Health Impact of Celibacy

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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:26 pm

To say "Well Padmasambhava, Saraha, Machig and others were special beings, we are not like them" is unfortunate. Neither are we like Shantarakshita or Gampopa, but that does not stop us from practicing the path that they prescribe



The fact of the matter is for most committed married practitioners, sex is an almost insignificant part of one's life. Very little time is spent obsessing over it or engaging in it, particularly compared to the countless hours one spends serving one's partner and children, cooking for them, instructing them, listening to their problems and offering advice, meditating with them, etc. This is not lost time! This is the practice in daily life.



I understand everyone must integrate practice with their lives and needs something that works for them. No one questions that. I feel that part of my job as a monk and translator in the West is to help deliver teachings to working and family people so that they can apply dharma in daily life.

I grew up with a wonderful mother and father, and I realize marriage with children is not about a constant sex marathon! It is more about changing diapers!
What I am concerned about, as I mentioned above, is that if the view of practicing with a 9-5 and kids is no different than full time practice prevails, we will undermine the support of monastics and full time (monastic or not) practitioners/retreatants/scholars. Without at least a few such people, maintaining the lineages in all their richness becomes very difficult.

Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche, for example, spent a good part of his life as a monk. And even after he settled with with consort, most of his time was spent in isolated retreat practice, in his later years he started teaching others as is conveyed in the film Brilliant Moon.

So in fact I don't think your example works of trying to draw parallels between a Western lay lifestyle and lay tantric adepts. The conditions are very different.
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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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Sherlock » Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:41 pm

deliver teachings to working and family people so that they can apply dharma in daily life.


This is an admirable goal and what I think KD's point was (correct me if I'm wrong of course). Of course applying the dharma in daily life is different from living in retreat-like conditions full-time; ideally, practitioners who wish to do the latter would be supported by their local communities.

The notion that celibacy is absolutely necessary for enlightenment is a separate matter.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Karma Dorje » Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:42 pm

JKhedrup wrote:So in fact I don't think your example works of trying to draw parallels between a Western lay lifestyle and lay tantric adepts. The conditions are very different.


I do appreciate that you are arguing for support for monastics and I agree emphatically with you that ordained sangha are worth supporting. However, I must say that every serious lay practitioner I know does extended retreat. It is absolutely necessary. Having a family, if one is careful with one's resources one can tag team while in retreat with one partner working to support the other, do the shopping and food preparation, etc.

If what you are talking about is lay people that spend all of their energy on work, hang out and watch television, never do long retreats, etc. then I completely agree with you. That just isn't serious.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:53 pm

If what you are talking about is lay people that spend all of their energy on work, hang out and watch television, never do long retreats, etc. then I completely agree with you. That just isn't serious.


Really I'm advocating for monasticism, yes, but also for support for full-time practitioners, whether lay or ordained.

I advocate the view that being a full time dharma practitioner/scholar/meditator can be considered a job that is worthy of support from the Buddhist community in general. Once full time practitioners have learned and experienced enough in deep study and retreat, they can serve the lay membership who do have to work a 9-5.

I am also not saying that lay practitioners with jobs cannot practice seriously, only that extended periods of long practice or study are extremely difficult when there are family obligations and the livelihood requirements that entails.

I just want to make sure there is some space in people's hearts to support a few to be able to practice and study the dharma without having to look for an outside job.

In terms of raising children as Buddhists in the West, I am not convinced we have met with success with that, yet. The majority of children of dharma practitioners I have met are not interested in pursuing Buddhism (in many cases because they remember the terrible conflicts of the Buddhist communities they were brought up in).
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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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Karma Dorje » Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:07 pm

JKhedrup wrote:In terms of raising children as Buddhists in the West, I am not convinced we have met with success with that, yet. The majority of children of dharma practitioners I have met are not interested in pursuing Buddhism (in many cases because they remember the terrible conflicts of the Buddhist communities they were brought up in).


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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby wisdom » Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:35 pm

Celibacy is healthy except for when its not. Its not healthy when it leads to neurosis about sex or when it leads to acting out in a deviant way which might harm others. We see the unhealthy aspect of celibacy whenever we hear of anyone in any monastic institution from east or west abusing children. Its not healthy if a person is just avoiding women and all things sexual but upon seeing women or sexual activity becomes full of lust, since in the bardo if sexual images manifest how will you deal with that?

We live in a world that's neurotic about sex. Its a sin to show a boob on TV but its OK to parade children around who are dressed up like hookers. Its illegal for two people of the same sex to get married but its perfectly fine for someone of the opposite sex to marry and divorce half a dozen times.

The crux of the matter is non attachment, which means non attachment either for or against sex. Since there are at least three views on the matter that accord with the three vehicles, how this is reached will be different for everyone. The main benefit of celibacy is not wasting sexual energy and using that energy towards practice and the cultivation of meditation. Of relevance is the nofap movement on Reddit where normal people decide to be either completely or partially celibate and report numerous benefits from doing so. I myself have found that not wasting sexual energy all the time is of great benefit and I can't see myself ever going back.

I'm all for monasticism and wish it were available more easily to westerners. I'm all for all the vehicles and all the teachings. They all benefit someone. If you get benefit from some approach, thats all that matters.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:44 pm

Not every sangha is Vajradhatu.


I know second generation kids in FPMT, Vajradhatu, the Riwoche Temple in Toronto and Rigpa and out of the 15-20 that I know there are maybe 4 that are interested in dharma and 2 that would actually call themselves Buddhists.

There are many reasons for this, but that is a topic for another thread.
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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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:47 pm

wisdom wrote:Celibacy is healthy except for when its not. Its not healthy when it leads to neurosis about sex or when it leads to acting out in a deviant way which might harm others. We see the unhealthy aspect of celibacy whenever we hear of anyone in any monastic institution from east or west abusing children. Its not healthy if a person is just avoiding women and all things sexual but upon seeing women or sexual activity becomes full of lust, since in the bardo if sexual images manifest how will you deal with that?

We live in a world that's neurotic about sex. Its a sin to show a boob on TV but its OK to parade children around who are dressed up like hookers. Its illegal for two people of the same sex to get married but its perfectly fine for someone of the opposite sex to marry and divorce half a dozen times.

The crux of the matter is non attachment, which means non attachment either for or against sex. Since there are at least three views on the matter that accord with the three vehicles, how this is reached will be different for everyone. The main benefit of celibacy is not wasting sexual energy and using that energy towards practice and the cultivation of meditation. Of relevance is the nofap movement on Reddit where normal people decide to be either completely or partially celibate and report numerous benefits from doing so. I myself have found that not wasting sexual energy all the time is of great benefit and I can't see myself ever going back.

I'm all for monasticism and wish it were available more easily to westerners. I'm all for all the vehicles and all the teachings. They all benefit someone. If you get benefit from some approach, thats all that matters.


:good: :good:
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby greentara » Tue Jan 29, 2013 11:35 pm

wisdom, The stats of criminologists show that the worst offenders re child sexual abuse are married men with children. These men graviate to working with children, scout leaders, swimming coaches, teachers, so called family friends etc. This does not excuse the mess that the Catholic church finds itself in, mainly due to coverup and protecting its own.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby wisdom » Wed Jan 30, 2013 12:44 am

greentara wrote:wisdom, The stats of criminologists show that the worst offenders re child sexual abuse are married men with children. These men graviate to working with children, scout leaders, swimming coaches, teachers, so called family friends etc. This does not excuse the mess that the Catholic church finds itself in, mainly due to coverup and protecting its own.


I agree. Most sex offenders are not celibates. Most celibates are not sex offenders. However I believe if you looked deeply enough you would often find that the neurosis begins with a religious belief of some kind, some extreme view towards sex. Either sex as dirty, unnatural, or certain acts as unnatural, or certain desires as unnatural or immoral. The truth of these things most people are not ready to hear because they have such strong feelings about their beliefs regarding sex, its almost like talking politics with people.

There are Tibetan Institutions with the same problem as the church. In the middle east we see the profound effect that sexual oppression has caused for women, who can be put to death for being raped. In highly orthodox Jewish circles many men will not even look at a woman. My grandmother thinks that her grand daughter is going to hell for premarital sex, despite the fact that her grand daughter has one of the most loving and close relationships to her husband and children of anyone I know. The list goes on and on and its almost always religion and its extreme views towards sex that are the problem.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Jnana » Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:01 am

wisdom wrote:Most sex offenders are not celibates. Most celibates are not sex offenders. However I believe if you looked deeply enough you would often find that the neurosis begins with a religious belief of some kind, some extreme view towards sex. Either sex as dirty, unnatural, or certain acts as unnatural, or certain desires as unnatural or immoral.

Was the Buddha neurotic? I choose to believe that he wasn't. The Buddhist monastic ordination lineages didn't arise from neurosis and aren't transmitted through neurosis.

In the middle east we see the profound effect that sexual oppression has caused for women, who can be put to death for being raped. In highly orthodox Jewish circles many men will not even look at a woman. My grandmother thinks that her grand daughter is going to hell for premarital sex, despite the fact that her grand daughter has one of the most loving and close relationships to her husband and children of anyone I know. The list goes on and on and its almost always religion and its extreme views towards sex that are the problem.

None of these examples have anything to do with Buddhist monasticism.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby wisdom » Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:54 am

Jnana wrote:
wisdom wrote:Most sex offenders are not celibates. Most celibates are not sex offenders. However I believe if you looked deeply enough you would often find that the neurosis begins with a religious belief of some kind, some extreme view towards sex. Either sex as dirty, unnatural, or certain acts as unnatural, or certain desires as unnatural or immoral.

Was the Buddha neurotic? I choose to believe that he wasn't. The Buddhist monastic ordination lineages didn't arise from neurosis and aren't transmitted through neurosis.

In the middle east we see the profound effect that sexual oppression has caused for women, who can be put to death for being raped. In highly orthodox Jewish circles many men will not even look at a woman. My grandmother thinks that her grand daughter is going to hell for premarital sex, despite the fact that her grand daughter has one of the most loving and close relationships to her husband and children of anyone I know. The list goes on and on and its almost always religion and its extreme views towards sex that are the problem.

None of these examples have anything to do with Buddhist monasticism.


This is all true and I agree. However there are people who attempt celibacy and it is harmful rather than helpful in individual cases, and certainly some of these people identify as being Buddhist or are a part of Buddhist institutions. This is simply due to ignorance and wrong view on the part of those who have such difficulties, and not to the teachings of the Buddha. I as pointing to all religions to show that its not just in Buddhism that we find such things, but also anywhere that any attempt is made to control or harness sexual energies. I am all for celibacy and monasticism. Nothing could be more beneficial that defeating lust.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Jnana » Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:10 am

wisdom wrote:However there are people who attempt celibacy and it is harmful rather than helpful in individual cases, and certainly some of these people identify as being Buddhist or are a part of Buddhist institutions. This is simply due to ignorance and wrong view on the part of those who have such difficulties, and not to the teachings of the Buddha.

Yes. This is one of the reasons why at least some monastic organizations are now using lengthy application and training guidelines under the guidance of senior monastics. For example, in some organizations the process leading toward full ordination can take 5 or more years, during which time both the applicant and the senior monastics can periodically assess the mental fitness and aptitude of the candidate. IMO this is a good thing, and should probably be more widely adopted.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby greentara » Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:31 am

The hypersexualization of society even including children mean some people can't even imagine restraint, let alone a celibate life. Thinking monks, yogis and priests are suffering from some form of deprivation.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jan 30, 2013 3:11 am

Jnana wrote: For example, in some organizations the process leading toward full ordination can take 5 or more years, during which time both the applicant and the senior monastics can periodically assess the mental fitness and aptitude of the candidate. IMO this is a good thing, and should probably be more widely adopted.


There are pros and cons.

The dropout rate for such seminaries in Taiwan, at least among males, is quite high. A lot of men start out wanting to become monks, but drop out before they are permitted the full precepts.

I think it has less to do with adjusting to celibacy, but more to do with the stringent demands placed on them. You surrender all freedom and autonomy in such seminary programs. They make you memorize liturgy as a requirement for ordination, train you to follow their version of social conventions (like how to eat with their version of table manners) and arrange your schedule for you. At the end it is the powers that be that decide whether or not you are qualified to become a monk. I imagine if you demonstrated an unwillingness to comply with authority they'd see you as unfit even if you were fine with celibacy and all other basic monastic norms. Obedience to authority shouldn't be a prerequisite for receiving precepts.

Such a program, in my mind, is suited to adolescents maybe, but not adult males who already have an education and plenty of life experience (and a will of their own).

I've come to wonder if in contemporary Taiwanese Buddhist seminaries they didn't get a lot of their ideas from Jesuit missionaries and/or the military. In East Asia at least the old model was basically one where a novice lived with their preceptor for some years, learned the ropes from him/her and then got full precepts.

I think a lot of would-be monks are fine with celibacy. It is just the psychologically crushing seminary program that turns them off.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Jnana » Wed Jan 30, 2013 3:20 am

Huseng wrote:There are pros and cons.

I'm thinking primarily of Western monastic organizations that are almost always dealing with adult applicants from a wide variety of backgrounds.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Vidyaraja » Wed Jan 30, 2013 5:37 am

greentara wrote:The hypersexualization of society even including children mean some people can't even imagine restraint, let alone a celibate life. Thinking monks, yogis and priests are suffering from some form of deprivation.


Yes, this comes from living in an advanced stage of what the Hindu's call Kali-Yuga, also known in other Indo-European traditions such as Hesiod's Iron Age and the Norse concept of Ragnarokr/the Age of the Wolf. If you read the attributes of the Kali-Yuga and compare them to conditions of our time, it seems like startlingly accurate:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kali_Yuga# ... _Kali_Yuga

Personally I have been trying to conquer lust and maintain the practice of Brahmacharya, but I'll admit it isn't easy. Failure does happen, but I am hoping with perseverance and will-power I will succeed. I realize that this is a Buddhist forum, it is interesting what individuals from the Hindu tradition had to say regarding the subject of celibacy and spiritual progress:

http://gopal4mission.wordpress.com/2009 ... acy_Quotes

In conjunction with the Hindu tradition, the Taoists believed the loss of seminal fluid was the loss of vital essence (jing) and that to make spiritual progress in such practices as internal alchemy celibacy was required. Really it seems Islam is the only major sacred tradition where celibacy is almost entirely avoided except for few cases among the Sufis.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby JKhedrup » Wed Jan 30, 2013 9:35 am

I imagine if you demonstrated an unwillingness to comply with authority they'd see you as unfit even if you were fine with celibacy and all other basic monastic norms


It is unfortunate and I wonder if there is not a middle way between obedience and free thinking. If the pressure to conform is too great you will scare away free thinkers who later on might make the best teacher, leaders and innovators. But I wonder if this is not a cultural phenomenon, as generally with the economic success of East Asia there has been tremendous growth in all facets of business except innovation, for example.

The funny thing is the founders of the modern monasteries were each charismatic rebels and innovators in their youth-the revolutionary spirit is what helped them develop organizations that were successful in a rapidly changing country. I wonder if they would have chosen to conform to similar institutions or gone out and done their own thing.
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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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:12 pm

JKhedrup wrote: If the pressure to conform is too great you will scare away free thinkers who later on might make the best teacher, leaders and innovators. But I wonder if this is not a cultural phenomenon, as generally with the economic success of East Asia there has been tremendous growth in all facets of business except innovation, for example.


Yes, I've thought about that, too. The hierarchy in business suffocates creativity. You get plenty of sturdy cogs in the wheel, but that doesn't foster innovation. In fact in such a culture people are afraid to speak out for fear of stepping on toes and being punished for it. In religion especially the leadership will be prone to running on outdated ideas and hence things either plateau or just go downhill, and there's no way to prevent decline.

An absence of hierarchy does wonders for creativity and innovation.



The funny thing is the founders of the modern monasteries were each charismatic rebels and innovators in their youth-the revolutionary spirit is what helped them develop organizations that were successful in a rapidly changing country. I wonder if they would have chosen to conform to similar institutions or gone out and done their own thing.


Free agents who answer to nobody are actually in a position to create, adapt and innovate according to circumstances and thrive as a result. Once you get a hierarchy built up and everyone invested in the status quo, real change becomes difficult to initiate and unless the leadership is strong and capable, it naturally decays and collapses before the cycle repeats itself.
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Re: Health Impact of Celibacy

Postby Yudron » Wed Jan 30, 2013 6:46 pm

Vidyaraja wrote:In conjunction with the Hindu tradition, the Taoists believed the loss of seminal fluid was the loss of vital essence (jing) and that to make spiritual progress in such practices as internal alchemy celibacy was required. Really it seems Islam is the only major sacred tradition where celibacy is almost entirely avoided except for few cases among the Sufis.


Judaism, including Kabbalah, honors marriage.
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