Open Forum: Buddhism and Homosexuality

I suppose when you play with the Christians you will have to field an interesting email or two.  One, in particular, asked about “the Buddhist stance on homosexuality” and directed me to the website Evangelical.us where Evangelical Christians feel qualified and able enough to interpret the Noble Eightfold Path to consider homosexual activity an abomination.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised since … well … they have done the same thing to their own scriptures so why not spread out to the teachings of the Buddha?  I especially think it ridiculous that they guarantee their readers that…

We are not saying that Buddhism is the truth faith. But, all faiths do have truth in them. Although in faiths other than Christianity that truth comes from man’s wisdom, that does not make it automatically wrong. There is agreement on the issue of homosexuality. God, who created us, says homosexual acts are wrong (Christianity and Judaism). Islam says homosexuality is wrong. Buddhism says homosexual acts are wrong.

Hey!  There is no reason not to pervert other teachings to preach hate and intolerance, right f*ckers?  All us heathens are going to burn in Hell for eternity anyway (according to your ignorant viewpoint) but at least we got a bead on the gays!  Before anyone accuses me of walking around with Buddhist blinders …

In the time of the Buddha, there were no homosexuals [didn’t you realized that gays spontaneously generated from an old pair of pumps and GoGo’s 45 sometime during the Victorian Era ~ The Management], so our great teacher did not mention anything about this; hence it is difficult to discuss the subject from a Buddhist point of view. But I must say that the contemporary Buddhist stance is that it is not acceptable, since it is sexual misconduct,” [from The Gay Precept: How Buddhism views Homosexuality]

*Breath* So, I definitely think that there is an engaging question on what Buddhist writings (and practitioners) do actually say on this topic but its one that I am not qualified to answer (but foolish enough to approach).  Besides it was done well here by Richard at My Buddha is Pink (and a brilliant post on coming out and Buddhism) and here (as a podcast) by the infallible Gil Fronsdal.  For the best of my ability and knowledge it isn’t mentioned, hinted upon or discussed anywhere in the Pali Canon or the Mahayana sutras.

Society represents their temperament towards homosexuality through the religious practices of the region (as the quote above was from a monk from Thailand and represents a regional belief and not wholly a religious one).  This varies from the inbred, waste-of-life insanity of the Westboro Baptist Church folk to the subtle repression and guilt inherit in many Old-World Catholic and Orthodox families.  People and organizations use holey texts and God mumblings to justify their own perceptions and fears. 

But the topic got me thinking about the third precept against sexual misconduct (which I assume would be the fall back for any homophobic Buddhists).  I recall hearing that the third precept is superfluous and if during our sexual exploits we act non-violently (1st precept), do not take what is not freely given (2nd precept), don’t act deceitful (4th precept) and do not become “intoxicated” or addicted to sensation (5th precept) then we can roll along just fine.  Generally our faults and insecurities will manifest themselves through our sex lives no matter our sexual orientation.

If we operate our daily lives manifesting dana (generosity), Sila (virtue), ksanti (patience), virya (effort…hee), dhyana (concentration…teehee) and prajna (wisdom) then the sexual ethic that is inherit in the precepts is applicable to both heterosexual and homosexual lifestyles. Buddhist A.L. De Silva comments that since…

… homosexuality is not explicitly mentioned in any of the Buddha’s discourses (more than 20 volumes in the Pali Text Society’s English translation), we can only assume that it is meant to be evaluated in the same way that heterosexuality is. And indeed it seems that this is why it is not specifically mentioned. In the case of the lay man and woman where there is mutual consent, where adultery is not involved and where the sexual act is an expression of love, respect, loyalty and warmth, it would not be breaking the third Precept. And it is the same when the two people are of the same gender. Likewise promiscuity, license and the disregard for the feelings of others would make a sexual act unskillful whether it be heterosexual or homosexual. All the principles we would use to evaluate a heterosexual relationship we would also use to evaluate a homosexual one. In Buddhism we could say that it is not the object of one’s sexual desire that determines whether a sexual act is unskillful or not, but rather the quality of the emotions and intentions involved.

However, the Buddha sometimes advised against certain behavior not because it is wrong from the point of view of ethics but because it would put one at odds with social norms or because its is subject to legal sanctions. In these cases, the Buddha says that refraining from such behavior will free one from the anxiety and embarrassment caused by social disapproval or the fear of punitive action. Homosexuality would certainly come under this type of behavior. In this case, the homosexual has to decide whether she or he is going to acquiesce to what society expects or to try to change public attitudes. In Western societies where attitudes towards sex in general have been strongly influenced by the tribal taboos of the Old Testament and, in the New Testament, by the ideas of highly neurotic people like St. Paul, there is a strong case for changing public attitudes.”

But lets face it ~ sex complicates and it complicates things good.  The focal point of so much drama centers right on a few tabs or slots doing what tabs or slots do and a whole truck-load of dumb-f*cks insisting that its their business.  Buddhist practice is less of a black and white morality and more whether something is skillful.  So you can distill most teachings to the essential view of avoiding a hedonistic life of mindless pleasure.  Enjoyment is still meant to be enjoyed but in a mindful manner, with thought to how your decisions affect others.  I keep thinking of the comment “Hate the sinner … ” wait…oh yes .. “Hate the sin not the sinner.”  A Buddhist twist on this would be to hate the craving but not the object of the craving.  So sex is no problem ethically but random drunk sex is, for all purposes, not skillful.  Nor is avoiding sex if it causes a huge amount of inner-turmoil and pain.   This is one of points where repressing behavior is unskillful.  I firmly believe that Buddha would be pro-sex education as opposed to abstinence.  It just seems more practical to educate and not wrapping oneself tight in a blanket of misguided faith, fear and egotism.

So, for me, it comes down to the decision of acting destructively or acting from the paramitas. Through the internalizing of our practice and ability we approach all of our relationships like a Bodhisattva.  Some Bodhisattvas dig the opposite sex and some Bodhisattvas dig the same (and some CAAAARRAZZY Bodhisattvas go both ways).  Either way we approach without craving (anticipation, though, is completely fine) and with compassion, wisdom and generosity.

So what do you think?  I barely scratched the surface but I would love your comments.  Evangelizing or homophobic rants will be disemvoweled and mocked.

Cheers,

John

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41 thoughts on “Open Forum: Buddhism and Homosexuality

  1. “To have sexual relations with a prostitute paid by you and not by a third person does not constitute improper behavior.”
    ~Dalai Lama

  2. In my experience, sexual cravings and intentions are vast, subtle and mostly unseen.

    As these are mostly unseen, how could we possibly bring wisdom and compassion to sexual relations?

    Perhaps a little humility would help – an honest avowal of how little we understand about what we bring to this activity.

    That, combined with a willingness to expose these cravings and intentions to our partner, might open up sexuality in surprising new ways.

    • To be honest, Barry, you could not find a more humble dude in the sack than myself….for better or for worse. But I bring plenty of energy.

      Reference to tantra in 3, 2, 1 …

  3. Great post, and really, to me, exemplifies what is so…. human, I think, is the right word, about Buddhism. (Not that I know much of anything about Buddhism, mind, I am a Quaker and haven’t studied the teachings of Buddha) (I see parallels, actually, a lot of what’s in this comment I could say about RSOF/Quakerism, or at least MY Quakerism, I’m sure someone disagrees with me).

    Dogma destroys people. Catholics live their lives guilted over so many little choices, as you can see if you look around at those among your family and your friends. The orthodox churches are similar.

    However, giving people the choice to think, “Is this choice right? Is it moral [skillful] ? Is it going to hurt someone whom I have a choice not to hurt?”

    That, in my mind, is the mark of a good religion.

    Catholicism could be taught like that, but it would fundamentally change the nature of that faith, change what it has grown into.

    I guess the simplest way to say this is, to my mind, religion ought to be your compass in life, pointing you in the right direction, and not your GPS unit, making every turn-decision for you.

    And Buddhism, from what I can see, follows that rule spectacularly.

    And now I have rambled far too long and far too egotistically, so I shall shut up.

    Thanks for your time. 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment. I agree that Buddhism provides a great compass for life while not micro-managing. Christianity, for me, micro-manages like crazy by outlining generally what would be construed as a “Christian Agenda” with stances on everything from sex (in any form) to reproductive rights to homosexuality and I think that Buddhism does a much better job at providing aids to help in determining what is skillful with the understanding that what is skillful for one person may not be for another.

      I like that you brought up Quakerism, in that many of my colleuges and mentors are Quakers and their progressive, kind and open nature really endears me to that particular religion (If I had to be a theist, I would be a Quaker).

      And not to be accused of “Buddhist Blinders” I will have to mention that dogma can and does play a large role in many presentations of the Dharma but I agree that it leads to a denigration of the core teachings rather than an exaltation.

      Cheers,

      John

  4. Stepping towards a Christian-Buddhist dialogue ~

    If you meet Christ on the path, crucify him!

    ~ anonymous Buddhist-Christian motto

  5. John:

    As a ” CAAAARRAZZY Bodhisattva ” just wanted to thank you for directly addressing the essential points about Buddhism & sex.

    My experience:

    1) Thanks to Christian attitudes about gays in particular and sex in general, the ranks of every Buddhist group I have practiced with have had a higher percent of gay and lesbian people than the general population. They left where they were unwelcome. They came to where they were accepted.

    2-a) Most of the Buddhas early followers were lay people. (people who presumably had sex, at least sometimes) I rarely hear anyone mention this. In spite of this, how so little was said of sex in the Pali Cannon may also reveal something about modern society’s exaggerated sense of its importance.

    2-b)The Buddha had a very highly sexed early life ( the story goes) and so had plenty of personal sexual experience, yet he was little interested in the subject except that it not become an impediment to self, or a harm to others. Seems to me that a dollop of wisdom and a sprig of compassion lead to a lot of equanimity on the subject of sex, and not so much telling other people how they should practice.

    Appreciate your blog. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

    • Thank you for sharing your view with us. I just have to add that I have thought about the same point. That sexuality is really an impediment to your Dharma if you allow it to be such. This seams to be more of the case now then then. And we have to agree that sexual pleasure, like any other pleasure, makes this activity a subject of addiction and power struggle.

      It is said however that because of the risks above sex came to have a negative stigma in our societies and religions. No wonder then that such a “hot” topic becomes a power play of different religion leaders and spiritual wanna-be’s.

      Love,
      Dimitiri

  6. This is such an in depth subject, I will adhere to a historical reference.

    The more history I study the more I realize that the reason there is so little information on this subject is that the idea of homosexual (a recently invented word) relationships at the beginnings of all the major religions is because no one thought that same sex relationship’s were out of the ordinary until more recent history.

    Rome commonly issued property rights to two partners of the same sex, this would be the equivalent of state recognized marriage. this practice stopped three hundred years after the death of Christ. I won’t list the hundred’s of years of evidence that we have that secures the idea that Rome was not new to the idea of male sodomy and same sex exploits. Their army was evidence enough of the common idea’s about sexuality and manly hood.

    I don’t believe that Buddhism has any information on the subject because at the time the buying of young boys for servants of the house master was too common for any discussion or the waste of a scribe.

    Although few scholars of the Gnostic Gospels will delve into this discussion because of the evidence that is hard to explain about Christ and his relationship to Thomas. Most hold to the idea, out of simplicity, that Thomas was the twin brother of Jesus. It is not hard to read these passages differently.

    From the gospel’s of Mary, Luke, Mathew, Thomas;
    “Thomas was to me as Mary is”
    “My companion Mary”
    ‘My companion Thomas”
    “only Thomas will have the whole of me”
    “My brother was my life like no other” from Thomas. Some of the most heart breaking descriptions I have ever read are from Thomas about his loss of Jesus.
    There are dozens of such references in the Gnostic and the Christian gospels.

    Companion is the widely accepted description for partner/spouse for the day. It can be stretched to the idea of a twin or blood brother but most agree that it can only describe a spouse.

    The church did not get involved with Marriage for a couple of hundred years and it would be several hundred years before parts of Europe would take up state recognized marriage.

    Just for a jab at the “Christians” for the fun of it;
    King James l (1566-1625) , Predecessor Elizabeth, and the same King James that famously re-wrote the Bible.
    The dear king was so famous for his exploits with the same sex that the royal court had a rather amusing little commentary, used when the King was out of the room of course.
    “Elizabeth was our first King but James will always be our Queen”

    It took 1500 years to demonize same sex partnerships so I have little hope that we might change the common attitude in my short lifetime but I do “keep the faith” and have hope for the future.

    The Evangelicals among us would like everyone to believe that us Gay Boy’s and Girl’s are a recent development of faulty beliefs but the real story is that we have always been lurking in the shadows of society, maybe God really just made us in his image.

  7. Thanks for the accolades, John. And thank you for this post. It is always nice to have str8 allies. As Martin Luther King Jr. said (and he was paraphrasing Edmund Burke I believe), all racism needs to succeed is for good white people to do nothing. Burke said all evil needs to succeed is for good people to do nothing. Anyway, the same can be said for homophobia; it will succeed as long as good str8 people do nothing.

    You’ve also inspired me to return to some basic concepts to address in my own blog. I need to get both volumes of Queer Dharma, I’ve only read Vol. 1 and that was quite a while ago (and it was a library book so I had to return it). And oh yes, a few people have clicked on your links to take a visit. Thanks again!

    Richard

    • Glad to send some traffic your way. Yours was one of the first blogs I visited and read religiously when I started this whole blogging thing.

      Part of the reason I parted with the Christian Church (I say Church b/c I parted ways philosophically and theologically far earlier but was willing to be a nice ‘Christian’ boy for the sake of my family) was the constant homophobia of both the Catholic and Orthodox church. If it wasn’t outright anti-gay then it was condescending and patronizing. My position really came down to would I associate with people if they outwardly held these beliefs that I see counter to my own ethic and can I align myself with an organization that was so blatant in their homophobia.

      The answer was … no.

      Cheers,

      John

  8. Are you both consenting adults? Yes? Okay.

    Are you using sex as a physical manifistation of your love/feelings for one another? Yes? Okay then.

    Are you humping everything in arm’s reach with a warm hole? Probably not the most skillful activity, regardless of the owner of said hole.

    Are you an old fuddy-duddy who has a hard time seeing that two men or women that love eachother is really no different than when a man and a woman love eachother? Time to revisit right view, equanimity, and metta.

    Cheers.

  9. [ok, come on now! I know Gurudas didn’t write this. So I am disemvoweling it]

    s th ldr f nn-xstnt clt, nd s smn wh trs nd scm mny frm sckrs n th ntrnt, I hv t sy, I m ll fr Bddhsm nd th Fr Mrkt cnmy. Whn ‘m nt bsy scrmng t shdws n th wll, r crnk clling rphngs, I m hrdly rd t ccpt Jss Chrst nt m hrt…nd m pnts.

    Gd Blss,
    Grds

    [and if he did write it. well it was funny but more fun to disemvowel]

  10. What an informative entry and responses: thanks to everyone.

    Adding my one observation not yet mentioned: in the eight-fold path, right-speech or wise speech – and always speaking the truth – is highly prized by the Buddha.

    I have come to view sexuality (hetero- / homo- whatever) as a nature of personal truth: it’s something that one must express honestly, otherwise it is a deception or a falsehood – and an infinite number of problems arise from that.

    The best example I can give of this is the number of gays I’ve met who have formerly been in heterosexual marriages. When these men and women eventually do come out, and leave their wives and husbands respectively, the personal and emotional distress their spouses experience is devastating. Anger and resentment are often the result.

  11. “Some Bodhisattvas dig the opposite sex and some Bodhisattvas dig the same (and some CAAAARRAZZY Bodhisattvas go both ways). Either way we approach without craving (anticipation, though, is completely fine) and with compassion, wisdom and generosity.”

    LOL! Nicely said!

    🙂

  12. Aye, I knew this question would pop up in Buddhist circles eventually.
    Some Buddhists may consider homosexuality “sexual misconduct”. That’s their prerogative. However, when I fall in love with a woman (or a man), I do not consider anything I am doing to be misconduct. I consider it to be love, compassion, and most importantly—a cultivation of a new relationship.
    The arguments I have heard (from all religions) seem to be all within the context of a religious text. Just as (some) Christians use the Bible as a literal, direct dictum from God, other religions and philosophies do the same. There is no difference here. Homosexuality has always been taboo. One can only assume that during Guatama’s time, it was seen as that as well. (Or MAYBE it wasn’t a big enough deal to mention…?)
    One large pillar of my practice has always been compassion. And allowing the GLBTQI community to love their lives, LIVE THEM, and be proud of who they are falls directly into that category, does it not?
    Another thing I would like to mention: sex. Oh, yes, sex. I should remind you and your readers that being gay (or transgendered, or bisexual, or queer, or intersex, or pansexual) does NOT have everything to with sex. Again, it is about being truthful with one ’s self; it is about love. I have dated women and men, and have only slept with very few. I consider myself a pansexual, which means that I am essentially gender-blind. I fall in love because of a being’s heart—not what’s hiding under their undies! The first time I met my mate, my thought was not, “Oh, awesome, someone to stick somethin’ in my hole!” It was, “I really like this person.” Relationships out of the realm of heterosexuality are the same. I do not believe Buddha would have considered homosexuality “sexual misconduct”. He might have said, “Uhhh, that’s strangely interesting, and kinda weird.” He certainly would not have told them to stop loving each other or enjoying each others’ company… would he?
    Holding on to specific texts– from the Dhammapada or elsewhere– can be specifically detrimental. Remember—“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” (I know that’s a quote. Doh!) What makes sense to me? Letting people love. Love is a blessing that should never be ignored or shunned.
    @DREW: “I have come to view sexuality (hetero- / homo- whatever) as a nature of personal truth: it’s something that one must express honestly, otherwise it is a deception or a falsehood – and an infinite number of problems arise from that.”
    YES, YES, YES! Lying to yourself about anything (especially something as central and important as sexuality) is extraordinarily damaging. Have you seen the videos of Richard Cohen and his sex-conversion therapy? The desperation gay men feel when they are told they can “change” has and can lead to suicide when they realize it will always fail.
    All my love,
    One of those CRAAAAZY (& FEMINIST) Bodhisattvas!

  13. Dalai Lama says, “No, homosexuality is not considered acceptable in Buddhism.” (paraphrased actually)

    As someone who has been able to live in traditional Buddhist cultures I find it very interesting to see how some westerners have taken a few Buddhist concepts, divorced them from a huge body of philosophy and culture, and recreated their own idiosyncratic versions of this diverse religion and are comfortable thinking they are “Buddhists”.

    I guess you are what you think you are. Whether you really are or not is quite a different matter.

    • Steve, your comment is extraordinarily ambiguous. Would you care to elaborate what you intended to convey so it is not misunderstood?

      • Richard,

        Yes, my comment was “extraordinarily ambiguous” which I was aware of when I made it. My intention was to provoke thought rather than to express an opinion. As a non-Buddhist I cannot comment on what my particular “Buddhist” perspective might be. It is evident, however, that there exists a wide range of perspectives in the world of Buddhism as to what is acceptable or not under the Buddhist mantle as pertains to homosexuality. In cultures in which Buddhism has a long history it has been my observation, and I think it is fair to say, that homosexuality is, by and large, considered to be a deviant behaviour and while it may be tolerated it has not gained general acceptance as being in accord with Buddhism. Outside of the community of western Buddhist the Dalai Lama’s negative view of homosexuality would not cause much of a stir. I am not saying that I think that is necessarily how it should be but, like it or not, that’s how it is.

    • I admit Steve that I am confused by your statement. Most Buddhists respect the Dalai Lama and many follow him but also he is not the “Buddhist Pope” that many non-Buddhists make him out to be.

      On the issue of homosexuality, HHDL has flip-flopped a few times from stating that it was considered “sexual misconduct” to stating that as long as it is born of love and compassion then it is completely in line with Buddhist teachings.

      As I stated in my post, views towards homosexuality in the Buddhist context is largely determined by the culture’s views and not by Buddhist scripture.

      On the topic of “Western” Buddhism, it is important to view it as an emerging tradition without the benefit of hundreds of years of cultural evolution. To consider this emerging tradition “Non-Buddhist” is just as unfortunate as discarding generations of Dharmic transmission because it seems “foreign”.

      For my part, I practice with a convert, largely non-Asian community. Less due to my own choice and more due to my geographic location (not a large Asian or Buddhist community in SD) but those I do practice with are energetic and striving Buddhists melding the Dharma with their own cultural background while struggling to keep it true to tradition.

      It is a difficult and exciting endeavor. Far beyond “being what you think you are” we strive to practice without constant deliniations between what is and what is not “Buddhist” by being open and honest in our practice.

      Cheers,

      John

      • John said:

        “On the topic of “Western” Buddhism, it is important to view it as an emerging tradition without the benefit of hundreds of years of cultural evolution.”

        It strikes me that there are over 2500 years of cultural evolution involved. It’s not just been invented yesterday. There is a history.

        It is being adapted and that is necessary for sure wherever it goes. As has happened. But maybe I’m misreading the last phrase you wrote there.

        With adaptation, that comes in language and costume and so forth. The dharma itself has not changed. Some aspects are more emphasized than others in the different contexts but I can’t think of any school that totally decries whole sections of it and just chucks it out. Even in Zen when you read the related literature there are thousands of allusions to doctrinal things( as well as to classical Chinese poetry, events of the day, popular historical figures and so forth).

        But changes as cultural adaptation takes place are inevitable. The speed, and breadth of such change, and the advisability of certain things (Stephen Batchelor chucking out Karma for example) may be questionable.

        But now there’s no reason for anyone to have to learn Pali or that kind of thing since that translations have become better or we can compare translations to get full meaning out of them.

        And there’s no reason to maintain exactly the same style of robes which developed due to the climate of the areas. I wouldn’t wear a South Asian robe in the middle of a Canadian winter if I were a bhikkuni! Maybe a saffron color parka and touque.

        “To consider this emerging tradition “Non-Buddhist” is just as unfortunate as discarding generations of Dharmic transmission because it seems “foreign”.”

        I’m a bit on the fence about this also. I agree that it is unfortunate to just dump things because of their “foreignness” but am not real keen on identifying everything self-labeled “Buddhist” as such. (In the latter category I’d put Big Mind among other things) That’s something that’s going to take quite a while to sort out.

        Things in the Buddhist canon regarding homosexuality are not all cut and dried. It was a non-issue for monks due to celibacy. I haven’t memorized the vinaya rules, though I’ve read them and some of them are rather odd, but in general it (sex in any context) was a non issue as was dancing and a lot of other things and not really acknowledged explicitly for lay people. To my mind it’s not even an issue-a sexual relationship is just that regardless of genders involved. All this emphasis on sexual morality is such a hyped up issue in so many cultures. I don’t really get it but I’m of the view that humans are just fancy-brained monkeys most of the time anyways. (And I’ve got monkeys humping in all kinds of configurations on my back steps almost daily so maybe I’m a little jaded about that)

        And in every tradition there are practices for those who have broken precepts or crossed some line to rectify the situation. It usually calls for an acknowledgment of said behavior to members of the sangha and an admission of realization of the “unskillful” behavior. Even when there is no sangha members present one can symbolically do so. Here’s an example in the Tibetan tradition regarding Bodhisattva Vows and how they may be restored.

        Steve said:

        “As someone who has been able to live in traditional Buddhist cultures I find it very interesting to see how some westerners have taken a few Buddhist concepts, divorced them from a huge body of philosophy and culture, and recreated their own idiosyncratic versions of this diverse religion and are comfortable thinking they are “Buddhists”.”

        I think the point is “some westerners”. Many are serious and sincere and know there is a deep deep pool of wisdom in the Buddhadharma. But there will always be those of any religion who prefer the shallows.

        Sometimes my feeling is if one more person quotes that one line-out of context- from the Kalama Sutta as if it were the be all and end all of Buddhism… (teeth are gnashing away like Troma )… well, lets just leave it there, so I do get where you are coming from Steve about that. (I have lived in India for the past 8 years and have also spent time in Thailand, Taiwan and other Buddhist cultures) But those kinds of “Buddhists” usually give it up about a year or two in and become Raëlians or go back to their old Burning Man crew (or both).

        • It strikes me that there are over 2500 years of cultural evolution involved. It’s not just been invented yesterday. There is a history.

          It is being adapted and that is necessary for sure wherever it goes. As has happened. But maybe I’m misreading the last phrase you wrote there.

          Maybe misreading it slightly. Buddhism is an emerging tradition in the “West” still. It needs to adapt to the culture and the culture to it. People seem to jump on every new derivation of Buddhism as “pop” when I view it more as growing pains. There are 2500 yrs of cultural evolution but when an organism is placed in a new environment there is sure to be a boom of change – some positive and adaptive and some well…there will always be Genpo and “Big Mind” to see where the train goes off the tracks.

          Thanks for the comments Nella! For some reason you were placed in the “spam” folder so I just got to it!

          Cheers,

          John

        • “I can’t think of any school that totally decries whole sections of it and just chucks it out.”

          Nicherin Buddhism does (esp SGI).

          Post coming soon.

      • John,

        As I expressed in my response to Richard above, I do not identify myself as a Buddhist. That said, I do have an interest in Buddhism in all of it’s many forms and expressions. While there are some core concepts within Buddhism that are universally maintained how they are expressed is widely varied, as you are aware. I do not think I am in a position to make a determination as to what constitutes “true” Buddhism any more than I could declare what constitutes “true” Christianity. However someone chooses to identify themselves is not my concern, although I would not presume anything about what a person may hold to be true on the basis of how they identify themselves.

        While your geographic circumstance might limit your ability to engage with Ethnic Buddhist, it is my understanding that in parts of America where both Ethnic Buddhist and Western Buddhist are in close proximity there is virtually no interaction between the communities. Perhaps that is not as it should be but, apparently, that’s how it is.

        In this complex and mystifying world we find ourselves in I think that whatever helps someone keep their kyak upright on this, often tumultuous, ‘Sea of Life’ we must travel has value. I wish you well on your journey however you fashion or form your outrigger and by whatever name you address it.

        Peace,

        Steve

        • Thanks for your clarification, Steve. Yes, I do agree that the communication between Asian and non-Asian sanghas is more limited than it should be. That is not to say that both are making strides towards being more inclusive rather than exclusive.

          In college, I sat with a sangha that was half Asian and half non-Asian. It was a wonderful experience and I wish I was able to stay longer in that situation. At the same time there were exclusively Asian and Non-Asian sanghas. The Asian sanghas tended to speak only in Korean or Chinese (2 different groups) and the mostly non-Asian group was a “core Buddhism” group openly advocating no “cultural attachments”.

          Both groups needed to be more inclusive and I made the correct choice for me in sitting with a group that welcomed diversity (BTW – the conversations did get heated at times and some people would leave for one of the other two groups or sat with both groups at different times).

          I do follow your interest in different expressions of the Dharma. It is an engaging practice or way to pass time.

          Good luck with your practice and I welcome your comments as a non-Buddhist anytime. It brings much to the conversation.

          Cheers,

          John

      • Why would you quote His Holiness like that?
        I think we cann all reasonably say that any sexuality is misconduct in alot of Vajrayana Buddhism, but for Monks. They (and I mainly mean the Gelugpas) are VERY Vinaya oriented monastics, very strict. So we can conclude that hetero AND homosexuality would be wrong (or atleast unconductive to enlightenment) to them. Most of the tantric practitioners are what Lamas call Ngakpas, they marry, have families, and teach like Lamas and Zen priests. Quoting a monastic on sexuality.
        Oxymoron?

        • Throughout history, monastics have given advice to laypeople on personal issues. They outline what is ethical in business, relationships, parenting, etc. even though they don’t have personal experience with these things. This might not be wise, and it might not be wise to let the Dalai Lama’s words influence you relating to things the Dalai Lama doesn’t know about. But regardless of that, if a monk makes a statement, we have a right and responsibility to question it. If an area is outside of a monk’s expertise, the monk should decline to give advice about it.

  14. Good points–and I must say that in most contemporary Buddhist communities, sexuality is a non-issue. I also understand why a celibate monk who grew up in a non-Western tradition–one that may have emphasized arranged marriages or a dharmic responsibility to householders and parents–wouldn’t have a progressive view on the issue.

    But I bring it up when discussing Dalai Lama groupie-ism because I can’t overlook it. Other Buddhist teachers have followers who overlook their faults, and it’s good to be a committed disciple and see the benefit of their teachings. The Dalai Lama has a personality empire that rivals Deepak ChOprah Winfrey’s, though, and it’s unsettling.

    Think of it this way: suppose you were invited to a party, but some guy, let’s call him Denny, publicly stated that you shouldn’t have been invited. Then once you get to the party, people keep saying to you, “Hey, when’s Denny getting here? It’s just not a party without Denny. Isn’t Denny great? Hey, have you picked up the Denny-quote-a-day calendar? He’s so wise about everything. Tell me, what’s your favorite thing about Denny?” Wouldn’t it feel kind of insulting?

    • suppose you were invited to a party, but some guy, let’s call him Denny, publicly stated that you shouldn’t have been invited. Then once you get to the party, people keep saying to you, “Hey, when’s Denny getting here? It’s just not a party without Denny. Isn’t Denny great? Hey, have you picked up the Denny-quote-a-day calendar? He’s so wise about everything. Tell me, what’s your favorite thing about Denny?” Wouldn’t it feel kind of insulting

      Yes. It would and I view my practice as inclusive (almost to a fault) but at the same time, I leave it to the individual to make his determinations. I don’t expect much of the monastic community to have too much in common with me. We simply live in two different worlds.

      One of the reasons I left Christianity was their stance on homosexuality but I understand that not all Christian organizations take the same stance. I also believe that even when someone is homophobic they may be of benefit elsewhere. I do like HHDL’s teachings overall but I do not proclaim to follow him or consider his views above reproach.

      HHDL does have some pop street cred and at the same time has some views I don’t hold as compassionate or progressive. One thing I do give HHDL is that he has talked to the GLTG community openly and honestly. Which is more than most homophobes can say.

      Mahatma Gandhi also had young girls sleep with him and annoint his body with oil. When people bring up stuff about Gandhi I usually mention it if nothing else to avoid idolizing.

      Thanks for you comments and insights.

      Cheers,

      John

      • Yeah, a lot of the same issues come up in a slightly different way with Gandhi. People list him as one of their heroes when they don’t know how to spell his name.

        It’s interesting, though, that the other examples you give of spiritual leaders whose faults are overlooked are generally faults of behavior, not faults of view. And in one way, I do have to give the Dalai Lama credit, that from all I’ve heard, his behavior has always been ethical.

        Yet some of the same faults you find with Deepak Chopra, I find with DL. Often, his pithiest quotes are the easiest to quote, and they give a momentary sense of that’s-nice but no drive to further inquiry.

        But that’s perhaps why I find the Chopra groupies laughable and the DL groupies troubling. There is value in deeply probing the teachings of an experienced lama, in the precise practices they recommend and the viewpoints they promote. Seeing him treated like a pop star is disheartening.

        • I think faults of behavior can stem from faults of view. It sounds that while you have issues with some of the DL’s statements (and on good ground) your largest issue is with people’s perceptions of him. The drive to inquiry is ours as the individual and not the realm of the teacher. I mean, seriously, can you expect every quote to be meaningful and tiered when those reading are looking for a momentary fix?

          It doesn’t take too much to read either Chopra or HHDL and felt driven to further inquiry. I actually enjoy some of Deepak’s writings but I can see him for the self-promoter that he is.

          This form of inquiry is probably what keeps me from being anyone’s groupie!

          Personally I see HHDL’s views of gays and homosexuality his own engaged practice. A view that I hope he is exploring with sincerity and compassion.

          Cheers,
          John

  15. No where is any sutta does it say homosexuality is wrong, I agree, its that simple.

    The problem is when a culture where buddhism has evolved is taken as synonymous with buddhism the religion. Because many of the cultures say homosexuality is wrong

    This is an awesome article on ethnic “buddhism” and the dangers of confusing it with what the buddha taught. http://www.buddhanet.net/bsq14.htm
    ——————————–
    And that article by the christian makes one huge error.

    They quote the buddha when he says don’t do any unlawful sexual acts. What they then do is seem to interprets the word law in the way judeo-christian religion interprets the word law, i.e. the religious rules. They then try to judge homosexuality against the rules buddha set out, however everything the buddha set out can be interpreted against heterosexuality or even eating ice cream.

    • Exactly. It is up to the individual to determine whether homosexuality is “sexual misconduct” and whether it goes against the Buddhist path. Personally, whether or not you engage in sexual intercourse with those of the opposite or the same sex, it matter very little. The main concern is whether your goals in the relationship are healthy and whether you love with compassion and wisdom. The partners matter very little when it comes to intent.

      Cheers,
      John

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  17. I think there are two ways to view homosexuality from a Buddhist perspective.

    1. Any relationship approached with mutual respect and love is perfectly okay
    2. Because certain sections of the Dharma state that sex can only be with the penis and vagina, homosexuality is inherently unwise.

    To me, the first possibility is much more legitimate. One always has to keep in mind the contexts of the words written. I believe that the reason for this phrasing is not that oral, anal, etc. sex is bad, but that it cannot produce a child, the, uh, original reason for sex. However, much of penis-vagina sex is not aimed at bearing a child, but instead simply out of love. And that, I don’t think, is wrong. Therefore, I would believe it to be close-minded to condemn homosexuality from a Buddhist prospective. Sex, in it’s very basic nature, is connected to desire and wanting. However, if done in a “Buddhist” manner, it should be perfectly acceptable for the layperson… gay or straight.

  18. I’m a little late to the party here, but thought this might be of interest — from the late, great Robert Aitken Roshi:

    A Zen Master looks at Same-Gender Marriage
    by Robert Aitken
    (First published Friday, October 17, 2008 — though this comes from his testimony in 1995 in support of same-sex marriage in the state of Hawai’i — you can find the original text here: http://www.qrd.org/qrd/religion/zen.buddhist.perspective.on.same.sex.marriage)

    The word Zen means “exacting meditation,” which describes the central practice of the Zen Buddhist and from which emerge certain quite profound realizations that can be applied in daily life. Most practitioners come to a deep understanding that all life is connected and that we are each a boundless container that includes all other beings. The application of this kind of intimacy can be framed in the classic Buddhist teaching of the Four Noble Abodes: loving kindness, compassion, joy in the attainment of others, and equanimity.

    Applying these Four Noble Abodes to the issue of same-sex marriage, I find it clear that encouragement is my recommendation. Over my long career of teaching, I have had students who were gay, lesbian, trans-sexual and bisexual, as well as heterosexual. These orientations have seemed to me to be quite specific, much akin to the innate proclivities which lead people to varied careers or take paths in life that are uniquely their own. We are all human, and within my own container, I find compassion—not just for—but with the gay or lesbian couple who wish to confirm their love in a legal marriage.

    Although historically Zen has been a monastic tradition, there have always been prominent lay adherents. Those who enter the state of marriage vow to live their lives according to the same sixteen precepts that ground the Buddhist monk’s and nun’s life in the world. This way of living opens our path into life. Like life itself, marriage is absolutely non-discriminatory and open to all.

    Buddhist teaching regarding sexuality is expressed in the precept of “taking up the way of not misusing sex.” I understand this precept to mean that any self-centered sexual conduct is exploitative, non-consensual—sex that harms others. In the context of young men or young women confined within monastery walls for periods of years, one might expect rules and teachings relating to homosexuality, but they don’t appear. Homosexuality seems to be overlooked in Zen teachings, and indeed in classical Buddhist texts. However, my own monastic experience leads me to believe that homosexuality was not taken as an aberration, and so did not receive comment.

    All societies have from earliest times across the world formalized sexual love in marriage ceremonies that give the new couple standing and rights in the community. Currently both rights and standing are denied to gays and lesbians who wish to marry in all but three of the United Sates. If every State acknowledged the basic married rights of gay and lesbian couples, young men and women just beginning their lives together, as well as those who have shared their lives for decades, a long-standing injustice would be corrected, and these fellow citizens would feel accepted in the way they deserve to be. This would stabilize a significant segment of our society, and we would all of us be better able to acknowledge our diversity. I urge the voters of California to keep gay and lesbian marriages legal. This is the most humane course of action and in keeping with perennial principles of decency and mutual encouragement.

    • Not late at all! That is the wonderful thing about a forum on “Sweep”; I don’t shut them down so people can comment whenever they find the time.

      A wonderful piece from Aitken Roshi…almost worth a post on its own.

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