Health Impact of Celibacy

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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Adamantine » Mon Jan 28, 2013 2:21 am

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Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Karma Dorje » Mon Jan 28, 2013 2:22 am

JKhedrup wrote:Many Westerners who want to ordain are humble and hope to fade into the background. They are happy to do jobs like administration and maintenance to keep the dharma centres going, an essential service. Despite their contributions, many are seen by the centres as simply "another mouth to feed". I realize that if I were not translating, that is likely how I would be viewed as well- which is indeed sad.

With proper training we could have some wonderful Western monks and nuns in Tibetan Buddhism just like they do in the Thai Forest Tradition. People who exemplify a different way of living and a commitment to living as simply as possible.

But this will never happen, because of the aversion many Westerners in our tradition have for monasticism, especially when undertaken by Westerners. Lamas and Rinpoches can repeat again and again the benefits of this way of life, but as long as the Western lay community remains uninterested in Western monks and nuns,completely ambivalent, nothing will change.


The point is, being ordained is often not simpler here. Except for the few, one must work in Western society and many of the vows of a fully ordained monk make that nearly impossible. You don't need to have a vow to be celibate, to eschew entertainment, to focus primarily on practice, to beg for a living, etc. I for one am not at all averse to monasticism. I am simply saying that when outward circumstance doesn't favour it, we need to look to the essence rather than the outward form.

Most practitioners here are not wealthy. They have a hard enough time feeding their families and still having leisure enough to practice. Until there is far more infrastructure and more wealthy donors, I would think that monasticism will remain the exception rather than the rule.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jan 28, 2013 4:21 am

Karma Dorje wrote:The point is, being ordained is often not simpler here. Except for the few, one must work in Western society and many of the vows of a fully ordained monk make that nearly impossible.


Really? Such as what? The basic idea of being celibate and living on stipends and/or people's good charity is not impossible. Plenty of monks and nuns associated with ethnic temples in western countries manage well enough because their community supports them.

At the very basic level monastics just need food, shelter, clothing and healthcare, and then they can devote themselves full-time to learning, practicing and teaching hopefully.

I don't see this as impossible in western society. We used to have such institutions, but not so much anymore.


I am simply saying that when outward circumstance doesn't favour it, we need to look to the essence rather than the outward form.


Imperfect as the vessel may be, Buddhist institutions, made up primarily of monks and to a lesser extent nuns, have been responsible for transmitting Buddhist traditions from generation to generation for the last twenty-five centuries. What you propose here sounds rather arrogant and individualistic to me. The outward form of celibacy and monastic living is a hell of a lot more reflective of renunciation than a bunch of middle class people reading Dharma books in Starbucks while doing their practice on the weekends in expensive retreat centers.


Until there is far more infrastructure and more wealthy donors, I would think that monasticism will remain the exception rather than the rule.


The first step then is to initiate changes.

Toss a monk a bone.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Yudron » Mon Jan 28, 2013 4:40 am

One of the necessary ways the Dharma becomes established in a country is the establishment of monasteries. I once saw a video by Dr. Lancaster from University of the West talking about his research about the things that are necessary to establish the Dharma in a new place. His conclusion was that there are three things: Buddha relics, Dharma texts, and Monks. As Husung points out, there are quite a few monks and nuns in the U.S. at ethnically run temples. Even in San Francisco, one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S., there are monasteries.

It took a long time to get the Dharma to really take hold in Tibet. It was the coming together of a pure monk Shantarakshita, the guru Padmasambhava and the sponsor King Trisong Deutsen that finally did it. The equivalent right people with the right motivation can certainly come together in Western countries and do the same today. Husung, with his love of the simple life, might just be the right monk to do so in his home country. Canada, right?
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon Jan 28, 2013 4:45 am

Imperfect as the vessel may be, Buddhist institutions, made up primarily of monks and to a lesser extent nuns, have been responsible for transmitting Buddhist traditions from generation to generation for the last twenty-five centuries. What you propose here sounds rather arrogant and individualistic to me. The outward form of celibacy and monastic living is a hell of a lot more reflective of renunciation than a bunch of middle class people reading Dharma books in Starbucks while doing their practice on the weekends in expensive retreat centers.



I was talking to someone interested about Buddhism the other day, and I mentioned something in this vein, that it is only natural to gravitate towards people who have spent a huge amount of their life on nothing but Buddhism, to the exclusion of other things. Weirdly, I felt like the person just shrugged it off, and seemed to think that there was little difference between a monk, and a random meditation teacher to their eyes :( Like education and renunciation really just kind of didn't matter.

Maybe it's a cultural thing I don't know, maybe the idea of actual "religious" monks and nuns does something wonky for people.. personally it struck be as really bizarre to not be able to see the difference. Not that that is what is going on here, your post just reminded me of it.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Karma Dorje » Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:30 am

Huseng wrote:
Imperfect as the vessel may be, Buddhist institutions, made up primarily of monks and to a lesser extent nuns, have been responsible for transmitting Buddhist traditions from generation to generation for the last twenty-five centuries. What you propose here sounds rather arrogant and individualistic to me. The outward form of celibacy and monastic living is a hell of a lot more reflective of renunciation than a bunch of middle class people reading Dharma books in Starbucks while doing their practice on the weekends in expensive retreat centers.



Wow, and you call my suggestion arrogant? And these are the same people you want to sponsor your monastic lifestyle? This is the sort of disdain you feel your celibacy entitles you to? How unfortunate. The reality is, many of us have been practicing along with raising families for nearly as long as you have been on the planet. We are raising a generation of children with profound understanding of the importance of the teachings and the importance of acting with loving kindness. We have contributed tremendous amounts of money to teachers, their monasteries, retreat centers, schools and hospitals. All of this is necessary if we are ever to have sustainable monastic institutions in the West.

Both monasteries and lay traditions have passed on the Dharma successfully in many countries. The simple reality is that right now the lay traditions are more successful because they are more in tune with life in the West. Until there is a really secure base of lay support, we may never get the monastic institutions that they have in India and Tibet. Not unless you can manage to make Buddhism the state religion in a Western country.

However, that doesn't mean everything is on hold until the monasteries are here. Look at the all of the great masters of the many traditions who were not celibate monks: the eighty-four mahasiddhas, Marpa, Milarepa, Khyungpo Naljor, the Sakya royal families, all of the many great married Nyingma masters, etc. There are many role models, regardless of your outward circumstance. If you are inspired to be a monk, great! If you are inspired to be a married ngakpa, wonderful! Both to me are equally wonderful if the motivation and diligence is the same.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Jnana » Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:31 am

Yudron wrote:It took a long time to get the Dharma to really take hold in Tibet. It was the coming together of a pure monk Shantarakshita, the guru Padmasambhava and the sponsor King Trisong Deutsen that finally did it.

And even with that auspicious circumstance, it also took the work of others, including Atiśa, to establish a mode of conservative monasticism and lay practice in Tibet. His own auto-commentary on the Bodhipathapradīpa (Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment) speaks to many of the issues related to lay precepts and monastic precepts, and so on.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Jnana » Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:36 am

Karma Dorje wrote:However, that doesn't mean everything is on hold until the monasteries are here.

There are already monasteries here. Mūlasarvāstivāda, Dharmaguptaka, & Theravāda ordination lineages all have monasteries in Western countries: Monastic Ordination Resources.

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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:51 am

Karma Dorje wrote:Wow, and you call my suggestion arrogant?


You said,

I am simply saying that when outward circumstance doesn't favour it, we need to look to the essence rather than the outward form.


... and meanwhile are justifying your family life and a lack of support for monasticism, moreover your own claims that sexual desire isn't really a problem:

The long and the short of it is that getting laid is no big deal, really. Craving sex is another matter altogether, like any other kind of craving. Tṛṣṇā is *not* equivalent with sexual desire, and one can crave it as surely by abstaining from it as indulging it. Let's leave aside using bliss as an upaya. A simple married life can be very conducive to Dzogchen practice. There is no need to run down the married life to speak of how wonderful ordination is.


This is contrary to what the Buddha himself taught. Married life is the bane of practice, which is why the Buddha, among many others, suggested that serious practitioners abandon the home life.

What you are advocating here sounds like self-justification for desire and married life. You are putting yourself on par with renunciates.

It is a very common quality to justify what we enjoy. It is like the addict who comes up with various reasons as to why their lifestyle is alright.


And these are the same people you want to sponsor your monastic lifestyle?



I've not asked for anything. I earn my money fair and square like any other working joe at the moment.



The reality is, many of us have been practicing along with raising families for nearly as long as you have been on the planet.


Chimpanzees can raise a family, too. Raising a family is nothing to be proud of really. Having children is a demonstration that one is bound by desire, and a lack of disgust for saṃsāra. These are qualities unbecoming of someone on the path. It might be bitter to swallow that, but nevertheless that's the nature of life and saṃsāra.



We are raising a generation of children with profound understanding of the importance of the teachings and the importance of acting with loving kindness.



I commend you for it, too. However, your dismissal of monasticism is still problematic. Having kids raised as Buddhist is one thing, but in secular societies with an increasing disdain for anything called religion, I imagine the efforts might only go so far.


The simple reality is that right now the lay traditions are more successful because they are more in tune with life in the West.



Yes and no. Part of the fact is that people are morbidly addicted to sex and relationships, and do not want to give any of it up. It is considered abnormal to even speak of curtailing such desires as a means towards liberation. Lay traditions as you call them are, as I would observe, often divorced from a lot of key teachings from the native Asian traditions from whence they stem from. It isn't so much of being in tune with prevailing conditions, but just a reflection of deep problems running through western cultures perhaps.


Look at the all of the great masters of the many traditions who were not celibate monks: the eighty-four mahasiddhas, Marpa, Milarepa, Khyungpo Naljor, the Sakya royal families, all of the many great married Nyingma masters, etc.


Right, but most of us are not like Milarepa. Most of us are pretty low level ordinary bodhisattvas at best.

I'm fine with lay practitioners as I am one. I'm simply saying that your dismissal of monasticism is part of the problem that Ven. Khedrup has lamented encountering all too often.

The knee-jerk reaction against celibate traditions in western culture is a serious concern because, after all, the Buddha did teach that liberation is not possible unless one abandons sexual activities and desire.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:03 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Maybe it's a cultural thing I don't know, maybe the idea of actual "religious" monks and nuns does something wonky for people.. personally it struck be as really bizarre to not be able to see the difference. Not that that is what is going on here, your post just reminded me of it.


The complex mix of older religious sentiments (like for example Protestantism), capitalist-industrialist values and secular ideas in European / Euro-American culture have led many people to believe that the only proper lifestyle to have is to work as an employee in a cash economy. Anything else is an aberration from the norm, and moreover unfair to everyone else who works and pays taxes. The idea of giving a free lunch to a bunch of people who contribute little to the sacred economy is an alien concept, unless of course said person pays their way, receives tuition fees like a proper instructor and maybe pays into the tax system.

That's commodification at work. Everything is measured in terms of financial interests.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:05 am

Yudron wrote:Husung, with his love of the simple life, might just be the right monk to do so in his home country. Canada, right?


I'm not a monk, so I can't comment. :smile:

We'll give that job to Ven. Khedrup. :D
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Karma Dorje » Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:16 am

I feel like I am trapped in a Kafka novel. I have said repeatedly that I am not dismissing monasticism and that is completely ignored. My own root teacher founded a monastery in Canada which I spent most of my life going to and contributing to. I spent at least a couple of years as a genyen. Almost all of my teachers are gelong. This is not about whether monasticism is a good thing or not in the abstract. The question is whether monasteries are going to be as widspread and effective here in the course of my lifetime as organizations like the Dzogchen Community, Chagdud centers, Rigpa, etc. The fact of the matter is, they have not been so to date. If they were well suited to this time and place, they would have flourished. They have not.

Why? In most centers there is barely enough money to even take care of the teachers, let alone a large ordained sangha. Once there is a large enough, wealthy enough lay community, that may change but it will likely not be in my lifetime.

As to this whole celibacy debate, if you want to think that celibacy is great and holy I am not going disabuse you of that notion. From the looks of it with your constant postings on celibacy, you spend a lot more time thinking about sex than I do. I don't feel any need whatsoever to justify my marriage or my sexuality in spiritual terms. Quite simply, far from being obstacles they are supports to dharma practice. Why? Because there is nothing in raising a family that contradicts loving kindness and the profound wish to free others from suffering. In fact, one ends up extending these same feelings outward from one's family to all beings. Craving is one thing, sex another. If you can't see the difference, I am quite obviously not going to be able to convince you otherwise.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Jnana » Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:38 am

Karma Dorje wrote:As to this whole celibacy debate, if you want to think that celibacy is great and holy I am not going disabuse you of that notion.

It seems to me that it's your assertion that "getting laid is no big deal, really" which is an issue here. If you think that you can engage in sex without craving then that's a private matter between you, your partner, and your teacher. Nevertheless, your statement isn't representative of mainstream Buddhadharma -- Tibetan or Chinese -- and there are few people who are actually capable of engaging in sex without creating adverse consequences. Thrangu Rinpoche's commentary on Tilopa's Ganges Mahāmudrā:

    The lower door or lower gate is very dangerous, so very few people actually practice this. There are a few great yogis and yoginis who do it, but most do not.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Karma Dorje » Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:48 am

Jnana wrote:
Karma Dorje wrote:As to this whole celibacy debate, if you want to think that celibacy is great and holy I am not going disabuse you of that notion.

It seems to me that it's your assertion that "getting laid is no big deal, really" which is an issue here. If you think that you can engage in sex without craving then that's a private matter between you, your partner, and your teacher. Nevertheless, your statement isn't representative of mainstream Buddhadharma -- Tibetan or Chinese -- and there are few people who are actually capable of engaging in sex without creating adverse consequences. Thrangu Rinpoche's commentary on Tilopa's Ganges Mahāmudrā:

    The lower door or lower gate is very dangerous, so very few people actually practice this. There are a few great yogis and yoginis who do it, but most do not.


This comment from Thrangu Rinpoche is specific to consort practice of tsa lung. Surely you are aware of that. This is not under discussion here. We are talking about ordinary sexuality within the course of a marriage between practitioners.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Jnana » Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:01 am

Karma Dorje wrote:We are talking about ordinary sexuality within the course of a marriage between practitioners.

Ordinary sexual activity just results in more saṃsāric suffering. Again, if you think that you're beyond this then that's a private matter between you, your partner, and your teacher. Nevertheless, your statement isn't representative of mainstream Buddhadharma -- Tibetan or Chinese -- and there are few people who are actually capable of engaging in sex without creating adverse consequences.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:33 am

The question is whether monasteries are going to be as widspread and effective here in the course of my lifetime as organizations like the Dzogchen Community, Chagdud centers, Rigpa, etc.


Actually Sogyal Rinpoche thinks monasticism is an essential aspect of dharma in the West and the monks and nuns in Rigpa are some of the best supported in the Vajrayana Buddhist world
http://www.lerabling.org/index.php/lang ... -community
http://rigpavihara.blogspot.nl/

When I visited Lerab Ling last year with Geshe la one of the resident Western monks told me that Sogyal Rinpoche feels that a rooted Western monastic Sangha is essential for Rigpa´s stability in the West. The monks and nuns are all fully supported, including health insurance, pension,separate accomodation and travel expenses for the teachings of HHDL etc.

So here is an example of a lay Tibetan lama who feels the monastic sangha is an essential part of his organization, and arranges resources for the support of 12 monks and nuns in France, an expensive Western country.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:39 am

Because there is nothing in raising a family that contradicts loving kindness and the profound wish to free others from suffering. In fact, one ends up extending these same feelings outward from one's family to all beings.


I agree, but celibate practitioners can practice in the same way because such instructions are usually cultivated by seeing all sentient beings as one´s mother. In terms of cultivating compassion I don´t think raising a family presents any problems whatsoever.

But in terms of the time for formal practice or devoting oneself to all sentient beings, of course it makes an impact. This is because raising a family (well) is very time consuming! I am glad though that you seem devoted to your family-this is very commendable. I have met the several children of dharma bum parents in my lifetime and they often grow up resenting Buddhism.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:51 am

It took a long time to get the Dharma to really take hold in Tibet. It was the coming together of a pure monk Shantarakshita, the guru Padmasambhava and the sponsor King Trisong Deutsen that finally did it.


This quote, Yudron, actually really sums up my take on this whole issue beautifully. I think for the Vajrayana dharma to become established here, it will require three components: Qualified ordained people, tantric adepts (whether monastic or householding ngakpas) and devoted lay practitioners who dedicate their lives to the dharma.

If one of these three components is missing, I don't think you will have a complete transmission in the West.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:42 am

Karma Dorje wrote:As to this whole celibacy debate, if you want to think that celibacy is great and holy I am not going disabuse you of that notion.


Abstaining from sexual activities is a prerequisite for liberation as the Buddha taught.

This is a critical component of his teachings that you seem to be dismissing with such remarks as this:

"The long and the short of it is that getting laid is no big deal, really."


Unless you yourself have liberated yourself from saṃsāra already without abstaining from sensual pleasures, then your dharma is at odds with what the Buddha taught. You are saying that sexual activities do not hinder liberation, which traditionally is considered one of the famous wrong views to hold.


I don't feel any need whatsoever to justify my marriage or my sexuality in spiritual terms. Quite simply, far from being obstacles they are supports to dharma practice.


Historically if you were a monk and said such things (sexuality is a support to practice) you could get exiled from a sangha for promoting such views. That's what the literature prescribes. But then you're not a monk. Nevertheless, it is a view at odds with twenty-five centuries of Buddhism across the cultural spectrum.


Why? Because there is nothing in raising a family that contradicts loving kindness and the profound wish to free others from suffering.


I don't condemn loving kindness and the profound wish to free others from suffering, but you are saying sexuality is a support to dharma practice, which is traditionally classed as an adharma type of view. You may disagree, but tradition, both Tibetan and the rest of the Buddhist world, would be against you. Your view that sexuality is a support to dharma practice was rejected by the Buddha and a lot of other masters in history.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Jan 28, 2013 11:16 am

Code: Select all
the eighty-four mahasiddhas, Marpa, Milarepa, Khyungpo Naljor, the Sakya royal families


I don't know that all these examples are that convincing because in fact with perhaps the exception of Marpa none of them was living a lay lifestyle in the Western sense. They were full time dharma practitioners- they were not celibate but I wouldn't classify them as laypeople in the true sense of the word either.

The Khon Sakya family, for example, was supported to engage in full time dharma practice and retreat, I wouldn't say it was like they were working full time jobs. Milarepa, similarly, though not a monastic, engaged in full time practice with a strong mind of renunciation. Marpa is perahps an effective example but even he spend many years traveling to India and training. And in the later part of his life, he was fully supported by his disciples.

In fact, if not for the support of the benefactors of Marpa he would not have been able to bring those precious teachings from India. If the supporters had told him to find a 9-5 and save his pennies for those transmissions, I don't think he would have been successful in bringing to Tibet the teachings that have become the backbone of the precious Oral Instruction Lineages.
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