In part 1 of this series of posts, we explore the normalcy of sex in a lay person’s life. This post discuss the idea of abstinence from sex and Asexualiity.
Foremost, let’s discuss sex and spirituality. To start, we need to take a glimpse at the Buddhist cosmology. According to Buddhism, there are more than 1 heaven. Yup, there is really no need for mankind to kill each other because each one of us claim that only our version of heaven is true.
However, the heavens rank according to their degree of spiritual pureness. Heavens that are populated by beings with lesser desires are purer. (Naturally, that is from a Buddhist perspective)
Okay, back to sex. Sex in heaven?
I guess that will be someone’s idea of a perfect heaven right? Instead of innocent winged babies playing harp all day long, they would prefer a heaven that is free to indulge. See, sex does not fall under the domain of hell. Logical right?
Now the little bit of “bad news”.
Heavens that have sensual pleasures belong to the desire realm. That means the beings that are born there have a physical form. Mara who tried to prevent Buddha from gaining enlightenment is one of the Gods there. Remember the scriptural story of Mara sending his beautiful daughters (heavenly maiden of great ability) to tempt Buddha?
Since heavens in desire realms are physical, they are subjected to destruction when the universe expire. Thus, they are classified as “lower” heavens.
As spiritual beings advance their spirituality, they lose their course physical form and reduce their desires too. This ultimately results in the “higher” heavens to be genderless and even formless. An easy way to help us understand this is to think about tranquility or kindness or compassion. They have no gender or appearance, right?
Since Buddhist spirituality aims to remove desire, hatred and ignorance, it is not surprising that any effort for serious practice involves abstinence from sex. Thus, full time practitioners such as monks and nuns must be celibate.
Although celibacy is optional for lay Buddhist, it doesn’t imply sex is compulsory. We have the flexibility to choose how we want to live our life. This is because, sex is not a commandment for procreation in Buddhism. On the contrary, a lay person who has no desire for sex are treated with respect instead of contempt. We do not view Asexual people as weirdo or unnatural.
Unfortunately, the pop culture of our modern society celebrates sex and glamorize it. We grow up with the peer pressure to lose our virginity. If someone is still a virgin in their 20s, then they must be unattractive or “Mama’s boy” or ‘On the shelves’ (Rejected products that nobody picks? ). And if anyone doesn’t enjoy sex, then there must be something wrong with their mind or body. Naturally, such notions are being rejected in Buddhism.
A person who has no desire for sex is not a freak. Perhaps they had already been practicing celibacy in their previous life. Or perhaps, they were previously inhabitants of “higher” heavens. However, lets not get pompous because there is a twist to the plot. Being asexual doesn’t make one holier than thou.
First of all, we shouldn’t confuse ‘an absence of sexual desire’ with ‘an aversion for sex’. In Buddhism, both desire and aversion prevents enlightenment. When our mind flips between these 2 extremes, we cannot see the Ultimate Truth.
Secondly, desire for sex is not the only desire in a person’s mind. Desire for ice-cream can be equally bad for enlightenment too.
Although celibacy features prominently in Buddhist precepts for monks and nuns or for spiritual retreats, we shouldn’t over emphasize it. Not to mention, polarizing it into a major issue.
The important point is to reflect upon ourselves, know our mind and degree of desires and be comfortable with our sexuality, then practice Dharma accordingly, in a wise and responsible manner. The aim is to be freed from craving.
May all be well and happy.