In previous posts, I had explored various sexual orientations and also talked about the “open” attitude about marriages in Buddhism. If one reads these posts at face value, one might wrongly conclude that Buddhism is ‘progressive’ and ‘open’ about the ‘sexual health’ of its lay followers.
In our modern world, sex is no longer a taboo topic and discussions about the various wants of different individuals’ sexual urge is deemed healthy. The more we talk about it, the more we understand its complexities and hopefully, we can find some sort of ways to live healthily with this instinctive urge.
However, the secular definition of “healthy” means embracing sexual urges as inevitable. The methods of managing one’s sexual urge is done “externally”. From sex therapy to adult toys to medications. All these are considered as “external” from a Buddhist perspective. At the core of it, our modern world view sexual urge as “healthy” and the willingness to accommodate various sexual acts is celebrated as “open”, “inclusive” and “progressive”.
Since the sexual precept for lay Buddhist simply advices us to abstain from sexual misconduct; leaving it to individual and society to determine what is considered a misconduct, it seems like Buddhism allow various forms of sexual practices and is therefore; “open”, “inclusive” and “progressive”.
Does that mean Buddhism encourages or tolerate Lust in its lay community?
Hate to break the news guys and gals, but Buddha never encourage Lust or sexual desire.
To become enlightened, we need to let go of all craving and desires. Yes, that includes carnal ones.
Disciples who can let go of lust are encouraged to do so quickly. Those who cannot do so are encouraged to set a spiritual goal of overcoming them. In that sense, although Buddhism never formulate any restrictive laws or precepts against the different sexual practices for its lay communities, we should understand that, that doesn’t mean is Party Time in Buddhism.
Naturally, the message of sexual abstinence and control is not well received by everyone. In Vajrayana Buddhism, there is a popular story about a king enquiring if enlightenment is possible without practicing celibacy. Unfortunately some beginners inevitably mistaken this as embracing one’s sexual desire as part of enlightenment. That is naturally contrary to Buddhist goal of being freed from craving, aversion and ignorance. Personally, I think Vajrayana is like a skilled therapist who makes us comfortable with who we are while treating us for our mental afflictions.
In short, Buddhism does not encourage lust. However, Buddhism offers a broad platform to accommodate people from different walks of life, so that we have the opportunity to start our spiritual journey from somewhere.
Why is sexual desire bad?
To put it bluntly, my Buddhist teachers taught that such kind of base mental energy drives our mind towards the lower rebirth in the animal realms after death. Therefore, a Buddhist lay disciple is advised to lessen his sexual desire bit by bit through his spiritual practices.
Instead of giving in to our lust and desire, we try our best to master it. Bit by bit, at our own pace, we slowly practice mind training so that desire and lust no longer control our mind. This is consistent with the Buddhist cosmology, whereby the beings of higher heavens becomes genderless and formless.
In summary, everyone can become a Buddhist regardless of sexual orientations and practices. We don’t really mind that you enjoy bondage and whips in your intimate moments. However, please be aware that the ultimate goal of enlightenment is freedom from craving and desire. This is because stress and sufferings arise from craving and desire.
May all be well and happy.
“Instead of giving in to our lust and desire, we try our best to master it. Bit by bit, at our own pace, we slowly practice mind training so that desire and lust no longer control our mind. ”
But how? I understand to guard the mind and senses, avoid sights or situations that trigger lust. And I can control my actions, not engage in sexual misconduct. But I’m struggling to purify that root karmic tendency that gives rise to lust. It’s like there is a madman in my head. This lunatic keeps popping up seeking self destructive behavior. How to route him out?
Example, when walking in public, the madman in my head will want to look at women, and then lust. Yes, I know to avoid even looking. But how too extinguish the urge to look? The urge is still there.
And I realized for me it is beyond just sexual lust, it is more to do with seeking admiration/worship. I know it can only lead to a bad result. But the madman is still there.
If I were to go into the forest in solitude for 10 years to meditate, without any lustful thoughts, and after 10 years reenter society, I suspect the lustful lunatic would still be there! How to route him out?
Maybe I already know the answer. Daily practice of 88 Buddhas Repentance and/or other purification practices. Maybe I just need to be steadfast and practice and the fruit will come forth. But would be nice to kill the madman once and for all. I wonder what the experience is like for monks who are celibate. Do they ever kill the madman? Or just suppress him?
Your comments and questions opened a memory for me. I hope my experience might be relevant or useful for you. And hopefully, it will benefit many brothers and sisters in the Dharma too. So here’s the link
Personally, I think it is very challenging to get rid of lust. I think that is probably because lust is a type of craving and craving is a characteristic of our samsaric existence. It is part of our Samsaric “DNA”. The other 2 DNA are aversion and ignorance.
In the Theravada tradition, we need to attain at least the 2nd stage of enlightenment before we can reduce craving significantly. I think forcing ourselves too much to get rid of lust may be counter-productive.
To answer your question, it is not about killing the madman. It is to gain the realization that there is no mad man to start with….. To attain the correct realization, I recommend the method taught in Kevatta Sutta.
Hope this helps.
Thank you very much for the comment and question. It inspires me to write a post and I hope that I can finish it in a day or two. And it will be under the same series ” Sex in Bodhi-city”