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Re: homosexuality

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  • 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 1 of 6 , May 2 10:28 PM
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      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 2 of 6 , May 3 2:30 AM
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        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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