Celibacy and Health

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Re: Precepts and Shinran

Postby Aemilius » Tue May 18, 2010 1:49 pm

I would like to raise the question, is celibacy not unhealthy? According to the generally accepted medical view? How are going to deal with this problem, or this question? What happens in the human body during celibacy?
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Re: Precepts and Shinran

Postby Indrajala » Tue May 18, 2010 1:54 pm

Aemilius wrote:I would like to raise the question, is celibacy not unhealthy? According to the generally accepted medical view? How are going to deal with this problem, or this question? What happens in the human body during celibacy?


I don't think there is a generally accepted medical view on celibacy.

Celibate monks and nuns have in history have lived long and healthy lives.

Buddha himself said the extinguishing sexual desire is a prerequisite to meditation absorptions (dhyana/jhana). No dhyana = no prajna. No prajna = no liberation.

Basically, if you want liberation, you need to give up sensory addictions of which the big one is sexual pleasure.
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Re: Precepts and Shinran

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed May 19, 2010 7:46 pm

Huseng wrote: Buddha himself said the extinguishing sexual desire is a prerequisite to meditation absorptions (dhyana/jhana). No dhyana = no prajna. No prajna = no liberation.


Huseng,

With all respect for your knowledge of the dharma (much more extensive than mine), this doesn't sound quite right. You're describing it as a simple linear process whereby you first extinguish desire, and once you have that out of the way, you can move on to dhyana followed by prajna.

But if this is so, how do you propose to extinguish desire? As I understand it, dhyana temporarily suppresses the hindrances, helping to create the conditions in which prajna can develop. You need prajna to uproot the hindrances. According to your model, no one would progress.

I also see some confusion between two related, but different topics: 1) celibacy and 2) abandonment of desire. No one overcomes desire simply by becoming celibate. Even great teachers such as Ajahn Chah struggled with it for many years. Of course, as a renunciate one is theoretically in a better position to progress because you can devote full-time energy to meditation and thus stand a greater chance of mastering dhyana and developing insight.

Finally, questions about celibacy and health likewise confuse different issues -- celibacy (a way of life) and ejaculation (a bodily function). If the body needs to release sperm, it will do so. From a medical perspective I doubt that it matters how this takes place. I'm not well-read in the vinaya but I believe there are some clauses dealing with this.

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Re: Precepts and Shinran

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 20, 2010 12:26 am

But if this is so, how do you propose to extinguish desire? As I understand it, dhyana temporarily suppresses the hindrances, helping to create the conditions in which prajna can develop. You need prajna to uproot the hindrances. According to your model, no one would progress.


Basically, dhyana sets the mind in a proper state to realize emptiness of self. Nagarjuna in his Letter to a Friend also states:

There can be no dhyana without wisdom;
There can be no wisdom without dhyana.
He who has both reduces the ocean of existence
To the size of an ox's hoofprint.


You said:
You need prajna to uproot the hindrances. According to your model, no one would progress.


You can eliminate kama for a time, but it is the prajna which eliminates the cause.

There is a lot more to it than this. For example as long as kama binds one to the kama-loka (desire binding one to the desire-realm), then attainment of rupa-loka and arupa-loka is not possible. If the later are not attained, even though they are mundane, one does not step off the wheel of life.

Perhaps Venerable Huifeng can elucidate further what I've said. His knowledge is far greater than mine concerning this.

I also see some confusion between two related, but different topics: 1) celibacy and 2) abandonment of desire. No one overcomes desire simply by becoming celibate. Even great teachers such as Ajahn Chah struggled with it for many years. Of course, as a renunciate one is theoretically in a better position to progress because you can devote full-time energy to meditation and thus stand a greater chance of mastering dhyana and developing insight.


Kama (desire) is the wanting for agreeable sensation. Sensations are predominate (adhipati) to defilements. Whether or not you're a bhiksu(ni), as long as craving for sensory pleasures exist, there will be rebirth in the kama-loka and the hindrance to liberation will remain present.

Does having a partner and regularly engaging in sexual activities foster the appropriate conditions to eliminate kama?

Finally, questions about celibacy and health likewise confuse different issues -- celibacy (a way of life) and ejaculation (a bodily function). If the body needs to release sperm, it will do so. From a medical perspective I doubt that it matters how this takes place. I'm not well-read in the vinaya but I believe there are some clauses dealing with this.


There are sections that discuss masturbation (which is to be avoided, but it doesn't qualify as a violation of the third precept, though it is still a violation). Also as another example it isn't a violation if a bhiksu is bathing and due to his washing ejaculates.

Unfortunately, I'm not the person to really discuss this in detail with as I'm not a bhiksu. :oops:
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Re: Precepts and Shinran

Postby Aemilius » Thu May 20, 2010 8:42 am

It does not follow automatically from abstinence that you will attain the dhyanas. There many who abstain from sex who do not attain the dhyanas. And there are people with normal sex life who do attain the dhyanas.
Wikipedia artcle on Sexual Abstinence says that there are health benefits of sexual activity that you will miss if you abstain from sex.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_abstinence
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Re: Precepts and Shinran

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu May 20, 2010 12:51 pm

Aemilius wrote: Wikipedia artcle on Sexual Abstinence says that there are health benefits of sexual activity that you will miss if you abstain from sex.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_abstinence


This is a side issue. Buddhism doesn't teach that sex is "bad" or that everyone should abstain from it. The Buddha was realistic about the importance we attach to sexuality.

He did, however, teach that sensual pleasure is a fetter which binds us to samsara. While there may be health (and other) benefits to having a sex life, there are ultimately greater benefits to letting go of sexual desire -- not that this is something that many of us can do right away, or even for the foreseeable future.

As the Dhammapada puts it, "there is pleasure, and there is bliss. Forego the one to possess the second."

Sex is not just a vitamin you can take in order to make yourself healthy. It involves another person. Going out to pursue sex for the sake of your improved health -- that's a kind of predatory mentality.

Also worth considering, perhaps, is that our relationship to sexuality may change as we get older. It could be torture for a 20-year-old to suppress such desires. It could be torture for an 80-year-old to try to activate them. ;)
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Re: Precepts and Shinran

Postby Aemilius » Thu May 20, 2010 1:36 pm

"He did, however, teach that sensual pleasure is a fetter which binds us to samsara. While there may be health (and other) benefits to having a sex life, there are ultimately greater benefits to letting go of sexual desire -- not that this is something that many of us can do right away, or even for the foreseeable future."

Attachment to sensual pleasure is only one of Five Hindrances that hinder your attaining the dhyanas, the other four are equally important. Letting go of sex is not enough at all, so why should it be the main target of discussion ??



"Also worth considering, perhaps, is that our relationship to sexuality may change as we get older. It could be torture for a 20-year-old to suppress such desires. It could be torture for an 80-year-old to try to activate them."

This varies very much, desires don't go away with age in most cases, unfortunately.
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Re: Precepts and Shinran

Postby kirtu » Thu May 20, 2010 2:31 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
Huseng wrote: Buddha himself said the extinguishing sexual desire is a prerequisite to meditation absorptions (dhyana/jhana). No dhyana = no prajna. No prajna = no liberation.


You're describing it as a simple linear process whereby you first extinguish desire, and once you have that out of the way, you can move on to dhyana followed by prajna.


This progression is in fact taught this way in the Pali suttas and it seems in Mahayana sutras. It seems to be a gloss for a more complex process.

But if this is so, how do you propose to extinguish desire?


Well, desire is just a memory or an attachment to a memory. And we invest this memory with too much power and importance when it arises.

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Re: Precepts and Shinran

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 20, 2010 2:48 pm

Aemilius wrote:It does not follow automatically from abstinence that you will attain the dhyanas.


I never said abstinence alone leads to attainment of dhyanas.


There many who abstain from sex who do not attain the dhyanas. And there are people with normal sex life who do attain the dhyanas.


I've never heard of anyone with a regular sex life attaining dhyanas.

Wikipedia artcle on Sexual Abstinence says that there are health benefits of sexual activity that you will miss if you abstain from sex.



You'd better come up with more reliable sources than Wikipedia.
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Re: Precepts and Shinran

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 20, 2010 2:49 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Also worth considering, perhaps, is that our relationship to sexuality may change as we get older. It could be torture for a 20-year-old to suppress such desires. It could be torture for an 80-year-old to try to activate them. ;)


There is a difference between suppression and elimination.

If we follow the meditation methods and lifestyle as outlined by the Buddha and his disciples, then elimination is possible, though in most individuals, myself included, it isn't easy.
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Re: Precepts and Shinran

Postby Huifeng » Fri May 21, 2010 12:40 am

Aemilius wrote:I would like to raise the question, is celibacy not unhealthy? According to the generally accepted medical view? How are going to deal with this problem, or this question? What happens in the human body during celibacy?


If you seek a medical definition of "health", then probably the best place to ask would be on a medical forum. They may cover things such as physical health, in all it's aspects.

For the Buddha Dharma, physical health, while helpful to the path, is secondary to a state of mental and emotional health. Any sort of mental affliction, such as craving or aversion, is considered to be a state of mental and emotional illness, and not health. Moreover, these mental afflictions are the root causes for rebirth in cyclic existence. For instance, sexual craving - which is present in any sort of sexual activity - is a type of desire sphere craving. A basic result of this is rebirth in the desire realm. As a result of rebirth, one will subsequently experience illness, old age, and death. These are the epitome of "absence of health".

The converse is nirvana, the cessation of such mental and emotional diseases. Nirvana is described as real "health", because from it one does not suffer from the aforementioned disease.
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Re: Celibacy and Health

Postby m0rl0ck » Fri May 21, 2010 7:20 am

There is an interesting discussion over at dhammawheel on whether householders can attain jhana http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 00&start=0

One would assume that the role "householder" would have the standard compliment of domestic burdens, spouse, kids, job etc. I would hope that these householders, if married, didnt uncompassionately deny sex to their spouses. If their spouses desired it.
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Re: Celibacy and Health

Postby Indrajala » Fri May 21, 2010 9:40 am

m0rl0ck wrote: I would hope that these householders, if married, didnt uncompassionately deny sex to their spouses. If their spouses desired it.


This problem cannot arise if you're unmarried and/or have no partner that desire you to please them.

This is one reason why historically renunciation of the home life was just what you did if you were serious about Buddhism.

That goes for just about every Buddhist culture I can think of.
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Re: Celibacy and Health

Postby Astus » Fri May 21, 2010 10:12 am

"if married, didnt uncompassionately deny sex to their spouses."

Is it uncompassionate to deny drugs from an addicted?
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Re: Celibacy and Health

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri May 21, 2010 12:03 pm

Astus wrote:"if married, didnt uncompassionately deny sex to their spouses."

Is it uncompassionate to deny drugs from an addicted?


Unless one's spouse also has reached a similar understanding, then yes, it can be cruel and presumptuous.

Here is Hsing Yun on the subject of (lay) Buddhist life:

Realize that excessive desire causes suffering. Healthy desires include reasonable hunger, a balanced pursuit of shelter and clothing, reasonable social activity, temperate sexuality, and a balanced pursuit of hobbies or other amusements. Excessive desire means going beyond these parameters…. Most of us know where our limits are. When we exceed them, we cause suffering.


Here is a Theravada monk, Bhikkhu Pesala:

It is not immoral to have sex with one’s own wife or husband. However, it is not wholesome kamma either. Renunciation of sexual pleasures is wholesome kamma, and chastity is essential for those intent on gaining realisation of the Dhamma. “For as long as the slightest brushwood (of the passions) of man towards women is not cut down, so long is his mind in bondage, like the milch calf to its mother-cow.” (Dhp v.284) A lay person can enjoy sex from time to time, but it will inevitably lead to attachment, grief, and despair in the long term. It is therefore wise to treat it with respect, as one treats a fire in one’s own home.

A devout lay person should observe chastity on the Uposatha days of the full-moon and new-moon. That is the traditional practice.


And here is Alexander Berzin, with regard to the bodhisattva vows:

Bodhisattvas' willingness to engage in inappropriate sexual acts when all else fails to help prevent someone from developing an extremely negative attitude toward the spiritual path of altruism raises an important point for married couples on the bodhisattva path to consider. Sometimes a couple becomes involved in Dharma and one of them, for instance the woman, wishing to be celibate, stops sexual relations with her husband when he is not of the same mind. He still has attachment to sex and takes her decision as a personal rejection. Sometimes the wife's fanaticism and lack of sensitivity drives her husband to blame his frustration and unhappiness on the Dharma. He leaves the marriage and turns his back on Buddhism with bitter resentment. If there is no other way to avoid his hostile reaction toward the spiritual path and the woman is keeping bodhisattva vows, she would do well to evaluate her compassion to determine if it is strong enough to allow her to have occasional sex with her husband without serious harm to her ability to help others.
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Re: Celibacy and Health

Postby Indrajala » Fri May 21, 2010 12:23 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
Astus wrote:"if married, didnt uncompassionately deny sex to their spouses."

Is it uncompassionate to deny drugs from an addicted?


Unless one's spouse also has reached a similar understanding, then yes, it can be cruel and presumptuous.

Here is Hsing Yun on the subject of (lay) Buddhist life:

Realize that excessive desire causes suffering. Healthy desires include reasonable hunger, a balanced pursuit of shelter and clothing, reasonable social activity, temperate sexuality, and a balanced pursuit of hobbies or other amusements. Excessive desire means going beyond these parameters…. Most of us know where our limits are. When we exceed them, we cause suffering.


Here is a Theravada monk, Bhikkhu Pesala:

It is not immoral to have sex with one’s own wife or husband. However, it is not wholesome kamma either. Renunciation of sexual pleasures is wholesome kamma, and chastity is essential for those intent on gaining realisation of the Dhamma. “For as long as the slightest brushwood (of the passions) of man towards women is not cut down, so long is his mind in bondage, like the milch calf to its mother-cow.” (Dhp v.284) A lay person can enjoy sex from time to time, but it will inevitably lead to attachment, grief, and despair in the long term. It is therefore wise to treat it with respect, as one treats a fire in one’s own home.

A devout lay person should observe chastity on the Uposatha days of the full-moon and new-moon. That is the traditional practice.


And here is Alexander Berzin, with regard to the bodhisattva vows:

Bodhisattvas' willingness to engage in inappropriate sexual acts when all else fails to help prevent someone from developing an extremely negative attitude toward the spiritual path of altruism raises an important point for married couples on the bodhisattva path to consider. Sometimes a couple becomes involved in Dharma and one of them, for instance the woman, wishing to be celibate, stops sexual relations with her husband when he is not of the same mind. He still has attachment to sex and takes her decision as a personal rejection. Sometimes the wife's fanaticism and lack of sensitivity drives her husband to blame his frustration and unhappiness on the Dharma. He leaves the marriage and turns his back on Buddhism with bitter resentment. If there is no other way to avoid his hostile reaction toward the spiritual path and the woman is keeping bodhisattva vows, she would do well to evaluate her compassion to determine if it is strong enough to allow her to have occasional sex with her husband without serious harm to her ability to help others.



Basically if you want liberation, you need to give up sex.

If you're not willing to go that far, then you won't achieve liberation.

I think a lot of us, especially in places where pornography and such are openly splashed all over the place, find this initially hard to accept and it summons images of puritanism. The medicine is hard to swallow.

I think when I first started seriously studying Buddhism I encountered these teachings and didn't like them at first.
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Re: Precepts and Shinran

Postby Indrajala » Fri May 21, 2010 12:32 pm

Huifeng wrote:For the Buddha Dharma, physical health, while helpful to the path, is secondary to a state of mental and emotional health. Any sort of mental affliction, such as craving or aversion, is considered to be a state of mental and emotional illness, and not health. Moreover, these mental afflictions are the root causes for rebirth in cyclic existence.


One other kind of activity that is discouraged is listening to music too. It inspires craving for pleasant sound and disrupts the mind.

That is another innocent pleasure that is hard to give up.

It is actually prohibited even in the Bodhisattva precepts for two reasons. The first is that instruments are (or were) made of animal parts (horns, shells, hairs, etc...) and the second is that it disrupts the mind. However, music can be utilized as an offering.
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Re: Celibacy and Health

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri May 21, 2010 12:39 pm

Huseng wrote:Basically if you want liberation, you need to give up sex.

If you're not willing to go that far, then you won't achieve liberation.


Which raises the question: what does it mean to be a "lay Buddhist"?
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Re: Celibacy and Health

Postby Indrajala » Fri May 21, 2010 2:17 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
Huseng wrote:Basically if you want liberation, you need to give up sex.

If you're not willing to go that far, then you won't achieve liberation.


Which raises the question: what does it mean to be a "lay Buddhist"?


Lay Buddhist means you still get laid but maintain certain precepts and cultivate merit so that freedom from the desire to get laid might be possible in the future or future lives.
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Re: Celibacy and Health

Postby Astus » Fri May 21, 2010 2:27 pm

Lazy_eye,

Among all the quotes you cited didn't say there is "compassionate sex" only in the one by Berzin.

The question is: can lust be realised as empty? Certainly, everything is empty. Emptiness doesn't mean non-existence, just one is not bound by it, one doesn't think it is self-existent. Can we deduce from this that lust may not cause suffering? I don't think so, as there is a causal relationship according to the second noble truth. Can suffering be empty? Of course. Thus lust can be not lust and suffering not suffering. So did Vimalakirti have wife and kids while being alone and celibate. Good stuff, eh? So much for lay people...
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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."

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