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Sex and Buddhism

Ryumon Sensei, a Buddhist Community Religious Advisor at Smith delivered a talk in October in Bodman Lounge that offered five different contexts through which one can examine sexuality and sex in Buddhism, most important, of which is through the Precepts, the basis for ethical or moral conduct in Buddhism. These five contexts are:

1. Monastic Rules (vow of celibacy for nuns and monks going back to the Buddha's time)

2. Lay women and lay men practioners (Buddha's time all the way to the present in all Buddhist traditions: Third Precept: A disciple of the Buddha does not misuse sexuality or refrains from sexual misconduct)

3. Living the Precepts (right now!)

4. Specific sexual issues (marriage, homosexuality, desire)

5. Middle Way (avoiding extremes)

Key to the discussion was exploring how Buddhism presents us with the challenge of having to think about sexual ethics in a manner very different than how we have been conditioned and the importance of examining views.

To explore this, the following questions were offered:

1. How do you understand 'misconduct'?

2. What is 'sexual misconduct'?

3. What and how have you been taught to think about sex and sexuality?

4. What is a 'moral' person?

5. How do you gain direct insight into what is appropriate sexual conduct?

Ryumon Sensei shared with the group a quote that encapsulated the discussion:

"For all its ecstatic nature, for all its power, sex is just another human drive. If we avoid it just because it is more difficult to integrate than anger or fear, then we are simply saying that when the chips are down we cannot follow our own practice. This is dishonest and unhealthy."
- Robert Aitken Roshi (The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics, 41-42:1984)