One of the most controversial schools of Buddhism is Tibetan Vajrayana. This is because the iconography of a naked Buddha hugging a similarly naked woman sitting on His lap (known as Yab-Yum) had been widely circulated and associated with Tibetan Vajrayana. This image is definitely controversial. Hello? Buddha Is Celibate!??
There are more than 250 precepts for the Buddhist monastic and being celibate is of utmost importance. Since Buddha is being regarded as peerless in His moral conducts; imagery of Buddha engaging in sex is regarded as sacrilegious by many Buddhists.
Buddhists in Thailand can be so offended by this image that they won’t hesitate to confront you about it. I remembered a group of Thai Buddhists who were extremely agitated when someone posted a similar image in their Buddhist chat group. I managed to soothe their temper after reminding them that Buddha had a wife, Yashodhara; before he became a monk. And we should be reminded of how Buddha renounced His rich material life and beautiful wife for the sake of all mankind. A simple change of perspective and my Thai friends were applauding and saying Sadhu to that imagery. This illustrates one lesson that I had learnt in Tibetan Vajrayana; and that is how our ignorant mind creates sufferings for ourselves and others. In this story, anger changes into respect by simply changing one’s perspective. The peron who posted that image was spared from verbal abuse and the Thai Buddhists were no longer angry. Personally, that is my experience with Tibetan Vajrayana. It skillfully, dramatically and flexibly teaches Dharma to its practitioners.
Tibetan Vajrayana practitioners would never reveal imagery of Yab-Yum to the uninitiated. But such imagery had become wide spread in our informational age. You can even find them on mugs, posters and T-shirts. Unfortunately, this creates avenue for misinterpretation. And unscrupulous individuals are qucik to abuse such ignorance and misunderstanding. They market “new-age” Buddhism that celebrate sex and even encourage promiscuity or irresponsibe sexual practices. Fake Guru abuses the faith of their women disciples and cheated them into having sex with them; all under the pretense of teaching some form of exotic Buddhist meditation.
My first lesson in Tibetan Vajrayana Tantra actually relates to precepts. There are 3 sets of them. The 1st set refers to those commonly found in Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. For the lay followers, we have the 5 precepts or the 8 precepts observed on Holy days. For the monastics, they have more than 250 rules to observe and yes, celibacy is one of them. The second sets of precepts refer to the Mahayana Bodhisattva precepts and the third sets of rules belongs to the Vajrayana precepts. We must observe all of them. In short, Tibetan Vajrayana Monastery is not a sex heaven for monks and nuns. They still observe celibacy, beware of monks or nuns who tell you the opposite.
To be continued…
May all be well and happy.
May the pandemic end.