Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

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Könchok Thrinley
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Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

Post by Könchok Thrinley »

Hello,

I know I might be poking into a wasp nest with this question, however I would like to know what sutras are talking about sexual misconduct in general and maybe mentioning homosexuality/homosexual behaviour in particular. Also maybe discuss it a bit too.

So far I have mostly read Patrul Rinpoche who seems to be quite strict on the orifices, places and times of the day, however I am quite interested where this idea came from and what the Buddha had to say about it. I have heard that Gampopa and Je Tsongkhapa were of the same style. Are there some Tibetan sources that do not go with this line of thinking?
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

Post by passel »

Miroku wrote: Sat Jan 26, 2019 3:02 am
So far I have mostly read Patrul Rinpoche who seems to be quite strict on the orifices, places and times of the day, however I am quite interested where this idea came from and what the Buddha had to say about it. I have heard that Gampopa and Je Tsongkhapa were of the same style. Are there some Tibetan sources that do not go with this line of thinking?
My hunch is that they're all the same because they're quoting from the same source, tho I haven't figured out what that source is exactly yet.

But I bet it's in here:
https://www.amazon.com/Sexuality-Classi ... se+cabezon

I have a day job, so read it and post yr thoughts folx...
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

Post by zengarten »

The explanation for the sila against sexual misconduct is in Anguttara Nikaya X. 176 und V. 287-292 (Pali Text Society Edition). Therefore
kamesu micchacara - kama: sexual; cara: behavior; miccha: wrong exists when the following persons (women) are approached inadequately:

- (maturakkhita, piturakkhita) girls stil in the care of their parents;
- (malaguna-parikkhitta) those adorned with flowers, i.e. fiancees;
- (sassamika) married women
- (dhammarakkhita) those protected by the dharma, i.e. nuns
- (saparidanda) prisoners.

This is spoken to man, so protected are women. Although it has become common to interpret sexual misconduct very widely, the scriptures do not actually support this.

Whatever is written in the book recommended above, the Vinaya clearly excludes transsexuals from monkhood (and also cripples etc.). It also gives precise descriptions of acts that are prohibited, quite imaginative, e.g. doing it with the ground, bathing against the stream (for women) and rubbing your heel against the vagina (those things are called panhisamphassa and dhârâsamphassam sâdiyantâ, Vin. II, 280). In the Ugraparipṛcchā Sūtra of the Mahayana-tradition you will find advice to see women as demons and maneaters and thus protect you mentally against them or your lust.

I am pretty sure teachers struggle to get that in line with more modern attitudes and will try to explain this away, more or less.
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

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passel wrote: Sat Jan 26, 2019 4:54 am
Miroku wrote: Sat Jan 26, 2019 3:02 am
So far I have mostly read Patrul Rinpoche who seems to be quite strict on the orifices, places and times of the day, however I am quite interested where this idea came from and what the Buddha had to say about it. I have heard that Gampopa and Je Tsongkhapa were of the same style. Are there some Tibetan sources that do not go with this line of thinking?
My hunch is that they're all the same because they're quoting from the same source, tho I haven't figured out what that source is exactly yet.

But I bet it's in here:
https://www.amazon.com/Sexuality-Classi ... se+cabezon

I have a day job, so read it and post yr thoughts folx...
Oh, thank you passel! Will give it a try certainly. If I find it somewhere. :D
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

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There's a recent book on this topic, SEXUALITY IN CLASSICAL SOUTH ASIAN BUDDHISM
José I. Cabezón, (here with a review here.)

The elephant in the room in this topic is the so-called sexual revolution which occurred in Western culture in the 20th century. Attitudes towards sexuality changed enormously between say the end of the Victorian era and the 1960's. Many of those born since the 60's don't realise that this has happened, because the consequences are the new normal. But traditional Buddhism tends to be, well, traditionalist, and by modern standards pretty regressive (although there were exceptions as documented by Alain Faure.) But because of the association of Western Buddhism with the counter-culture, then many Western-born Buddhists naturally incline to a modernist attitudes. It wasn't that way for many of the traditionals.

it's a fraught area, complicated even more by the role of sexual identity in gender politics. Sexual freedom and the right of sexual expression is highly valued in Western liberal cultures but it wasn't at all emphasised in traditional Eastern cultures. It all makes for a difficult topic.
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

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Wayfarer wrote: Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:54 am There's a recent book on this topic, SEXUALITY IN CLASSICAL SOUTH ASIAN BUDDHISM
José I. Cabezón, (here with a review here.)

The elephant in the room in this topic is the so-called sexual revolution which occurred in Western culture in the 20th century. Attitudes towards sexuality changed enormously between say the end of the Victorian era and the 1960's. Many of those born since the 60's don't realise that this has happened, because the consequences are the new normal. But traditional Buddhism tends to be, well, traditionalist, and by modern standards pretty regressive (although there were exceptions as documented by Alain Faure.) But because of the association of Western Buddhism with the counter-culture, then many Western-born Buddhists naturally incline to a modernist attitudes. It wasn't that way for many of the traditionals.

it's a fraught area, complicated even more by the role of sexual identity in gender politics. Sexual freedom and the right of sexual expression is highly valued in Western liberal cultures but it wasn't at all emphasised in traditional Eastern cultures. It all makes for a difficult topic.
I have tried to find the book but there is not way I could get it. Shame kinda.
However Alexander Berzin has very interesting article on the topic! https://studybuddhism.com/en/advanced-s ... erspective

Its quite fascinating though dificult topic. I'd say the biggest problem for us westerners is to really deeply understand the nature of vows and that the nonvirtuous deeds are not commandments but a wise advice. Because when we look at the development of inappropriate sexual behaviour in indian and tibetan sources we can see that outside of childbirth there is really no good reason to have sex. All other are just motivated by desire. This is often overlooked and for me whose first contact with dharma was through Ole Nydahl who is ... quite sex positive, this article is both eye opening and a hard pill to swallow.
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

Post by Könchok Thrinley »

zengarten wrote: Sat Jan 26, 2019 6:25 am The explanation for the sila against sexual misconduct is in Anguttara Nikaya X. 176 und V. 287-292 (Pali Text Society Edition). Therefore
kamesu micchacara - kama: sexual; cara: behavior; miccha: wrong exists when the following persons (women) are approached inadequately:

- (maturakkhita, piturakkhita) girls stil in the care of their parents;
- (malaguna-parikkhitta) those adorned with flowers, i.e. fiancees;
- (sassamika) married women
- (dhammarakkhita) those protected by the dharma, i.e. nuns
- (saparidanda) prisoners.

This is spoken to man, so protected are women. Although it has become common to interpret sexual misconduct very widely, the scriptures do not actually support this.

Whatever is written in the book recommended above, the Vinaya clearly excludes transsexuals from monkhood (and also cripples etc.). It also gives precise descriptions of acts that are prohibited, quite imaginative, e.g. doing it with the ground, bathing against the stream (for women) and rubbing your heel against the vagina (those things are called panhisamphassa and dhârâsamphassam sâdiyantâ, Vin. II, 280). In the Ugraparipṛcchā Sūtra of the Mahayana-tradition you will find advice to see women as demons and maneaters and thus protect you mentally against them or your lust.

I am pretty sure teachers struggle to get that in line with more modern attitudes and will try to explain this away, more or less.
Thanks Zengarten!

Maybe you too would find the Berzin article that I have shared interesting. Thank you for the details where to find it!
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

Post by Astus »

Miroku wrote: Sat Jan 26, 2019 3:02 amwhat sutras are talking about sexual misconduct in general
Sutras where precepts are mentioned discuss it in general, but they don't go beyond what you find in the early scriptures. It's summed up in the Upasaka Precepts Sutra:

"If one has sex at an inappropriate time or place, with someone who is a virgin, not one’s wife, or not a woman, one is guilty of the sin of sexual misconduct."
(Sūtra of the Upāsaka Precepts, fascicle 6, tr Rulu; T24n1488p1069a4-5)

Another way to put it, as in the Avatamsaka Sutra:

"This Bodhisattva is satisfied with his own wife and never pursues the wife of another. He does not even lust for his wife or concubines, or for women under his protection, betrothed to his relatives, or protected by the law, much less actually have sex [with them], much less in a perverted way."
(Mahāvaipulya Sūtra of Buddha Adornment, ch 26, fascicle 35, tr Rulu, T10n279p185a29-b2)

The last two words, however, are interesting, as the "perverted way" (非道, i.e. amārga) is what is defined as non-vaginal intercourse by the various treatises. However, Theravada does not have that element of definition of sexual misconduct, as even the Atthasalini (vol 1, p 130, tr Tin) lists only the various forbidden women. The Abhidharmakosabhasyam includes it as "Intercourse with one's own wife through a forbidden way." (vol 2, p 652), but does not provide a definition for it, while Wangchuk Dorje (Jewels from the Treasury, p 348) does. The Mahaprajnaparamitopadesa is quite clear on the matter, and it even gives a reason why other orifices should be avoided:

"If one has intercourse with one’s own wife (kalatra) when she has taken a vow (samādānaśīla), is pregnant (garbhiṇī) or is nursing a child (pāyayanti) – or in a forbidden way (amārga) – that is the illicit practice of sexual activity." (T25no1509p156c8-9)
"By a forbidden manner (amārgasthāna) means anything that is not by way of the female organ (yoni). The mind of the woman loathes [such practices] and to force her to such improprieties merits the name of illicit sexual practice." (T25no1509p156c17)

The Siksasamuccaya (ch 4) lists non-vaginal sex (tr Bendall-Rouse (p 80): "So too of the man who uses his wife against kind."; "evaṃ svastrīṣvapyayonimārgeṇa gacchataḥ"; 復次邪行非道行欲) along with bestiality and rape as causes of falling into the deepest cold hell.
maybe mentioning homosexuality/homosexual behaviour
There is a Pudgalavadin/Sammittiya abhidharmic work ("Tridharmaka Sastra" 三法度論) where the "perverted way" (非道) - counted as the third form of sexual misconduct, the other two being those protected by secular and religious laws - includes intercourse with "lewd men" (婬男) and "incomplete men" (不成男), the latter being a likely reference to pandakas; however, apart from those two, the first perversion is not about the wrong orifice but sex with women who have recently given birth and unwed women.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

Post by Könchok Thrinley »

Astus wrote: Sat Jan 26, 2019 2:49 pm "If one has sex at an inappropriate time or place, with someone who is a virgin, not one’s wife, or not a woman, one is guilty of the sin of sexual misconduct."
(Sūtra of the Upāsaka Precepts, fascicle 6, tr Rulu; T24n1488p1069a4-5)
maybe mentioning homosexuality/homosexual behaviour
There is a Pudgalavadin/Sammittiya abhidharmic work ("Tridharmaka Sastra" 三法度論) where the "perverted way" (非道) - counted as the third form of sexual misconduct, the other two being those protected by secular and religious laws - includes intercourse with "lewd men" (婬男) and "incomplete men" (不成男), the latter being a likely reference to pandakas; however, apart from those two, the first perversion is not about the wrong orifice but sex with women who have recently given birth and unwed women.
Wow! Great posting Astus! That is really good. :good: Thank you.

According to these parts it actually seems that even sutra writings discourage from a same sex behaviour. Shame. :D
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

Post by zengarten »

Miroku: No, Miroku, I do find Berzin's article rather useless because he does just repeat questionable content without putting old ethics in a modern context, without taking an educated viewpoint of his own which is necessary when dealing with those texts - thus his article sounds reactionary to me and not like "wise advice" at all (I wrote a longer answer but it was called "off topic", so this is my official answer to Miroku). Nevertheless, thank you for mentioning it, I will use Gampopa's and other lines quoted by Berzin as a topic for my own blog.
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

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zengarten wrote: Mon Jan 28, 2019 6:46 am Miroku: No, Miroku, I do find Berzin's article rather useless because he does just repeat questionable content without putting old ethics in a modern context
I disagree, I read it some time ago and think it's quite an informative and sensitively-written article. The issue, as I said above, is that there is a big disconnect between traditional sexual ethics (not only Buddhist) and current attitudes to sexual ethics. From the viewpoint of contemporary culture Buddhists and other traditional teachings are repressive, reactionary, and life-denying, while from the viewpoint of traditionalism, modernity is hedonistic and pretty well amoral in regards to sex. It's a difficult argument, as I mentioned above, because sexual freedoms are highly valued (and indeed commercialised) in the West and it plays into all kinds of issues around identity and gender politics.
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

Post by zengarten »

One of my points was that some of this old advice is outdated and medically wrong. So there is more to it, even ethically. You may suffer more when following this advice and thus just experience the opposite of what dharma should be: relief from suffering.
Last edited by Grigoris on Mon Jan 28, 2019 9:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Removed off-topic statement
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

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Miroku wrote: Sat Jan 26, 2019 3:03 pmeven sutra writings discourage from a same sex behaviour.
Some mention it, but most of them do not. In any case, it is advisable to look at the reason behind the various precepts. In case of sexual misconduct, there are those against harm (the classical set of protected individuals), those against disrespecting the Dharma, and those against excessive behaviour. Sex with another man (note: texts assume male readership) is the third kind.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

Post by Könchok Thrinley »

Astus wrote: Mon Jan 28, 2019 9:27 am
Miroku wrote: Sat Jan 26, 2019 3:03 pmeven sutra writings discourage from a same sex behaviour.
Some mention it, but most of them do not. In any case, it is advisable to look at the reason behind the various precepts. In case of sexual misconduct, there are those against harm (the classical set of protected individuals), those against disrespecting the Dharma, and those against excessive behaviour. Sex with another man (note: texts assume male readership) is the third kind.
Would you please elaborate on the third reason?
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

Post by Könchok Thrinley »

zengarten wrote: Mon Jan 28, 2019 6:46 am Miroku: No, Miroku, I do find Berzin's article rather useless because he does just repeat questionable content without putting old ethics in a modern context, without taking an educated viewpoint of his own which is necessary when dealing with those texts - thus his article sounds reactionary to me and not like "wise advice" at all (I wrote a longer answer but it was called "off topic", so this is my official answer to Miroku). Nevertheless, thank you for mentioning it, I will use Gampopa's and other lines quoted by Berzin as a topic for my own blog.
I have to disagree. It is definetly a hard one to swallow, but we have to take these things into consideration. If not for following then at least so we realize the situation. Basically the main point of the article was that basically all sexual behaviour is a misdeed.
However you are kinda right at the same time. He did not give us any other view on it. When talking about ethics in Buddhism I do believe taking motivation into account is important if you practice Mahayana. Garchen Rinpoche has mentioned that with right motivation even sex can be benefitial (I should rewatch his teachings to get proper quote). Berzin only went through the more hinayana point of view.

Please do share the blog post with use here afterwards! I bet it would be interesting.
Last edited by Grigoris on Mon Jan 28, 2019 11:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Removed meta-discussion
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

Post by Astus »

Miroku wrote: Mon Jan 28, 2019 10:47 amWould you please elaborate on the third reason?
Excessive behaviour as overindulgence in lustful activities, at least that is a possible take on the matter, although it could as well be a mistaken interpretation, since prostitutes and concubines are accepted entertainment, and in that case what we see in the commentarial and Mahayana literature is a reflection of Indian social norms (compare that with the Japanese Buddhist take on male love - e.g. The Red Thread by Bernard Faure).
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

Post by Könchok Thrinley »

Astus wrote: Mon Jan 28, 2019 4:49 pm
Miroku wrote: Mon Jan 28, 2019 10:47 amWould you please elaborate on the third reason?
Excessive behaviour as overindulgence in lustful activities, at least that is a possible take on the matter, although it could as well be a mistaken interpretation, since prostitutes and concubines are accepted entertainment, and in that case what we see in the commentarial and Mahayana literature is a reflection of Indian social norms (compare that with the Japanese Buddhist take on male love - e.g. The Red Thread by Bernard Faure).
I see, thank you Astus!
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

Post by Adamantine »

passel wrote: Sat Jan 26, 2019 4:54 am
Miroku wrote: Sat Jan 26, 2019 3:02 am
So far I have mostly read Patrul Rinpoche who seems to be quite strict on the orifices, places and times of the day, however I am quite interested where this idea came from and what the Buddha had to say about it. I have heard that Gampopa and Je Tsongkhapa were of the same style. Are there some Tibetan sources that do not go with this line of thinking?
My hunch is that they're all the same because they're quoting from the same source, tho I haven't figured out what that source is exactly yet.

But I bet it's in here:
https://www.amazon.com/Sexuality-Classi ... se+cabezon

I have a day job, so read it and post yr thoughts folx...
Cabezon’s book is good. It’s available on Kindle, that’s what I got.. haven’t read it in it’s entirety however it’s quite illuminating and I do recommend it to the OP. A lot of relevant points are in there.
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

Post by Könchok Thrinley »

Adamantine wrote: Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:35 am
passel wrote: Sat Jan 26, 2019 4:54 am
Miroku wrote: Sat Jan 26, 2019 3:02 am
So far I have mostly read Patrul Rinpoche who seems to be quite strict on the orifices, places and times of the day, however I am quite interested where this idea came from and what the Buddha had to say about it. I have heard that Gampopa and Je Tsongkhapa were of the same style. Are there some Tibetan sources that do not go with this line of thinking?
My hunch is that they're all the same because they're quoting from the same source, tho I haven't figured out what that source is exactly yet.

But I bet it's in here:
https://www.amazon.com/Sexuality-Classi ... se+cabezon

I have a day job, so read it and post yr thoughts folx...
Cabezon’s book is good. It’s available on Kindle, that’s what I got.. haven’t read it in it’s entirety however it’s quite illuminating and I do recommend it to the OP. A lot of relevant points are in there.
Thx, will try to save money for it then. :D
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Re: Sutras on Sexual Misconduct

Post by pael »

Astus wrote: Sat Jan 26, 2019 2:49 pm "If one has sex at an inappropriate time or place, with someone who is a virgin, not one’s wife, or not a woman, one is guilty of the sin of sexual misconduct."
What if one's wife is a virgin? When women is considered as a wife? Buddhism has no wedding ceremonies.
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