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377a in the Buddhist Context (corrected)

Just one day after this blog post, I became aware of Buddhist voices that are making known to the world, that Buddha’s compassion and loving-kindness are not discriminatory but all-encompassing. So I stand corrected. There are Buddhist leaders who care enough to extend our hands to a minority group. There is a message to say Buddhists and Buddha do not condemn the LGBTQ. The link to their FB can be found at the bottom of this post

Introduction

Singapore was a British colony and our former British master had formulated our laws in accordance with their moral perspective. Unfortunately, their effort to instill law and order in their new territory led to the destruction of the local cultures. What happened was that some officers were having sexual relationships with the local gay men and that led to some embarrassment for the government of the day. Legislations were drafted to target these officers so that they would receive due punishments for their “immorality”. In a similar manner, marriage is defined to consist of one man and one woman, in accordance with the exemplary model of Adam and Eve. The Chinese towkays (businessmen) with their many wives were not spared either. Not to mention other Asian values and moral standards. Everything was whitewashed or “standardised” according to the supreme white men’s perspective of what is right or wrong.

Fast forward to our modern times, that legislation (s377a) that says sex between men is illegal became a source of contention. The gay men pointed out that sex between consenting adults in their private space should not be illegal. Moreover, the law did not address the issue of sex between women but only targeted men. How is that just?

Since we are setting laws in compliance with religious ideals, why not take the code of morality up a notch, then oral sex and anal sex should be banned too, isn’t it? And since we are at it, why not go according to the “best” standard? Sex should be reserved for reproduction only, thus contraceptives should also be banned?

Buddhist being silent

While the newspapers were publishing opinions from various religious groups clamoring for the stay of section 377a, the voice of Buddhists was “LOUDLY” quiet. Not a single squeak from any Buddhist leaders and by the way, 33.2% of the Singapore population are Buddhists.

What do I expect from Buddhist leaders?

To begin with, I think most Buddhists practice monogamy and are heterosexual. Thus, it doesn’t seem to conflict with their values anyway. Therefore, it is agreeable to stay quiet?

Unfortunately, staying quiet has other implications too. In this case, it is the silent condoning of a non-Buddhist moral system to become law of the land. A system that unjustly punishes only the man for having sexual relationships with the same gender.

Since Buddha taught compassion, tolerance, non-discrimination, loving-kindness. This s377a is against all that teachings as well. Shouldn’t we at least make a squeak to say that we (the Buddhists) are okay with the repealing of this archaic legislation that was based on a western moral system?

And if you believe that religious opinions should influence the law, then shouldn’t the 33% population of Buddhists start asking or advocating the implementation of a law that prevents the culling of animals or the removal of abattoirs in Singapore, or the removal of the death penalty? Shouldn’t we ban alcoholic drinks? Okay, I am just joking. After all, Buddhism had been spreading its beliefs without any form of coercion. We simply do not impose our views on others. Maybe that’s why we are silent?

If that is the case, then our silence actually means a lot. Unfortunately, not many people recognise the meaning behind those unspoken words.

The 3rd precept

The Buddhist code of moral conduct for lay people states that one should refrain from sexual misconduct. The consensus interpretation of this precept is that our sexual conduct should not harm ourselves or others. In this manner, Buddhism can be practiced by various cultures in different countries. Be it a matriarchy society of ancient China where one woman can have children with various men or a remote Tibetan community where one woman is the common wife to a group of biological brothers; Buddhism can be practiced without any problem.

Unfortunately, all these cultural norms were erased from Earth because they were made illegal by another supremacist culture.

Marriage and what would Buddha say?

From the Buddhist’s perspective, the various marriage customs and traditions are man-made. They are not the Ultimate Truth. According to Buddhist scriptures, Buddha recalled all his past lives upon enlightenment. Surely he would have remembered how he lived under different moral norms, cultures, and societies.

Civilisations were born and destroyed. What was deemed moral and normal a hundred years ago became improper a hundred years later. In that manner, how can He prescribe a standard way of life for everyone? It is, therefore, wiser to say, one should avoid sexual conduct that brings harm to oneself and others.

Can you imagine what would happen if Buddha prescribed a “proper” way to have sex? Since He is enlightened, wouldn’t He be responsible for telling us if a dildo is okay or Sadomasochism is alright between consenting adults? The monastic communities would be busy updating this never-ending moral guideline because desire is a bottomless pit.

What now?

I think it is heartening to see the local government moving towards secularism and planning to abolish section 377a. The world that we are living in is getting “smaller” due to the convenience of travel and communication. We will continue to see and learn about different social norms and cultures from different places. From dietary preferences to fashion styles. We have to learn how to respect one another and live together harmoniously. Let us try our best not to impose our lifestyle, beliefs, and cultures upon others.

May all be well and happy.

https://www.facebook.com/handfulofleaves.life/

https://www.facebook.com/rainbodhi/

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2 replies »

  1. Months before this news came out, someone in my Dharma class asked what is Buddhism’s view on homosexuality. The venerable said as long as there are feelings and emotions involved, it is trouble. It does not only apply to LGBTQIA+ but also heterosexual relationships. Hence, Buddhism doesn’t have a view on it. To me, this is compassion and tolerance at a different level.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Venerable is totally correct 🙏 and I think majority of the monastic will teach likewise. After all craving leads to suffering. That is the Buddhist view.

      In the other hand, the matter we are discussing is about social injustice and social conditioning that is based on a western moral standards. Buddha had spoken up on such matters before. I remember He spoke up for 500 cattle that were meant for a sacrificial rites. He spoke up against war.
      Then recently, I discovered the Nakula Sutta. When Buddha taught people who are not ready for the monastic life, He also teach accordingly. In this Sutta, He taught how a loving couple may continue life together in their future lifetimes. He did not chastise them by saying, “you ought to let go of Samsara.” So I think Buddhist voice can have a wider range to reach more people from different directions.

      Finally, thank you very much for leaving a comment. I totally agree with Venerable’s message. 🙏

      Like

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