Which of the following activities do you consider sexual misconduct? (continued)

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Re: Which of the following activities do you consider sexual misconduct? (continued)

Post by curtstein »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Sat Jan 20, 2024 12:00 am
Charles Jones wrote: Thu Jan 18, 2024 8:59 pm
But then, what constitutes sexual misconduct? Generally the answer is simply to look to local community standards.
Or, use a criteria based directly on standard Mahayana criteria:
“Does this activity (or will this activity potentially) cause beings to suffer?”

Then if you want to go beyond that:
“Does this activity increase self-attachment which will lead to samsaric rebirth?”
I completely agree. And there is hardly anything "convenient" about it, as some might allege.

And this isn't just limited to Mahayana. The Sama Jataka contains (in the "story of the present") a story about a monk who shared the food that he gathered on his alms rounds with his impoverished parents, who would have otherwise starved. The monk even went out every day twice on his alms rounds, and gave everything from the first round to his parents, and only ate for himself what he gathered the second time. This is a clear violation of two basic monastic vows: (1) sharing food given on alms rounds with non-monastics, and (2) going out twice a day for alms. When this was brought to the Buddha's attention he praised the monk, and clearly stated that it is always right to care for others, even if this appears to violate the rules.

So, the idea that what will benefit others, and what will cause harm, trumps merely following rules, is not a "modern" idea at all. It is also not blanket pre-approval to just do whatever you feel like doing. Indeed, if what we are inclined to do benefits others and does not cause harm to others, then how can a Buddhist, or any good-hearted person, find fault?

Of course the problem is: how often do we really clearly (or even vaguely) understand the consequences of our actions? My grand-teacher (Master Seung Sahn) would say: "If your mind is clear, just go straight. If your mind is not clear, follow the precepts."

Here's a couple of links on the Sama Jataka:
https://images.stetson.edu/photos/resea ... 1/Bush.pdf
https://thejatakatales.com/sama-jataka-540/
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Re: Which of the following activities do you consider sexual misconduct? (continued)

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:good:

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Re: Which of the following activities do you consider sexual misconduct? (continued)

Post by Kim O'Hara »

Johnny Dangerous wrote: Mon Jan 22, 2024 7:56 pm It’s been my impression that the idea of ‘falling in love’, then having this enduring family unit based around that relationship is mainly a modern contrivance and a lot of relationships were basically something like ‘business’ in the ancient world, or maybe a just a social obligation. Modern romantic relationships are simply hard to compare, and are their own category now.
Good point.
And you're right about the ideal of romantic love being a modern contrivance, although it's only relatively modern. It was invented by the troubadours among the French aristocracy of about the fifteenth century.
Don't laugh too loud - that's only 500 years ago, compared to the Buddha's time of 2000 years ago.

And it took a loooong time to permeate (even) western Europe. There was serious tension between arranged marriages and marrying for love in some communities as recently as a century ago, to my knowledge, and possibly much more recently. And arranged marriages are still the norm in many parts of the world - note the tensions in Indian expat communities in England and Australia.
Marriage has always been mostly a social institution.
In that sense, ethics around this stuff were less laden with ideas with an emotional resonance like betrayal, etc. and a lot more based on social propriety.

So, it’s likely that reasoning out what is sexual misconduct in the modern world needs a lot more than the precept, and requires a broader view of applied Buddhist ethics.
Yes.
That's what we're working through now.

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Re: Which of the following activities do you consider sexual misconduct? (continued)

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Kim O'Hara wrote: Tue Jan 23, 2024 1:51 am
Johnny Dangerous wrote: Mon Jan 22, 2024 7:56 pm It’s been my impression that the idea of ‘falling in love’, then having this enduring family unit based around that relationship is mainly a modern contrivance and a lot of relationships were basically something like ‘business’ in the ancient world, or maybe a just a social obligation. Modern romantic relationships are simply hard to compare, and are their own category now.
Good point.
And you're right about the ideal of romantic love being a modern contrivance, although it's only relatively modern. It was invented by the troubadours among the French aristocracy of about the fifteenth century.
Don't laugh too loud - that's only 500 years ago, compared to the Buddha's time of 2000 years ago.

And it took a loooong time to permeate (even) western Europe. There was serious tension between arranged marriages and marrying for love in some communities as recently as a century ago, to my knowledge, and possibly much more recently. And arranged marriages are still the norm in many parts of the world - note the tensions in Indian expat communities in England and Australia.
Marriage has always been mostly a social institution.
In that sense, ethics around this stuff were less laden with ideas with an emotional resonance like betrayal, etc. and a lot more based on social propriety.

So, it’s likely that reasoning out what is sexual misconduct in the modern world needs a lot more than the precept, and requires a broader view of applied Buddhist ethics.
Yes.
That's what we're working through now.

:namaste:
Kim
Yeah, and I didn’t mean to state the obvious, but often with these questions the debate is very…legalistic.

Here the focus on the meaning of precepts is certainly important, but in the end Buddhist practitioners have a responsibility to put this stuff into practice as we are, rules and their explicit meanings can be important of course, but is quite important to reason this stuff out using other guidelines too.
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Re: Which of the following activities do you consider sexual misconduct? (continued)

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Zhen Li wrote: Mon Jan 22, 2024 7:30 pmYeah, well, that reformatting is an example of the kind of contemporary interpretation you hear. We do this because, if you read the scriptural formulations, it is often worded in ways that sound inapplicable today. Not only don't we talk in terms of being bound to another, but our common sense understanding of the most serious kinds of sexual misconduct (see the poll in the previous thread) is not encompassed by them.
Old texts may sound inapplicable today, but for that the solution is the old approach of looking for the meaning instead of just the words. People were attached to their loved ones millennia ago just as they are today. The fear of having an unfaithful partner, the fear of being found out, and the pain of being cheated on is recognised in ancient texts just as it is well known today. Furthermore, if it is accepted that sexual misconduct can have long term consequences because it is one of the ten unwholesome actions, what it means cannot be something specific to time and place but quite universal, a basic law of how things work. Like this: 'If someone were to have sexual relations with my wives, I wouldn’t like it. But if I were to have sexual relations with someone else’s wives, he wouldn’t like that either.' (Veḷudvāreyyasutta) Similarly, in some discourses (like DN 4, DN 26, AN 3.65-66, AN 5.174, Dhp 18.246) approaching another's wife (paradāraṁ gacchati - i.e. adultery) is used instead of sexual misconduct. And, in line with that, not being unfaithful (anaticariyā) is applied to both husband and wife (DN 31).
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Which of the following activities do you consider sexual misconduct? (continued)

Post by tingdzin »

Kim O'Hara wrote: Tue Jan 23, 2024 1:51 am And you're right about the ideal of romantic love being a modern contrivance, although it's only relatively modern. It was invented by the troubadours among the French aristocracy of about the fifteenth century.
This is quite a Western-centered point of view. Do you think, for example, that the author and readers of the Tale of Genji (circa 1000) had no appreciation of romantic love? Persian poets had been celebrating romantic love for centuries before the Crusades, and the troubadours were probably inspired at least in part by them. The Kama Sutra (which is contrary to popular belief not just a sex manual) has loads of information about how to court a woman and win her heart, and how a woman can win the heart of a man.

IMO, the distinction between romantic love and socially-acceptable love in the West also reflects upper- and, later, middle-class mores rather than what the groundlings were up to, partially because most history is based on literature, and for most of history, only the upper classes were literate. Upper classes have for obvious reasons always been more concerned with the social and financial ramifications of human coupling rather than the sentiments attached to it.

I also disagree with the notion that there must be some universal at work in determining what is and is not ethical. Such things as polygamy and polyandry, for example, would not necessarily cause such unwholesome emotions as jealousy if they had long been acceptable to the society a person grew up in, because they would not be necessarily be regarded as a betrayal.
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Re: Which of the following activities do you consider sexual misconduct? (continued)

Post by Kim O'Hara »

tingdzin wrote: Thu Feb 01, 2024 7:02 am
Kim O'Hara wrote: Tue Jan 23, 2024 1:51 am And you're right about the ideal of romantic love being a modern contrivance, although it's only relatively modern. It was invented by the troubadours among the French aristocracy of about the fifteenth century.
This is quite a Western-centered point of view.
Fair comment.
All I can say in self defence was that it seemed appropriate in the context of what I had just been reading.
Do you think, for example, that the author and readers of the Tale of Genji (circa 1000) had no appreciation of romantic love? Persian poets had been celebrating romantic love for centuries before the Crusades, and the troubadours were probably inspired at least in part by them. The Kama Sutra (which is contrary to popular belief not just a sex manual) has loads of information about how to court a woman and win her heart, and how a woman can win the heart of a man.

IMO, the distinction between romantic love and socially-acceptable love in the West also reflects upper- and, later, middle-class mores rather than what the groundlings were up to, partially because most history is based on literature, and for most of history, only the upper classes were literate. Upper classes have for obvious reasons always been more concerned with the social and financial ramifications of human coupling rather than the sentiments attached to it.
Fair enough, too, but doesn't it also apply primarily to the upper classes in ancient and non-Western societies?
I also disagree with the notion that there must be some universal at work in determining what is and is not ethical. Such things as polygamy and polyandry, for example, would not necessarily cause such unwholesome emotions as jealousy if they had long been acceptable to the society a person grew up in, because they would not be necessarily be regarded as a betrayal.
The only universal I have espoused (sorry! :tongue: ) is that we should try to avoid harming others.
As you suggest, that will normally mean looking at our behaviour in the context of our own time and place.

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Re: Which of the following activities do you consider sexual misconduct? (continued)

Post by tingdzin »

The last bit was not directed at your comment, Kim, but rather at

.
Astus wrote: Tue Jan 23, 2024 3:39 pm Furthermore, if it is accepted that sexual misconduct can have long term consequences because it is one of the ten unwholesome actions, what it means cannot be something specific to time and place but quite universal, a basic law of how things work.
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Re: Which of the following activities do you consider sexual misconduct? (continued)

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tingdzin wrote: Thu Feb 01, 2024 7:02 am I also disagree with the notion that there must be some universal at work in determining what is and is not ethical.
Would that include having unprotected sex with someone while knowingly having a sexually transmitted disease, and not telling that person because you simply don’t care if you spread it or not?

Would it include using sex as a means of making someone jealous as an act of retribution (sleeping with someone else’s partner just to cause emotional suffering)

Would it include offering sex to someone if they will commit a violent or illegal act for you?

I would say these would be universally applicable ethical violations. I am sure there are more.

I think that the “universal” (criteria) is engaging in sex:
—knowing that it will create suffering for others.
—having the intention to create suffering for others.
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Re: Which of the following activities do you consider sexual misconduct? (continued)

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tingdzin wrote: Thu Feb 01, 2024 7:02 amI also disagree with the notion that there must be some universal at work in determining what is and is not ethical.
Karma is quite the universal ethical principle that applies even to non-human beings. Also, in what situation is this not valid: 'If someone were to have sexual relations with my wives, I wouldn’t like it. But if I were to have sexual relations with someone else’s wives, he wouldn’t like that either.' (SN 55.7)?
Such things as polygamy and polyandry, for example, would not necessarily cause such unwholesome emotions as jealousy if they had long been acceptable to the society a person grew up in, because they would not be necessarily be regarded as a betrayal.
Sexual misconduct is not about monogamy. Having multiple wives was fairly normal in the Buddha's time.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Which of the following activities do you consider sexual misconduct? (continued)

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Johnny Dangerous wrote: Mon Jan 22, 2024 7:56 pm It’s been my impression that the idea of ‘falling in love’, then having this enduring family unit based around that relationship is mainly a modern contrivance and a lot of relationships were basically something like ‘business’ in the ancient world, or maybe a just a social obligation. Modern romantic relationships are simply hard to compare, and are their own category now.

In that sense, ethics around this stuff were less laden with ideas with an emotional resonance like betrayal, etc. and a lot more based on social propriety.
I think this is true.
It may have been important at one time to find a mate simply so that you could have lots of babies because you had a lot of farmland that needed to be worked, and infant mortality was common. Today we would regard having sex purely for such industrial purposes almost as badly as we regard outright prostitution.

But we should be careful not to mix ‘love and romance’ into the conversation about sexual misconduct. Love and sex may be concurrent phenomena but they are separate issues.
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Re: Which of the following activities do you consider sexual misconduct? (continued)

Post by tingdzin »

Astus wrote: Thu Feb 01, 2024 3:53 pm
tingdzin wrote: Thu Feb 01, 2024 7:02 amI also disagree with the notion that there must be some universal at work in determining what is and is not ethical.
Karma is quite the universal ethical principle that applies even to non-human beings. Also, in what situation is this not valid: 'If someone were to have sexual relations with my wives, I wouldn’t like it. But if I were to have sexual relations with someone else’s wives, he wouldn’t like that either.' (SN 55.7)?

If one were brought up in a strict Christian environment, one might become extremely jealous if someone else slept with his wife. If one were living in a society in which it was good etiquette to offer your spouse to a guest (and there used to be such societies), he might not be upset. If a person brought up in the latter society visited a Christian society, he would quickly find that his frame of reference was not acceptable. How can there be a one-size fits all foundation for ethics?
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Re: Which of the following activities do you consider sexual misconduct? (continued)

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tingdzin wrote: Fri Feb 02, 2024 3:51 amIf one were brought up in a strict Christian environment, one might become extremely jealous if someone else slept with his wife. If one were living in a society in which it was good etiquette to offer your spouse to a guest (and there used to be such societies), he might not be upset. If a person brought up in the latter society visited a Christian society, he would quickly find that his frame of reference was not acceptable. How can there be a one-size fits all foundation for ethics?
That's two different scenarios, just as there is the difference between stealing another's book and borrowing it with the other's consent. But just because one may borrow a book, it does not make stealing a harmless act.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Which of the following activities do you consider sexual misconduct? (continued)

Post by KathyLauren »

Kim O'Hara wrote: Thu Feb 01, 2024 12:07 pm The only universal I have espoused (sorry! :tongue: ) is that we should try to avoid harming others.
As you suggest, that will normally mean looking at our behaviour in the context of our own time and place.
I agree that this is the only universal morality.

The idea of looking for moral rules that declare a specific action to be always good or always bad under all possible circumstances is, I think a Western contribution to the mis-understanding of morality. Morality is not (IMHO) a list of rules, such as Western philosophers seek. It is the process of considering the consequences of an action.

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