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 Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts

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Join date : 2009-11-08
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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    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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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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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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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.

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue May 21, 2013 12:06 pm

Yep I agree, make a big issue out of sex and it it will bite you,be cool take it easy it is part of life
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