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Sex and Buddhism

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 12 Aug 2023, 11:14


I realise I haven’t really touched on this subject much. It is an important topic, so will write a little about it.

It is very challenging to become free of the desire for intimacy. The Buddha said if there was another energy as strong as sexual desire, no one would ever get enlightened, including himself.

For someone trying to go beyond, it can be helpful to look at the drawbacks of romantic relationships. But there isn't anything wrong with romance. It is not evil. And a lay Buddhist is not expected to be celibate, only monastics are.

The instruction in the noble eightfold path under right action just says to refrain from sexual misconduct, i.e., don’t cause harm with sex.

To be honest I am a bit afraid of sex now, afraid of romance. Which might be a strange thing for a bloke to say. But there you go...

It depends on what people want.

Intimacy is not wrong, and neither is celibacy.

Platonic relationships are one way to connect with someone and fall in love without the biology getting in the way. And you can have as many of those as you like.

What matters in the end is one's inner development and spiritual progress, that's the real treasure in this life. The tendencies of the mind we have cultivated, the beautiful emotions such as generosity, kindness, goodwill, compassion, equanimity, samadhi and peacefulness, among others. That is what we take with us when we die. Everything else gets separated from us.

For those on the bodhisattva path, there's a story of when Gotama in a past life under the name of Sumedho made a vow to become a Buddha in front of Dipankara Buddha. Dipankara predicted he would be successful and would one day become a Buddha called Gotama.

A woman who overheard this was so moved by Sumedho's wish to become a Buddha, she offered to help him perfect the qualities of a Buddha (the paramis) over the course of his many lives. Sumedho declined her offer and said he was going to live in solitude as an ascetic in the forest. Dipankara Buddha cautioned him however and told Sumedho not to reject her offer as he would need her support. He said all Buddhas in the past have relied upon the support of a spiritual partner to help them develop the paramis. So perhaps for a bodhisattva a partner is a part of the path, at least until the very last lifetime when one becomes fully enlightened and reaches Buddhahood.

When someone ordains as a monk or nun it isn't because they are looking for sex or food. It is because they are searching for higher things, they want to go beyond all that. So, monastics are expected to be celibate, but they get support from the monastic community to help them get over the difficulties of it.

It is much harder to do this by oneself as a lay follower. It is not impossible though.

But I don’t think lay followers should get too hung up about sex. Just follow the precept about avoiding sexual misconduct. Don’t cause harm with sex. Anger and hate are a far greater stain on the personality than desire.

There is a story in the Pali canon of a woman who reached the first stage of enlightenment (stream-entry). She then got married and had ten kids. That was after realising stream-entry.

In fact, it is not until one has reached the third stage of enlightenment (non-returner), that lust and aversion completely go from the mind for good. But that is an advanced stage of enlightenment, and there are few like that in the world. To reach that stage one needs to master right samadhi. When one masters samadhi and can enter it at will and remain in that state for as long as they wish, they have a pleasure that is not dependent on anything outside themselves. It is said the bliss of right samadhi is greater than any pleasure offered by the world, and one naturally becomes a celibate then.

Overcoming the sex drive is not an easy thing to do. It's part of our biology. Part of our nature, our bodies and minds. There are whole sections of the mind devoted to reproduction. We release chemicals and hormones that alter our mood and behaviour when we are attracted to someone. The urge to reproduce is innate in us all, and a very powerful force. Whether we like it or not it is part of the human experience.

For a lay follower, this doesn't have to be a problem.
My thoughts are, if two people love each other and they want to be together, then why on Earth shouldn't they? What's wrong with that?

It’s okay to enjoy life, to enjoy intimacy, just be mindful of the craving and clinging, that’s what causes unhappiness.

Nothing conditioned lasts, it is empty. Empty of self.

Sense impressions create either pleasant or unpleasant feelings.
The mind craves for more of the pleasant sensations and less of the unpleasant ones.
This leads to the clinging, identification and becoming which causes suffering.

One can enjoy the pleasant moments, but when they’re gone don’t pine for them, let them go. Not because it is a commandment or anything like that. It’s because our attachment to things and the pain of wanting makes us unhappy. Peace of mind can be found by not clinging to conditioned phenomena, knowing it is impermanent and not-self.

Peace and love to everyone. I am going to have a rest from blogging for a month or so. Got a lot of catching up to do with studying. My father’s death caught me out and I fell behind. I have been struggling to get back into it, and there’s loads of revision to do for an upcoming exam in the middle of September.

Here is a good article for anyone interested in exploring this topic further:

https://www.againstthestream.com/read/buddhism-sexuality

I think it is a good thing for a person to learn how to be okay on their own. When one feels comfortable and secure by themselves; then if they meet someone they really like, and it becomes romantic. That person will be coming from a stable place. Building the relationship on solid ground. There won't be the wanty, clingy, angsty stuff that often kills relationships. It will make that person easier to be with, to talk to, and hopefully then the relationship will be a serene and happy one – easy-going. A blessing and not a needy painful experience.

May we all be safe, well, happy and feel at ease.
May all beings know peace of mind.

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