How would Buddha feel about multitasking

A Buddhist Contemplation of Sex

Transcript

1 A Buddhist View of Sex There is nothing like sexual desire. One could say that sexual desire is the strongest of all desires. Fortunately, we have one thing that is even stronger. For if the thirst for truth were weaker than the desire, how many of us in this world could follow the right path? -The 42 Chapter Sutra (Chapter 24) This study of how Buddhist contemporaries should view sex was written with the above statement of the Buddha in mind. After all, sexual pleasure is not just any sensual pleasure. It is the pinnacle of most, if not all, sensual pleasures. It is up to the reader's imagination to determine how each type of sensual pleasure can play a role in sex or pre-sex (foreplay). All six senses can be stimulated, sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch and thinking. Since sexual pleasure is the main focus of all sensual pleasures, it is also the most powerful and threatening. So strong is it that the last mental image lingering on our deathbed is usually that of the person we are most attracted to, usually someone of the opposite sex. That means a man might see his beloved wife and vice versa. Because of our longing for life caused by clinging to life itself and to the loved one, we are always reborn anew. It will not necessarily be sex in the dying person's head when the image of the beloved arises and lingers, but the beloved is almost always the preferred sex. There is therefore no question that the full-time commitment to the spiritual life (if one would become a member of the Sangha as a monk or nun) to attain enlightenment entails the rejection of sexual activity and even sexual desire. Singleness is therefore one of the fundamental requirements of the Sangha. While there are some Buddhist traditions that allow married clergy to be married, it can generally be assumed that renouncing sex will facilitate the path to enlightenment for the normal practitioner. If sex is indeed such a powerful enemy to the enlightenment seeker, why is not having sex part of the basic moral code of the average Buddhist? On the one hand, it is impossible for all lay Buddhists to remain single, this is one of the fundamental factors that separate the layman from the Sangha. Perhaps the reason is simply because, as I said, sex is too powerful an inner urge to be so easily erased. The third principle in Pali is: Kamesu miccha cara veramani sikha padam samadiyami. Usually this is translated as follows: I accept the rule of the order to keep myself from bad sexual behavior. If we want to keep this to the letter, bad sexual behavior is usually explained as adultery, rape, or sex with underage (or people with guardians) and other bad acts along these lines. But if we were to obey the spirit of this law, that principle should be I take the rule of the order

2 to keep me from bad sensual behavior. After all, as discussed, sex is only the height of sensual pleasure. This interpretation is most interesting because it broadens the view of how the third principle should be followed, especially for the serious practitioner. Bad sensual behavior can be just as unfavorable as bad sexual behavior. It can be committed by indulging in any of the six senses, by longing for pleasant looks, sounds (e.g. addiction to certain types of music), fragrances, tastes (e.g. gluttony), physical feelings (e.g. the material of our clothing) and thoughts (e.g. Fantasies). What a danger there is in sex, which can be a meeting point or melting pot of so many desires! If we allow ourselves to look at the essence of the third principle in this way, then we can clearly see why it is the third, and therefore the central principle within the 5 principles! It is central because our samsaric existence is centered around seeking pleasure, the culmination of which is necessarily sex. It is interesting, if less serious, to note that of our 5 fingers for enumerating the 5 principles, the third is the middle finger, which when stretched out is commonly understood as a vulgar sign with sexual ulterior motives! The middle way means that while we are not yet enlightened, while we have sexual orientations or tend to be more feminine or masculine, we should practice overcoming these gender differences and limitations over time. Generally speaking, the feminine mind has its strengths and weaknesses; just like the male has both, just swapped. For example, women tend to be less courageous and more sensitive, while men are more courageous and less sensitive. To be enlightened means to eliminate all these limitations, to be both courageous and sensitive, to internalize the best of both worlds and to surpass them both through the perfection of all virtues (usually expressed through compassion and wisdom). By eliminating the weaknesses of both sexes and gaining their strengths, one can, so to speak, have mentally overcome the differences between the sexes - this is what we call enlightenment. Viewed with enlightenment, our physical appearance cannot be called masculine or feminine. With mastery of the mind, the body is recognized as an illusion and can be changed at will. After all, appearances lack an inherent immutable quality. According to this understanding, the historical Buddha is only conventionally spoken of as He, since He is no longer human. Through his enlightenment, He became a perfect being, a superman (mahapurisa). Technically speaking, a person who has become perfect is no longer a person of gender. Instead, he is a Buddha - an awakened one - belonging to an enlightened Buddha race. A fully enlightened being does not lack any qualities of another. Therefore, after enlightenment, the Buddha did not seek after anyone of any gender, simply because there was no need or desire. In this context, we should recognize that it is unimportant to emphasize that women should be feminine delicate and men macho, because we should imitate the Buddhas and completely overcome sexuality. On a broader perspective, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with being sexually oriented in someone else - in the sense that the fundamental problem is that we are clinging to sexuality in the first place. Struggling against non-conforming sexual orientations has as its cause clinging to forms, just as clinging to conforming sexual orientations does. It is natural for the unenlightened to find the opposite sex (or even the same sex) appealing. The opposite sex is appealing because of his

3 mental and / or physical traits that seem to complete ours. Hence the saying that opposites attract. One then has the illusion that one has to look for a lover or partner, just as a semicircle needs the other half to be complete. There is an illusion in this, because the path to true happiness is not to find someone you need; it lies in realizing that one can be perfect in oneself, that in the end one can only make oneself complete. In this realization lies enlightenment itself. The mental traits that one finds appealing in others, those that are helpful in spiritual skills, can all be cultivated by oneself. For example, finding a patient lover does not make you more patient! At least not in a direct way, we always have to make an effort. Ironically, most of us seem to have to take this detour (of seeking our missing positive qualities in others) before turning around and realizing that they should be cultivated within ourselves. If sexual enjoyment is actually that pleasant, how can we get ourselves to go in the opposite direction, toward enlightenment? One method is to practice concentration as in Samatha meditation and to do this so well that you can experience the mental and physical bliss of the Jhanas (the different levels of contemplation) without any problems and as desired. Then one realizes the insignificance of sexual bliss compared to Jhanic bliss. Jhanic bliss, the Buddha stated, was 16 times more pleasant than sexual bliss. However, clinging to Jhanic bliss can be just as spiritually damaging as clinging to any other enjoyment. One must remember that it is neither the highest happiness nor the goal of the Buddhist path - because it is still a conditioned phenomenon. True happiness must arise from insight into the true nature of all existence (from Vipassana meditation) - from attaining enlightenment itself. The Buddha also stated that the bliss of being let go of desire is 10 times more delightful than all the joys in the world together. Why then should one chase short-lasting physical pleasures when timeless happiness is palpable beyond body and mind? It is interesting to note that while sex itself is so obviously the most common worldly desire of our samsaric existence, for some it appears to be a quasi - spiritual experience. After that, at the moment of orgasm, the self might seem to dissolve while one merges with the other. Ironically, this brief moment is the most spiritual experience of those who have never experienced true spiritual bliss as described above. Practicing Tibetan Buddhist tantric sex seems to fascinate many in the western world. All Buddhist practices aim to free the practitioner from all desire, both sexual and non-sexual desire. Without presumptuousness one could say that the fascination of the West with tantric sex indicates the desire (!) To enjoy the best of both worlds, i.e. to work towards enlightenment while at the same time enjoying the trademark of samsara, sex! We naturally assume that these Westerners have a wrong view of tantric sex. The great translator Marpa, teacher of the great yogi Milarepa, once ate nails in front of his students who, like him, wanted mates. He told them they could have mates (practicing tantric sex) if they could eat nails like him. This is a clear indication of how difficult it is to be prepared for the real practice of true tantric sex. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama once said that he knew of no one in our time who was capable of practicing tantric sex! The 6th apparition of the Dalai Lama taught that tantric sex is the experience of both

4 would bring orgasm as well as its emptiness with it, in order to be able to overcome it completely. It is therefore a much more advanced practice than is commonly thought. There is also the common misunderstanding of the images of the Buddhas embracing companions that they are engaging in sex and therefore that they would approve of sex. Although these sitting postures may be related to tantric sex, they are more symbols of the union of masculine and feminine energies, of compassion and wisdom. It is only through the completion of these two characteristics that one becomes fully enlightened. It should be noted that Buddhas and Bodhisattvas appear in masculine or feminine forms only so that they can teach us in a compassionate and skillful manner, for these are forms with which we are familiar. They are therefore spoken of as he or she according to their form. To speak of them as such or something like that would be unfamiliar and uncomfortable! A good example of showing the flexibility of the sex of the enlightened is the Guanyin (Avalokiteshvara) Bodhisattva, who originally appeared male in historical Indian Buddhism before later being depicted as female in China. In part, it was because of our attachment to forms. So it was because of the insistence that Guayin, being the embodiment of compassion, would be better portrayed in a feminine, maternal form. This is by no means outrageous, since it is the quality that the bodhisattva represents that counts above all, not his (or her) form. Therefore there is generally no outrage about this sex change of the bodhisattva! And in the spirit of great compassion, Guayin appears in a form according to personal preference or the mental image of the individual. It may be of interest to note that the Chinese counterparts of the guayin, although dressed in royal women's robes, are flat-chested. And if you look at the facial appearance of many Buddha and Boddhisattva images you may see that they appear androgynous, you can see them as male or female, with both features of firmness of spiritual strength and, at the same time, of gentleness of spiritual sensitivity. With that said, is sex good or bad? A snake can have a tendency to bite. But you won't necessarily get bitten by it if you are skilful. Truthfully, therefore, the serpent has no inherent tendency to bite or not to bite. Similarly, there is nothing inherently right or wrong about sex because it is devoid of inherent qualities - it is the attachment and abuse of sex that causes problems. Too many spiritual practitioners have a body-hate relationship with sex, while sex in itself is empty. Ideally, sex should be nothing less than an expression of love, not an expression of desire. But is sex without desire possible? Or is sex okay if it at least doesn't strengthen desire? What are the priorities in your most important human relationship? Friendship, love or sex? These questions deserve our attention. It is a gross mistake to think that sex is necessary for true love, for true love is unconditional, with the perfect selfless compassion of the Buddhas as an example. Was all this written to discourage sex? Both yes and no, the answer must be. Should we all stop ourselves from having sex? Yes and no. Or should we try to let our sexual desire dwindle to the point of extinction as best we can? There is no universal answer to these questions, everyone has to decide for himself. Sexual needs are actually an illusion - they are not needs. Nobody has died yet because they refrained from having sex. So-called sexual needs are really desires (created out of desire) and by no means needs. You come to us like

5 When our desires and loneliness grow so strong that they blind our attention. We are sexual beings. We live in the sphere of desire and it is natural to have sexual desires. On the other hand, we too can free ourselves from this very sphere of desire, from desire itself. Although we were born here with sexual inclinations and lusts, none is predetermined to have them forever. Ultimately, we're all here for sex, in multiple ways. First, our death-instant consciousness was drawn to our mother's womb through sexual attraction in our previous life when we saw our present parents in the act of love. There we began our new life as a fetus. Second, as mentioned earlier, our last mental image in our previous life was most likely that of someone we loved dearly, usually in a sexual as well as non-sexual way. So sex is a big issue for all of us in subtle and not so subtle ways. It is a matter of life, death ... and rebirth ... until the moment we overcome it. To conclude this article, a verse follows the same verse that this article began with. If thoughts of Dhamma were of the same intensity as those of love, one would become a Buddha in this body, in this life. -The 6th Dalai Lama Translation from English on December 31, 2001: