Friday, May 25, 2012

sexual ethics article

Sangha night we read an article by Winton Higgins from BuddhaNet.

We had a lively discussion, not about celibacy, but which got me to thinking about what I've read about celibacy in the order.

And there's a bit in one of the female memoirs, (Breaking Free: Glimpses of a Buddhist Life by Srimala) where she talks about dating Subhuti and his attempts at celibacy at times, which led to her attempts.  Seemed like it was his idea the way she told the story.

Thirdly I'm reading Through Buddhist Eyes: Travel Letters(a book of Bhante's travel letters to Shabda in the 80's and 90's, which is not always exciting reading, and oddly disappointing at times, though good in others), and in it Sangharakshita recommends in 1989 Liz Hodgkinson's Sex is Not Compulsory.  Bhante, "....I strongly recommend the book to those of you who have not yet read it.  Those who have read it, but who have still not given serious consideration to the question of celibacy, should, I think, read it again." (p. 89).

I would also add, that in Gautama Buddha: The Life and Times of the Awakened One. Vishvapani Blomfield, an excellent biography of the Buddha, he quotes in the Pali Cannon an incident where a monk sleeps with his ex-wife so she can have a child.  The Buddha says he would do better to stick his penis into a snakes mouth, than to procreate with his ex-wife, which seems pretty intense.

So I'm not about to go celibate, but it's interesting to see how the order deals with this in public.  Inside the order, and not public, is another matter, probably deeper and personal.  It's quite a strong quote from Bhante about the Hodgkinson book, and a strong quote from the Pali Cannon in the Vishvapani book.


Savanna Jo said...

I do wonder about these quotes in the Pali cannon -- the ones that in one way or another express such despise and even loathing for the female body. Some scholars argue that that stuff was added later...

Seems like the monk in question did something potentially very compassionate, depending on the circumstances this woman was to bring a child into the world. Lots of different ways of seeing that story.

I have not gotten to that part of the book. Instead, been reading quite a bit about forms of patriarchy in Buddhism and weeping. There is really ugly stuff in a number of suttas from all Traditions of Dharma, that we just don't talk about cause it don't fly with our modern values. But we need to (talk about it).

S. Bell said...

I think the female body stuff is about trying to conquer sexual thoughts, and anyway that stuff never worked for me. Break it all down into disgusting parts, and I just put it back together in my mind. Put another way, I guess the hope is to have a creative sexuality, and not a reactive sexuality.

I wasn't so much endorsing the quote from the Buddha biography, I was just kind of shocked by the quote. It's provocative.

I suppose on the one hand I don't want to dismiss things just because they are not so much part of our culture, and on the other hand, I want to weed out non-essential stuff.