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 Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts

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Lise
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PostSubject: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Jun 18, 2010 9:55 am

First topic message reminder :

Lise wrote:
I think it’s a hard, lonely life that most people can’t sustain, at least not in a well-adjusted manner. I’m not surprised that someone would be celibate for years and then realize they want something else.

I don’t get where the OBC’s disdain comes from re: emotional love, sex & partnership. It’s not just my imagination – I saw & heard enough while I was there to know this is real. A newer monk was talking to me about the nature of relationships and said that even some married lay couples in the Abbey sangha had eliminated sex from their relationships altogether. They still live together but in celibacy. She said this in the manner of “isn’t this great?” while I’m thinking “no, this is crazy”. I understand that monks can’t have sex, but to work on convincing lay people that they too are above it and it isn’t necessary? This is really messed up. I’m not saying sex is the be-all of a relationship, but it is part of a normal healthy connection and not something to despise or be ashamed for wanting.


Kozan wrote:
I think that you are right about institutional disdain (in the past, I found that individual opinions varied dramatically from the institutional party line). The disdain for emotional, loving, sexual relationships is (in my opinion) a sometimes subtle but profound misunderstanding of Buddhist spiritual teaching. It is the result of equating attachment to desire (identified as the cause of suffering in Buddhism) with the nature of sexuality itself. (And it ignores the fact that as biological organisms, we are sexual beings by design.) The next steps in the sequence of misunderstanding are: engaging in a loving, mutually supportive, committed, sexual relationship is synonymous with attachment to desire--and greed. And therefore, progress in spiritual practice becomes equated with the presumed necessity of eventually becoming celibate.

However, all of this is based on the reduction of the original, inherently paradoxical teaching, to a one-sided duality.

The original teaching: a committed and loving sexual relationship can become a means of attachment to ego-centered delusion--and it can equally, (and more often) become a means of mutual benefit and enlightenment.

The one-sided institutional position: sex=attachment to delusion; celibacy=enlightenment. And the implication is that if you conform your outer behavior to the dictates of the institution your inner practice will automatically excell towards enlightenment.

As you say--this is really messed up!
[See "Rev. Master Eko's Resignation" for Lise's and Kozan's posts in entirety.]


Last edited by Lise on Wed Aug 25, 2010 1:27 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : removed date reference in thread title)
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sat Feb 04, 2012 10:35 am

I do not comment from any direct knowledge of celibacy but I have for some time pondered the question and how it seems to have affected the OBC. I have never been able to reconcile celibacy with The Middle Path. In fact, monasticism itself seems to me quite far from any balanced life.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sat Feb 04, 2012 12:59 pm

I wonder if the answer does lie in making celibacy optional for monastics, as others have discussed often, here and elsewhere. I have been to Buddhist communities where ordained monks had spouses/partners, and children. From an outsider's viewpoint it looked normal, and the atmosphere was much less charged with tension, suppression, and the twisted-ness - I haven't a better word for it - of a community insisting that a celibate life is "higher and more pure" than partnership.

More musing - the idea of physical sex is often the focus of celibacy discussions but I wonder if emotional connection is the stronger driver, or at least, the interest in getting an emotional reaction from someone. Romance and emotional connection are much easier and less dangerous to indulge in than attempting to have sex with someone within a monastery. I have seen, at more than one "celibate" centre - male monks behaving flirtatiously with women, singling some out for special attention and creating opportunities to spend time alone with them. It may not be sex they want, at all - it may be simply the fun of chasing or enticing someone, rather than actually capturing them.

At non-celibate centres, the chase dynamic is much less apparent, at least to me. People choose the lifestyle that supports their practice, and they don't have to regard a monastic vocation as incompatible with partnering.

It is sad to see grown adults, mostly male, play-acting at being celibate.


Last edited by Lise on Sat Feb 04, 2012 1:18 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : grammar)
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:55 pm

Lise wrote:
I wonder if the answer does lie in making celibacy optional for monastics, as others have discussed often, here and elsewhere. I have been to Buddhist communities where ordained monks had spouses/partners, and children. From an outsider's viewpoint it looked normal, and the atmosphere was much less charged with tension, suppression, and the twisted-ness - I haven't a better word for it - of a community insisting that a celibate life is "higher and more pure" than partnership.

Ironically that is exactly how Shasta Abbey started out. Jiyu Kennett created a mixed community because of the abuses of the "boot camp" paradigm she experienced in Japan. It's a shame that she retreated from the experiment back into what she was familiar with. Of course as the head of the community she didn't have to re-experience what was objectionable about it.

Lise wrote:
More musing - the idea of physical sex is often the focus of celibacy discussions but I wonder if emotional connection is the stronger driver, or at least, the interest in getting an emotional reaction from someone. Romance and emotional connection are much easier and less dangerous to indulge in than attempting to have sex with someone within a monastery. I have seen, at more than one "celibate" centre - male monks behaving flirtatiously with women, singling some out for special attention and creating opportunities to spend time alone with them. It may not be sex they want, at all - it may be simply the fun of chasing or enticing someone, rather than actually capturing them.

At non-celibate centres, the chase dynamic is much less apparent, at least to me. People choose the lifestyle that supports their practice, and they don't have to regard a monastic vocation as incompatible with partnering.

It is sad to see grown adults, mostly male, play-acting at being celibate.

You've hit on something important. Living in "boot camp" mode, where the need for emotional connection is suppressed indefinitely, a sense of loneliness and deprivation builds that is far more than the simple absence of sex. I can understand well why monks would seek out female companionship while telling themselves it's not about sex. Of course in many cases it came to include sex because the boundary could not be maintained. People create a terrible predicament when they buy into the belief that celibacy is necessary for their vocations to be legitimate.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sat Feb 04, 2012 5:03 pm

The famous sex researcher Alfred Kinsey asserted that the only sexual perversion in the world was celibacy. He was quite a character whether you agree with that or not.

The issue at Shasta was that the push for celibacy was so entangled in Kennett's unresolved loneliness, frustration and even jealousy that it had an only a tangential relationship to conscious spirituality. It was all so subconscious and then became part of her unrelenting drive to dominate the lives of her monastic devotees. So distorted, painful.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Feb 05, 2012 11:17 am

I can't help myself. I have to bring up the "celibacy ring," which was started by Rev. Kennett to display one's commitment to celibacy. It was worn like a wedding ring. Thank goodness I had the good sense to refuse that special mark of spirituality. It reeked to much of the "Bride of Christ" idea. It creeped me out. To wear the ring you had to commit to a LIFETIME of celibacy. I don't even think the Buddha ever required such a commitment (though I'm no scholar). I figured that I was celibate for the time, but had the sense to realize I couldn't know if I'd be celibate in 20 years. Ironically, without wearing the ring I managed to remain celibate for the time I was a monk. I saw one monk after another with the ring end up having sex. I imagine the ring just added to their sense of guilt and failure. As if there wasn't enough of that at Shasta if you fell from grace. Everything we hated about Christianity and ran to Buddhism to find an alternative was actually right there at our fingertips.

You are correct Lise about the flirting. I know I would do that and saw many monks, even those who remained celibate, male and female, do the same. There is an incredible urge for emotional and sexual connection. I don't know what I think about celibacy. I believe it's right for some. I also think there may very well be spiritual practices that transforms sexual energy so that celibacy would not actually be a hardship. But they were not taught at Shasta. There was, however, a lot of self denial and guilt (and ring nonsense) that were mistaken for true spirituality. I would hope that in the history of Buddhist monastism there was a true reason for celibacy, but I don't feel I'm any kind of authority there. The older I get the more comfortable I am with just not knowing much about a lot of things. Maybe they were wrong, maybe not. In the end though, they're not living my life. The last I looked, I'm the only one who can do that.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Feb 05, 2012 12:01 pm

Bride of Christ -- as we all noted, this was Kennett reverting to her Christian roots. Rings? I didn't hear about that. I thought Buddhist monks weren't supposed to wear any jewelry?

In Tibetan Buddhism - in the Dalai Lama's sect, vows are NOT taken for life or for eternity. At any time, you can decide to return to lay life. There is an official ceremony where you give back your robes and formally discontinue those monk vows. These guys are not shunned. In fact, many of the higher lamas, although they cease being celibate monks, continue to be highly regarded teachers and still teach. You can CHANGE YOUR MIND. In the Thai tradition, you can return to lay life, do the ceremony and leave --- they may not like it, but it happens all the time. These systems have exit doors, ways out -- unlike OBC.

At Shasta, i think all the monks had to be married to Kennett and she was a jealous spouse or God.

Vows can be changed or given up. Minds can be changed. Things change. Now I feel differently. Yes, I did promise that, but you know what, now that no longer applies. That was good for then, but now it is not. Yes, I am changing my mind and my vows. You don't like it, I hear that, but that's not your business. Those rules i was following, no longer. Bye.....
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Feb 05, 2012 12:21 pm

Henry, I used to see rings on the left hands of some monks and wondered what they were - I figured they couldn't be remnants of a former marriage. Thank you for solving another mystery. I see this as similar to teenagers being encouraged to wear "chastity rings". I doubt that a ring can cause one to think or believe something that isn't there, but perhaps it reassures those who keep an eye on teenagers. Or monks.

Isan - and Josh - I should probably think more about the issue of loneliness and what this may influence people to do. I am critical of monks who don't act like monks (and their communities who look the other way) and I haven't cut them any slack re: why they might do this. I have always thought it was because they wanted to have their cake and eat it; live a protected and paid-for life whilst not completely giving up all the fun things in lay life they used to enjoy. I will think about how loneliness fits in too.

It is interesting how Warren Jeffs issued an edict to his followers (once he noticed he wouldn't be sprung from jail anytime soon) that they couldn't have marital relations whilst he was still locked up. And children couldn't play with toys, and people couldn't use certain recreational vehicles anymore, things like that. I guess if he wasn't able to enjoy certain aspects of life, they weren't allowed to either. I've been watching the news for updates on how that's working out for the people in his church.

edited to say, just saw Josh's post - agree re: the concept of "lifetime" commitments. That mindset doesn't comport with impermanence, which tells us that nothing stays the same . .
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Feb 05, 2012 12:36 pm

Henry your right, as I understand it, the early Buddhist rule, and one still followed in some places was that monks and nuns were celibate but that one could be ordained upto 7 times. This presumably allowed for non-celibate periods 'in the world' and celibate periods out of it. I beleive that it is still the custom in some countries for youths, especially males, to commonly become monks for a few years and then leave, marry, have children, work and then to retire back into a monastery in their old age. All very civilised, but maybe not for their wives! But then perhaps their wives encourage them to get them out of the house!!
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Feb 05, 2012 1:07 pm

Jcbaran wrote:

In Tibetan Buddhism - in the Dalai Lama's sect, vows are NOT taken for life or for eternity. At any time, you can decide to return to lay life. There is an official ceremony where you give back your robes and formally discontinue those monk vows. These guys are not shunned. In fact, many of the higher lamas, although they cease being celibate monks, continue to be highly regarded teachers and still teach. You can CHANGE YOUR MIND. In the Thai tradition, you can return to lay life, do the ceremony and leave --- they may not like it, but it happens all the time. These systems have exit doors, ways out -- unlike OBC.

Interesting that you should mention this. I heard Jiyu Kennett say something along these lines and I've always wondered if it was true. I thought she was offering this as an example of how Buddhism was flexible/non dogmatic, however she certainly did not create an environment at Shasta Abbey where this was possible. She taught her own students that every time they took a step forward a door behind them closed and there was no turning back. If there ever was anyone at SA who returned to lay life without being shunned, etc, they were certainly the exception. I can see how it might have been possible as long as there was no hint that the choice was motivated by JK's policies or behavior, but not otherwise.

Regarding the matter of rings, note that in the early years monks had the option to wear a ring commemorating their transmission ceremony. It did not imply celibacy or have any "bride of Christ" connotation. It's possible that this is the ring some of the older monks wear. There's nothing inherently wrong with aspirational symbols, but, as Henry said, turning to Christian symbolism has caused a lot of misunderstanding because of the deeply rooted connotations.


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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Feb 05, 2012 1:22 pm

Thanks Isan, for the added info on rings -

mstrathern wrote:
. . . But then perhaps their wives encourage them to get them out of the house!!

I want mine out of the house quite often, though not forever. And when he goes out, I want him to do errands and then bring home Chinese food for dinner.

More on celibacy. I have recently ended a private message exchange with a former monk who wanted to talk (debate?) with me endlessly on why celibacy is a better way to live. This person returned to lay life and holds a job, lives independently in her own home, but wants few or no other connections to "the world", including a partner relationship or friends. All that sounds fine to me - I don't have an opinion on what is right for this person - but it doesn't sound like my correspondent is fine with it. She seemed frustrated at my lack of agreement that celibacy is a wonderful goal to strive for. I will never think so - she really was barking up the wrong tree, I'm not a good audience for that message. There was a lot of the "I won't settle for less, I want something higher and more pure for myself " kind of talk. I hope she finds that in the world, if she didn't find it in a monastery. My thought is that she is still very much influenced by the years-long programming she received as a monk, about lay life being second-rate, and partnership being for those who didn't want "the best" for themselves. And I think she is very much concerned with what her former community thinks of her even after she's left; she doesn't want to be thought of as "failure".

I wonder how many former monks struggle with this mindset after they leave? For how long? How many years may go by whilst they live this half-life in the twilight zone, not a monk anymore but too disdainful of normal lay life to allow partnership and close friendship back into their sphere?

trail ride is calling, I'm out the door -
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Feb 05, 2012 3:37 pm

Lise wrote:

I want mine out of the house quite often, though not forever. And when he goes out, I want him to do errands and then bring home Chinese food for dinner.

Hmm...so, that's why she asks me to go out and get Chinese food LOL!

Lise wrote:

More on celibacy. I have recently ended a private message exchange with a former monk who wanted to talk (debate?) with me endlessly on why celibacy is a better way to live. This person returned to lay life and holds a job, lives independently in her own home, but wants few or no other connections to "the world", including a partner relationship or friends. All that sounds fine to me - I don't have an opinion on what is right for this person - but it doesn't sound like my correspondent is fine with it.

My thought is that she is still very much influenced by the years-long programming she received as a monk, about lay life being second-rate, and partnership being for those who didn't want "the best" for themselves

This reminded me of a conversation I overheard once between some friends and a couple of visiting (female) Tibetan monks. They were discussing monk Vs lay life and one of the monks said "relationships don't work". I remember thinking at the time that she must have experienced some unsuccessful attempts at partnering and decided to chuck it instead of figure it out. I wonder if this applies to the person you were communicating with, and now that monasticism hasn't work for her she is retreating from humankind in general?

You're quite right that it can take a long time to let go of the programming that was absorbed while a monastic. In fact some people find it easier to keep the programming instead of challenging it. We've seen some of that here, where people who have left are still defending what went on while they were in the OBC, even though it drove them out.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Feb 05, 2012 9:28 pm

I believe she said she did have mostly good experiences with partner relationships in the past. (She knows I am discussing this on the forum; she suggested it, since we decided the PM discussions were no longer a good idea. I hope she will join the conversation.)

If she is retreating from other humans I hope it is a stage and not permanent. I think it's rooted in an unwillingness to identify as a lay person again. I'm told it's hard to give up that sense of being special, and worthy of a certain type of respect, when you're a monk. People within the community praise you for that intention, you start to feed on the idea of being among a group of people who claim to know the path to deep insight, etc. There's no equivalent to that, upon re-entering lay life.

I think it might also involve saving face. If someone is still deeply invested in what their former community thinks about them, I can see where they might want to continue to appear as "enlightened" as possible even outside the monastic setting. Living in the world as a celibate lay renunciant could help make their case, as I suppose. But is it real - and is it what they really want -

I like what Henry said above - "In the end though, they're not living my life. The last I looked, I'm the only one who can do that." Words to live by.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Mon Feb 06, 2012 1:15 pm

"I won't settle for less, I want something higher and more pure for myself "

This is the attitude that drove me from the OBC (and from other Zen teachers): despite all the scriptures that tell us "Not two!" the monks constantly separate themselves from the laity, from other Buddhists, from other spiritual seekers, constantly raise themselves above. Monks are closer to Buddha, only masters know Truth, other Zen orders are somehow inferior, etc. I am not railing theoretically here--I have personally witnessed all these attitudes and behaviors, seen monks turn up their noses when visitors mention having practiced with other teachers. You can see for yourselves, too. Contemplate the signs dividing Shasta Abbey: "Enclosure. Private." I don't know whether to laugh or to weep at these manifestations of oneness and twoness, of wisdom that is not beyond discriminative thought. (If I don't know whether to laugh or weep, I am good at fuming.)
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:28 pm

Yes often I believe this stems from the arrogance of 'specialness' which many times comes from a deep seated and unacknowledged inadequacy. If we seek the truth we have to accept ourselves for what we are before we can start on the never ending journey of becoming what we might be. Spiritual arrogance is a terrible disease which is difficult to deal with. In the Christian bible it is the sinner who beats his breast and admits to God 'I am an unworthy sinner' rather than the Pharisee who says 'Thank you Lord for making me not as (better) other men' that finds the favour of their God.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Mon Feb 06, 2012 11:46 pm

George said:

Monks are closer to Buddha, only masters know Truth, other Zen orders are somehow inferior, etc. I am not railing theoretically here--I have personally witnessed all these attitudes and behaviors, seen monks turn up their noses when visitors mention having practiced with other teachers.

I have seen those things, too, George. Genuine humility would be good instead of the view that we and only we have found the truth and aren't we grateful that we have this special insight.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue Feb 07, 2012 7:01 pm

mstrathern wrote:
Yes often I believe this stems from the arrogance of 'specialness' which many times comes from a deep seated and unacknowledged inadequacy. .

Just to add my voice to this statement. In my experience in both the Buddhist, Christian, and unaffiliated paths that the compulsion for "specialness" or any illusion of perfection stems from a rejection and lack of awareness of our deepest being or true heart. The resolution of this does not come from adding on another identity, personal or group, but sinking into and abiding in the fundamental wholeness of being that resides at the center of us.Our own humanity, including our feelings and desires, is not an obstacle but the incarnate vessel of this wholeness and potential expression of it. The fruit of this abiding is a liberating and healing love and reverence for who/what we are from the beginning, and entering a loving humility which does not stand against, but rather fuels an authentic contrition and conversion from all the ways we stray from what/who we truly are. I come back to the declaration of John of the Cross in his prologue to the "Ascent of Mt. Carmel". "In this nakedness the spirit finds its rest." Our nakedness of spirit is neither added to nor diminished by the choice for celibacy or erotic relationship. This humility and self reverence is beautifully articulated by Rabbi Abraham Heschel, "Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy."
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sat Feb 11, 2012 9:19 pm

I like what Bill says, about specialness, that any illusion of perfection stems from a rejection and lack of awareness of our deepest being or True Heart( which to me means, NOT TWO). TRUE HEART, what a nice subject for Valentines Day So my question would be how someone that trains with awareness for years and years still has those impediments , not only that, but still has the need to treat others with arrogance, derision and contempt? How is that even possible??????????????
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:41 pm

[quote="breljo"TRUE HEART, what a nice subject for Valentines Day So my question would be how someone that trains with awareness for years and years still has those impediments , not only that, but still has the need to treat others with arrogance, derision and contempt? How is that even possible??????????????[/quote]

Such a good question! I know that my impediments have not gone away. I have wondered myself about that. The only answer I have is that all of us can substitute our beliefs about practice for practice itself, which I have come to experience as a shedding of all beliefs to trust in what is left when there are no beliefs, just being in Being, nothing to be spoken of, nothing to be described, nothing to be attained, just resting in, coming home to what we truly are. I like Kozan's description of "small awareness healing into Big Awareness", and I would also use the metaphor of "small love healing into Big Love." Again that is not an ideal to be aspired to but a sinking into simply what we are,and living it fully in this beloved humanity we have been given. It is a reason why I have become rather skeptical about any religious formulation at this stage of life. And we are certainly capable, all of us, of making our religious formulations an object of idolatry, our loyalties to religious teachers, an absolute substitute to the surrender into Being at the center of our being, a stand-in for our true heart. Our deepest longing, which is powerful, can become misdirected, and great harm does come from it, personally and collectively. It is a good question for all of us to reflect upon, as we confront it in our own lives and practice.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Feb 12, 2012 12:27 am

Nicely stated Bill, which made me go back to your post of Feb. 7th and your quote by Rabbi Heschel (Hershel?)," just to be is a blessing, just to live is holy", and whether at the moment you live in joy or great pain, to have that assurance is enough to keep going on.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Feb 12, 2012 1:33 am

breljo wrote:
Nicely stated Bill, which made me go back to your post of Feb. 7th and your quote by Rabbi Heschel (Hershel?)," just to be is a blessing, just to live is holy", and whether at the moment you live in joy or great pain, to have that assurance is enough to keep going on.

I believe Heschel is the correct spelling.(Abraham Joshua Heschel 1907-1972) I do live in joy and peace, which does not exclude pain or all the emotional ups and downs of living, losses, disappointments, fears, discouragement, and so on. I attribute the experience of life and being as holy and a blessing to the fact that I did cultivate early in life a disciplined daily sitting practice to the present day. It has made living a life that is consciously and intentionally from the center, the deep heart, possible. At age 63 I am truly grateful that this quality of interior communion has come to be, a quality that relies on no external thing but is a wellspring of Life itself. It just goes on and flows through me and I simply return to the process of ceaselessly giving myself to it, in my sitting, in the day care I do for my 11 month old granddaughter, in the cooking and care I do around the house, in my work in the garden, in my daily walking and feeding of my dog, and in my embrace and conversation with my wife. Thank you for your sharing and your observations.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Feb 12, 2012 1:04 pm

breljo wrote:
So my question would be how someone that trains with awareness for years and years still has those impediments , not only that, but still has the need to treat others with arrogance, derision and contempt? How is that even possible??????????????

Practicing sitting meditation and performing various rituals is no guarantee someone will learn Zen. A friend of mine at the Abbey said it took him six months of facing the wall to understand what the "wall" actually was, ie the edifice of his own opinions, prejudices, etc. It is apparently possible to go through the motions.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Apr 06, 2012 11:57 pm

this is from the tricycle.com website blog. sweepingzen has been a good website for discussion of these kind of issues

Eido Shimano and the Zen Studies Society on Sweeping Zen
Posted by Emma Varvaloucas on 04 Apr 2012 in


Eido Shimano

Stories of sexual abuse in Buddhist communities touch something raw in us, often rocking us to our core. For some, this leads to overwhelming feelings of betrayal, shock, and outrage; for others, the airing of criticism of one’s teacher evokes many of the same feelings, but now toward those who do the criticizing. Discussions quickly become difficult and divisive, and sanghas may well break apart as a result.

But much too often, these discussions never happen in the first place. Teachers and sanghas can sit on allegations for years, hoping that they will never see the light of day. As the victims of the abuse become pressured to keep things under wraps, the media—both Buddhist and mainstream—shy away from printing their stories, unable to publish accusations without a willing accuser.

This is what happened in the case of Eido Tai Shimano, for decades the abbot of the Zen Studies Society. But in 2010, an article printed by the NY Times reporting on the various allegations from female students that Eido had consensual and nonconsensual sexual relationships with them blew the lid of secrecy sky-high. The American Zen community already knew of Eido's misconduct—details of his indiscretions going back almost 50 years, kept by Robert Aitken, had been distributed since 2008 (online since 2010), and stories of his misdeeds had been circulating for decades in private circles.

Despite all of this attention in the past, the intensity of focus on Eido Shimano and the Zen Studies Society has mostly dissipated by now. But the aftereffects of Eido Shimano's conduct on the Zen Studies Society and of course, on the students that he abused, continue.

These effects have for the last month or so been the focus of coverage on Sweeping Zen, a Zen website run by Adam Tebbe. First came an interview with Shinge Sherry Chayat, who took over as Abbess of the Zen Studies Society after the retirement of Eido Shimano. An interview with Genjo Marinello, another dharma heir of Eido's who has adopted a very critical stance towards his former teacher, followed. A guest blog post by Abbess Myoan Grace Schireson on how a Zen center can best "remediate and restructure in the aftermath of a teacher's misconduct," a post by Tebbe himself, and an interview with Kobutsu Shindo Kevin Malone rounded out the discussion.

Tebbe isn’t new to the Eido Shimano controversy—he’s been blogging about it since 2010, publishing Eido Shimano’s letter of resignation, his letter to the NY Times, and many open letters of Zen teachers who urged that Eido Shimano be fully terminated from the Zen Studies Society.

We applaud Tebbe for promoting transparency and for covering these issues bravely and thoroughly. As difficult as it may be to talk about topics like sexual abuse openly, effectively, and with compassion, to do so is undeniably important—as James Shaheen, Tricycle’s editor and publisher wrote on our blog in February 2011, “If we are able, as a broad community, to be forthright, honest, and self-critical in dealing with controversy, we are demonstrating something that is, in any religion, a virtue to be prized.”

We thank Adam for participating in the Q & A below. As always, we invite your comments and thoughts.



Adam TebbeHow did this series come about? Was there a reason why you decided to refocus on Eido Shimano and Zen Studies Society at this time? By chance, really. The latest interview with Kobutsu was simply one I have been trying to do for a while now. His interview took place before my conversation with Shinge Roko Chayat. I had asked him previously whether or not he would like to participate in an interview but I think he just wanted to feel me out some, to figure out who I am and what the website is about. The interview with Genjo Marinello and Myoan Grace Schireson's article were more like reaction pieces to the interview with Shinge.

To be candid, I was as surprised as anyone to learn of what Genjo had to say in his interview. I knew that there had to be a reason behind his resignation from Zen Studies Society, but I was not aware of many of the things he brought to light in that interview. The whole thing is just sad. So, no it was not planned; which is interesting to me, even, considering the way it all unfolded.

I'm willing to focus on these issues at any time. It wasn't a refocusing on the issue so much, because I don't think we've seen the end of any of this. The story continues on and it's only people's attention spans that move along from it.

Are there other aspects of this issue that you would like to see get more attention? Are you planning on further coverage? As I understand it, the Zen Studies Society "story" has a lot more to it than we are privy to in the public. Not everyone believes that these issues are appropriate for public consumption; they say that it is in-house fighting that should remain behind closed doors. But these are public institutions we're talking about.

So, do I plan further coverage? No, I don't plan it.

I am committed to providing a platform, however, to those who wish to inform us all about new developments.

Are there any other issues in Zen America that are comparably pressing and that you would like to see similarly addressed? Without a doubt there are. There are others, but they are the stuff of rumors, you know? You'll hear stuff off the record sometimes about certain teachers. I get e-mails from time to time from different people who wish to expose something. But that's a dicey situation because if I run something, I have to be absolutely sure that it is accurate. I don't believe in publishing rumors and I don't think it is good journalism to do so.

You know, there seem to be some within the American Zen community who feel that it is the coverage of these events, those like we see with Shimano and Genpo, that are reflecting poorly upon the tradition. "Enough is enough, enough press has been made, let's just move along." I see it, of course, much differently. I think that so long as these people continue to actively seek leadership roles, without having to really atone for any of their missteps—then I think it's wholly inappropriate to move on. It's inappropriate and it's irresponsible. Were we to do that, moving on would just mean we remain willfully ignorant.

The Zen tradition, as far as I'm concerned, is unassailable. The teachings, the practice—these speak for themselves. We all understand that human beings sometimes screw things up, and some more so than others. To my mind, if someone really is concerned about preserving tradition, then they will not act to suppress or hide information. To me, that is what harms and undermines the tradition, not airing so-called dirty laundry in public.

What has it been like for you, having Sweeping Zen become a kind of go-to source for discussion of this topic? Would you like to see it become a forum for further discussion on topics like this one? I'll just say that I think the reason why this website works is because we're not out to get anyone. My vision has and always will be that of maintaining a place where we look at the whole spectrum of things, not just those things that make us feel safe and warm but also those things which make us uncomfortable and that we find challenging to work through. I call that life.

I am glad that we offer a forum through which all kinds of conversations can take place. For the casual reader, these things are really interesting to read, just on the curiosity level. I find it so refreshing to see organizations and individuals standing up and speaking out, and not because we're puritanical, sexually repressed prudes. That whole line about Zen showing us that there is no good or bad is a bunch of malarkey really. That's the line people have depended on to carry out abuses and it has to stop. I believe we also have to stop making cultural excuses for these behaviors. We have to stop making excuses period. It's weak language. It's a way to sidestep the real issue—abuse, outright abuse.

It's moral relativism. It's nihilism.

It isn't Buddhism and it isn't Zen. As far as I'm concerned, Zen is brutal honesty. I think transparency is honesty's best friend. If there truly were no good or bad, there would be no need for bodhisattvas. There would be no precepts.

I'm glad Sweeping Zen can play a role in offering a forum for these issues to be discussed. Zen is a beautiful tradition and we have a plethora of great teachers here in the West, senior practitioners who through their life experience and practice can help others navigate this whole thing. My hope is that I give a balanced view—an honest view. I only worry that my own striving for balance may actually allow for less balance in that, as a publisher, you sometimes think what it is your audience can handle. How far can you push the envelope? I hope that I'll push things as far as they merit going—not an inch further and not an inch shorter.
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Sara H



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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue May 14, 2013 5:38 pm

I think I should speak from my own experience with sitting with sexuality, which I've done a great deal of.

For me, as I get older in life, one of the things I've noticed, is that orgasms (the primary reason why we engage in sexuality) seems to be a form of intoxicant.

I will speak from personal experience, that after having an orgasm, I find that I am much more subtly "nirr" for lack of a better word. What that means is my head is more foggy, my overall mindfulness noticeably decreases, and I seem to forget things or loose awareness of things that at other times I know. Or be more forgetful in general. I also notice, from my own observations of myself, and of feedback from my spouse, that I seem to get more irritable, and less reasonable.

Now, that's just me, and I'm only going on years of sitting with this from my own practice.

But, if other people are effected by orgasms in the same, or similar ways, it stands to reason, that that's why a monk or a person choosing to be a monk would take on a vow of celibacy.

If it acts as an internal intoxicant, then it stands to reason that's why they abstain from it.

I don't think sexuality is wrong for householders, after all, we have sex and kids as a part of our lives, and our intimate bonding; -but for a monk, and even for some laypeople needing it for helping with sitting with certain things, or dealing with certain aspects of sexual clinging, I would think it would be very helpful.

I've considered taking on stints of celibacy myself, although in practice, I tend to just practice sitting with it, to see what's really good to do, rather than just indulging it because I want an orgasm. Sometimes I will have one, and sometimes I won't, I'm a layperson after all, but I do sit with it.


Sara

Edit: Just to add to that, it's probably not an intoxicant to the point where laypeople can't function in their jobs or day to day functions, the same way alcohol is, but for a monk, who's increasingly dealing with subtler and subtler levels of greed, anger, and delusion, being intoxicated on even that level would probably be counterproductive, and I could see why they would do it (celibacy). They are training to sit with greed, anger, and delusion as much as possible after all.
For a layperson, being that sensitive to things; in the world outside of the monastery where people speak and act a lot rougher; being that sensitive to things may not even be desirable, as it could disrupt our ability to function in the world and do our day-to-day tasks. There may be times when some laypeople do find celibacy helpful though. However for a monk, where they are able to let their guard down a lot more, and allow themselves to be more sensitive, such abstentions from even the very subtle intoxicants of sexuality and orgasms may be very helpful.

In Gassho,
Sara
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue May 14, 2013 9:14 pm

Having reread much of this thread I have come to the conclusion that much of what was discussed in the earlier parts about impediments and why we have them after years of practice, etc. is firmly based around the dual myths of the magic pill of Zen enlightenment that cures all ills, and the consequent myth of the perfection of the Zen Master. The realisations that practice can bring show life, particularly our own life more clearly. As practice deepens so does knowledge of the paradox that life is both perfect just as it is, and yet also imperfectable. We can never escape the human condition but we can see more clearly the our true nature and the nature of our actions. Avoiding the worst of our behavior and getting better at the best

And then we come back to celibacy. Is this a helpful spiritual practice? I personally in general think that it isn't. Over the ages those who have taken a vow of celibacy have, by and large, found it necessary to isolate themselves from the opposite sex because in reality they cannot sustain it. A fact which I believe shows how unnatural it is.

The examples we have seen recently in Zen have shown how unsuccessful celibacy in mixed communities can be. Eko preached the necessity of celibacy for monks, and that to reach the higher states of spirituality one had to be a monk. As we have seen this denial of his sexual urges, along with his authoritarianism and view of his own superiority, led to his sexual side being expressed completely inappropriately. To the great harm to himself and of all those about him. I believe that part of the problem of those about him dismissing most of what was said to them about his behavior was due to three factors. First was the myth of the 'enlightened Zen Master' who could do no wrong. A myth I think that he both seemed to believe and also to promulgate. Secondly I feel that those around him who should for one reason or another have had some awareness of the problem were blocked by their own difficulties in an area that they had suppressed or denied and was consequently hard for them to deal with. And lastly there was what from reports seems to have been the highly autocratic nature of the OBC, at least in Shasta.

I think that celibacy can sometimes be a way of avoiding an often powerful distraction. But when celibacy itself becomes the distraction then it needs to be discarded in favour of a more normal way of life.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue May 14, 2013 9:39 pm

Sara H wrote:
I think I should speak from my own experience with sitting with sexuality, which I've done a great deal of.

For me, as I get older in life, one of the things I've noticed, is that orgasms (the primary reason why we engage in sexuality) seems to be a form of intoxicant.

Could you be wrong in this generalisation? Orgasms are not the primary reason I engage in sexuality. I think is likely true for others also.

Orgasms may be an intoxicant for some, but to say "we", as if all of us experience your fogginess . . . I don't think so.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue May 14, 2013 10:45 pm

Sara's quote..

For a layperson, being that sensitive to things; in the world outside of the monastery where people speak and act a lot rougher; being that sensitive to things may not even be desirable, as it could disrupt our ability to function in the world and do our day-to-day tasks. There may be times when some laypeople do find celibacy helpful though. However for a monk, where they are able to let their guard down a lot more, and allow themselves to be more sensitive, such abstentions from even the very subtle intoxicants of sexuality and orgasms may be very helpful.

While I can relate to the training observations of your sexuality, the highlighted paragraph above speaks of the sanctification of the Monk hood over your own practise.(Which I question?)

When I look at what has a "sensitive " person (Monk or layperson) fall down in the face of rough speech or action and be unable to function in the world, I see the consequence of indulging in a spiritual fantasy that is completely dependent on a quiet & gentle manifestation of life. This is a very limited sensitivity, allowed only through the compartmentalizing of life and that actually aids in hobbling clarity & freedom.

Real sensitivity, without barriers, occurs when you drop enough of what you think you are, that the walls between self and other can no longer be maintained.

There is no justification for a layperson to be more guarded than a monk unless one believes that lay training is less sincere than a monks.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed May 15, 2013 12:49 am

Hi Howard,

There seems to be a misunderstanding, regarding what I meant by the role of of what being 'sensitive' means to training.

It's like this: monastic life is better for people who are dense, to become more sensitive.

Lay life is better for people who are overly sensitive to get more..dense? (I'm trying to think of a better word)

In reality both helps different kinds of people to become closer to the middle, the center. (Depending on where they started out from)

Each practice is helpful for different kinds of people for different reasons.

It's not one is better than the other, it just depends on which side of the middle you start out on, and which is more helpful to you.

Someone could just as easily "sanctify" lay practice above monastic practice, by saying that monks "can't handle" training in the world.

But in reality, both are inaccurate.

It's not 'one is better than the other' it's both are helpful for different people, for different kinds of reasons.

There is a need for both, which is why the Buddha set up the Fourfold Sangha

People can often forget, or not fully understand that other people truly are completely different from them and so may have other, or opposite needs.

So they look at other people's practice and can either put it above themselves, and think it is something better to aspire to, or think it beneath themselves, and think their own superior.

When in reality its just that diversity exists, -true diversity, and there needs to be two (or more than two) different sets of practices, to meet people's differing needs.

When Rev. Seikai answered the question of why they do this (celibacy) in his article, he answered "because it's helpful to them."
He answered honestly.

People can often think that if something isn't helpful or useful to them personally, that there must be a mysterious reason why other people do it.

When in reality, the answer is obvious: it honestly is just helpful, and they just have different needs personally, than the first person does.

People really do, sometimes have the hardest time understanding that other people really do have totally different needs from them personally.

And so either put the other person's practice up on a pedestal (because they feel that because they may not need it, or find it naturally hard, they assume other people who need it are just "more skilled" or trying to be and so look at the practice in awe) or, they do the reverse, and put it beneath them and defame those who do it by thinking they are just trying silly things and that one's own practice is better.

This is not the case either way.
Both are helpful, and both are needed. It just takes an open mind and some empathy for other people to take their word that it honestly is helpful to them, and not just assume they are lying.

They're not lying, they're just different.

And different people have different needs.

As an aside note, just my general thoughts on the subject:
It's actually, a little bit arrogant, I think when people start dismissing celibacy, because it assumes other people don't have different needs than them.

In Gassho,

Sara


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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed May 15, 2013 1:21 am

Sara, I won't dismiss celibacy as an important part of growing spiritually for some people. But I have a problem with the overtones of this conversation suggesting that celibacy is somehow superior or more spiritually advanced or more sensitive than the life of a lay person.

Every life choice is valid in its own way - including destructive ways like drug addiction or criminality - and all of life is part of the reality recognized by the Buddha and must be respected and accepted in its way. I have criticized Koshin on these pages, but he taught some truths. One time I asked him how some mass murderer ( I can't remember which one, we have so many in the US) could have done what he did. Koshin said the murderer was all of us and any one of us could be him.

So I cannot see why selection of one aspect of life - such as celibacy or the renunciation of orgasms (if such a thing is possible) - is superior in any way to sexuality.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed May 15, 2013 2:08 am

Hi Carol,


I'm not aware of any overtones being implied by me.

I apologize if in my previous post, I was still somehow unclear, I was trying to illustrate that I felt that lay and monastic life were in equal complementary harmony with each other.

Not that one was better than the other, or one being a failure of the other (the other extreme I've seen).


In Gassho,

Sara


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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed May 15, 2013 2:49 am

Carol, it's hard to express a Truth in one single sentence, but I thought that was a good one:



("One time I asked him how some mass murderer ( I can't remember which one, we have so many in the US) could have done what he did. Koshin said the murderer was all of us and any one of us could be him. ")
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed May 15, 2013 7:45 am

what a peculiar sentence to choose for expressing the truth .
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed May 15, 2013 8:42 am

Nicky I think it is misunderstanding the unity of the universe ,and personalising a religious concept
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed May 15, 2013 10:23 am

jumping into the discussion on relationships and Shasta. Here is what I saw for the years I was there.

For the most part - not all the time - but most of the time, Kennett was very uncomfortable and often disdainful of married couples, their issues, their concerns, their challenges, their needs. She said many negative things, even vicious things - over and over again.

She had no experience with emotional or physical intimacy - and i mean ZERO experience in her life. And especially as the years went on, her discomfort turned to a much stronger form of jealousy or envy or resentment. Sometimes she took the trouble to dress up her emotions in dharma language and sometimes she didn't. But it was clear to me that her feelings were not based in some grand Dharma insight, nor did they somehow come out of her "lotus" experiences. I often saw her make the lives of the married couples more difficult for no good reason - and there was no Zen in it. She had the power to push them around and she did.

As I have said elsewhere, Kennett needed to be the ONE and only focal point of adoration in her realm. And with couples, they loved each other, they had commitments to each other, they loved their children, and so on. They were not focused exclusively on Kennett. So I was not surprised when she eventually pushed out all married couples or demanded they become single and celibate. Because Kennett was so blind to her own shadows and emotions, she dressed up the donkey in silk robes, she wanted to see her actions as Dharma rather than her own unrecognized reactions and feelings - which they mostly were.

I understand of course the Buddhist monk tradition of celibacy and renunciation and simplicity - as valuable disciplines of training. And what we have seen in the modern era is that in Japanese Buddhism and somewhat in Tibetan Buddhism, celibacy was abandoned. The Japanese were not going to allow celibacy as the norm -they wanted a hereditary priest system. Many of the Tibetan lamas had lovers, multiple wives, many incarnate lamas in the Kargyu and Nyingma tradition are married, and their kids are recognized as incarnate lamas. In China, they kept the old celibacy rules, but one has to wonder how well these rules were kept - officially yes, but as we see in the Catholic Church, so many priests secretly are unable or unwilling to remain celibate and so break the rules, molest the boys and so many have girlfriends and secret wives. And in the big Tibetan monasteries, where celibacy is part of the rules, we hear that many of the young boys are the sexual objects of the older monks - possibly by the thousands - we don't know specifics since so much is never discussed and takes place in the shadows, behind closed doors

And us human beings, but especially I think some of the Asian cultures, are masters at denial. Just this week, there was an article about the Japanese and World War II - where there is a new movement in Japan to suggest that Japan never "invaded" any country during the war. What happened were not invasions, but some kind defensive actions? 20 million Chinese dead!!!! Talk about denial and re-writing history.

I have great respect for monks and nuns who dedicate themselves to Buddhist training and follow various disciplines - for those - when it works -- not when it's easy - it might be quite challenging - but they take vows, keep them and work with those feelings and experiences in a focused way. Wonderful for them. But it may be that the celibacy way of practice may only be workable for a minority of people. To take vows and then secretly break them - not helpful - not useful. To suppress sexual feelings and emotions can lead to very disturbed mental states - and not to any kind of awakened or compassionate life.

So celibacy can ideally be of great benefit when and if it is practiced in a way that his honest, engaged, with good guidance, and so on.

Most Buddhism in America is not going to be monks and nuns, is not going to be celibate practice. 95%. And I don't subscribe to this extreme distinction that OBC / Shasta / Kennett created of monks and lay people - they make such a big deal of this - while most Zen and Buddhism in America has long understood that western Buddhism is not like the old Asian forms. All this talk about lay practice and monk practice - so boring and irrelevant. Some of the most dedicated practitioners I know are not "monks" and took no vows - but are very serious meditators, etc.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed May 15, 2013 10:32 am

Thank you chisan ,
( i had to read your message a few times before understanding it .)

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed May 15, 2013 10:54 am

Me too Nicky!!
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed May 15, 2013 12:33 pm

Nicky



The way I understood the meaning of this sentence was that because nothing in the Universe exists in isolation from anything else that therefore certain actions can at times have the most unintended farreaching consequenses, even so to cause someone to commit most heinous acts.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed May 15, 2013 12:34 pm

Josh wrote:
Quote :
Most Buddhism in America is not going to be monks and nuns, is not going
to be celibate practice. 95%. And I don't subscribe to this extreme
distinction that OBC / Shasta / Kennett created of monks and lay people -
they make such a big deal of this - while most Zen and Buddhism in
America has long understood that western Buddhism is not like the old
Asian forms.

I quite agree. The "speacialness" of both monkhood and celibacy are artifacts of what Mencken described as the priesthood's first priority of demonstrating its entitlement to the welfare they ask for. I suppose one has to feel special to keep from feeling guilty about living off the sweat of others looked down on.

There is ample medical evidence that periodic full or partial fasting is good for the body. It can also be helpful for the mind to periodically understand and deal with the mental aspects of encountering hunger. I suppose periodic celibacy could also be useful in a similar vein. But to exult in trampling a normal physiological impulse into oblivion seems the very sort of attachment to asceticism that the Buddha criticized.

I would suspect the people who find the practice sustainable are physiologically or mentally what George in Seinfeld described as sexual camels. Those who are not sexual camels can end up satisfying those needs in despicably unwholesome ways.

To each his own I suppose. If the feeling of superiority or redemption one gets from wearing a hair shirt is greater than the discomfort, then I understand them wearing it. But I won't admire them. It is a poor Buddhism that works only when placed under house arrest and confined to quarters.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed May 15, 2013 12:45 pm

Jcbaran wrote:
jumping into the discussion on relationships and Shasta. Here is what I saw for the years I was there.

For the most part - not all the time - but most of the time, Kennett was very uncomfortable and often disdainful of married couples, their issues, their concerns, their challenges, their needs. She said many negative things, even vicious things - over and over again.

I'm told she referred to her followers' lives in the world, with their partners and families, as "animalia". I can't imagine listening to that and not having alarms go off. Someone who feels this way does not respect the life of lay people. The same ones who gave her food, shelter, clothing and medicine.


Jcbaran wrote:


So celibacy can ideally be of great benefit when and if it is practiced in a way that his honest, engaged, with good guidance, and so on.

Most Buddhism in America is not going to be monks and nuns, is not going to be celibate practice. 95%. And I don't subscribe to this extreme distinction that OBC / Shasta / Kennett created of monks and lay people - they make such a big deal of this - while most Zen and Buddhism in America has long understood that western Buddhism is not like the old Asian forms. All this talk about lay practice and monk practice - so boring and irrelevant. Some of the most dedicated practitioners I know are not "monks" and took no vows - but are very serious meditators, etc.

Josh, I appreciated your comments on why & how celibacy does work for some. I too think it is a valid choice and I admire those who actions match their words about it. That seems to be quite rare, unfortunately -


Edited to say, I posted my comment before seeing Jack's. Love this bit -- "It is a poor Buddhism that works only when placed under house arrest and confined to quarters."
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed May 15, 2013 2:00 pm

I recall (only just) on the first sesshin I went on (1970)
I had rather strong dreams about a certain girl I knew,during a break from digging the fields I confessed my weaknesses to my new friend Michael T. a very devout catholic. He listen intently to my unfolding story of my misdemeanours, When I felt sufficiently purged I paused and looked at my friend for some advice perhaps...He looked at me punched me on the arm and said 'Michael you say that outrageous dream was brought on by the sesshin..that was like one of my normals'


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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed May 15, 2013 2:29 pm

Sara said:
Quote :
There is a need for both, which is why the Buddha set up the Fourfold Sangha

This is interesting because my reading of the very earliest scriptures and the history of the Vinaya is that Shakyamuni did not set up the Fourfold Sangha (and certainly not with capital letters!). This was done later by followers who had adopted a more 'monkish' lifestyle and done I fear to create rather hierarchical distinction. I personally tend towards to what I take to be Josh's more relaxed views on Buddhism in America, and the West in general I think.

It would seem that it was similar in Tibetan Buddhism in the early days too since Jetsun Milarepa, who is taken as the founding figure of much of Tibetan Buddhism, had as his master Marpa, a married Lama.

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Carol

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed May 15, 2013 8:16 pm

Wow! A real mystery! I can empathize with Sara's confusion about accounts, passwords, etc. But I'm also intrigued by Lise's rather astute detective work.

Sara, where did you get the idea that humor wasn't welcome on this site?

Back to the subject of celebacy. Intentionally refraining from sex (or, as Sara says, from having orgasms) is a personal decision. But what about the children? Should following the monastic path means you will never bear or father children? Should you renounce the children you already have to become a monk?

That seems to me to be a more complicated issue. When I was deep into OBC practice and we recited the words "Give up everything," I used to mentally (spiritually?) cross my fingers and exclude my two daughters. Nothing short of death would get me to "give up" my girls.

I have attended ordination ceremonies where the children of the person becoming a monk sobbed and wept. I wept endlessly at my own child's ordination. Although there were a couple of exceptions made, she was not allowed to see her family for an entire year after she was ordained. It seemed cruel and unnatural.

Is it ethical/moral/sound from a psychological point of view to leave a child so the parent can renounce the world and assume the responsibilities of a monk? I once asked a senior monk at Shasta this question. He reminded me that the Buddha left his wife, child, and family to follow a spiritual path.

This answer didn't sit right with me then and it doesn't now. The relationship between the parent and the child is one of the most important experiences in anyone's life. It's not always happy and the outcomes are unpredictable, but the relationship is always profound. Every one of us is forever marked for good or otherwise by our relationship to one or both of our parents. And if we ourselves are parents, our children's lives are shaped by what we did to/for/with them.

It seems that any notion that the life of the monastary is deeper or more "holy" than the life of a householder ignores this connection.
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Thu May 16, 2013 8:27 am

I have moved the recent posts which are not related to celibacy. If they don't make it to their new location in the correct order, this is not a deliberate act on my part, or an attempt to discriminate against anyone. Please look for the new thread under "In Theory and Practice", called "Anonymity in posting".

I have some thoughts on Carol's very good point above, in regard to children - will return soon to write about it.
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Carol

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Thu May 16, 2013 11:06 pm

Thanks, Lise. The conversation about celibacy seems to have gotten high-jacked somewhere along the line!
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breljo

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri May 17, 2013 12:13 am

Carol



I too wanted to answer to your post regarding children but am not sure if I have the ability nor the energy to be able to express this still. It would be very difficult; will give it a little time still.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri May 17, 2013 1:53 am

Children are the core of life for many people across the world,regardless of religion colour or nationality.Mums are always mums and dads are always dads.
Children teach their parents how to be parents and parents do their best at showing their children the way through childhood to adult life.
Children have been the core of my life for forty years,I have five children 2 grand daughters,and I love them all.
i have brought 3 up on my own one from being a baby and bottle fed him. Being a single parent is very difficult,and i have tried my best to put my children first. I am not sure I have been a great parent,I am not sure I have live a great life,maybe the jury is still out,but who cares i have done my best.
Zazen shares life, encompasses life, pure life. Our brains share theory and rhetoric.Pure life is everywhere in every situation Zen is a beautiful religion as it includes everybody and everything,it includes parents ,children, people with problems and difficulties,friends and enemies.One of the lovely things bout Zuoiji temple is they built a little school for kids there,run(not by the monks) for local kids.It was lovely seeing the kids walk passed saying hello, we were a strict temple,but it included everyone,The school was led by the Abbotts younger brother,who is now the Abbott.


Last edited by chisanmichaelhughes on Fri May 17, 2013 2:10 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : cant reed and rite)
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Carol

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri May 17, 2013 2:44 am

Michael, I'm glad you were a father. I'm glad you didn't choose celibacy!
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gnorwell



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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri May 17, 2013 2:58 am

Hi Carol,

I too have always been uneasy about the business of pre-Buddha Guatama leaving his family and going off to do his own thing. I'm with you and Michael regarding the family/kids thing. It may have worked out ok from his point of view in the end, but it still seems pretty selfish as a starting point. Saying that he went off to follow a 'spiritual path' just seems to be saying that the end justifies the means.

Hope you are keeping well.

Cheers,
George
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri May 17, 2013 3:59 am

Yep life is so precious
So rich so full
all directions everywhere
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri May 17, 2013 11:24 am

And thank you Carol, I did smile and liked what you said
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Carol

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri May 17, 2013 1:16 pm

Thanks, George. It's good to hear from you.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri May 17, 2013 3:59 pm

a few more thoughts on this topic:

One very important aspect of the issue of celibacy is this... you are not just giving up orgasms or sexual connection. You are giving up all intimacy and all touching. Touching, hugging, cuddling, hand holding. When I first visited the Tibetan monasteries in Nepal - the big ones - what I saw was hundreds of young Tibetan monks sitting in each others laps, hand holding, hugging, they couldn't stop touching each other - every chance they got. They would hang around outside the main halls in each others laps, rubbing each others heads. It was a surprise at first, but then i saw all the Nepalese boys also doing that, walking down the street with their arms around each other. Of course, the males were not allowed to touch women - that was a big no-no in Nepal.

It was the culture -and it was not overtly sexual in the monasteries, but it probably got quite sexual behind closed doors - at least with the older ones. As human animals, touching in all kinds of ways is part of our biological dance. All animals touch and cuddle and play. So you can take any vows you want about celibacy and make rules against touching - that was the old renunciate path - and so many people will find ways to break the rules, go around the rules, because their biology is screaming for physical intimacy.

Now, i understand the case to confront desire and attachment and craving, but celibacy - if it is to be something workable and useful - and not just lead to guilt and shame and denial - than there needs to be a highly intelligent assessment of how to work with this - and also realize that is only for the FEW and you need emotionally intelligent teachers that can guide.

Eko was the high dharma heir exemplar of Kennett and Shasta and the OBC and clearly he couldn't follow Kennett's celibacy rules. And suppression, denial, secret passions in the shadows, sneaking around, lying - it just makes everything so much more complicated and worse and harmful.

Most of the Japanese / Asian zen teachers - they didn't take vows of celibacy - but they couldn't even figure out what "sexual misconduct" was or wasn't - their biology took over - and no amount of zazen seemed to stop that. And also, we have so many examples of India swamis / yogis, satgurus who took sunnyasin vows of celibacy - and then coming to America, had many girl friends / lovers - and the scandals and the shock!!!! They were officially enlightened, perfect masters, and they needed intimacy.. and/or they also abused their power and position to get what they wanted -- even though they were supposed to be beyond all wants, all craving, all desire. And so much secrecy, pretending, cover-ups, holy justifications, let me teach you tantra... blah, blah, blah..... Evidence shows..... celibacy is for the rare few and there should be no blame in figuring out that it is not working for you, when it isn't. And on the other side, you might decide it would be of great value to practice celibacy, renunciation of various sorts, simplicity, disciplines..... of great value, when it is.

The precept against sexual misconduct... what does it say, what does it mean? During my time at Shasta, it was barely discussed. Kennett had zero experience in this area, didn't really know what to say, it sort of meant monogamy - she defaulted to a simple Christian position. Other than that, mostly silence. And every Zen group in America, that precept is translated differently, is extended to mean do not use sexuality in a selfish or harmful way - which is a fine ideal, but not very specific. Sometimes some groups also turn it into monogamy or faithfulness. And int he Tibetan world, all kinds of ways they work or don't work with that precept - to say the least - but that's a much longer discussion.

One example - Zen Center in San Francisco -- developed a very different culture around sexuality than Shasta. Zen Center existed in the middle of the sexual revolution, the beginning of LGBT rights, sexual liberation and experimentation, an active culture of relationships - the total opposite of Shasta.

end of my babble for now.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri May 17, 2013 5:16 pm

There is not a lot grimmer than emotional coldness,.
I feel it is quite a good precept .Don't be emotionally cold.

For some reason I want to tell you about one time when I left the temple in Japan,a taxi picked me up, before we started our journey,the driver turned round and grinned at me and said,
'My wife is very ugly,but I love her very much'

Rules in religion should free and liberate us, not tie us up in knots
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Carol

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri May 17, 2013 8:13 pm

Michael, I love your story about the cab driver in Japan. He had a lucky wife!

And thank you, Josh, as usual for putting out a reasoned position on celibacy.

Whatever the precept means, it should not prescribe Victorian prudery and guilt. The obverse of Victorian prudery, in fact, was the wild hidden sexuality of late 19th century America.

As for the coldness issue -- I always felt the warmth and affection for the dogs at Shasta may have been a substitute for human physical contact.

.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sat May 18, 2013 2:30 am

Carol I think the taxi driver was the lucky one! yes animals do not seem to be knotted up with their emotions,apart from my one eyed cat.
Much to her embarresment I called her grey and white and I made a big mistake when I eventually let her in 15 years ago,She has to follow strict rules especially when going out,and her favorite trick is hiding so I have to look for her when I gradually break the angry precept,I usually find her purring in MY chair, and I warn her and tell her I am not in the least concerned,if she leaves or gets lost,If she does not get fed expensive Duck and rice she will sick everything else up in my shoe or where I walk bare footed. at the moment she pretends she is dying and has to sit on me one last time,which is a constant theme.She begs for food for the dog and does not like any female coming in the house. I have told her quite firmly that life is very short and I will not allow her to manipulate me however to stop the scratching and meaowing I have promised to do one very short ceremony when she eventually does finally pack her bags and go
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maisie field



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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue May 21, 2013 11:49 am

Oh this is an interesting topic isn't it?



I was thinking,reading the latest posts,about the fact I "was celibate" for about twenty years.Then I met someone I really fancied,and we had a sexual relationship.And the sex was lovely.

Now we aren't(having sex).



I didn't decide not to have sex.It seemed to decide not to have me.

I think when I wasn't having sex(aaggghh! clumsy language!)

I was happy with life.



But the centre of my life is my kids.So?



It is silly to make celibacy into a creed.



It is silly to make sexuality into a creed.



Nice to be back.

Good conversation as usual.



maisie
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