Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

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plwk
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Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by plwk » Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:25 am

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So, is polygamy/polyandry frowned upon in Buddhism? If yes, why? If not, why? :thanks:

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Zhen Li » Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:45 am

It was pretty common in South East Asia, and Himalayan cultures, and occasional in Chinese culture. But it is cultural and existed before Buddhism arrived in those places. I think one can more or less use common sense with this, in a traditional culture, you're better married before one has sex. But if the Buddha says that marriage with one woman is not as good as marriage with none, what more to say of multiple woman (or men). But marriage and sex is going to keep happening no matter whether Buddhism is there or not, only a section of any society is going to ordain.

Personally, I could tolerate it fine, and I don't see why it's still illegal in the west. I personally thought that the crackdowns they did on the Mormon polygamists in the US and Canada was silly. So long as one can support multiple wives and children from multiple wives, then it's probably the preferable legal position. Questions of jealousy, desire, and so forth, are important from a subjective Buddhist perspective, but irrelevant from a legal evaluation of the issue. This might also relate to how much one values patriarchy and traditional sex roles also. If one does believe that traditional sex roles are actually useful, then polygamy will strengthen them, because it creates a common patriarch for a large number of women and children. As far as anthropology goes, there have been no matriarchal societies observed in the world or history, but there have been matrilineal ones--typically in these, the patriarch is the brother of the polyandrous woman. Typically in our modern society where marriage is less common, it appears that polygamy, and increasingly these days, polyandry, is actually the norm. What I find so interesting about American shows like that, is how ashamed and shocked people are at polygamy, but it's actually quite natural. Moreover, the advantage of polygamy is that one is open about one's relationships (assuming there is no extra-marital marriage), in which case, one cannot hide if one is being promiscuous or not, which is certainly better than informal promiscuity. On the whole, I agree with the Buddhist position that no wife or husband is better than one, but all things considered, polygamy seems acceptable and preferable from a legal perspective.

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by DNS » Wed Sep 17, 2014 4:30 am

Ven. Dhammika wrote:Traditionally, Buddhists practised the form of marriage which prevailed in the society in which they lived. Although the Buddha did not advocate any particular form of marriage, we can assume that he favoured monogamy. His father Suddhodana had two wives and as a prince he could have had several wives also, but he chose to have only one. In a discourse on marriage, the Buddha only discusses monogamy, again implying that he accepted this as the best form of marriage (A.IV,91).He said that if a woman lacks merit she might have to contend with a co-wife (sapattī, S.IV,249) and the Tipiṭaka discusses the disadvantages of polygamy for women. ‘Being a co-wife is painful.’ (Thi.216), ‘A woman's worst misery is to quarrel with her co-wives.’ (Ja.IV,316). Such problems are confirmed by the Kāma Sūtra which describes the tensions and manoeuvrings between several wives in the same household. There seems little doubt that it was for these reasons that the Jātaka counseled: ‘Do not have a wife in common with other’(Ja.VI,286).
http://buddhisma2z.com/content.php?id=248" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by plwk » Wed Sep 17, 2014 4:33 am

What I find so interesting about American shows like that, is how ashamed and shocked people are at polygamy, but it's actually quite natural.
Yeah but Julie did mention that her mom was a Catholic, so they still frown on such practice and having experienced such an amorous father even though this practice is rife and 'acceptable' in traditional Chinese culture, especially reinforcing the cultural 'privilege of a man' over the woman in seeking for more partners, although amongst the more 'cultured ones', it's still considered as some kind of moral shame, which is hypocritical on many levels but what more can be said of human cultures and its double standards anyway...
...polygamy seems acceptable and preferable from a legal perspective.
Well, not where I live, at least for non Muslims, for even bigamy is an offense, what more to speak of the various poly practices, where some use traditional/customary marriages to deceive naïve and unsuspecting ones to get more partners only for the latter to find out that when a legal dispute arises, only the legally registered marriage prevails and is afforded the full legal protection & justice.
On the whole, I agree with the Buddhist position that no wife or husband is better than one...
That's generally true but for the majority who can't swallow that, there's loads of scriptures that counsels on not being contented with one's own spouse besides the third precept on sexual misconduct, adultery & inappropriate partners.

I find Berzin's statement interesting here on 'inappropriate partners' & more...
When the Buddhist texts were translated into Chinese, the concubines of others were added to the list of inappropriate partners.
This is a clear example of how the translators and masters modified the texts on ethics so that they related to the new society to which Buddhism was spreading. Traditional Chinese society allowed men to have several wives and concubines. This was not inappropriate. Only having sex with someone else's concubine was inappropriate. In Tibet as well, both polygamy and polyandry were commonly practiced. Having several wives or several husbands was never regarded as having sex with inappropriate partners.

Throughout this process, what's always happening is that more and more things got added to the list of what's inappropriate. Nowadays, many of us would like things eliminated from the list, but in fact historically things have always been added. The difficult question with this, however, is whether these additions were culturally influenced and, earlier, the acts mentioned were not considered inappropriate, or whether they were always considered inappropriate, but just not mentioned explicitly. Or, it could be that additions were made to the lists ad hoc, only when difficulties arose within the Buddhist community over certain issues.
This, after all, was how Buddha gradually expanded the monastic vows.
Last edited by plwk on Wed Sep 17, 2014 4:45 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by plwk » Wed Sep 17, 2014 4:36 am

David, I can't recall which thread was it that was raised by Indrajala on (if I am not mistaken) the topic where some scholastics are of the opinion that the Buddha had more than just Yasodhara (or Rahulamata) as one wife before His Enlightenment... when I can dig out that one, I will post it here...

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by DNS » Wed Sep 17, 2014 4:39 am

Zhen Li wrote:What I find so interesting about American shows like that, is how ashamed and shocked people are at polygamy, but it's actually quite natural. Moreover, the advantage of polygamy is that one is open about one's relationships (assuming there is no extra-marital marriage), in which case, one cannot hide if one is being promiscuous or not, which is certainly better than informal promiscuity.
I heard that some polygamists scoff back at monogamists about how many of them practice a "serial monogamy" of several partners, for example marrying and divorcing several times with different partners. In some cases, the number of different partners is probably more among monogamists who date for several years to different partners (while single) and then go through several [monogamous] marriages and divorces, over their lifetime.

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Kim O'Hara » Wed Sep 17, 2014 5:09 am

plwk wrote:... I find Berzin's statement interesting here on 'inappropriate partners' & more...
When the Buddhist texts were translated into Chinese, the concubines of others were added to the list of inappropriate partners.
This is a clear example of how the translators and masters modified the texts on ethics so that they related to the new society to which Buddhism was spreading. ...

Throughout this process, what's always happening is that more and more things got added to the list of what's inappropriate. Nowadays, many of us would like things eliminated from the list, but in fact historically things have always been added. The difficult question with this, however, is whether these additions were culturally influenced and, earlier, the acts mentioned were not considered inappropriate, or whether they were always considered inappropriate, but just not mentioned explicitly. Or, it could be that additions were made to the lists ad hoc, only when difficulties arose within the Buddhist community over certain issues.
This, after all, was how Buddha gradually expanded the monastic vows.
Here's someone eliminating proscriptions from the list:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-15/p ... ny/5743838
Pope Francis has presided over the marriage of 20 couples, in the first papal wedding ceremony at the Vatican in 14 years.
Among the couples were several who were cohabiting and one couple who had children.
The Vatican views sex outside marriage as sin, but Pope Francis has stressed that the Church should be a forgiving one.
In another signal of the openness of his papacy, Pope Francis asked to marry 40 people from different social backgrounds who would be a realistic sample of modern couples. ...
The ceremony on Sunday was the first of its kind at the Vatican since Pope John Paul II presided over a wedding in 2000.
One of the couples he married was single mother Gabriella and her partner Guido, whose previous marriage was annulled by an ecclesiastical tribunal.
The ceremony at St Peter's Basilica in Rome comes three weeks before a meeting of Catholic bishops from around the world to discuss the issues of marriage, divorce and contraception.
Pope Francis has said the Church must end its obsession with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality, and become more merciful, or risk collapsing "like a house of cards".
:twothumbsup:
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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Huseng » Wed Sep 17, 2014 5:30 am

The author of the Yogācārabhūmi Śāstra felt it was fine to take in a woman and sleep with her if your cause was virtuous as a non-monastic bodhisattva:
  • “If a bodhisattva resides as a householder and there appears a woman who is clearly unbound to anyone, habituated to sexual indulgence, attracted to the bodhisattva and seeking sexual activities, the bodhisattva having seen this thinks, 'Do not make her mind upset, producing much misfortune. If she pursues her desire, she will obtain freedom. As expedient means [upaya] I will take her in and have her plant the roots for virtue, also having her abandon unwholesome karma. I will engage in impure activities [abrahma-carya] with a compassionate mind.' Even practising such defiled activities like this, there is nothing that is violated [precepts], and much merit will be produced. The renunciate bodhisattva [a monk] in order to protect the noble śrāvaka proscriptions must not destroy [their precepts]. They should not engage in any impure activities.”
It doesn't suggest you need your wife's permission, and it is safe to assume here that a layman bodhisattva would be married.

Generally speaking, Buddhist literature from classical periods in India has no problems with what we might call concubines. There's also zero issues with prostitutes provided you pay for them and they're not of an inappropriate status (such as being a minor under the care of a guardian or a relative).

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by plwk » Wed Sep 17, 2014 5:45 am

Here's someone eliminating proscriptions from the list:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-15/p ... ny/5743838" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Yeah, I can still remember a conservative Catholic friend's reaction to that news with views on that event and the current Pope that I don't want to reproduce here...
The author of the Yogācārabhūmi Śāstra felt it was fine to take in a woman and sleep with her if your cause was virtuous as a non-monastic bodhisattva.
It doesn't suggest you need your wife's permission, and it is safe to assume here that a layman bodhisattva would be married.
Generally speaking, Buddhist literature from classical periods in India has no problems with what we might call concubines. There's also zero issues with prostitutes provided you pay for them and they're not of an inappropriate status (such as being a minor under the care of a guardian or a relative).
Ah yes, I remember those 'sticky' parts of Mahayana and the old buddhavacana debates huh...

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Zhen Li » Thu Sep 18, 2014 1:14 am

David N. Snyder wrote:
Ven. Dhammika wrote:Although the Buddha did not advocate any particular form of marriage, we can assume that he favoured monogamy. His father Suddhodana had two wives and as a prince he could have had several wives also, but he chose to have only one. In a discourse on marriage, the Buddha only discusses monogamy, again implying that he accepted this as the best form of marriage (A.IV,91).
From the Mahayana perspective, the whole question of the Buddha getting married is a little bit more than preference, but he ALSO took concubines (though did not have sex at all with either his wife of concubines),
'Upayakausalya Sutra', in [i]The Great Ratnakuta[/i], ed. Chang, 447-8. wrote:Why did the Bodhisattva take a wife and concubines? Good man, the Bodhisattva did not do so out of desire. why? Because he was a man free of desire. If he had not appeared to have a wife and concubines at that time, sentient beings might have said, 'This Bodhisattva is not a nam.' If they had had such suspicion, they would have committed a very great transgression. Therefore, in order to forestall their suspicion, the Bodhisattva appeared to marry a woman of the Sakya clan and beget Rahula. If a person says that Rahula was born of the union between his father and mother, [he is wrong;] he should not view the event in this way. The fact is that as soon as his life in heaven ended, Rahula came down from heaven and entered the womb of his mother. He was not born of the union between his father and mother. Besides, Rahula had previously made a vow to be the son of a Bodhisattva who would attain Buddhahood in that lifetime. ...

Furthermore, the Bodhisattva, who would attain Buddhahood in that lifetime, appeared to stay with the ladies in the palace. At that time, the Bodhisattva had a wonderful body and the gods made offerings to him, but he finally left the household life. Seeing all these things clearly, the woman of the Sakya clan brought forth bodhicitta and made this vow sincerely: 'May I [also] achieve such things!, Hence, it was in order to cause Gopa (Yasodhara) to bring forth bodhicitta that the Bodhisattva took her for his wife. ...

Moreover, in order to teach and convert the forty-two thousand ladies, to make them bring forth bodhicitta, and to cause others not to fall to the miserable planes of existence, the Bodhisattva appeared to stay with his wife and household members in the palace.

Furthermore, all women who were burning with the fire of carnal desire parted with their desire when they saw the Bodhisattva.

Moreover, the Bodhisattva produced by magic many Bodhisattvas who were exactly like himself in features and bodily form. The women who amused themselves with the magically produced Bodhisattvas said to themselves that they amused themselves with the real Bodhisattva. Actually, all the time the Bodhisattva remained in meditation and cultivated practices causing peace and joy. Just as the magically produced Bodhisattvas had no thoughts of desire when enjoying the five sensuous pleasures, so the real Bodhisattva was free from carnal desire from the era of Dipankara Buddha until the lifetime in which he would attain Buddhahood. This was the ingenuity (upayakausalya) practiced by the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva.
plwk, quoting Berzin wrote:The difficult question with this, however, is whether these additions were culturally influenced and, earlier, the acts mentioned were not considered inappropriate, or whether they were always considered inappropriate, but just not mentioned explicitly.
I think the question is one of preference in the end. Anything other than emptiness is fictive, including history and including the comprehensible nature of the Dharma. If we're getting into questions of historical development, we're no longer playing the language game. Sorry to be terse, not sure how to explain it without getting into overly philosophical dialogue.

I think what this all teaches us is simply non-attachment to views and doctrines. This is why I do think that Buddhist studies and critical examinations of Buddhist texts and history is useful. It really helps us to re-centre ourselves and remind ourselves about what is actually important in our practice and understanding.

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Queequeg » Sat Oct 18, 2014 4:36 pm

plwk wrote:
So, is polygamy/polyandry frowned upon in Buddhism? If yes, why? If not, why? :thanks:
Isn't all samsaric activity frowned upon in most interpretations of Buddhism? Because samsara is self perpetuating and all that... And samsara and nirvana are mutually exclusive... If you're perpetuating nescience, enlightenment is precluded.

If you're enshrining your sexual life as a defining activity in life, you're really making it hard on yourself to get past the distraction of the senses, and thence to awakening. Does this need to be spelled out? Y'all are well versed in this stuff. Standard Buddhist teachings.

I would make a distinction between polygamy and polyamory. Polygamy I think emphasizes the legal and thus the social and economic obligations of the relationships. If its a recognized form of arrangement in your society I think it would just be accepted as a fact of lay life. Polyamory puts the emphasis on the sexual aspect of the relationships, and therefore might be more frowned on from a Buddhist perspective, irregardless, for all the reasons that sex is problematic in the Buddhist conception of experience.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

I think each human being has things to find out in his own life that are inescapable. They’ll find them out the easy way or the hard way, or whatever.
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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Grigoris » Sat Oct 18, 2014 6:34 pm

Queequeg wrote:...for all the reasons that sex is problematic in the Buddhist conception of experience.
Not in the Vajrayana it ain't!
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Queequeg » Sat Oct 18, 2014 6:36 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:
Queequeg wrote:...for all the reasons that sex is problematic in the Buddhist conception of experience.
Not in the Vajrayana it ain't!
So, pickup artist gurus are the real deal after all!

Great!
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

I think each human being has things to find out in his own life that are inescapable. They’ll find them out the easy way or the hard way, or whatever.
-Jerry Garcia

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Grigoris » Sat Oct 18, 2014 6:38 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Sherab Dorje wrote:
Queequeg wrote:...for all the reasons that sex is problematic in the Buddhist conception of experience.
Not in the Vajrayana it ain't!
So, pickup artist gurus are the real deal after all!

Great!
Pick up artists? Everybody that does not practice strict monogamy or celibacy is a pick up artist?
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by DGA » Sat Oct 18, 2014 6:49 pm

Let's not lapse into sectarianism.

Sex in Vajrayana isn't reducible to the problem of gurus who are "pickup artists."

No gurus are "pickup artists." The terms are mutually exclusive. Capable gurus are not "pickup artists."

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Queequeg » Sat Oct 18, 2014 7:00 pm

Jikan, settle down. Humor. Don't go turning this into a sectarian argument, because you're doing that.

SD -pick up artist "gurus"

Don't insinuate I'm saying something I'm not.

Are you guys really this square all the time?
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

I think each human being has things to find out in his own life that are inescapable. They’ll find them out the easy way or the hard way, or whatever.
-Jerry Garcia

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Grigoris » Sat Oct 18, 2014 8:05 pm

Queequeg wrote:Jikan, settle down. Humor. Don't go turning this into a sectarian argument, because you're doing that.

SD -pick up artist "gurus"

Don't insinuate I'm saying something I'm not.

Are you guys really this square all the time?
Your response was in reference to my statement about Vajrayana not considering sex problematic. Now given that I don't make a habit of visiting sites like the one you linked to, the only other possible way I have of interpreting your statement is the same way that Jikan did. I think that it is not just a matter of coincidence, nor due to the fact that we are both "square".
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Queequeg » Sun Oct 19, 2014 3:51 am

Mmmmk.

Let's hash this out.
Sherab Dorje wrote:
Queequeg wrote:...for all the reasons that sex is problematic in the Buddhist conception of experience.
Not in the Vajrayana it ain't!
Are you saying that sex is categorically unproblematic in Vajrayana? I've only studied Vajrayana a little, but I think that overstates the case. Correct me if I'm wrong.

In any event, note you used "aint", a colloquialism in English, followed by an exclamation point. I took that, in combination with the hyperbole to mean we're not being completely serious here. I responded with equal hyperbole:
Queequeg wrote: So, pickup artist gurus are the real deal after all!

Great!


If sex is categorically unproblematic in Vajrayana, then my suggestion about pickup artist gurus is truer than I thought! Then again, if I knew your statement was not hyperbole, I would have modulated my response to ask you about this unqualified statement you made.

You responded:
Sherab Dorje wrote: Pick up artists? Everybody that does not practice strict monogamy or celibacy is a pick up artist?
If you asked me what I mean by "pickup artists", I would have explained it. Instead, you became indignant thinking I meant something completely different, the specifics of which I'm not sure. You're legs must be aching right now, because the next leap you made was olympian. Nay, it was Superman-like. Somehow you came to the conclusion that I was suggesting that someone who is not monogamous or celibate is categorically a "pick up artist".
Queequeg wrote:Don't insinuate I'm saying something I'm not.
Sherab Dorje wrote:Your response was in reference to my statement about Vajrayana not considering sex problematic. Now given that I don't make a habit of visiting sites like the one you linked to, the only other possible way I have of interpreting your statement is the same way that Jikan did.
Again, there's that self righteous indignation. Doesn't matter whether you make a habit of visiting sites like the one I linked to. That still doesn't lead to only one possible way to interpret my statements. (I'm sensing that you are inclined to thinking in terms of absolutes) You might be predisposed to interpret a statement such as the one I made in the way that you feel compelled to, but how am I supposed to know that? Certainly, its hard to draw the connection you made between my statement into equating people who aren't monogamous or celibate to pickup artists.
I think that it is not just a matter of coincidence, nor due to the fact that we are both "square".
Or maybe you are both disposed to charge full steam ahead on assumptions. You know what they say when you assume. You make an ass of u and me.

Lighten up, fellas.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

I think each human being has things to find out in his own life that are inescapable. They’ll find them out the easy way or the hard way, or whatever.
-Jerry Garcia

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Karma Dorje » Sun Oct 19, 2014 6:50 am

Sherab Dorje wrote:
Queequeg wrote:...for all the reasons that sex is problematic in the Buddhist conception of experience.
Not in the Vajrayana it ain't!
Of course it is problematic. That's why there are so many skillful means to deal with it. That is also why so many great practitioners choose to be celibate monks and nuns. I think you mean to say that it ain't *necessarily* problematic. One's conduct needs to be as fine as flour. As Dudjom Rinpoche wrote:
Therefore, it won't do just to proclaim, "I'm a Dzogchen practitioner. I'm a meditator!" while sleeping the time away, reeking from the mouth with the acrid smell of wine and from the crotch with the pungent stench of fornication.
"Although my view is higher than the sky, My respect for the cause and effect of actions is as fine as grains of flour."
-Padmasambhava

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Grigoris » Sun Oct 19, 2014 9:34 am

Karma Dorje wrote:Of course it is problematic. That's why there are so many skillful means to deal with it. That is also why so many great practitioners choose to be celibate monks and nuns. I think you mean to say that it ain't *necessarily* problematic. One's conduct needs to be as fine as flour. As Dudjom Rinpoche wrote:
Therefore, it won't do just to proclaim, "I'm a Dzogchen practitioner. I'm a meditator!" while sleeping the time away, reeking from the mouth with the acrid smell of wine and from the crotch with the pungent stench of fornication.
Yes, I don't think sex, per se, is considered problematic in Vajrayana. That is why celibate monasticism is not the ONLY means to liberation (like in the Theravada, for example where one HAS TO take monastic vows or else they lose their opportunity to achieve Arhat status).

As for the Guru Rinpoche quote on conduct being "as fine as flour": Guru Rinpoche was not a celibate monastic. He had two wives (ie he was a polygamist) and from all accounts liked to "get it on" with dakinis. So... :shrug:
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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