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RE: [Pali] homosexuality

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  • Yuttadhammo
    Dear Bhante, Thank you for the thorough analysis, I think it is well said. Just some ... I am looking at it a little differently... Buddhism doesn t have much
    Message 1 of 6 , May 1 3:56 AM
      Dear Bhante,

      Thank you for the thorough analysis, I think it is well said. Just some
      musings if I may:

      > This issue needs to be considered within the wider context of
      > Buddhist ethics, especially sexual ethics. The intent of the
      > third precept is to prevent sexual acts that betray trust. It
      > has nothing to do with the kinds of sexual acts that are
      > performed. Buddhism has never insisted on a 'missionary
      > position', or condemmed masturbation, etc., etc.

      I am looking at it a little differently... Buddhism doesn't have much good
      to say about sexual intercourse itself, let alone what kind of sexual
      intercourse it is. I am thinking now that it might say something that the
      Lord Buddha was clear here about what kinds of "women" a man was not to have
      relations with. One can imagine this was a reasonable thing to say if
      homosexuality was not accepted at that time, but I don't suppose it means
      that the Lord Buddha condemned homosexuality Himself. I think it is
      interesting to talk about the aga~n~na sutta which seems to suggest the
      perverse nature of heterosexuality in the first place. If we are talking
      about two men living together in harmony, this is one thing, but if we are
      talking about some of the more obviously coarse sexual acts (heterosexual or
      homosexual), I think this is another thing.

      > At least part of the reason for this (apart from it being
      > simply a rational stance) is that Buddhism has never been a
      > 'fecundist'
      > religion; that is, we do not believe that we have a divine
      > duty to maximise the population by producing as many children
      > as possible.
      > Thus sexual acts not intended for procreation do not infringe
      > the third precept.

      Agreed, this was not the criteria for kaamesumicchaacaara, but there might
      be another angle, as mentioned above about how crude one's attachment to
      kaama is. If one is engaging in sexual intercourse just for fun, it is
      certainly not to be praised.

      > This being so, it would seem clear that same sex couples, if
      > in a caring, committed relationship, should be treated as no
      > different from man-woman relationships. Hopefully this kind
      > of attitude would help in extending a spiritual hand of
      > friendship to a group of people who have suffered greatly
      > through being marginalized and rejected by most religions.

      I am happy to agree, except there is another reality of the ordination of
      homosexual men that has led to some amount of concern among many people I
      have talked to. Men who like other men (in uniform, to boot) sometimes
      ordain for the wrong reasons, and some caution is in order. This coupled
      with the large number of seven to fourteen year old novices running around
      should raise concern. I'm sorry, I'm trying to say something that is
      probably not proper to raise on a newsgroup. So, rather than skirt around
      the subject, I'll stop :)

      Gracious welcome to all people, homosexual or not, but please may we all
      control ourselves as much as possible, for our own welfare and happiness!

      Suma"ngalaani,

      Yuttadhammo
    • Ong Yong Peng
      Dear Ven. Sugato, Ven. Yuttadhammo and friends, thanks for the interesting discussion. :-) I have raised this topic once [
      Message 2 of 6 , May 1 8:01 AM
        Dear Ven. Sugato, Ven. Yuttadhammo and friends,

        thanks for the interesting discussion. :-) I have raised this topic
        once [ http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Pali/message/3115 ] and I
        thought it would be the one and only time I would discuss it on the
        list. I assume no one else would want to bring this up for
        discussion, and I would not be doing so again for two reasons.

        1. Members may be despised for taking a pro-gay stance, especially so
        for those living in places where anti-sodomy laws prevail.

        2. Full-buddhists, "half-buddhists", non-buddhists, anyone who has
        access to this public domain group may inappropriately think that
        this group has some hidden agenda.

        But, since it has been brought up, I would like to share some
        thoughts.

        I think for the gay community at large, it does not matter how
        embracing Buddhism is towards people of alternate sexuality as long
        as it does not condemn homosexuality.

        Ven. Yuttadhammo brought up the point of gay people getting ordained
        for wrong reasons. I think it is valid and relevant because I don't
        think monasteries should endorse sexual acts of any kind by monks.

        As for laypeople, I think most of the stuff are still done pretty
        much out of attachment, and may even be considered a waste of time
        and money. In the present context, the difference between acts is
        probably whether an act is considered gross or not. I shall not
        deliberate this further.

        I would not disagree with the possibility that homosexuality was not
        accepted during Buddha's time, although there is also a possibility
        it was tolerated to some degree as in other ancient societies (until,
        maybe, some self-appointed "whistle-blowers" come in). However, we
        are living in a different age and under a very different social
        strata. We will be regressing, rather than progressing, if we were to
        accept or reject homosexuality based entirely on how it was treated
        during Buddha's time.


        With metta,
        Yong Peng.
      • frank
        Greetings and metta to everyone, I d first like to express my appreciation of the very illuminating comments to this interesting but off topic :-) discussion.
        Message 3 of 6 , May 1 12:43 PM
          Greetings and metta to everyone,
          I'd first like to express my appreciation of the very illuminating
          comments to this interesting but off topic :-) discussion.

          O.Y.P wrote:
          Ven. Yuttadhammo brought up the point of gay people getting ordained
          for wrong reasons. I think it is valid and relevant because I don't
          think monasteries should endorse sexual acts of any kind by monks.


          My comments:
          That's a huge understatement. Sexual acts of any nature for monastics is
          absolutely prohibited. There is no wiggle room. That section of the vinaya
          is a very entertaining read, especially when you consider that every type of
          sexual act they list, there was a sexually frustrated monastic trying to
          find a loophole. It's a BIG DEAL if a monk even confesses to masturbation.
          They have to get something like at least 3 monks of a certain rank to
          convene some sort of council. In areas of the world where there's a shortage
          of monks, they have to fly in ranking monks from far away. Just for
          masturbation. Now, whether all monasteries follow the vinaya, that's a
          different story. In my original posting on his Holiness, the Objective Pope
          Benedict, to answer Ven. Yuttadhammo, I never meant to imply that Buddhism
          has a perfect track record or as an institution is free from sexual
          offenders in the monastic system. In every worldly or religious institution,
          there will be sex offenders, unfortunately. Wherever sex offenders are
          found, in my opinion they should be exposed and prosecuted to the fullest
          extent of both the national law and applicable religious edicts. The
          catholic priest child molesting phenomena in itself is a heinous crime, but
          the far greater crime is the leadership of the church having full knowledge
          of the sexual offenders and transferring them to different districts and
          allowing the priests to prey again, and again(!) relocating more than once,
          each one scarring up to scores of children for life. And when the supreme
          leader of the Catholic organization fails to take responsibility and make an
          honest attempt to fix and acknowledge the problem, it becomes clear that
          their main objective is to protect their good name and reputation through
          any sinful means necessary.

          I feel a lot of sympathy for the catholic priests because they're asked to
          attain very lofty standards of sexual purity through will power and faith
          alone. That's a mighty tall order, a completely unrealistic goal for the
          vast majority of people in the world.

          The Theravadin Buddhist monk at least, is armed with an awesome arsenal of
          tools to investigate and penetrate the underlying nature of lust, and attain
          a state of purity and renunciation by means of cultivated wisdom. That,
          coupled with the unworldly meditative bliss far superior to coarse sensual
          pleasures is what drives a sustainable celibacy through voluntary choice,
          rather than superhuman will power and/or repression. And even before those
          two items have matured, the restrictive and cloistered nature of the vinaya,
          effective mindfulness techniques such as guarding of the sense doors,
          provides a stop gap measure. And if all else fails, and the worldly desire
          for sensual pleasure still overwhelms, there is always the option to disrobe
          without dishonor. The catholic priest on the other hand, has only one method
          taught to them: avoid sexual impulse through prayer and sheer will power.
          This is a recipe for failure, as a long and sordid history and current
          events show.


          While Theravada Buddhism does not have a perfect track record, one can see
          how the mighty array of techniques and a sensible vinaya that limits
          monastic exposure to tempting wordly desires can lead to a much higher
          success rate in celibacy and observing laws against child molesting. In
          Vajrayana, if you want to consider that under the umbrella of Buddhism, the
          third initiation rites (tantric sex with real or imaginary consort), guru
          disciple relationship giving unquestioned power to the guru, and the
          potential misinterpretation of the concept of upaya/skillful means, can and
          has led to some vile sex crimes.

          As for laeity, I believe the rational and intelligent person can get a
          pretty clear sense of how Theravadin Buddhism views homosexuality when they
          consider these items:
          1) Buddhist monastics do not perform marriage ceremonies, be they homosexual
          or heterosexual.
          2) Buddhism goes into great detail in promoting the understanding of the
          nature of sensual pleasure and pointing out the disadvantages and suffering
          that arise from indulging in them.
          4) Without having to explicitly name every type of sense pleasure, whether
          it be culinary, olfactory, sexual, it's clear that every type of sexual
          activity falls under the 5 cords of sense pleasure.
          5) The Buddha in great detail described a path that encourages the
          abandoning of suffering and the pursuit of unworldly pleasures that far
          surpass the 5 cords of sense pleasure. Objectively speaking, one who has
          inferior roots, lacks humility, has no regard for true men, might mistakenly
          conclude that the Buddhist path is "nihilistic" and "autoerotic" (guess who
          said that).
          6) Erroneous perceptions of reality are criticized. The general class of
          actions that lead to favorable outcomes experienced here and now or in the
          future are described, as well as the class of actions that lead to painful
          and unfavorable results. However, there is a very conspicuous lack of
          scripture describing absolutes, be it morality, reality. Concepts such as
          "intrinsic evil", are seen as conditioned views, and are subject to the
          limitations of all things conditioned.

          -fk
        • Dhammanando Bhikkhu
          Bhante, ... It is the Cakkavattisiihanaada Sutta. Though it s true that the word micchaadhamma, shorn of any context, might mean just about anything,
          Message 4 of 6 , May 2 10:28 PM
            Bhante,

            Ven. Sujato wrote:

            > First to the texts. It is quite remarkable that the early
            > suttas, despite listing many forms of moral decay and
            > degeneration, never mention homosexuality. This is certainly
            > not because they were prudish. It seems as if it was just
            > not an issue. There is a false reference sometimes mentioned
            > in the Agganna Sutta (or is it Cakkavattisihanada?), but the
            > Pali just says something vague like micchaadhammaa, which
            > could mean just about anything.

            It is the Cakkavattisiihanaada Sutta.

            Though it's true that the word micchaadhamma, shorn of any
            context, might mean just about anything, nevertheless, when
            it is used in combination with adhammaraaga and visamalobha,
            one would reasonably expect that some sort of concupiscence
            is being indicated. And the atthakathaa to this sutta (DA. iii. 853)
            identifies it with homosexuality:

            "micchaadhammo" ti purisaana.m purisesu
            itthiina~nca itthiisu chandaraago

            "Micchaadhamma": the desire and lust of men for
            men and of women for women.

            > This is confirmed in the Vinaya. Since the Vinaya discusses
            > misbehaviour of monks and nuns it mentions all kinds of
            > often bizarre forms of sexual conduct.
            >
            > Homosexual acts are referred to fairly often; while they are
            > obviously not acceptable among sexual monastics, there is no
            > suggestion that they were considered any worse than
            > 'straight' sex.

            Yes, but I don't think this will confirm your claim that
            homosexuality was "not an issue". For nor is there any
            suggestion in the Vinaya that raping a woman or copulating
            with a female monkey are any worse than straight sex, or
            that killing somebody very painfully is any worse than
            killing him quickly, or that swindling an old widow is any
            worse than stealing a bundle of timber from the King's
            forest.

            The Vinaya is not concerned with making evaluations of this
            sort. The viniitavatthu and anaapatti sections of each rule
            do no more than delineate the range of actions that fall
            into each class of offence. As far as Vinaya is concerned,
            all actions that fall within a given class are equal
            inasmuch as they all entail the same penalty. A more refined
            analysis of their blameworthiness, kammic weight etc. belongs
            in the domain of Sutta and Abhidhamma.

            Therefore, the fact that the Vinaya groups nearly every kind
            of penetrative sex in the same category should not be taken
            as implying that they are all morally on a par when
            considered from other points of view.

            > This issue needs to be considered within the wider context
            > of Buddhist ethics, especially sexual ethics. The intent of
            > the third precept is to prevent sexual acts that betray
            > trust.

            It seems to me that there are a number of intents underlying
            the third precept. The one that you give would appear to be
            relevant only in the case of two of the types of women with
            whom a male householder ought not to have sexual
            intercourse, namely, the sassaamikaa (woman with a husband)
            and the maalaagu.laparikkhittaa (woman garlanded for
            betrothal).

            But for the remaining classes (i.e. maaturakkhitaa
            piturakkhitaa ... &c.) it seems that the chief intent has
            more to do with the maintenance of public order. In a
            society where most women are "protected" (i.e. under guard),
            having intercourse with a protected woman brings dishonour
            and humiliation upon those whose duty it is to protect her.
            This will not infrequently give rise to a vendetta cycle
            between rival families and clans, as the humiliated
            protectors seek vengeance on the man whom they believe
            has dishonoured them.

            What I find interesting about the third precept is that we
            see the Buddha doing no more than reasserting brahminical
            norms in spite of the fact that he has rejected the
            ideological underpinnings of these norms (i.e. the need to
            guard women in order to prevent inter-caste miscegenation,
            so as to maintain the efficacy of the sacrifice, which only
            works when carried out by purebred brahmins). Perhaps there
            is an important lesson here, namely, that when trying to
            determine how the third precept is to be applied in nations
            where very different conditions prevail (e.g. no tradition
            of keeping women under guard), there ought be a presumption
            in favour of whatever happen to be the longstanding norms
            and usages of that society, except where these have clearly
            proven to be dysfunctional.

            As a matter of history, this seems to have been exactly what
            has happened. Unlike with the other four precepts, there
            seem to be no two Buddhist countries where the third precept
            is interpreted in precisely the same way (at least not as
            far as popular understanding and popular preaching goes).

            > It has nothing to do with the kinds of sexual acts
            > that are performed. Buddhism has never insisted on a
            > 'missionary position', or condemmed masturbation, etc., etc.
            >
            > At least part of the reason for this (apart from it being
            > simply a rational stance) is that Buddhism has never been a
            > 'fecundist' religion; that is, we do not believe that we
            > have a divine duty to maximise the population by producing
            > as many children as possible. Thus sexual acts not intended
            > for procreation do not infringe the third precept.

            Oh? Surely a man who wears a condom when having sex with his
            neighbour's wife has broken the third precept, even though
            he didn't intend to procreate.

            Perhaps you meant to say that the presence or absence of an
            intention to procreate is not a material factor in defining
            transgression of the third precept. If so, then I agree with
            your premise, but I'm baffled as to how you get from there to
            the conclusion:

            > This being so, it would seem clear that same sex couples, if
            > in a caring, committed relationship, should be treated as no
            > different from man-woman relationships.

            Would you care to elaborate?

            Best wishes,

            Dhammanando
          • Bhante Sujato
            Hello Ven, ... One might; but then again, one might not. And if some kind of sexual transgression is intended, this says nothing about whether this is
            Message 5 of 6 , May 3 2:30 AM
              Hello Ven,


              > Though it's true that the word micchaadhamma, shorn of any
              > context, might mean just about anything, nevertheless, when
              > it is used in combination with adhammaraaga and visamalobha,
              > one would reasonably expect that some sort of concupiscence
              > is being indicated.

              One might; but then again, one might not. And if some kind of sexual
              transgression is intended, this says nothing about whether this is
              homosexuality.

              And the atthakathaa to this sutta (DA. iii. 853)
              > identifies it with homosexuality:

              As is well known. The question is whether the sutta intends this.
              Since there is precisely no evidence that homosexuality was
              considered a moral vice in sutta, vinaya, or abhidhamma; and since
              we know that in at least some later Buddhist cultures homosexuality
              did come to be seen as a vice; then it is reasonable to assume that
              the commentary is reflecting such cultural values.

              >
              > The Vinaya is not concerned with making evaluations of this
              > sort. The viniitavatthu and anaapatti sections of each rule
              > do no more than delineate the range of actions that fall
              > into each class of offence. As far as Vinaya is concerned,
              > all actions that fall within a given class are equal
              > inasmuch as they all entail the same penalty. A more refined
              > analysis of their blameworthiness, kammic weight etc. belongs
              > in the domain of Sutta and Abhidhamma.

              That's true, generally speaking, which is why i started my comments
              by clarifying the evidence of the Suttas. I was merely establishing
              that the Vinaya did not contradict the evidence of the Suttas, which
              i agree is primary, and which nowhere suggest that homosexuality is
              an issue. The most important thing about the Vinaya is that it shows
              that homosexual acts were well known, so it rules out the
              possibility that the omission in the suttas is because of
              prudishness, or because there was no homosexuality.

              >
              > But for the remaining classes (i.e. maaturakkhitaa
              > piturakkhitaa ... &c.) it seems that the chief intent has
              > more to do with the maintenance of public order. In a
              > society where most women are "protected" (i.e. under guard),
              > having intercourse with a protected woman brings dishonour
              > and humiliation upon those whose duty it is to protect her.
              > This will not infrequently give rise to a vendetta cycle
              > between rival families and clans, as the humiliated
              > protectors seek vengeance on the man whom they believe
              > has dishonoured them.

              I still see such things as in the realm of trust: there is an
              implicit (or explicit) social contract which has been broken.

              there ought be a presumption
              > in favour of whatever happen to be the longstanding norms
              > and usages of that society, except where these have clearly
              > proven to be dysfunctional.
              >

              Certainly the exact interpretation of the third precept must be to
              some degree modified according to prevailing social norms.

              > As a matter of history, this seems to have been exactly what
              > has happened. Unlike with the other four precepts, there
              > seem to be no two Buddhist countries where the third precept
              > is interpreted in precisely the same way (at least not as
              > far as popular understanding and popular preaching goes).

              I'm not really sure about this, but it seems likely enough. In
              Thailand, homosexuality is seen as an eccentricity rather than a
              perversion. I have never heard of any Buddhist countries where gays
              are treated as cruelly as in monotheistic cultures, although there
              are certainly anti-gay statements to be found in various Buddhist
              cultural contexts.

              >
              > Perhaps you meant to say that the presence or absence of an
              > intention to procreate is not a material factor in defining
              > transgression of the third precept.

              Yes.

              If so, then I agree with
              > your premise, but I'm baffled as to how you get from there to
              > the conclusion:
              >
              > > This being so, it would seem clear that same sex couples, if
              > > in a caring, committed relationship, should be treated as no
              > > different from man-woman relationships.
              >
              > Would you care to elaborate?
              >
              I'm not sure what you're baffled about. Since there is no
              prohibition against same-sex couples in either Sutta or Vinaya (or
              even Abhidhamma), and the rationale justifying such prohibition
              (that is, a pro-fecundist ideology) is completely alien to Buddhism,
              why should same-sex couples be treated any different to man-woman
              couples?

              I repeat my motivation for speaking out on this issue, which i have
              done often before, and will continue to do. I have many Dhamma-
              friends, both monastic and lay, who are gay or lesbian. They have
              been excluded and ostracized from monotheistic religions due to
              their sexual orientation, regardless of how sincere and committed
              they are to a spiritual path. They find in Buddhism a refreshing
              lack of prejudice and a compassion for their circumstances, which
              almost always is a source of great suffering for them. Buddhism has
              no 'Sodom & Gomorrah', and no justification for treating such people
              with anything less than full dignity and respect, including
              respecting their right to embark on sexual relationships in a
              trusting and caring manner.

              in Dhamma


              Bhante Sujato
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