Saturday, June 3, 2017

Via Lion's Roar: What is the Buddhist view on sexuality?

The Buddhist flag (right) debuted in Sri Lanka in 1855 and was adopted internationally in 1952. The rainbow pride flag, designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978, has become a symbol of LGBTIQ hope and progress worldwide.
 
Last week, Taiwan became the first — and only — predominantly Buddhist country to rule in favor of gay marriage. Despite Buddhism’s traditionally conservative roots, in the West, we usually think of it as an LGBTQ-positive spirituality. Western Buddhist teachers have encouraged an understanding of the Buddha’s teachings that helps us “heal, find our true selves, and free ourselves from roles and ideals that do not fit our real nature,” as Roshi Enkyo Pat O’Hara has written.
But, forward-thinking Buddhists are challenged to reconcile their inclusive values with traditionally conservative Buddhist texts that seem to place restrictions where, when, how and with whom one should have sex. How do we respect tradition without compromising our values? As José Ignacio Cabezón explains, when we disagree with Buddhist teachings, we get a chance to initiate illuminating discussions. May this Weekend Reader illuminate your view of sex and sexuality. —Sam Littlefair, associate editor, LionsRoar.com
 

The Five Mindfulness Trainings


Thich Nhat Hanh’s Five Mindfulness Trainings are an expression of the Buddha’s traditional five precepts (the core of Buddhist ethics), updated for the modern world. He updates the third precept, “avoid sexual misconduct,” to, simply, “true love.”
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Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. [...]
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In a historic 1997 meeting with LGBTQ community leaders, the Dalai Lama acknowledged that it’s time to revisit traditional Buddhist texts that prohibit gay sex. Buddhist scholar José Ignacio Cabezón explores the Dalai Lama’s words and the traditional Buddhist views on sexuality. ...

The texts are not the endpoint of reflection, but rather the beginning of it, and the great masters of old are not irrelevant "dead brown men," but living conversation partners whose thought, as reflected in their writings, can help us reconstruct our lives so that they lead to the flourishing of self, of others, and of the communities in which we live. [...]
 
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When Rev. Kiyonobu Joshin Kuwahara investigated whether LGBTQ members of his community felt unwelcome due to conservative traditional views, he discovered an opportunity to have inspiring conversations. ...

The LGBTQ community has not been openly accepted in Japan—those who stand out are forced to adapt themselves to the norm. I knew there were a number of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members in the Buddhist Churches of America. However, I was not sure if they felt accepted within their respective sanghas or if they were comfortable being open about their sexuality in that context. [...]
 
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