LordCope wrote:As 21st century practitioners, do you take this stuff with a pinch of salt? Do you view it allegorically? Similarly the exortations on inappropriate sex (oral / anal).
I was actually wondering to myself about the definition of "sexual misconduct" as referred to in the Pratimoksha vows, but was hesitant to make a whole thread topic on it. Guess now that the proverbial cat's outta the bag we can discuss it in more detail. Does anyone know what the Indo-sutric and Indo-tantric understandings of this phrase were? Was this injunction against such misconduct ever explicitly defined or the parameters set out prior to the Pratimoksha vows taking root in Tibet? If so, was there a single standard, or varying interpretations? And how does this (or do these) compare/contrast with the Tibetan understanding/parameters for "sexual misconduct"?
I ask because 99% of the time I've only heard/read this one simple yet nebulous phrase --- "sexual misconduct" --- and it's not explained in any detail, though perhaps this due to my primarily Kagyu & Nyingma associations. In my experience at Ka-Nying events, for the sake of brevity the Pratimoksha vows are (usually) given during the tail end of the Refuge ceremony, which itself is given just prior to empowerment so as to allow more to receive it. Not sure why there seems to be more emphasis on the formal taking of refuge in Ka-Nying circles, whereas it seems, for example, that in the Sakya tradition the recitation of refuge & bodhicitta during the empowerment ritual itself suffices... but perhaps my limited exposure can at least somewhat account for how/why the upasaka vows are given so briefly. The one time I've seen any sort of detailed explanation of what constitutes misconduct is in Transformation of Suffering: A Handbook for Practitioners (pp. 73-74), where a well-respected Drikung Kagyu lama gets very specific:
Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen Rinpoche wrote:Sexual misconduct means having sex with someone who is married; with a pregnant woman; with a person overpowered by depression, sickness, or suffering; or having sex by force. Sexual misconduct also includes having sex in the vicinity of a shrine or stupa; having sex during the daytime, where there is light, or in retreat; having sex with one's parents, brother, sister, or an immature youth; or having sex with the mouth or anus.
Obviously the majority of these prohibitions make good sense and make for some solid ethics. Adultery inevitably leads to problems with the family social unit or exacerbates problems which were already there; both parties should be consenting adults in possession of all their faculties, and not in a compromised mental state; and rape leads to a host of heinous issues and ramifications.
However, should sex with a pregnant woman be completely off the table, even if you are the woman's loving partner? Many couples sleep with each other during at least some portion of the pregnancy, and often the pregnant woman goes through a point where her libido increases. If this is seen as an issue of not wanting to hurt that unborn child through intercourse, would a lesbian couple still be prohibited automatically, or would there be qualifiers? Or is this more related to the status of Tibetan women and the concept that pregnancy somehow makes a woman "impure"?
We don't want to defile the sacred space of shrines and stupas by giving in to our desires and attachment (worldly concerns), but should rather engage in virtuous Dharma practice. Respectful and simple enough. But no sex in the daytime? Why... because we'd be wasting our day (a.k.a. "burning daylight") and presumably not practicing? This one seems to presuppose no self-control on the part of the practitioner. And no sex where there's light? Are there issues of body shame in Tibetan culture that I'm not aware of? Are we all supposed to do things with the lights completely off every time?
The genetic and psychological tolls of incest, evident throughout history, have been studied thoroughly and are well-known. And pedophilia should be abhorrent to everyone. No bueno. However, no oral sex? Is this to say that sex is for procreation, not recreation, without having to actually say it, or does using one's mouth in that way have negative consequences for enlightened speech and the effectiveness of one's mantra recitation? In the same vein, is the prohibition of anal sex about that orifice being deemed unclean, or is does it stem from a larger notion that homosexuals are somehow unable to be Dharma practitioners? What about lesbians who use toys? What about heterosexuals who enjoy that sort of thing?
If anyone has authoritative answers to any of these questions, or can back up their assertions with textual (and preferably scriptural) references, please do so! I've posed all of these questions not to pass judgment on anyone or on the Three Jewels; far be it from me to judge anyone. Rather I'd like to find clarity on this subject which seemed to have been ambiguous. I, for one, am genuinely curious and wouldn't mind learning about the various levels of orthodoxy and orthopraxy involved. I'm sure many others are sincerely interested in this as well...