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Buddhadharma : Fall 2008
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 08 20 attraction occurs in a teacherstudent relationship, the teacher may not act upon the romantic relationship unless or until the teacherstudent relationship has ended. Even then, a break of six months to a year is desirable to work on projec tions or other emotional issues pertinent to a studentteacher relationship. In the traditions in which the teachers are celibate monks or nuns, sexual dif ficulties are referred to the most senior teachers. In other traditions, I think it is important that all teachers have some peer group where there is mutual trust and respect, and where ethical questions can be discussed openly and freely. Ques tions regarding appropriate or inappro priate sexual conduct are frequently discussed, for example, at meetings of the American Zen Teachers Association and at meetings of teachers who share a particular lineage. geshe TenZin Wangyal rinPoche: I n terms of sexuality, a traditional guiding precept is to not engage sexually with another’s wife, husband, or partner or cause someone to break their vows. As for the studentteacher relationship, it is important not to confuse this relation ship with sexuality. That does not mean sexuality is bad or wrong. Often there is an exaggeration of the negative in rela tion to sexuality. Sexuality is negative as much as anger is negative. Does anger serve a purpose? Yes. But is anger neces sary? No, it is not. Sexuality is an impor tant part of life, but it is not necessary in order to live a fully expressed life. In the tantric tradition, sexuality is used as a vehicle for awakening. The physical sexual union can be the outer doorway to achieving the inner experi ence of great bliss, the result of the union of masculine and feminine energies, of method and wisdom, of space and emp tiness. Sexual union can be a vehicle for higher awareness. However, most of the high lamas are monks, and therefore that aspect of the teaching is not emphasized. So one might ask why is this teaching not emphasized in the West where most of the practitioners are lay practitioners and sexuality is part of one’s life? While the expression of sexuality can be pure, most of the time it is not. In fact, it is a poor expression of love, and it is important not to confuse sexuality with love. Love has nothing to do with sex per se. With sexuality, there is inten sity and excitement in a relationship, but that excitement often wanes with famil iarity as well as in the face of the stresses and responsibilities of daily life. When sexuality has become the basis for inti macy and communication in a relation ship rather than love and respect, this can lead to alienation and separation as sexual interest or expression lessens. So it seems sexuality is misunderstood and misused and also elevated in importance in a relationship. When there is mutual attraction be tween two people, of course sexuality has a place. That is not to say you feel sexual energy and you just move on it! If there is a mutual attraction between two people who have not made other commitments, there is no reason sexual ity cannot be a healthy and vital part of the relationship, especially if the people are capable of being open and having an emotional exchange. It is an error if sexuality becomes the basis for the com munication between two people and is relied upon as the expression of love. That is where one needs to become con scious and aware. In the relationship between the teacher and student, a sexual relationship is in appropriate. The relationship between a teacher and a student can grow so deeply and become a lifelong one. Unfortunately, sexuality destroys this development. As a student, you can feel so much open ness and trust in relation to the teach ings, and also toward the teacher who is introducing you to those teachings, that many feelings are heightened, sexuality among them. However, when sexuality enters the relationship and is acted upon, the student’s ability to be continuously helped by the teacher is interrupted. Both the student and the teacher need to be aware of that possibility and have more discriminating wisdom, knowing that acting on desire can destroy the beau tiful relationship that is developing and