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How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality? - Dhamma Wheel

How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Casual discussion amongst spiritual friends.
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zavk
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How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby zavk » Thu Jun 17, 2010 8:52 am

Hi all

The thread by chownah about triggered these thoughts which I have been contemplating for a while....... Bear with me while I sort out my thoughts...

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What I often see in discussions about sexuality--whether in a Buddhist context or in the more general context of popular culture--is the constant emphasis on DESIRE, DESIRE, DESIRE. However, sexuality is not just about desire: it also involves the BODY and PLEASURE. Yet, the overwhelming focus in contemporary culture is on desire. I suspect this has something to do with the influence of Christian morality on our thinking about sexuality. Whether we come from a Christian background or not, Christian morality has strongly shaped our attitudes towards sexuality. The Christian attitude towards sexuality is one that emphasizes DESIRE. It is important that Christianity stresses DESIRE and ignores the BODY and PLEASURE because according to the Church the only desire that is acceptable is that between a man and a woman. Sex must only be for the purpose of procreation. Accordingly, under such a framework of sexual morality, DESIRE becomes the central aspect of our sexuality which we must focus on. For Christianity, the way to deal with our desire is through confessional practices. We must confess our desires to God in order to be saved. With the overwhelming focus on desire, the Church could then also regulate what is considered the 'proper' conduct with regards to the BODY and PLEASURE. So, intercourse between two male bodies or two female bodies, for instance, is a transgression of divine law. Similarly, any kind of PLEASURE that doesn't derive from the contact of the male and female genitalia (i.e. oral or anal stimulation, etc) is a transgression of divine law.

However, in contemporary times people are no longer willing to take such a framework of sexual morality for granted. A main reason for this is simply because it demonizes certain people and is used to perpetuate various acts of injustices. Yet, traces of such a sexual morality persist in the way we think and talk about sexuality. It is a DEEP CONDITIONING of our culture. But at this historical juncture, we are also in a great position to rethink and reformulate a new framework of sexual morality. As a Buddhist I believe the Buddhadhamma provides us with productive ways of thinking beyond traditional Christian sexual morality.

I do not have a clear idea what this new sexual morality should involve--this remains an open question and is something that has be worked out collectively. But what interests me about the Buddhist perspective is that it allows us to talk about the BODY and PLEASURE. To begin to have a better understanding of sexuality, I’d say that we need to become aware of PLEASURE: to see WHAT IT REALLY IS and to understand HOW IT ARISES. From a Buddhist perspective, the teaching of VEDANA allows us to inquire into this aspect of sexuality which has been overlooked and subsumed by all the emphasis on desire. What we deem as pleasurable or not derives from the way we relate to vedana. And according to the teaching of D.O., vedana (feeling) conditions tanha (craving). Desire and libido are important aspects of our sexuality. But they are the secondary formations that arise from VEDANA. These secondary formations in turn condition the way we relate to VEDANA. If this is the case, then, to come to terms with our sexuality we need to also understand PLEASURE and the BODY. We cannot simply focus on DESIRE.

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Monastics are in an environment which discourages the arising of the vedana and desire associated with sexuality—or at the very least they are in an environment which allows them to deal with them in wholesome ways as and when they arise. We laypeople are not usually in such an environment. If anything, we are in an environment in which there many conditions for the vedana and desire associated with sexuality to arise. Given this to be the case, I have learnt that the most productive for me to deal with sexuality is not to suppress it but to allow it to arise under wholesome conditions rather than unwholesome ones. For me, the best way to set these conditions is to be in a monogamous relationship--rather than, say, picking up women in bars and clubs, indulging in pornography, etc, etc. When the vedana and desire associated with sexuality arise, I do my best to express them in the context of the relationship. In this way, I begin, so to speak, to ‘make use of pleasure’. Sexual pleasure becomes something that I share with someone whom I respect and care for. The vedana and desire associated with sexuality—because it is expressed in the context of a trusting relationship—becomes a means for me to better understand and cultivate wholesome qualities associated with care, concern, respect and appreciation for the other.

To be clear, I am not claiming that I have become a sex guru. Nor am I saying that the Dhamma encourages us to indulge in sex. What I am saying is merely: as a layperson I cannot easily deny sexuality. Given this to be the case, and given my commitment to following the Dhamma, I choose to bring awareness and lovingkindness to my experience of pleasure.

To do this, I had to begin by observing sexuality through the teaching of VEDANA—I had to slowly begin to see that sexuality is not simply about DESIRE but also about the BODY and PLEASURE. And to be clear, while I chose to be in a heterosexual, monogamous relationship, it is NOT to say that a heterosexual, monogamous relationship is the only ‘right’ one. I do not subscribe to such a view. For me, it is simply the case that my past conditioning has made this relationship the most conducive one to express my sexuality--this is, in other words, my kamma. For other people, it could be a different kind of relationship with people of different genders.

I suspect that if I continue to bring the awareness of the Dhamma to my experience of sexuality, I might one day find it to be quite irrelevant. But that day has yet to arrive. So in the meantime, when the vedana and desire associated with sexuality arise, I do my best to bring awareness to it and 'make use of pleasure'.

Given how threads about masturbation/visiting prostitutes/pornography/obsessive thoughts about sex keep cropping up, it might be useful to discuss: how has the Dhamma (and specifically its teachings about pleasure) influenced your experience of sexuality?
With metta,
zavk

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tiltbillings
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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:01 am

Once I was able to let go my Catholic guilt, the Dhamma was liberating.

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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby Sekha » Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:56 am

I have no time to read everything that you wrote, but for me, practicing Dhamma resulted in my complete relinquishing of any sexual activity, and it is not even difficult for me to maintain it as I perceive quite clearly now the foulness of the body and the numerous and powerful drawbacks of clinging to it. And if you knew what you will have to get through to liberate yourself from it, you would also stop immediately

:anjali:
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby Annapurna » Thu Jun 17, 2010 12:12 pm

Sex has lost it's power over me.
http://www.schmuckzauberei.blogspot.com/

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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby Reductor » Thu Jun 17, 2010 2:36 pm

Maybe this will be of interest to you.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el225.html

I was once completely obsessed with sex... to the harm of myself and many others. Now, however, I am confident that I could live the rest of my life without sex. Even that I would prefer to live without it. That's a huge change.

But in a marriage there remains a place for that kind of intimacy, I just don't invest myself in it now-a-days.

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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby Annapurna » Thu Jun 17, 2010 4:01 pm

Agree, in a marriage or relation is a place for this. But I think that's on a higher level than screwing around because you're like a cat in heat.
http://www.schmuckzauberei.blogspot.com/

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Nibbida
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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby Nibbida » Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:26 pm

This is an area where Buddhism is a little flimsy for me. It tells us a about what not to do (i.e. sexual misconduct) in this arena, but politely ignores sexuality otherwise. Clearly the Buddha had many layperson disciples and patrons, and they had kids so somebody had to be getting it on. Marriage & committed relationships are more socially approved for sexual activity, but unhealthy patterns can exist within there too. It would be really helpful to get a sense of sexual activity without the craving. The monastic choice for celibacy is a different matter, but for laypersons, there must be a middle way between complete abstinence and over-indulgence. We do it with food (can't abstain from that), so we can do it with sex too, even if it's more tricky. If we're going to do it anyway, then it is in our best interests to do it in a skillful way (and by that I mean avoiding clinging etc.).

But sex is still a taboo topic in Buddhist circles. Vajrayana, on the other hand, has more pro-sexual imagery at least, even if sexual tantra is not practiced by the average person. For example, there is this book, Tibetan Arts of Love: (I'm not advocating any conversions, just drawing the contrast.) There is no iconography of copulating bodhisattvas in Thailand, as far as I know.

To complicate matters, it does vary between cultures beyond what Buddhism has to say about it. Attitudes toward sexuality in Thailand, Japan, and Tibet are different. Further complications are the puticanical Western views, which come from different motivations than Awakening, that have infiltrated Eastern cultures. India came up with the Kama Sutra, but after British rule, it's practically scandalous to kiss someone in public. Also, Westerners have many imbedded, implicit attitudes toward sex that can carry over when we interpret the Dhamma.

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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:37 pm

I've had a bit of a struggle in reconciling the Buddha's teachings on renunciation with my situation as a married person; the two things seem at cross purposes and I sometimes feel as though the choice is between shortchanging the dhamma or undermining my relationship. On the one hand, the dhamma emphasizes non-attachment and abandonment of desire, but on the other hand, relationships are about nurturing attachment and sexuality is (for most couples) important to marital happiness. It's an conflict I haven't resolved.

I'm not really sure how the Buddha intended for laypeople to apply the Middle Way, or whether that concept was even meant for us. Maybe he just thought of us as ordinary worldlings. But in that case, are we even practicing the dhamma at all?

Along the lines of what Nibbida wrote above, I think it would help if Buddhism gave clearer guidance, other than reminding husbands to buy their wives jewelry. That said, I found Ven. Dhammananda's essay on "A Happy Married LIfe" covered the topic pretty well. (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... riage.html).

LE

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SDC
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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby SDC » Fri Jun 18, 2010 1:12 am

For me, the dhamma is gradually revealing sex to not be as important as I previously believed. Not that it was the end all be all before, but I definitely held it in quite high regard.

I too am married, so to pursue a destruction of sexual desire, as laid out in the teachings, poses some problems. Its sort of a "be careful what you wish for" scenario, in that, we are following this practice and understand what the results may be as we progress. As Lazy_Eye has already touched on, we need to pay attention to how it affects our significant others. I guess finding a delicate balance is our responsibility as lay practitioners. Communicating our thoughts and goals to our significant others is obviously paramount. Sacrifice on our part is also something to consider, in that, although we are pursuing nibbana, we have made a commitment to another. A commitment, that whether we like it or not, comes with certain conventions and responsibilities. So with that, practicing the dhamma at the highest and most efficient level is not always possible. If we wish to challenge those conventions, fine, but it must be done as a team.

As time goes on, and my wife and I age, I assume our sex life will gradually slow up. I will continue to express my views on it and make changes when we are ready.

:smile:

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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby Mukunda » Fri Jun 18, 2010 1:14 am


Mukunda
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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby Mukunda » Fri Jun 18, 2010 1:20 am

I'm curious about the apparent mind set that if one is married, they are obligated to engage in sex. Are there not other ways to demonstrate love and foster intimacy besides coitus? :thinking:
:anjali:

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SDC
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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby SDC » Fri Jun 18, 2010 1:36 am


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Wind
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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby Wind » Fri Jun 18, 2010 2:28 am

Sexuality in Buddhism has no stigma of being sinful but rather a hindrance in the path to liberation. Having said that, I have not been able to shake my guilt of sexual pleasure from being nurtured as a Christian. Hopefully one of these days, sexual desire will not have any hold on me.

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zavk
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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby zavk » Fri Jun 18, 2010 2:33 am

With metta,
zavk

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jcsuperstar
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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby jcsuperstar » Fri Jun 18, 2010 2:52 am

well the Buddha also gave advice on how to treat your children so he obviously knew we were getting it on and he didn't say stop.

what he did say however is that the couple should be at the same place on the path, or have the same "spiritual' values. if this is so then you wouldn't need worry to much about your lack of wanting sex affecting your partner because they too would be at the same place.


this book ,The Buddha's Teachings on Prosperity: At Home, At Work, In the World, by a sri lankan monk is pretty good, its about dhamma the Buddha taught laypersons


สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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zavk
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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby zavk » Fri Jun 18, 2010 2:57 am

With metta,
zavk

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jcsuperstar
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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby jcsuperstar » Fri Jun 18, 2010 3:21 am

i just found it on google looking for something else and i liked it so i stole it :tongue:

i look up where that advise from the Buddha is from and post back later..
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

Kenshou
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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby Kenshou » Fri Jun 18, 2010 3:24 am

I've come to regard it as an intoxication to be dropped, sooner or later. It's never been a very big issue personally, there are far stronger cravings to worry about.

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Guy
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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby Guy » Fri Jun 18, 2010 3:27 am

Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm

fijiNut
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Re: How has the Dhamma influenced your experience of sexuality?

Postby fijiNut » Fri Jun 18, 2010 4:03 am

zavk,

I have discovered that the mind gets a 'non-stick' coating towards lust after abstinence of more than 1 month.
Samadhi and mindfulness becomes much easier, and thoughts of lust does not enter the mind unless one (un) intentionally looks at something naughty.
Your initial training in vedana is very helpful in dealing with lust, just observe arising and passing away and keeping a basic sense restraint is very useful as well. It all comes down to how much you let your mind get carried away with things.

By the way,I am not a old withered recluse living in the forest, I am just a relatively young, regular practicing layperson studying in Sydney.
Its easy to be swallowed by this sea of sensuality but one must have faith at least in the 5 precepts and meditation, then the fruits of practice will become apparent.

However, I don't see any problems with having a partner, but if one wants to grow in Dhamma, at least make sure he/she shares the same values of virtue, and have appreciation for meditation and Dana.

Goenka and U Ba Khin are both lay people with spouse and children who have been able to develop in Dhamma through practice.

Mr. Tilt was right you know, as soon as one lets go of the (Christian) guilt, the paradigm of Dhamma practice becomes totally different.


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