxy, and it is due to patriarchal corruption and social norms taking hold as opposed to Buddhist teaching, and as I said before, corruption will eventually creep into any human institution, including the structures of Theravada Buddhism, including the institution of the Dalai Lama and many more.

The tantric practices do not make sensuality an object of meditation. That is one of the greatest misunderstandings of Buddhist Tantra.

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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Post by Cittasanto » Sun Aug 05, 2012 8:34 pm

Richard Paul Johnson wrote: The tantric practices do not make sensuality an object of meditation. That is one of the greatest misunderstandings of Buddhist Tantra.
Like I said I am not going over that here! although you obviously do not know all the facts, and only mentioned Thai Theravada not Theravada in general.
so what is the object of tantra then?
but if you are so keen on it why are you looking at Theravada.
Last edited by Cittasanto on Sun Aug 05, 2012 9:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Post by Alobha » Sun Aug 05, 2012 9:28 pm

Richard Paul Johnson wrote: This total exclusion of sexuality seems to be a major source of alienation and disunity and confusion amongst the Theravadan Sangha.
The same could be said about watching TV or owning a car or a house. If people look for reasons to alienate themselves from others, they will always find something. It's up to you how much emphasis you put on these things. If people want to live in peace, it's more skillful to see the common ground. Sexuality is a very marginal point when you consider that we all sit in the boat of an existence that is subject to aging, illness and death. We all are subject to suffering and we all don't want to suffer.
If people feel alienated from the Sangha despite sitting in the same boat where it really matters - then it's a matter of their perception entirely.
if the lay community can practice Dhamma while being fully in the world etc?
It's very simple: Your actions yield results. Following sexual desires, desiring sex, indulging in the senses, desiring a pretty-looking sex-partner, craving for a partner or a relationship, craving for touching and feeling - all these things yield results. It's not bad, it's not good. Just results.
To what extent laypeople practice the Dhamma or not is up to them.

There generally is mutual acceptance and respect for different lifestyles in Theravada. It's not the case that monastics blame the laypeople for living their life. It's just that most laypeople know by experience how troublesome things like "Following sexual desires, desiring sex, indulging in the senses, desiring a pretty-looking sex-partner, craving for a partner or a relationship, craving for touching and feeling" are and how difficult it is to leave these matters behind. And what these things lead to.
Ehipassiko - investigate for yourself what works and what doesn't.

Btw I never heard of the "confusion" amongst the Theravada Sangha because of an exclusion of sexuality you talked about.
But I heard there are many claims and cases of sexual abusive relationships that evolved around tantric practices. Sex or tantric practices have never been taught as a way to Enlightenment by the Buddha and he knew and taught the entire path. If one insists on pursuing dubious practices not taught by the Buddha, it's certain that this is not part of the teachings of the Buddha one pursues but someone else's.

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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Post by DarwidHalim » Mon Aug 06, 2012 2:31 am

daverupa wrote: First, sex is sensual pleasure - how can it be lauded?
Not true.

If someone ask you to have sex with a 80th years old nanny. Is that pleasure?
If someone ask you can have sex to a leprosy old lady. Is that pleasure?

Activity is not good, nor bad, nor neutral.

Why we want to impose a layer of concept on top of the activity?
Practicing the Dhamma while being fully in the world? That's like sitting down while standing up.
When you go to the office and work, if that is not dhamma practicing, what is that?
When the doctor is operating the patient, if that is not dhamma practicing, what is that?
When you do the accounting, if that is not dhamma practicing, what is that?

There is no use to sit on top of the mountain and be peace there by yourself. It is a shame actually. Useless to society.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!

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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Post by Dan74 » Mon Aug 06, 2012 2:51 am

It is not hard to repeat these teachings, Halim, but most of us here still experience desire and lust and are working with it.

Tell me, how is it for you?
_/|\_

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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Post by DarwidHalim » Mon Aug 06, 2012 2:57 am

Dan74 wrote:It is not hard to repeat these teachings, Halim, but most of us here still experience desire and lust and are working with it.

Tell me, how is it for you?
Although at this moment we cannot be free from all of that, we should not have this idea that sex is bad or sex is sensual activity or sex is negative.

Because if we have that mindset, it will cover us from reality.

We admit for example for me sex is sexual desire, but that is what I see now. However, we must have the right understanding about reality first - Reality is not like that, it is just what I see right now. Whether we can achieve that or not in this life time or in the next one, that is secondary.

Because the right view, no matter how ideal it is, has to become the pillar for us to achieve that.

If we always think sex is negative, how can we be free from this erroneous concept?
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!

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Dan74
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Re: Buddhism and Sexuality?

Post by Dan74 » Mon Aug 06, 2012 3:33 am

DarwidHalim wrote:
Dan74 wrote:It is not hard to repeat these teachings, Halim, but most of us here still experience desire and lust and are working with it.

Tell me, how is it for you?
Although at this moment we cannot be free from all of that, we should not have this idea that sex is bad or sex is sensual activity or sex is negative.

Because if we have that mindset, it will cover us from reality.

We admit for example for me sex is sexual desire, but that is what I see now. However, we must have the right understanding about reality first - Reality is not like that, it is just what I see right now. Whether we can achieve that or not in this life time or in the next one, that is secondary.

Because the right view, no matter how ideal it is, has to become the pillar for us to achieve that.

If we always think sex is negative, how can we be free from this erroneous concept?
Having a view that sex is negative is no less useful than having a view that sex is not negative.

Best to perceive how it is right now for me and deal with that, right?

The Buddha taught many times about the dangers of lust and sex is the prime conduit of lust. To say that there is nothing wrong with sex discounts the Buddha's teaching. Besides it is not the reality for most of us who are still in the grips of lust and who would take this view as a license to indulge and continue being slaves to our passions.

Instead it is better to attend carefully to what is happening. Is it wholesome? Is it skillful? Is in accordance with the Dhamma, with renunciation, with liberation? Attend closer and see it arise and dissipate. How is it?

This seems to me to be the way to deal with lust, to see into sex, rather than discuss whether it is good or bad. The teachings are quite clear, aren't they?
_/|\_

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