The harms of Masturbation and Porn

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Zhen Li
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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by Zhen Li »

Exactly, it's all about skillful means.

If we don't employ methods, but just think of the end goal, we won't get anywhere.

The body is repulsive, expediently. Unskilful friends are not to be associated with, expediently.

Tantric methods are one expedient, but since that's a matter between a tantric practitioner and their guru to discuss, it is not relevant to a general Mahayana discussion. Broadly speaking, from a Buddhist perspective, we can say that masturbation and porn are not conducive to the aims of the path.

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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by Kim O'Hara »

Zhen Li wrote:Broadly speaking, from a Buddhist perspective, we can say that masturbation and porn are not conducive to the aims of the path.
:good:
and it's all we really need to know.
What we do with the knowledge, of course, is our own decision. :thinking:

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by uan »

Alex123 wrote:
uan wrote:Too often when Buddhists (not all, maybe only a few, who knows) talk of the negative aspects of sex and giving up things around it (e.g., porn and masturbation) and the need for celibacy, etc., there's usually an element of aversion to it, which is just another trap, no different than the desire/lust itself one is averse too. It's an easy trap to replace one of Mara's daughters for another.

Is it really that bad if it is temporary "aversion" (as skillful means) to bad and harmful things?
Your statement sounds good on the surface, but as an ordinary person, not enlightened, what is "bad" and "harmful"? What is "temporary"? What are "skillful means"? And can those of us who are deluded human beings know?

Buddhism is not about averages at the point of application. We can say certain things, e.g., we are all subjected to Karma, or some such. Yes this is true. But my karma isn't your karma etc. We could both perform the same act and have different karmic consequences. If one don't know the consequences, how can one know what is skillful?

If one cannot see beyond their own appearance, how can one really know? Even arhats have remainders.

Perhaps it would be good to develop an aversion to bad and harmful things and that might be something like porn/masturbation. Or perhaps it could be one's pride that they "know" what is best for themselves. Or "fill in the blank" ....

Best to find a good teacher in your area -- I don't mean you specifically Alex123, as I don't know your situation. If a person is seeking guidance for their practice on a forum, that's a good external indication a teacher would be beneficial.

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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by uan »

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Zhen Li wrote:Broadly speaking, from a Buddhist perspective, we can say that masturbation and porn are not conducive to the aims of the path.
:good:
and it's all we really need to know.
What we do with the knowledge, of course, is our own decision. :thinking:

:namaste:
Kim
Maybe.

From the Berzin page I linked to above:
Now, in contrast to these prohibited uncommendable actions which are ethically neutral, the naturally uncommendable ones are destructive. “Destructive” means that they will result in suffering – unless of course you purify it. Now, all sexual behavior is naturally uncommendable. That’s not something that we as Westerns like to hear. But why is all sexual behavior destructive is the important question. All sexual behavior is destructive because – according to the text and I’m sure that we can confirm this from our experience – it causes disturbing emotions to increase. And if we want to gain liberation from samsara, we have to overcome disturbing emotions. So if we want to gain liberation, we are eventually going to have to give up all types of behavior that will cause the disturbing emotions to increase.

All sex, broadly speaking, is not conducive to "the aim of the path". But maybe if we parse it enough, we can point to that little bit as "bad" so we somehow don't have to get confronted with this other little bit that is "okay".

Then there is the even broader category of "all types of behavior that will cause the disturbing emotions to increase."

There are a thousand things we do everyday, mostly without thinking (which is probably the biggest thing we do), that are not conducive to the path.

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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by Alex123 »

uan wrote: Your statement sounds good on the surface, but as an ordinary person, not enlightened, what is "bad" and "harmful"? What is "temporary"? What are "skillful means"? And can those of us who are deluded human beings know?
Antidote to lust is reflection on repulsive aspects of the body, reflection on aging, illness& death, contemplating the 4 elements, etc.
Even the water melting from the snow-capped peaks can find its way to the ocean"

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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by Mkoll »

uan wrote:Your statement sounds good on the surface, but as an ordinary person, not enlightened, what is "bad" and "harmful"? What is "temporary"? What are "skillful means"? And can those of us who are deluded human beings know?
We can figure it out with the help of a spiritual friend. Or do you not think so?
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by uan »

Mkoll wrote:
uan wrote:Your statement sounds good on the surface, but as an ordinary person, not enlightened, what is "bad" and "harmful"? What is "temporary"? What are "skillful means"? And can those of us who are deluded human beings know?
We can figure it out with the help of a spiritual friend. Or do you not think so?
I could have sworn I wrote more than just that lol. :rolling:

Here's a true story -- I have a really good friend. Several accomplished masters had told him when he was younger that he should be careful -- he may have heart problems in her 30s and 40s. One night, when he was in his early 40s, he started experiencing severe pain in his chest. He called an ambulance, who then took him to the emergency room, where he was transferred to the cardiac wing of the hospital and kept overnight and tested throughout the next day.

Turns out it wasn't his heart, but he had strained a cartilage in his rib cage. Very painful. Yes. Did it feel like it was his heart? Absolutely. But it wasn't.

Was calling the ambulance and going to the ER the right thing to do. Sure.

So can we figure things out with the help of a spiritual friend? Maybe, or maybe we'll go off totally in the wrong direction with someone cheering us along.

It depends on who the spiritual friend is. What are their obscurations, their prejudices? Can they see with open eyes? Or have they just read more Buddhist books than you have?

"Spiritual Friend" has a nice, soft, comfortable ring to it. Spiritual. Friend. How can we go wrong with that? Put someone into that category and suddenly they take on greater powers.

Don't get me wrong, we should all have spiritual friends, we should work on cultivating them. We should surround ourselves as much as possible with positive and wholesome people.

A person can always self diagnose and can easily find someone to confirm their suspicions, but if a person is seriously on the path, that person needs a teacher. There are many outstanding teachers coming out many different traditions. They aren't all famous, but you can develop relationships with them. They can know where you are, where you really are, and what your next step should be.

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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by Zhen Li »

uan wrote:All sex, broadly speaking, is not conducive to "the aim of the path". But maybe if we parse it enough, we can point to that little bit as "bad" so we somehow don't have to get confronted with this other little bit that is "okay".

Then there is the even broader category of "all types of behavior that will cause the disturbing emotions to increase."

There are a thousand things we do everyday, mostly without thinking (which is probably the biggest thing we do), that are not conducive to the path.
Once again, let's think in terms of magnitude here.

On the Buddhist path, the first things we formally renounce are the first seven of the ten unwholesome ways of action, i.e. the opposite of the precepts. This is because they yield the greatest karmic consequences. We renounce these, instead of thousands of tiny little actions which may have minor karmic consequences, because they are BIG deeds with BIG consequences. As you know, of the thousands of things you do in the day, very few will create as much desire as if you were to engage in masturbation and observing porn. This is a question of magnitude. Any sexual act is of high karmic magnitude because it entails some of the highest levels of desire and attachment. Sexual desire is therefore very hard to lay aside, whereas the thousands of other mundane things that are not conducive to the path, are not as big a deal. This is exactly the thinking behind having rules in the vinaya that entail "defeat" and other rules that only entail a meeting.

The point in the end is one of advancement on the spiritual path to the goal. Do you want to be a Buddha or not?

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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by Mkoll »

uan wrote:
Mkoll wrote:
uan wrote:Your statement sounds good on the surface, but as an ordinary person, not enlightened, what is "bad" and "harmful"? What is "temporary"? What are "skillful means"? And can those of us who are deluded human beings know?
We can figure it out with the help of a spiritual friend. Or do you not think so?
I could have sworn I wrote more than just that lol. :rolling:

Here's a true story -- I have a really good friend. Several accomplished masters had told him when he was younger that he should be careful -- he may have heart problems in her 30s and 40s. One night, when he was in his early 40s, he started experiencing severe pain in his chest. He called an ambulance, who then took him to the emergency room, where he was transferred to the cardiac wing of the hospital and kept overnight and tested throughout the next day.

Turns out it wasn't his heart, but he had strained a cartilage in his rib cage. Very painful. Yes. Did it feel like it was his heart? Absolutely. But it wasn't.

Was calling the ambulance and going to the ER the right thing to do. Sure.

So can we figure things out with the help of a spiritual friend? Maybe, or maybe we'll go off totally in the wrong direction with someone cheering us along.

It depends on who the spiritual friend is. What are their obscurations, their prejudices? Can they see with open eyes? Or have they just read more Buddhist books than you have?

"Spiritual Friend" has a nice, soft, comfortable ring to it. Spiritual. Friend. How can we go wrong with that? Put someone into that category and suddenly they take on greater powers.

Don't get me wrong, we should all have spiritual friends, we should work on cultivating them. We should surround ourselves as much as possible with positive and wholesome people.

A person can always self diagnose and can easily find someone to confirm their suspicions, but if a person is seriously on the path, that person needs a teacher. There are many outstanding teachers coming out many different traditions. They aren't all famous, but you can develop relationships with them. They can know where you are, where you really are, and what your next step should be.
I guess I should have told you I was talking about the Buddha.

:rolling:
SN 45.2 wrote:"And through this line of reasoning one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life: It is in dependence on me [the Buddha] as an admirable friend that beings subject to birth have gained release from birth, that beings subject to aging have gained release from aging, that beings subject to death have gained release from death, that beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair have gained release from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. It is through this line of reasoning that one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life."
[edit: added link]
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by uan »

Mkoll wrote: I guess I should have told you I was talking about the Buddha.

:rolling:
SN 45.2 wrote:"And through this line of reasoning one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life: It is in dependence on me [the Buddha] as an admirable friend that beings subject to birth have gained release from birth, that beings subject to aging have gained release from aging, that beings subject to death have gained release from death, that beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair have gained release from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. It is through this line of reasoning that one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life."
[edit: added link]

Clearly the Buddha works :twothumbsup:

or a Spiritual Friend / teacher who is on the Bhumis.

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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by uan »

Zhen Li wrote:
uan wrote:All sex, broadly speaking, is not conducive to "the aim of the path". But maybe if we parse it enough, we can point to that little bit as "bad" so we somehow don't have to get confronted with this other little bit that is "okay".

Then there is the even broader category of "all types of behavior that will cause the disturbing emotions to increase."

There are a thousand things we do everyday, mostly without thinking (which is probably the biggest thing we do), that are not conducive to the path.
Once again, let's think in terms of magnitude here.

On the Buddhist path, the first things we formally renounce are the first seven of the ten unwholesome ways of action, i.e. the opposite of the precepts. This is because they yield the greatest karmic consequences. We renounce these, instead of thousands of tiny little actions which may have minor karmic consequences, because they are BIG deeds with BIG consequences. As you know, of the thousands of things you do in the day, very few will create as much desire as if you were to engage in masturbation and observing porn. This is a question of magnitude. Any sexual act is of high karmic magnitude because it entails some of the highest levels of desire and attachment. Sexual desire is therefore very hard to lay aside, whereas the thousands of other mundane things that are not conducive to the path, are not as big a deal. This is exactly the thinking behind having rules in the vinaya that entail "defeat" and other rules that only entail a meeting.

The point in the end is one of advancement on the spiritual path to the goal. Do you want to be a Buddha or not?
If you want to become a monk/nun, or if you are already one, this may be a very important issue for you.

However, if you re-read the Berzin quote, all sex is considered destructive, I'm not sure why there's a focus on masturbation or porn. Porn didn't exist, not the way we're describing it for sure, back in Buddha's time, but sex certainly did.

Then there's the larger issue of, since you talk of magnitude, lust/desire in general. Lust of money. For food. For material things. For comfort. For hanging out with friends, for watching the latest movie or TV show, or the next football game (American, European, Aussie rule, it doesn't matter). It's really about attachment. It's as easy to get attached to renouncing things as it is to sensual things. We can be attached to good things. Friends and family for instance. We read sutras for the enjoyment of it - that's still an attachment - and all the other dharma activities that end up falling under "spiritual materialism". The strongest attachments of all are to life and to our concept of self.

Renunciation is certainly one path a person can take. But it's not the only path. I may be incorrect, and there's no right or wrong to this obviously, but it sounds as if you follow a more Theravadan tradition.

As for whether I want to become a Buddha or not. Well wanting is an attachment :) But more specifically, we are all already Buddhas. We've just forgotten our true nature.

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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by Zhen Li »

If you want to become a monk/nun, or if you are already one, this may be a very important issue for you.

However, if you re-read the Berzin quote, all sex is considered destructive, I'm not sure why there's a focus on masturbation or porn. Porn didn't exist, not the way we're describing it for sure, back in Buddha's time, but sex certainly did.
Yeah, and sex should be given up too.

But that's not the topic of the thread. ;)
Then there's the larger issue of, since you talk of magnitude, lust/desire in general. Lust of money. For food. For material things. For comfort. For hanging out with friends, for watching the latest movie or TV show, or the next football game (American, European, Aussie rule, it doesn't matter). It's really about attachment. It's as easy to get attached to renouncing things as it is to sensual things. We can be attached to good things. Friends and family for instance. We read sutras for the enjoyment of it - that's still an attachment - and all the other dharma activities that end up falling under "spiritual materialism". The strongest attachments of all are to life and to our concept of self.
Well talking in terms of magnitude, I think most sentient beings find sex more attractive than even games or family. That's really prime directive #1 for biological life, since DNA just wants to self-replicate. To say that other things are things one can get attached is fine, but it's just missing the point of the thread.

As for repudiating ignorance, we're also talking not just in terms of magnitude, but achievability. It's an easier task at hand to reduce lust than it is to eradicate all self views, but also understand that these things are interrelated. We lust because we see things in the wrong way. We view that which is actually painful as pleasurable. We view someone who is just a collection of form, as attractive or beautiful, when this is at bottom meaningless and a result of delusion - seeing our hormones as identical to the objective world. So it goes hand in hand with dealing with ignorance.
Renunciation is certainly one path a person can take. But it's not the only path. I may be incorrect, and there's no right or wrong to this obviously, but it sounds as if you follow a more Theravadan tradition.
I don't.

There are other paths to take. But let's speak in terms of practicalities. Name it, and we can talk business. It's one thing to say there are other paths, and another to know them. Also, if we are talking in terms of Tantra, then you're dealing with something that is particular to yourself and your guru's instruction.

Remember, there's a reason the Buddha taught what he did to this world, because this world works a certain way, and gets itself deluded and attached in certain ways that other worlds don't. There are some worlds where the Buddha teaches just using different smells, or where there isn't a monastic order since it is not necessary. This world we are in is particularly coarse and degraded, we are in the Kali Yuga, and we are also on the downslope of history, so the Buddha saw that the best option is to promote renunciation and have a monastic order. Also, as we get more technologically complex, we also get less spiritually advanced. More technology also means more porn, which means less wisdom and insight, and more desire.

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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by uan »

Zhen Li wrote: I think most sentient beings find sex more attractive than even games or family.
You know this how?

Let's not just talk biology, or something you read in a book, etc.

There's a world full of averages out there that gets reified.
Zhen Li wrote:
As for repudiating ignorance, we're also talking not just in terms of magnitude, but achievability.
The issue is that renunciation and aversion don't inherently address the underlying issues - it suppresses and substitutes the object of one's focus.

A weak analogy - the best way to combat weeds in a lawn is not by constantly pulling out the weeds, and trying to kill the weeds, etc., but to tend to the grass that is already there - to nurture it, to help it grown thick and healthy. That will choke out the weeds and there will be no place for new weeds to take hold.

Between tantra and renunciation, one could work towards developing true bodhichitta. That can fundamentally change the nature of your relationship with sense objects, not just sex, but all sense objects.

The capacity for a human being is limited - if one uses will power to not do x y or z, it's hard to add mental and emotional capacity to do other things.
Zhen Li wrote:
It's an easier task at hand to reduce lust than it is to eradicate all self views,
This gets to the heart of it. It's easier. Yes, it's easier to be able to point to some X, be it "porn" or "video games" or whatever, and say if I do that activity less often, I am making progress on the path.

It's easier because there's something tangible that can be seen. You have a checklist of sorts, and tick off the boxes.

If you point to something and say, see, I'm making progress along the path and these people aren't (or aren't really interested), you effectively reinforce your own ties to samara, and may be taking a step back. (I don't mean you Zhen Li, I don't know you). In a sense, before any effort was made, there was this "thing". It just was. Now you want to overcome it. Now it's actually a bigger thing, that "thing that needs to be overcome". Then it's "that difficult, most horrendous, evil thing that must be overcome." And we can keep adding to it with stuff like "I failed today to overcome it." "I'm a failure and bad person for doing it and not being stronger." Etc...

I'm reminded of Shenxiu's poem and Huineng's reply to it:

身是菩提樹, The body is a Bodhi tree,
心如明鏡臺。 The mind a standing mirror bright.
時時勤拂拭, At all times polish it diligently,
勿使惹塵埃。 And let no dust alight.


菩提本無樹, Bodhi is fundamentally without any tree;
明鏡亦非臺。 The bright mirror is also not a stand.
本來無一物, Fundamentally there is not a single thing —
何處惹塵埃。 Where could any dust be attracted?

I do totally support your, and anyone else's, efforts at diligently polishing away all the dust that has settled, whether it be porn, masturbation, sex, etc.

We just see things differently.

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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by Alex123 »

Hello Uan,
uan wrote: 菩提本無樹, Bodhi is fundamentally without any tree;
明鏡亦非臺。 The bright mirror is also not a stand.
本來無一物, Fundamentally there is not a single thing —
何處惹塵埃。 Where could any dust be attracted?

I do totally support your, and anyone else's, efforts at diligently polishing away all the dust that has settled, whether it be porn, masturbation, sex, etc.

We just see things differently.

How do you understand Hui Neng's instruction regarding masturbation/porn?

What do you recommend?
Even the water melting from the snow-capped peaks can find its way to the ocean"

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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by Mkoll »

uan wrote:
Zhen Li wrote:As for repudiating ignorance, we're also talking not just in terms of magnitude, but achievability.
The issue is that renunciation and aversion don't inherently address the underlying issues - it suppresses and substitutes the object of one's focus.

A weak analogy - the best way to combat weeds in a lawn is not by constantly pulling out the weeds, and trying to kill the weeds, etc., but to tend to the grass that is already there - to nurture it, to help it grown thick and healthy. That will choke out the weeds and there will be no place for new weeds to take hold.

Between tantra and renunciation, one could work towards developing true bodhichitta. That can fundamentally change the nature of your relationship with sense objects, not just sex, but all sense objects.

The capacity for a human being is limited - if one uses will power to not do x y or z, it's hard to add mental and emotional capacity to do other things.
I don't know what Zhen Li is trying to say, but what you're presenting there is an incomplete picture of right effort/energy/exertion and is an unbalanced approach in any case.
SN 45.8 wrote:"And what, monks, is right effort? (i) There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen. (ii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen. (iii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen. (iv) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by uan »

Mkoll wrote: I don't know what Zhen Li is trying to say, but what you're presenting there is an incomplete picture of right effort/energy/exertion and is an unbalanced approach in any case.

I'm not presenting anything per se, unbalanced or otherwise. I'm suggesting there are other approaches, beyond renunciation. What's unbalanced is this view that porn, masturbation, sex are the universal afflictions that everyone needs to deal with over and above all others. It may be true for some people, not all. Nor is he presenting the issues around sex within a framework that is true of all Buddhism.

In the "didn't I write more" vane, didn't I write more? lol.

In this conversation, I've brought up Vajrayana, Huineng, pointed folks to Berzin and a thorough discussion on sex in Buddhism, and to the Buddha's own awakening with Mara and his 3 daughters - one of which is aversion (renunciation/non attachment). I've also recommended people find a qualified teacher for specifics on any practices.

Essentially there's a view here that sex, porn, masturbation are somehow special classes of things (hence Zhen Li's position about the differences being an "order of magnitude"). I disagree. No one needed to enumerate all the dust Shenxiu and Huineng were talking about.

So we can catalog dust all we want, renounce it, etc., but as Huineng points out, where does that dust alight? Though as Zhen li pointed out, it's easier to renounce sex than to renounce self. Yet without self, what is left to have sex? Or to have attachments/non attachments?

The issue isn't about right effort, it's where to put that effort.

People love to self diagnose for themselves, and for others, then be proscriptive and prescriptive in presenting solutions. Then point to some sutra or another on why their view is correct.

The rules for monks and nuns as are not the rules lay people, including serious practitioners, need to follow, and the measurement of person's progress on the path, any path, cannot be measured by how closely they adhere to the vinaya.

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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by Mkoll »

uan wrote:
Mkoll wrote:I don't know what Zhen Li is trying to say, but what you're presenting there is an incomplete picture of right effort/energy/exertion and is an unbalanced approach in any case.
I'm not presenting anything per se, unbalanced or otherwise.
Well, I think you are: you're presenting a skewed view of what effort and its relationship to renunciation is. You've used concepts like "suppresses and substitutes the object of one's focus" and "one uses will power to not do x y or z." The sutta excerpt I quoted shows that is only part of the picture of right effort/energy/exertion. Notably, what you're missing is the development and protection of wholesome states.

Note that I'm not really talking about the OP's subject directly here so this is a bit off topic. I'm just saying this to make clear to those who don't know better who may read what you wrote and come away with a one-sided view of what effort and its relationship to renunciation is.
uan wrote:I'm suggesting there are other approaches, beyond renunciation.
Actually, it sounds like you're suggesting you think there are other and better approaches, which is different.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

uan
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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by uan »

Mkoll wrote: Notably, what you're missing is the development and protection of wholesome states.
McKoll, thanks for keeping it real. Since I'm in conversation with ZL directly, I wasn't trying be all inclusive of all things for the casual viewer. But I think I should get credit for:
Don't get me wrong, we should all have spiritual friends, we should work on cultivating them. We should surround ourselves as much as possible with positive and wholesome people.
I'm not going to re-read the whole thread, but I don't think too many people were point out the need for the "development and protection of wholesome states." It struck me as singularly missing in fact. I may have filled the void in a manner not fully consistent with some Mahayana traditions, but I may have been the only recently alluding to the need to develop more wholesome states:
A weak analogy - the best way to combat weeds in a lawn is not by constantly pulling out the weeds, and trying to kill the weeds, etc., but to tend to the grass that is already there - to nurture it, to help it grown thick and healthy. That will choke out the weeds and there will be no place for new weeds to take hold.
One thing we haven't been talking about, with the excerpted sutra you posted, is that Buddha was speaking to monks. Monks (and nuns) have taken vows and live in a committed Sangha with their dharma brothers and sisters AND teachers. They are in a systemic, all encompassing environment designed to reinforce their efforts.

The vast majority reading this thread have not done that. They may not even have any teachers, ever. They might renounce one thing but the the next. They pick and choose from their deluded minds. They might say "hey monks renounce this, so will I" and then think have made right efforts and have right views. Do they? Some more than likely do. Some probably don't.

Much of this thread has thrown up shallow "sex is bad, porn is bad and leads to the objectification of women" etc. Knowledge is not wisdom.
Mkoll wrote:
uan wrote:I'm suggesting there are other approaches, beyond renunciation.
Actually, it sounds like you're suggesting you think there are other and better approaches, which is different.
I think it's clear I follow a different approach, and I have personal feelings towards it. But it's not for me to say it's better or not. Nor is it "less" than what others have suggested. It's a totally valid alternative. But even within the Eight Fold Path or the standard Mahayana path, renunciation is a bit more than what's been presented here. The thread itself may be very specific, but in the real world, one doesn't get to parse out elements of this and that. It's always part of a whole.

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Zhen Li
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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by Zhen Li »

uan wrote:I'm not presenting anything per se, unbalanced or otherwise. I'm suggesting there are other approaches, beyond renunciation. What's unbalanced is this view that porn, masturbation, sex are the universal afflictions that everyone needs to deal with over and above all others. It may be true for some people, not all. Nor is he presenting the issues around sex within a framework that is true of all Buddhism.
I never said it is the universal affliction, it's just the topic of this thread. If you would like to discuss any other issue in another thread you will find me supporting Buddhist practice in all aspects of life.

Once again, you say that I don't present a framework that is true of all Buddhism, but you don't explain why you think this. What I said is identical with Berzin's view: that all sense desire is fundamentally to be abandoned, but that some people just aren't ready, so we have to have compassion and tolerance for them. And I also admitted that some people, with a qualified instruction, may engage in esoteric practices that we are not at liberty to discuss here. What more is needed in your opinion, Uan, for my perspective to be presented in a framework that is true of all Buddhism?
uan wrote:Essentially there's a view here that sex, porn, masturbation are somehow special classes of things (hence Zhen Li's position about the differences being an "order of magnitude"). I disagree. No one needed to enumerate all the dust Shenxiu and Huineng were talking about.
I never said an order of magnitude, since that is quite a lot, I would not have said such. It is also not a special class, but it is the topic of this thread.

Sex, porn and masturbation are not conducive to the aim of the spiritual life. They happen to also be, for most normal sentient beings (i.e. on average), a fairly distracting preoccupation (more so than most other desires). They, ideally, should be abandoned. What's wrong with that? I am not claiming any special class here.
uan wrote:So we can catalog dust all we want, renounce it, etc., but as Huineng points out, where does that dust alight? Though as Zhen li pointed out, it's easier to renounce sex than to renounce self. Yet without self, what is left to have sex? Or to have attachments/non attachments?
This is why I said that renunciation is dependent upon wisdom.

Bodhisattvas may employ sex as a skillful means when the circumstances are right, but those are exceptional circumstances and require exceptional beings. Just look at the story of this in the Upayakausalya Sutra, it's not an every day sex situation, let alone the kind of sex some abusive gurus have engaged in. Otherwise, we're not going to be seeing an enlightened being have sex - since they see the other person for what they are, they would not get aroused. Lust comes from delusion.
uan wrote:A weak analogy - the best way to combat weeds in a lawn is not by constantly pulling out the weeds, and trying to kill the weeds, etc., but to tend to the grass that is already there - to nurture it, to help it grown thick and healthy. That will choke out the weeds and there will be no place for new weeds to take hold.
Actually:
Cut down the forest (lust), but not the tree; from the forest springs fear. Having cut down the forest and the underbrush (desire), be passionless, O monks!
Dhammapada 283

And actually, if you have ever done gardening, you will know that your analogy isn't correct. You do need to pull the weeds out. Nurturing your grass doesn't make it choke out the weeds. In our case, we are also not trying to nurture anything that is not always there. Eradicating the grass won't make emptiness that takes its place disappear, emptiness is always there, and emptiness and its realisation in prajna wisdom are what give rise to the other five paramitas.
uan wrote:The vast majority reading this thread have not done that. They may not even have any teachers, ever. They might renounce one thing but the the next. They pick and choose from their deluded minds. They might say "hey monks renounce this, so will I" and then think have made right efforts and have right views. Do they? Some more than likely do. Some probably don't.
I do have a teacher Uan, and my decisions are based upon experience in life, as well as careful contemplation of the Sutras and the words of my teacher. I can see that whatever experience I have had in life that tells me sensuality is superior to renunciation is a false and deluded experience. I think you would agree.

You must understand that I am not saying anywhere that everyone must obey the Vinaya. What I am saying, however, is that people who engage in sensuality of any kind would be better off also being honest with themselves if they think that it is going to make them happier, since it is not. In the long run, only the spiritual life will make you happier.

Other things won't bring you happiness - we should realise this.
Only looking within, and giving rise to wisdom, will bring you happiness.

I am not prescribing or requiring anyone to do anything. This is about an admission of the truth, and where have I been found wanting?
uan wrote:Much of this thread has thrown up shallow "sex is bad, porn is bad and leads to the objectification of women" etc. Knowledge is not wisdom.
Actually, I never really saw that in this thread. Who merely stated that "sex is bad, porn is bad and leads to the objectification of women" and leave it at that? I think what is really shallow here has been your reading of the thread, since clearly people have given quite thorough discussion to this issue, which goes far beyond three fairly lousy statements.
uan wrote:But even within the Eight Fold Path or the standard Mahayana path, renunciation is a bit more than what's been presented here. The thread itself may be very specific, but in the real world, one doesn't get to parse out elements of this and that. It's always part of a whole.
In the Mahayana path, taking the precepts as a basic guide, except for the fourth of the "Four Faulty Actions That Concern Situations in Which Our Main Consideration Is Others" (4) Not committing a destructive action when love and compassion call for it, the basic guideline in the "Two Faulty Actions Detrimental to Developing the Willingness to Give Others Material OBjects," (2) Following out our desirous minds, is the same, if not more demanding than the eightfold path plainly put.
http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... edges.html

Actually, the Mahayana path, as a whole, is far more demanding and taxing of your effort than attaining arhatship. And the fact that lay people have to follow this, makes it even more difficult, especially since Theravada lay people typically aren't expected to maintain this kind of effort or discipline. Being a Mahayana lay person is more than just occasionally giving Dana to the temple, you also have to cultivate for Buddhahood and nurture your Bodhicitta.

But, as the Buddha explains in (if I recall correctly) the Rastrapalapariprccha Sutra, if when asked to give everything one owns, one is not quite mentally cultivated, one sincerely apologises and admits that one isn't quite ready to fulfil the demands of Bodhicitta.

I think this is the sentiment that Berzin is trying to get at with regards to his essay on sexual ethics. We must be honest with ourselves and know that fulfilling the demands of Bodhicitta requires that we lay down even our lives, let alone give up sex and porn, for the attainment of Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings, but at the same time, we have to have compassion for Bodhisattvas whose seeds are not quite as nourished as ours, and not make the demands so mandatory. Some people aren't quite ready, or perhaps may be best suited to aspiring to pureland, setting aside other practice in this life. That's fine.

Actually, if you read the Mahayana Sutras Uan, you should know that "picking and choosing" is quite frequently advocated. I also practice "Humanistic Buddhism" and we say "give others convenience" "give others confidence." This is a way of practicing the Mahayana path, which is compassionate and open to other's preferences and inclinations. We create a big tent under which many people of different inclinations can gather and practice in their own way.

This is actually part of practicing upayakausalya: adapting to the expectations of an antagonistic society. Mahayana Buddhism in India actually did quite openly allow monks to marry and have children, as well as lay people to worship whatever gods they like, and mix and match religions as they saw fit. If we aren't as flexible as we can be, we are not being as tolerant as we can be, and thus we may lose traction to traditions that suit people's temperaments more. One of the major advantages of this was that Buddhism could attract untouchables, who both were allowed to marry and ordain, and worship their old gods, but at the same time, didn't need to be oppressed by caste. Of course, different needs and ways of adapting may arise at different points in time. Sometimes being more strict and wrathful is more suited, as any tantric practitioner knows. Sometimes being more wild is also more suited. So, picking and choosing is fairly acceptable from the Mahayana perspective, since we have to do what works best for us and for others, and what seems most right of course.

uan
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Re: The harms of Masturbation and Porn

Post by uan »

Zhen Li, thank you for your detailed and thoughtful reply.

:anjali:

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