using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Buddhadharma : Summer 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 20 0 9 68 times, and places—because these are the terms with which they were familiar. And why were they familiar with these categories? Because they were the cat- egories used to discuss the breaking of rules in the monastic code, the Vinaya. So what an historical analysis shows us is that Indian authors began to read lay sexual ethics through the lens of monastic discipline, reading monas- tic norms (like where penises can and cannot be inserted) into lay behavioral codes. In their exuberance to elaborate, I would argue, they went overboard, on the one hand leaving behind the earlier, more elegant, and simpler formulation of sexual misconduct, and on the other inappropriately reading lay sexual ethics through the filter of monastic discipline. The result was to make lay sexuality increasingly more restrictive and monas- tic-like. Now even after we’ve completed our various analyses of the subtleties of the texts, their context and history, there still remains the task of subjecting the doctrine to rational scrutiny. This obvi- ously can take many forms. Let me give you an example so you see what I have in mind. what, we might ask, is the purpose of the doctrine in the first place? why should lay people refrain from engag- ing in sexual misconduct? The answer is probably twofold: to avoid actions that are harmful to oneself, and to avoid actions that are harmful to oth- ers. Now it is clear why an act like adul- tery might be considered a moral evil. It harms others by leading to psychological pain and in many cases to the breakup of stable relationships. It is harmful to oneself because it puts one’s own short- term gratification before others’ welfare. refraining from adultery also, of course, has social benefits. But what benefits are forthcoming from the more elaborate and restrictive scholastic sexual code? what reasons can be given for restricting sex to penile-vaginal penetrative inter- course performed only at night? what possible Buddhist reason could be given for dooming gay men (and people who work at night!) to a life of celibacy while allowing heterosexual men five orgasms per night, and lesbians complete sexual freedom? Is this rational? Is it just? These are the types of questions that a reasoned analysis of the doctrine must ask. when we put together these vari- ous aspects—philological, historical, rationalist—this is where I believe we end up: First, that there is no scriptural warrant for the more restrictive, scho- lastic formulation of the doctrine. It was elaborated by celibate monks who inap- propriately read monastic norms into lay sexuality. The individuals who did this were great scholars and saints, but on this issue, they simply got it wrong. Second, the doctrine, both in its ear- lier simplified version and in its later, more elaborate scholastic one, is andro- centric (it privileges men), and is there- fore unjust. Any sexual ethic worth its salt must see women and transgender people as moral agents. And third, independent of histori- cal or other criteria, the more elaborate doctrine cannot be justified on rational grounds. where does this leave us? It leaves us with the task of having to rethink sexual ethics in a way that is both rational and just—in a way that does not privilege heterosexual men, that considers the agency of women and queer people, and that does not discriminate against anyone on the basis of their sexual tastes or anatomies. The details of this more just sexual ethics are of course something that still needs to be worked out, but at a minimum, it seems to me, it must be based on general principles like gender egalitarianism and pan-Bud- dhist doctrinal positions—for example, acknowledging that the body is a vehicle for pleasure, but that sexual pleasure (like all sense-pleasure) can be a source of attachment. Such an ethic must also be based on general Buddhist moral principles like the commitment not to do harm. These are of course not full- blown answers, but hints about what a just Buddhist sexual ethic for our time should look like. Hopefully they will whet the reader’s appetite for thinking about sexuality through the medium of the great Buddhist textual tradition. ➤ www.satiama.com Register Online NOW for a Great Discount! • Himalayan singing bowl & gong CDs from Richard Rudis • Singing bowl meditation CDs from Diáne Mandle • Sound healing classes & books • Buddhist mantra and chant music from Yoko