How do monks put up with celibacy?

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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby Huifeng » Thu Nov 18, 2010 3:16 am

Astus wrote:
Huifeng wrote:They state pretty much that found in all Buddhist literature of the first 1000 yrs or so:
Sexual activity is an obstruction to rebirth even in the heavens, how much more so is it an obstruction to liberation and / or full awakening.


How do you compare that to what the Kosa (vol 2, p. 465) says? Just happened to read this section and thought about your comment.

69b-d. There are six gods who taste pleasure; they unite through coupling, an embrace, the touch of hands, a smile, and a look.

The CaturmaharSjakayikas, Trayastrimsas, Yamas, Tusitas, Nirmanaratis and Paranirmitavasavartins are the gods of Kamadhatu. The higher gods are not in Kamadhatu.
The Caturmaharajakayikas and the TrayastrimSas live on the ground; thus they unite by coupling, like humans; but they appease the fire of their desire through the emission of wind, since they do not have any semea The Yamas appease the fire of their desire by embracing, the Tusitas by the touch of hands, the Nirmanaratis by smiling, and the Paranirmitavasavartins by looking at each other. Such is the doctrine of the Prajfiapti.
According to the Vaibhasikas (Vibhasd, TD 27, p. 585b27), these expressions of the Prajnapti, "embracing," "touching of the hands," etc., do not indicate the mode of union—for all the gods couple—but the duration of the act. The more ardent the desire by reason of the more pleasurable object, so much shorter is the duration of the union.


Seems that for the Kosa at least, for the lowest of the kama realm deities, my statement above needs to be adjusted a little. Whether or not everyone else agrees with the Kosa or not, may be another matter.
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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby Individual » Thu Nov 18, 2010 3:45 am

This has been an enlightening discussion. :)
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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby ground » Thu Nov 18, 2010 4:26 am

Since the "awakening factors" have been mentioned the hindrances should also be mentioned.

"Monks, there are these five hindrances. Which five? Sensual desire as a hindrance, ill will as a hindrance, sloth & drowsiness as a hindrance, restlessness & anxiety as a hindrance, and uncertainty as a hindrance. These are the five hindrances.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html



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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby Astus » Thu Nov 18, 2010 10:18 am

Ogyen wrote:Do you have a sutra or reference material handy? This has sparked my curiosity.


Avatamsaka Sutra - Flower Ornament Scripture in Cleary's translation - last chapter, also exists stand alone as the Gandavyuha Sutra.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby Individual » Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:45 pm

TMingyur wrote:Since the "awakening factors" have been mentioned the hindrances should also be mentioned.

"Monks, there are these five hindrances. Which five? Sensual desire as a hindrance, ill will as a hindrance, sloth & drowsiness as a hindrance, restlessness & anxiety as a hindrance, and uncertainty as a hindrance. These are the five hindrances.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html



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So you just need to have sex without sensual desire? Hahahaha. But that wouldn't be very good sex, would it?
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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby ground » Thu Nov 18, 2010 9:58 pm

Individual wrote:
TMingyur wrote:Since the "awakening factors" have been mentioned the hindrances should also be mentioned.

"Monks, there are these five hindrances. Which five? Sensual desire as a hindrance, ill will as a hindrance, sloth & drowsiness as a hindrance, restlessness & anxiety as a hindrance, and uncertainty as a hindrance. These are the five hindrances.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html



Kind regards

So you just need to have sex without sensual desire? Hahahaha. But that wouldn't be very good sex, would it?


What do you want? Good sex or liberation?

You want both, right? That's your problem.

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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby Tilopa » Thu Nov 18, 2010 11:05 pm

TMingyur wrote:
What do you want? Good sex or liberation?

You want both, right? That's your problem.

Kind regards


Exactly. At a certain point you have to choose, you can't have both.

Siddhartha was a layman with wife, family and concubines. He gave them up to become the Buddha and that act of renunciation is itself a supreme teaching. You don't need to be a monk or nun but if you want liberation or enlightenment you do need to be celibate.
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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Nov 18, 2010 11:44 pm

Not so cut and dry. A person can want liberation and work towards it while acknowledging that they are not ready or willing at this point to give up certain worldly attachments. In the Theravada "gradual path" model, sensual desire is actually one of the last fetters to be eradicated, and there's plenty of work that can be done before reaching that stage.

People are complex, and we sometimes have mixed aspirations. Or we understand our capacities. Sometimes we have nearer-term goals and longer-term goals. For example, I go to work every day at a job. I don't consider the job the source of ultimate meaning in my life, but it serves my current goal of raising a family and keeping a roof over our heads.

So yes, at some point one has to choose, perhaps in this life, perhaps in the next, but I'd be wary of making black-and-white distinctions. Even people who are deeply engaged in worldly life, as I am, need the promise of liberation. And it's not particularly helpful, from this POV, to be told that the spiritual dimension is closed to me unless I become a deadbeat dad or withhold intimacy from my loved one.
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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby Tilopa » Fri Nov 19, 2010 1:19 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Not so cut and dry. A person can want liberation and work towards it while acknowledging that they are not ready or willing at this point to give up certain worldly attachments. In the Theravada "gradual path" model, sensual desire is actually one of the last fetters to be eradicated, and there's plenty of work that can be done before reaching that stage.

People are complex, and we sometimes have mixed aspirations. Or we understand our capacities. Sometimes we have nearer-term goals and longer-term goals. For example, I go to work every day at a job. I don't consider the job the source of ultimate meaning in my life, but it serves my current goal of raising a family and keeping a roof over our heads.

So yes, at some point one has to choose, perhaps in this life, perhaps in the next, but I'd be wary of making black-and-white distinctions. Even people who are deeply engaged in worldly life, as I am, need the promise of liberation. And it's not particularly helpful, from this POV, to be told that the spiritual dimension is closed to me unless I become a deadbeat dad or withhold intimacy from my loved one.


It's not that everyone must become celibate right now or that spiritual progress is impossible if you are sexually active but as you say at some point one has to choose. Why? A prerequisite to final realization is single pointed concentration (samatha) which can't be achieved if one is engaged with objects of desire. That's why I said 'if one wants liberation or enlightenment' celibacy is necessary.

Even on a more basic level attachment to sexual pleasure causes endless problems and suffering. Desire is an itch that always needs scratching. Truly horrible. :stirthepot:
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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby Ogyen » Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:00 am

This has been an interesting discussion... that has inspired a few thoughts in response. I do not know much about men entering monasteries and the challenges they face as grown men entering celibacy from a place of non-celibacy, but I had a few thoughts on what celibacy would be introduced to youth, the boys entering monasteries.

For people who enter this celibacy from when they're children, like the 4-5 year olds that become little monks, I think there is a whole system of support around them to teach them about the nature of desire even before they develop hormonally and their desire takes a sexual form. It seems to me that they are successful with celibacy because they learn to recognize desire's face. When they meet the natural desires of their teenage and adult years in this sphere of life, there is guidance from the teachers, lessons on the nature of impermanence, the seductive qualities of what seems, but there is (at least from what I've seen) always a strong emphasis on letting the student's truth unfold. Monks are taught to meditate early in their years, and this kind of contemplation that the child learns to apply habitually becomes a big tool of noself-recognition. Deep lessons are learned by painful conditions at times. Celibacy like non-celibacy has its hard lessons, as well as its joys.

So it strikes me that the path for those who start out monks in their lives cannot really be spoken for by those who have not shared the same conditions of that path, I could be mistaken, but I would think that unless you are familiar with the culture of buddhist monastic celibacy outside of the Christian cultural matrix, you might mix and match these values which in theory are the same, but in reality play out according to their native cultural environments.

Eastern monks who enter monasteries at young ages have a full social and cultural matrix that gears them to conceive of relationships in different ways than the common judeo-christian cultures where sex bears shame, guilt, and sin. I don't think the support system in the form of teachers, peers, and people outside the monasteries necessarily makes the path of celibacy easier for the monks who are just boys, but the objective of awakening is not always comfortable, so in a way the Vinaya with all its conditions is actually designed to make it so that the boy-monks have the tools to see their own desires for what they are, and not what they seem. I don't even know if that makes sense, I'm speaking from the intuition of what's been inferred about this topic by monks, please correct as needed.

Renouncing something when not ready can go counter to one's intentionality of being, in that your conscious mind might "want" to have a truth be such for you, but if your being isn't there yet, forcing clauses onto your behaviors can sometimes cause the reverse effect than that which was desired or intended in avoiding the negative outcome to begin with, why? If intention is part of the "subtle" mind, if action doesn't emerge naturally from intention, and progress in this way for the person experiencing it, the person's "will" forces one's own being into neurosis, because we all have a little king within that wants to rule the whole of self. And so long as we avoid the tools that allow us to naturally observe and not cling to what arises in us while also using discernment about how to choose to view these desires, we will continue to "do it" and try to realize in other ways that we might be more ready for, like becoming vegetarian for some, or humanitarian for others.

Fortunately for us, the little king can be recognized as such and like a child, this ego can be taught to work with the whole of self. Boy monks are taught to do this by skillful masters who fully recognize their boyhood, so celibacy is not something imposed on the boy against his will, he learns a different way of relating to the world that has the love and intimacy of sex through knowing one's own mind. In this sense, the monks are given good tools to always realizing shedding the shells ignorance in their own struggles or encounters with their own desires... for the celibate monk there will be as many phases of awakening as there will be for any other person who is not celibate who is also on the path to buddhahood.

It's not that any method is intrinsically better, more like which method best caters to what YOU need for your potential to unfold?

What then, is so important about whether or not sex is good or bad for one's practice? You know for yourself, if you stop and look, what you are ready and not ready for. You can know your greatest challenges by what you crave, learning to see and "recognize" the blind-spot of your ignorance on the lens of your being. You will face the most difficult parts of shedding these parts of yourself in turning the wheel of dharma, but it should never be forced. Why do you think teachers are so careful when to speak or not speak? They truly care for their students and use that inner wisdom on how to nurture their students' insights and growth.

Not everyone has such struggles around sex which make celibacy or sexual activity difficult to put up with. It depends, I think, from just a personal observation point of view, that most people whom I've met who've been "past these struggles" have other knots and lumps of neurosis that haven't entirely resolved within themselves yet. The thing is there's no one rule fits all, and Buddha taught this wisdom by making dharma take many shapes, for all the people who are the you and me's of the world. Because you and I may not have the same method, but we seek the same liberation, do we not?

So while I am curious about your responses, at the same time I recognize that this is a speck in the face of being. So I wonder why try to mince words and split hairs with sensual desire. We all know WHAT it is. We're here, aren't we? Isn't being here being human a direct result of sensual craving?

When I contemplate this direct result of my own craving, being here, being me, being everything I will lose at the moment my death greets me in the form of my last breath, I know, somewhere deep within that sensual desire is far more profound than worrying about whether sensual desire is good or bad for me. It is both, it is neither. It is both and neither.

Clearly as long as I'm ignorant and crave, I will keep interacting with sensual desire. When I'm actually realized enough to see it for what it is, the way a toddler sees the diaper for what it is and lets it go in favor of the "grownup" potty (can you tell I'm a toddler's parent who is pottytraining?) then I will just move past the desire, because I will REALIZE its nature and choose my role with it naturally, from my own direct experiential knowledge.

That's (for me at least) the only knowledge that sticks. Everything else, comes and goes. Skills, forms, shapes, it's like I've lived many lives in this one alone. Sometimes it feels that way, so I am always curious about all forms of communication. At a basic level, there is just this inner passion for interbeing, yet the only continuous thread that has punctuated every part of my varied life has been the subtle intention to always realize more of my potential of kindness which I've intuited at some point in my life is often translated in the simple need to just breathe without fear and sadness. So when I think of what monks put up with in celibacy, I think of myself in what I've put up with in the evershifting nature of life, that is a wish to cultivate a tranquil mind, so that when it's time, I'll have mastered at least a smidgeon of human dignity when I'm there on that bed taking my last breath.

I'm scared too like everyone else about that moment, but in the same way that the monk practices celibacy, I practice commitment to the daily struggle that is knowing convention from truth. And translating my intentions through this discernment is probably shared by many a monk in regards to their own celibacy.

Like I said, I don't know what celibacy is for a monk, but if I had to imagine what it was like, I would think monks would be taught to see through the seemings their ignorance takes in the forms of their hopes and fears, so celibacy would be just as much of a thing to deal with as recognizing any desire as a convention instead of a truth... That's as far as I've gotten with this thread, nice bit of thinking it caused... celibate people put their pants on one foot at a time too, so I guess if they're buddhist, their motto would be just to be kind and and live an honest good life...? Monks can return vows if they find at some point that their path diverges from that of the Vinaya, that makes sense too.

Life isn't perfect, and there isn't always an exact match, so by the default nature of reality being series of impermanent conditions, I think Buddhists of all people have a good sense of there being a different path for every spirit, so to speak. If change comes from within, doesn't intention as well?

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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby ground » Fri Nov 19, 2010 5:06 am

Tilopa wrote:It's not that everyone must become celibate right now or that spiritual progress is impossible if you are sexually active but as you say at some point one has to choose. Why? A prerequisite to final realization is single pointed concentration (samatha) which can't be achieved if one is engaged with objects of desire. That's why I said 'if one wants liberation or enlightenment' celibacy is necessary.

From my point of view which is the view of an ordinary being that is exactly how it is.
But I have to admit that I do not know whether there is sexual activity in any place "in the worlds of the ten directions" which is not based on desire.
Desire in this human realm however is obscured by a multitude of conceptual faces which manifest in the form of either single terms or inconsistent self-suggestive reasoning.

Now I can fantasize that there might be a kind of sexual activity which is solely based on mere compassion, nothing else but pure selfless compassion, there being no agent of this activity at all. However even in the context of this fantasy I would differentiate between an initial purity of this "non-agent" and the potential downfall caused by stimuli like touch, smell, warmth etc. in the course of this "non-acting". One single small poisoned arrow is sufficient to cause [birth and] death.


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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby Tilopa » Fri Nov 19, 2010 7:15 am

Ogyen wrote:Eastern monks who enter monasteries at young ages have a full social and cultural matrix that gears them to conceive of relationships in different ways than the common judeo-christian cultures where sex bears shame, guilt, and sin. I don't think the support system in the form of teachers, peers, and people outside the monasteries necessarily makes the path of celibacy easier for the monks who are just boys, but the objective of awakening is not always comfortable, so in a way the Vinaya with all its conditions is actually designed to make it so that the boy-monks have the tools to see their own desires for what they are, and not what they seem. I don't even know if that makes sense, I'm speaking from the intuition of what's been inferred about this topic by monks, please correct as needed.


East or West desire is desire and sooner or later it has to be dealt with and transcended and I think young Asian monastics probably have to struggle with it just like the rest of us as they enter puberty and adulthood. I know many Tibetans disrobe at that age as they are usually put in monasteries by their parents and didn't voluntarily enter the monastery out of a deep sense of renunciation or a great interest in dharma. To a large extent it's just the cultural thing to do. It's probably the same in other Buddhist countries.

For those who stay I'm sure the support structure of the monastery/nunnery is just as you say and almost certainly makes it easier to maintain a celibate life. But as a great Thai master once said "after 30 years of celibacy even a water buffalo can sometimes look attractive"


Renouncing something when not ready can go counter to one's intentionality of being, in that your conscious mind might "want" to have a truth be such for you, but if your being isn't there yet, forcing clauses onto your behaviors can sometimes cause the reverse effect than that which was desired or intended in avoiding the negative outcome to begin with


Which is why celibacy is not for everyone and to force it on oneself before being ready could be emotionally and psychologically damaging or even dangerous. It has to come from a mind of renunciation based on the recognition that what we normally think of as a type of happiness - in this case sexual pleasure and intimacy - is in fact just another form of suffering which binds us ever more forcefully to samsara.

Boy monks are taught to do this by skillful masters who fully recognize their boyhood, so celibacy is not something imposed on the boy against his will, he learns a different way of relating to the world that has the love and intimacy of sex through knowing one's own mind. In this sense, the monks are given good tools to always realizing shedding the shells ignorance in their own struggles or encounters with their own desires... for the celibate monk there will be as many phases of awakening as there will be for any other person who is not celibate who is also on the path to buddhahood.


TBH I think this is a romanticised idea of monasticism but I hope you're right. Stay in Thailand for a while and you soon realize monks are as horny as anyone else. Every day there is at least one newspaper report of a monk caught in a brothel, with a woman in his room or charged with seduction, rape or fathering a child.


It's not that any method is intrinsically better, more like which method best caters to what YOU need for your potential to unfold?


Nope - celibacy is obviously a better path but only for those few who are ready. For the rest of us it's just not appropriate yet.


What then, is so important about whether or not sex is good or bad for one's practice? You know for yourself, if you stop and look, what you are ready and not ready for. You can know your greatest challenges by what you crave, learning to see and "recognize" the blind-spot of your ignorance on the lens of your being. You will face the most difficult parts of shedding these parts of yourself in turning the wheel of dharma, but it should never be forced. Why do you think teachers are so careful when to speak or not speak? They truly care for their students and use that inner wisdom on how to nurture their students' insights and growth.

Not everyone has such struggles around sex which make celibacy or sexual activity difficult to put up with. It depends, I think, from just a personal observation point of view, that most people whom I've met who've been "past these struggles" have other knots and lumps of neurosis that haven't entirely resolved within themselves yet. The thing is there's no one rule fits all, and Buddha taught this wisdom by making dharma take many shapes, for all the people who are the you and me's of the world. Because you and I may not have the same method, but we seek the same liberation, do we not?

So while I am curious about your responses, at the same time I recognize that this is a speck in the face of being. So I wonder why try to mince words and split hairs with sensual desire. We all know WHAT it is. We're here, aren't we? Isn't being here being human a direct result of sensual craving?


What is a "speck in the face of being" ?

When I contemplate this direct result of my own craving, being here, being me, being everything I will lose at the moment my death greets me in the form of my last breath, I know, somewhere deep within that sensual desire is far more profound than worrying about whether sensual desire is good or bad for me. It is both, it is neither. It is both and neither.


Of course sensual desire is bad for you. It gives rise to craving, grasping, attachment and bondage to samsara. Only if you can transform it through the practices of highest yoga tantra can it be seen as beneficial in any way.

Clearly as long as I'm ignorant and crave, I will keep interacting with sensual desire. When I'm actually realized enough to see it for what it is, the way a toddler sees the diaper for what it is and lets it go in favor of the "grownup" potty (can you tell I'm a toddler's parent who is pottytraining?) then I will just move past the desire, because I will REALIZE its nature and choose my role with it naturally, from my own direct experiential knowledge.


True but I don't think you can move fully past desire until you stop engaging with the objects of attachment. So once again at some point celibacy will become a relevant and necessary practice. Not just for you, for all of us. :crying:
Last edited by Tilopa on Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Nov 19, 2010 1:02 pm

Tilopa wrote:Of course sensual desire is bad for you. It gives rise to craving, grasping, attachment and bondage to samsara. Only if you can transform it through the practices of highest yoga tantra can it be seen as beneficial in any way.


Desire can be sublimated/channeled into all kinds of activities: philanthropy, humanitarian work, the arts, chess, gardening, etc. Now, it's true that these activities are part of samsara and thus suffused with dukkha. But that doesn't mean they aren't beneficial to some degree. Your statement ("only...in any way") strikes me as extreme.

Desire is an itch that always needs scratching. Truly horrible.


Is fire horrible? Or beautiful? Fire is fire. You can burn down a house with it, or you can cook dinner with it. (Both, if you don't watch the stove!)
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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby Tilopa » Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:14 pm

Desire can be sublimated/channeled into all kinds of activities: philanthropy, humanitarian work, the arts, chess, gardening, etc. Now, it's true that these activities are part of samsara and thus suffused with dukkha. But that doesn't mean they aren't beneficial to some degree. Your statement ("only...in any way") strikes me as extreme.


I'm not sure. Are we talking about the same thing? Desire for sensual pleasure always precipitates craving, grasping and attachment so needs to be abandoned but if we have transcended desire then we have so much more energy for all the things you mention. In that sense I agree with you but a philanthropist, humanitarian, gardener or chess master can still be tormented by sexual desire. No happiness in that.

Is fire horrible? Or beautiful? Fire is fire. You can burn down a house with it, or you can cook dinner with it.


That's right and if you can transform desire it is useful but otherwise it just makes us crazy.
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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby Ogyen » Fri Nov 19, 2010 11:07 pm

Tilopa wrote: In that sense I agree with you but a philanthropist, humanitarian, gardener or chess master can still be tormented by sexual desire. No happiness in that.


This was my point. You must engage whatever desires are easiest for you to change first. If you're on the dharma path, you will eventually reach a place of choice within yourself about your desires. Dharma is a series of observances within yourself you either take to or not yet... it's not like there's anyone over there looking over your shoulder about your desires and what your path SHOULD be.

I used to be tortured by my sexuality. Everything I attached to it. Now I have not many things attached as I used to, so I'm not tortured by my sexuality, in a way, placing some formidable restrictions on what I indulge has actually liberated me from a lot of the binds I had around my sexuality. Being a woman on top of it, it seems I always encounter strange responses that I had such a fight with my genderhood for so long.... by recognizing what desires I can address and which are still beyond my experiential grasp (NOT hypothetically, but every day, facing this or that which taps or touches into my self-image, my ideas of desire, sexuality as a whole) I choose to focus on what practically benefits me, instead of obsessing over a theoretical application of a set of conditions which are not yet pertinent to my life and awareness (celibacy, for example) and this process has given me a ton of personal strength and insight by realizing what my conceptions are.

What I'm tortured by still are areas of weak development within myself. Refraining is not that hard for me. Relaxing is. I should be one of those people who has more connection and less sex. I need connection to other human beings. I don't need sex so much. I've only come to realize this naturally, sex is great, and wonderful, but it's not really a need. I have a hard time relaxing enough to experience joy and I'm teaching myself that. For celibacy, were I a monk, and at some point in my life I still may be, when I enter a space of celibacy, and I'm sure I will at some point, it will be out of a "this is best" attitude that is a natural succession to my previous choices and conditions I set up that led to this natural transition every Buddha has at some point.

However, being married and with a child, it would be inappropriate for me to consider celibacy just to awaken myself, because I would hurt other people in the process, so my intention is key, does that make sense? Buddha never said, abandon your family to awaken, simply that every phase has its nature, and the phase of liberation from one's fetters is a slow path that requires constant mindfulness to materialize...

You give what you can with what your strengths are. You can give of yourself, no matter what the convention dictates around you, you can give of yourself in a way that is meaningful, useful to others, and makes a difference, even if you're not ready or struggle with celibacy...

Is anyone here actually struggling with celibacy, or is this all just hypothetical?

If the latter, I'll refrain from more posting on the matter, simply because while interesting, it's not relevant to the reality of helping someone here directly and mama is super busy these days. I have nothing more interesting than this to say.

Thank you for a lovely discussion.

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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby Lazy_eye » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:47 am

Tilopa wrote:I'm not sure. Are we talking about the same thing? Desire for sensual pleasure always precipitates craving, grasping and attachment so needs to be abandoned but if we have transcended desire then we have so much more energy for all the things you mention.


I'd argue that at some level we are talking about the same thing, because many wholesome pursuits involve sublimation of sexual energy -- that's the root impetus, but it's transformed. There are many, many examples. Just to name one, Emily Dickinson lived like a nun, cloistered in her father's home, and her work deals with spiritual themes. But if you look at the imagery, it can be very sexually charged.

In general, I think anyone who examines the symbolism, imagery and ritual in the world's great religions will see a lot of transformed eroticism in play. And of course it's quite common for people who were strongly focused on erotic life in their youth to have spiritual epiphanies later in life.

Some longitudinal studies (tracking the lives of subjects over a span of decades) have found that being able to sublimate and transform sexual energy is one of the factors conducive to long-term happiness -- that is, the subjects who were found to be happier late in life were those who had managed to do this. So I'd say it's not a clear-cut distinction between "bad" sexual desire and "good" noble-minded pursuits. There can be a link. The energy can be channeled in some way.

A philanthropist, humanitarian, gardener or chess master can still be tormented by sexual desire. No happiness in that.


I agree.

Along the same lines, people who do try to channel their drives into philanthropy, humanitarianism, etc sometimes aren't really able to manage it, and this could be why we see cases of abuse and sexual exploitation cropping up -- the Opus Dei scandal comes to mind, or the San Francisco Zen Center stuff, or any number of cases involving people involved in good causes who end up going seriously astray.

Like handling fire.
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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby Ogyen » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:53 am

Lazy_eye wrote:
Tilopa wrote:I'm not sure. Are we talking about the same thing? Desire for sensual pleasure always precipitates craving, grasping and attachment so needs to be abandoned but if we have transcended desire then we have so much more energy for all the things you mention.


I'd argue that at some level we are talking about the same thing, because many wholesome pursuits involve sublimation of sexual energy -- that's the root impetus, but it's transformed. There are many, many examples. Just to name one, Emily Dickinson lived like a nun, cloistered in her father's home, and her work deals with spiritual themes. But if you look at the imagery, it can be very sexually charged.

In general, I think anyone who examines the symbolism, imagery and ritual in the world's great religions will see a lot of transformed eroticism in play. And of course it's quite common for people who were strongly focused on erotic life in their youth to have spiritual epiphanies later in life.

Some longitudinal studies (tracking the lives of subjects over a span of decades) have found that being able to sublimate and transform sexual energy is one of the factors conducive to long-term happiness -- that is, the subjects who were found to be happier late in life were those who had managed to do this. So I'd say it's not a clear-cut distinction between "bad" sexual desire and "good" noble-minded pursuits. There can be a link. The energy can be channeled in some way.

A philanthropist, humanitarian, gardener or chess master can still be tormented by sexual desire. No happiness in that.


I agree.

Along the same lines, people who do try to channel their drives into philanthropy, humanitarianism, etc sometimes aren't really able to manage it, and this could be why we see cases of abuse and sexual exploitation cropping up -- the Opus Dei scandal comes to mind, or the San Francisco Zen Center stuff, or any number of cases involving people involved in good causes who end up going seriously astray.

Like handling fire.


I'm in complete agreement with all the points touched on in this.

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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby Tilopa » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:07 am


I'd argue that at some level we are talking about the same thing, because many wholesome pursuits involve sublimation of sexual energy -- that's the root impetus, but it's transformed. There are many, many examples. Just to name one, Emily Dickinson lived like a nun, cloistered in her father's home, and her work deals with spiritual themes. But if you look at the imagery, it can be very sexually charged.

In general, I think anyone who examines the symbolism, imagery and ritual in the world's great religions will see a lot of transformed eroticism in play. And of course it's quite common for people who were strongly focused on erotic life in their youth to have spiritual epiphanies later in life.

Some longitudinal studies (tracking the lives of subjects over a span of decades) have found that being able to sublimate and transform sexual energy is one of the factors conducive to long-term happiness -- that is, the subjects who were found to be happier late in life were those who had managed to do this. So I'd say it's not a clear-cut distinction between "bad" sexual desire and "good" noble-minded pursuits. There can be a link. The energy can be channeled in some way.

Along the same lines, people who do try to channel their drives into philanthropy, humanitarianism, etc sometimes aren't really able to manage it, and this could be why we see cases of abuse and sexual exploitation cropping up -- the Opus Dei scandal comes to mind, or the San Francisco Zen Center stuff, or any number of cases involving people involved in good causes who end up going seriously astray.


Excellent post. Very interesting.
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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby eijo » Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:40 am

Ogyen wrote:
Astus wrote:Could finally identify the bodhisattva Ven. Seung Sahn might have been talking about. It's teacher 25, called Vasumitra and she liberates people from passion through passion. It is also a recurring teaching there to be in the world without being affected by the world, which is the concept of non-attachment to anything while acting for the welfare of all. Also noteworthy is the large amount of lay and female teachers present in Sudhana's journey.


Do you have a sutra or reference material handy? This has sparked my curiosity.

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Astus covered that one, but if you're still interested, something like that also appears in the Vimalakirti.

saṃcintya gaṇikā bhonti puṃsām ākarṣaṇāya te /
rāgāṅkuśena lobhetvā buddhajñāne sthapenti te //

Lamotte (p. 185)
"They (bodhisattvas) voluntarily become courtesans to attract men, but having won them with the hook of desire, they establish them in the Buddha-knowledge."
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Re: How do monks put up with celibacy?

Postby Huifeng » Sun Nov 21, 2010 5:25 am

eijo wrote:
Ogyen wrote:
Astus wrote:Could finally identify the bodhisattva Ven. Seung Sahn might have been talking about. It's teacher 25, called Vasumitra and she liberates people from passion through passion. It is also a recurring teaching there to be in the world without being affected by the world, which is the concept of non-attachment to anything while acting for the welfare of all. Also noteworthy is the large amount of lay and female teachers present in Sudhana's journey.


Do you have a sutra or reference material handy? This has sparked my curiosity.

:heart:
Ogyen.


Astus covered that one, but if you're still interested, something like that also appears in the Vimalakirti.

saṃcintya gaṇikā bhonti puṃsām ākarṣaṇāya te /
rāgāṅkuśena lobhetvā buddhajñāne sthapenti te //

Lamotte (p. 185)
"They (bodhisattvas) voluntarily become courtesans to attract men, but having won them with the hook of desire, they establish them in the Buddha-knowledge."


This leads to a very common line in Chinese Buddhism:

先以欲勾牽,後令入佛智。
First lead them with the hook of desire, Then cause them to enter the Buddhas wisdom.

Though usually sexual desire is not the main idea, probably tasty vegetarian delights are more par for the course!
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