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Re: homosexuality

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  • 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 1 of 6 , May 3, 2005
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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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