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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 4:33 am 
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Huseng wrote:
I don't think all but a small minority of Buddhist teachers would suggest fire and brimstone in matters related to sexuality.

Really what it comes down to is that the Buddha taught that desire is cause for suffering and must be eliminated. On a subtle level it hinders meditation. Entry into the first dhyāna includes "abandoning desire". By not overcoming kāma one is bound to the kāma-dhātu.

This might not be relevant to most people who neither meditate nor actively seek liberation from saṃsāra. I don't think it wise to take a yogic principle and turn it into an ethical rule for people who do not engage in meditation. This is why the lay precept just concerns harmful sexual acts (for example incest and adultery).


I don't think I disagree with what you're trying to say.
Do hope you're not meaning to imply that lay householders don't meditate or work to achieve any attainments...
Not really sure how to reply to that without posting intimate details of my life :emb: but I will point out that there are parallels in sport fighting - that you never have sex in training camp.

The main point of my post was about how you eliminate those desires: stamping them out versus letting them fade away.
I find the second approach more successful for me, feels a lot more natural. Strict self-denial often seems to have the opposite effect in my experience.
If I was a true renunciate, I definitely wouldn't waste my time thinking about that stuff.
When I take that leap I'm going to have strong motivations & convictions driving me, those kinds of fantasies just wouldn't have any place in what I'll be trying to accomplish.
At the same time, if you live in a candy store eventually you're going to get bored of candy, but if you're not allowed to have it you'll probably crave it.


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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 4:41 am 
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Huseng wrote:
PorkChop wrote:

On the other hand,I'm not sure going all fire and brimstone is the answer either.



I don't think all but a small minority of Buddhist teachers would suggest fire and brimstone in matters related to sexuality.

Really what it comes down to is that the Buddha taught that desire is cause for suffering and must be eliminated. On a subtle level it hinders meditation. Entry into the first dhyāna includes "abandoning desire". By not overcoming kāma one is bound to the kāma-dhātu.

This might not be relevant to most people who neither meditate nor actively seek liberation from saṃsāra. I don't think it wise to take a yogic principle and turn it into an ethical rule for people who do not engage in meditation. This is why the lay precept just concerns harmful sexual acts (for example incest and adultery).


That depends on whether you see changing your views as a necessary precondition to practice or experiences gained in practice as bringing about changes in view. IME the latter is more effective.


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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 6:07 am 
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PorkChop wrote:

Do hope you're not meaning to imply that lay householders don't meditate or work to achieve any attainments...


Well clearly some do, but that's only a small number.

If you're married with kids, a job, a lawn to mow and a dog or two to walk, you probably won't have the appropriate conditions to seriously cultivate merit and yogic attainments. The same can be said for living in a noisy monastery and having many tasks, too. This is why the bodhisattva is encouraged to abandon society and even monastic environments to cultivate him/herself. Having a mundane life is contrary to the path. That doesn't mean practice won't be highly beneficial, but realistically it has many limits.


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The main point of my post was about how you eliminate those desires: stamping them out versus letting them fade away.


Sexual desire fades with advanced age, but the causes are still present, albeit dormant. In the bardo and future lives they will reemerge.


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I find the second approach more successful for me, feels a lot more natural. Strict self-denial often seems to have the opposite effect in my experience.


Self-denial is unwise I think. The alternative is contemplate the faults of lust and how it is actually suffering. If you come to the logical conclusion that lust is a mental poison, then it will lead to a curtailment. That doesn't mean thinking of sex as an evil sin, but simply as an act which perpetuates one's own suffering and future rebirths. Rebirth in the desire realm is conditioned chiefly by desire, and primarily in the form of lust. The twelve links of dependent origination are propelled by desire.


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At the same time, if you live in a candy store eventually you're going to get bored of candy, but if you're not allowed to have it you'll probably crave it.


Yes and no, but if you realize the candy is just going to rot your teeth in the end, you might crave it a lot less.

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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:39 am 
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Let's first remove all the stories and ideas connected to sex and relationships. Then we're left with a fairly simple act that in and of itself is not more pleasurable than a dinner in the evening. Going directly to the opposite and of how sex is filthy and relationships are suffering, it goes nowhere but to frustration and anger. Also, creating a Buddhist myth of sex and relationships is as a romantic idea as the rest.

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Does marvelous nature and spirit
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Mind is this mind carefree;
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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:55 am 
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For me the blood and guts meditations were never the most effective way to deal with that energy- they always seemed a bit extreme. Certainly several of the monks I have met in my last 8 years of ordination who have used those methods can end up very uptight, unhappy and disrobed.

For myself, the advice of one of my Theravada teachers to see the feeling for what it is- something transitory, fleeting and not based in reality, was the most useful advice. Like any other thoughts the thoughts of desire arise and they fall away. There is no need to hold onto them, we can let them pass through our minds like clouds in the sky.

Geshe Sonam told me that certainly in the Bodhisattvacaryavatara we have the passages about the filthiness of the human body, which he thinks people should read, but he told me most people's minds are uptight enough that using such methods rather than helping them reduce desire could sometimes cause them to become more neurotic.

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I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 10:20 am 
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JKhedrup wrote:
For me the blood and guts meditations were never the most effective way to deal with that energy- they always seemed a bit extreme. Certainly several of the monks I have met in my last 8 years of ordination who have used those methods can end up very uptight, unhappy and disrobed.

For myself, the advice of one of my Theravada teachers to see the feeling for what it is- something transitory, fleeting and not based in reality, was the most useful advice. Like any other thoughts the thoughts of desire arise and they fall away. There is no need to hold onto them, we can let them pass through our minds like clouds in the sky.

Geshe Sonam told me that certainly in the Bodhisattvacaryavatara we have the passages about the filthiness of the human body, which he thinks people should read, but he told me most people's minds are uptight enough that using such methods rather than helping them reduce desire could sometimes cause them to become more neurotic.


I recently read in the Lamrim-text of Che Tsongkhapa, that this meditation-technique is for certain people. For the especially craving type of being. One should not give one remedy for all the people all the time in the same quantity.

In the topic "overeating" I use it sometimes, not too much, but from time to time it ist helpful. When everybody is eating cakes and cookies and chokolates at sunday-afternoon-time, and i know exactly: it's not for me, i'm fat enough - then the imagination "this cake is made out of dirt" is very helpful for me. The craving stopps and i am able to act like i wanted. I'm not bound to eat things which make me feel bad afterwords.
But of course this medicine ist like a poison and has to be well dosed and given only after a right diagnose.

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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:43 am 
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JKhedrup wrote:
For me the blood and guts meditations were never the most effective way to deal with that energy- they always seemed a bit extreme.


I was just about to bring up blood and guts meditations

In the west I have found that although some teachers will teach about the merits of celibacy, they always seem to avoid teaching remedies to lust, if they even know of them. This had always left me wondering what to do... "Well gee, being horny is bad... but what am I supposed to do? will it away?".

Lust is a habit that can be tamed, just like any other habit. I have actually found a brief contemplation of internal organs, every day, to be quite effective. I don't think contemplating your kidneys, liver, pancreas...etc, is that extreme. It is more boring than anything else. But it gets the job done. Although there may be more extreme forms of meditation that I am not aware of.

Brian


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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:00 pm 
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Yes I mean extreme is relative, I guess it depends on how sensitive one is. Perhaps part of the reason it seems extreme to me is the visit to a charnel ground I took one time, and also seeing in India, Thailand etc. the 'real deal' in terms of blood and guts.

Geshe la presents the material as it is contained in Bodhisattvacaryavatara for example, he does not skip over relevant sections of the text. He also mentions thinking of people without their skin. But as far as recommending specific methods for people's personal practice, seeing that many Westerners attracted to dharma are of shall we say the nervous type, he often recommends thinking about impermanence- how the body ages and so forth.

Someone mentioned Lama Tsongkhapa's Lam Rim mentioning people of different types- where a certain delusion was more prominent. If my memory serves me correctly unattractiveness/repulsiveness was appropriate for those whose delusions of lust and attachment were strongest. Then there were antidotes for those whose major challenge was false thinking/discursive thought/projection (always have problem picking a word that the Tibetan expresses so beautifully as nam tok).

This is part of the reason why a teacher is so important- they can recognize which particular category a student falls into and recommend emphasis of the teachings which are more suited to that personality.

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I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:38 pm 
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Its precisely why a teacher is essential. Left to our own devices we are apt to ricochet between attraction and aversion..neither of which give rise to insight.


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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:40 pm 
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Huseng wrote:
My generation (born in the 80s) is preoccupied with sex and their identities and self-worth often revolve around it.

This is why the idea of curtailing lust is so difficult to even consider (I initially had similar issues as well). The problem really lay in that socially such ideas would be discouraged as unmanly, unnatural and overtly puritanical. People often think that "suppressing your sex drive" as they call it leads to mental disorders. This is considered common sense.


Or, perhaps sex pleasure is just the single strongest sense pleasure there is, so it is intrinsically difficult to overcome? So if people have yet to even overcome much lesser desires, then they don't even consider ones that are much stronger? Of course the culture plays a part, but I don't think it is entirely a cultural thing. :smile:

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'Monks, I don't know of even one other form that stays in a man's mind and consumes it like the form of a woman... one other sound... smell... taste... touch that stays in a man's mind and consumes it like the touch of a woman. The touch of a woman stays in a man's mind and consumes it.

'I don't know of even one other form that stays in a woman's mind and consumes it like the form of a man... one other sound... smell... taste... touch that stays in a woman's mind and consumes it like the touch of a man. The touch of a man stays in a woman's mind and consumes it.'

— AN 1.1

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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 2:13 pm 
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I notice two trends in western Buddhism regarding sexuality that don't seem to implied in non-western Buddhism:

One is the naturalisation of sex - The narrative that sexual desire isn't even mental, but a biological impulse. And consequently, not something that is even possible to liberate, let alone worth trying to do.

I can agree with it to a certain extent, in that I do think there are quite a few components of sexual desire that seem hardwired into the human body. But I don't think the conclusion that all components of sexual desire are therefore rooted in the body is warranted.

The other, less acknowledged one, seems to me to be what I see as a remarkably persistent backlash against Victorian puritanism, probably Catholic streams along similar lines as well, that sex is not a sin or evil or unwholesome. Consequently any attempts to treat it as anything less than healthy and good for you is rejected as puritanical almost out of hand.

I think what a lot of westerners struggle with is the distinctions in Buddhism between the moral aspects of sexual behaviour and the liberative ones. Most can get aboard the precept on sexual misconduct once properly explained, but when they then see what the Buddha's explanations on sexual desire, generally aimed towards mendicants, they presume a moralising aspect that is not really implied in it.

Once you are in the clear on sexual misconduct, what you do with sexual desire is basically just up to yourself and how driven you are when it comes to liberation, same way as putting in the legwork to master the Dhyanas and so forth is up to yourself if you want. No one gets judged as inferior or wrong-headed because they haven't gotten that far yet. It's an option if you want to go further.

On the scale of less-than-full-liberation excessive sexual desire can cause some problems too, but those are largely documented by modern psychology too (exceptions I imagine, are mostly in the area of sexual desire viz a viz meditative prowess). But by and large, I think that the modernist notion that sexual desire is not unhealthy is something that ought to chime fairly well with a Buddhist laylife. The alternative, that sex is unhealthy and defiling, I think is likely to come with a lot more superfluous psychological hang-ups if you aren't properly equipped, or have the desire, to actually deal with sexual desire on a more profound level.

It just needs some more nuance when we start talking about more refined stages of liberation and development of the mind, a standard which Shramanas are held to be default.

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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 2:40 pm 
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Anders wrote:
One is the naturalisation of sex - The narrative that sexual desire isn't even mental, but a biological impulse. And consequently, not something that is even possible to liberate, let alone worth trying to do.



We also generally don't see those who have overcome desire as holy or worthy of veneration. They are considered abnormal and an aberration. Whereas in many Buddhist cultures monks and nuns and anyone else who decides to overcome desire are held in esteem by the community at large. I found in India a lot of people respect the idea even if they would never pursue it themselves.



Quote:
The other, less acknowledged one, seems to me to be what I see as a remarkably persistent backlash against Victorian puritanism, probably Catholic streams along similar lines as well, that sex is not a sin or evil or unwholesome. Consequently any attempts to treat it as anything less than healthy and good for you is rejected as puritanical almost out of hand.


The general assumption is that not satisfying your desires will turn you into some kind of deviant or mentally unstable individual. I think in previous generations this wasn't the case. That doesn't mean people didn't indulge themselves, but this assumption that continence will lead to instability wasn't really there, but correct me if I'm wrong.



Quote:
It just needs some more nuance when we start talking about more refined stages of liberation and development of the mind, a standard which Shramanas are held to be default.


Unfortunately there are few śramaṇas in the western world. This might change in time, but who knows.

In a predominately lay environment where lust isn't considered an issue, it might be difficult for śramaṇa culture to even become rooted, especially when the community at large thinks such individuals are abnormal.

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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 2:45 pm 
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One more thing about celibacy is how it is present in the Western world. The Catholic Church clergy is (supposed to be) celibate. And I suppose I don't need to repeat all those incidents that made it to the news about the different forms of abuse, and there are many less known too. Not a positive image of celibate people at all.

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"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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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 2:50 pm 
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:good: (Anders )

A few decades back there was a definite whiff of "sex is dirty " inherent in western Buddhism..
This seems to have given rise to a highly dubious reactive contention that " sex is ( per se ) sacred.

I wonder if part of the process of maturation of Dharma in the west is that sex is neither a matter for aversion or of all prevailing attraction ?

Incidentally I dont think we can lay all the blame directly at the feet of Christianity..One of the most puritanical and sex aversive groups I encountered was a group who were of a Marxist disposition and saw sexual expression as repression by state propaganda...in other words, sex as a variety of the opium of the masses.


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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 2:54 pm 
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Simon E. wrote:
I wonder if part of the process of maturation of Dharma in the west is that sex is neither a matter for aversion or of all prevailing attraction ?


I think if a śramaṇa culture developed where renunciation of worldly desires was seen as legitimate, worthy and healthy, then it wouldn't be an issue.

Sex need not be painted as vile, but then calling it natural ergo proper is likewise not helping anyway. However, as a Buddhist minority you have little say in the greater society.

The greater Buddhist community would hopefully come to appreciate renunciation, but we'll see if that ever happens.

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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 4:20 pm 
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Huseng wrote:
We also generally don't see those who have overcome desire as holy or worthy of veneration. They are considered abnormal and an aberration. Whereas in many Buddhist cultures monks and nuns and anyone else who decides to overcome desire are held in esteem by the community at large. I found in India a lot of people respect the idea even if they would never pursue it themselves.


How can we tell the difference between a monastic who has overcome desire and a monastic who is still grappling with desire? There are so many stories in the news about "celibate" monks (from different religions) breaking their vows and giving into temptation, sometimes with children! I think this has contributed to a view of skepticism when ever someone says they are celibate.

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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 4:50 pm 
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I always make the point though that if people jump to the conclusion the celibacy of the monks/priests etc. leads to child abuse, then how do you explain stepfathers (biggest perpetrators of child abuse), boy scout masters, school teachers, camp counsellors... In other words, any place where adults are put in positions of trust with children will be used by those with dark desires to fulfill their fantasies. If we have to get rid of celibate priests/monks, we have to get rid of stepfathers too!

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In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin


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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 4:54 pm 
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Astus wrote:
Let's first remove all the stories and ideas connected to sex and relationships. Then we're left with a fairly simple act that in and of itself is not more pleasurable than a dinner in the evening. Going directly to the opposite and of how sex is filthy and relationships are suffering, it goes nowhere but to frustration and anger. Also, creating a Buddhist myth of sex and relationships is as a romantic idea as the rest.


Exactly. In my experience in a woman's body, it's not sex that is any kind of problem for my practice, it would be dwelling on thoughts about sex, and then getting in to relationships with non-practitioners which ends up with a lot of wasted time doing things to please someone whose priorities are different than a practitioners time are. Sex itself is no big deal, it's what we make of it.

I don't know if loosing semen creates all the problems some texts say they do, but in my body sex for me does not leave me depleted at all... I just feel a little healthier and happier afterwards... as I recall.

Husung, I don't personally know anyone who observes the one day vows here in America for any of the precepts.

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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 5:04 pm 
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JKhedrup wrote:
I always make the point though that if people jump to the conclusion the celibacy of the monks/priests etc. leads to child abuse, then how do you explain stepfathers (biggest perpetrators of child abuse), boy scout masters, school teachers, camp counsellors... In other words, any place where adults are put in positions of trust with children will be used by those with dark desires to fulfill their fantasies. If we have to get rid of celibate priests/monks, we have to get rid of stepfathers too!


Let's face it though, when it comes to religions the west can be pretty cut and dry. My post isn't my view, but the views of the general public as I understand them. My question stands though; if we are meant to venerate those who have overcome sexual desire, how can we tell them apart?

Gassho,
Seishin.

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 Post subject: Re: If lust is desire...
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 5:08 pm 
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Seishin wrote:
Huseng wrote:
We also generally don't see those who have overcome desire as holy or worthy of veneration. They are considered abnormal and an aberration. Whereas in many Buddhist cultures monks and nuns and anyone else who decides to overcome desire are held in esteem by the community at large. I found in India a lot of people respect the idea even if they would never pursue it themselves.


How can we tell the difference between a monastic who has overcome desire and a monastic who is still grappling with desire?


If they are a monk, and following the monastic code, then I think it's fairly safe to give them the benefit of the doubt. Having sexual intercourse is one of the highest level offenses for a monk, and will result in them being disrobed - for life. This is the reason women in Theravada countries will not touch monks, and will generally yield the sidewalk to them, they don't want to cause any misunderstanding. Monks in Thailand have to go to a lot of trouble to have sex with a female, the Vinaya creates a very hostile environment for that sort of thing. It usually either happens while the monk is outside the country, or with real cloak and dagger type stuff, like sneaking out of the monastery dressed as an army officer.

The monastic environment is fairly ideal for not having sex with women. I was involuntarily celibate for four years when I was in the infantry, there just weren't any women around.

One of the reasons males in Thailand ordain for 3 months, is to show prospective wives that they can keep it in their pants. That means that they have overcome desire - for 3 months.

Brian


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