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Buddhism and Dating: Would Sid sleep with a Republican?

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What would Sid do?

Before Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment at age 35 he was a
confused twenty and thirty-something looking to learn how to live a
spiritual life. He had an overbearing dad, expectations for what he was
supposed to do
with his life, drinks were flowing, lutes were playing, and the
women were all about him. Some called him L.L. Cool S. I imagine
close friends just referred to him as Sid.

Many people look to Siddhartha as an example of someone who attained nirvana, a buddha. But here we look at a younger Sid
as a confused guy struggling with his daily life. What would he do as a
young person trying to find love, cheap drinks, and fun in a city like
New York? How would he combine Buddhism and dating? We all make mistakes on our spiritual journey; here is where
they’re discussed.

Each week I’ll take on a new question and
give some advice based on what I think Sid, a confused guy working on
his spiritual life in a world of major distraction, would do. Because
let’s face it, you and I are Sid.

Have a question for this weekly column? E-mail it here and I’ll probably get to it!

Q: I’m a Buddhist and a pretty liberal guy. I hooked up with someone the other night and it turns out she voted for McCain. McCain! So my question is, “Would Sid f-ck a Republican?” – I.P.

Even when the Buddha was Sid he was motivated on his spiritual journey to benefit all beings and alleviate their suffering. He offered his life to be of use to beings in whatever way possible. As a result of his discipline and meditation practice he attained enlightenment. Here’s the catch: according to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, “Enlightenment is things as they are before we color them with our projections.” In other words he could not have attained enlightenment and been of
benefit to so many if he had remained stuck in dualistic thought patterns.

If we too are out to alleviate suffering and be of benefit it seems foolish to draw lines in the sand about who we can or cannot date (or f-ck). We’re labeling other people in a certain way with certain projections. It’s counter-productive to our spiritual journey to do that and thus formulate solidified notions of “us” and “them.” That level of dualism is what both physical and emotional wars are fought over.

I think that all too often we’re set on finding the perfect mate who shares all of our opinions and gets all of our jokes and has the same religious or, in your case, political views as us. We get stuck on trying to find a perfect compliment to “me.”

Here’s the first problem with that: “me” doesn’t exist like we think it does. As kid cudi so aptly put it, we’re all “complex like the magazine.” We are not the same person as we were ten years ago and we won’t be the same in another ten. We won’t like all the same music, we may be wiser (or not) and even our
political views may shift in relation to the changes occurring around us. To solidify who we think we are stunts our growth as human beings. 

The second problem with that is that there is no one who can serve as a perfect compliment to you considering you’re such a slippery fellow. Even if you could sit down and write everything you think you are and try and hold yourself to that list you would be hard-pressed to find someone who embodies even half those qualities (sorry to blow up your spot eHarmony).

In other words, why not get involved with a Republican? What’s wrong with it? Clearly there is something about this individual that you were drawn to. Why not explore that a bit? Without an agenda of trying to change them to be more liberally-minded please.

I think if Sid were to date he would definitely consider dating a Republican. Heck, maybe one of the ladies in his royal palace pre-escape/spiritual journey was a Palin-supporter (or whoever the Palin of the day and age was). As was discussed in last week’s post I think Sid would be open to finding romance wherever it presented itself so long as it was genuine.

Besides, if your motivation is like Sid’s and you want to be of benefit to others in whatever way possible then maybe being intimate with someone with differing views would be good for you. You can learn from one another. So remember, while there may be no perfect compliment to “me” there are always perfect opportunities to grow when we open our heart to others. Good luck!

Comments read comments(22)
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Orgyen Rigpa Dorje

posted July 17, 2009 at 9:53 pm

I’ve been picking up your articles for a little while now through my RSS feed. As a practicing Buddhist myself, I’m a little confused as to why you focus on what the pre-Buddha Siddhartha would or would not do. The primary significance of his life before enlightenment is that it illustrates that neither of the two extremes outside the middle way should be emulated. So I guess the real import of your articles is that if Sid would have done something, then we as bodhisattvas should avoid it.

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posted July 17, 2009 at 9:59 pm

It is sort of an interesting thread in the comments on Lodro’s posts that we should not listen to those who have not attained complete enlightenment. We have all had many unenlightened teachers who have guided us along the path to awakening. @ Orgyen: was your kindergarten teacher enlightened? probably not, according to your seemingly all or nothing definition of realization. Did that person help you move forward in life? Hopefully.
We have the wonderful opportunity to learn BOTH from sources of realization, and sources of confusion, and (most often) sources that display some wisdom and some confusion. This idea of a Sid stumbling through life is eye-opening to me. It is a wonderful idea to explore. Not what enlightenment has to teach, but what stumbling along the path has to teach. To me it’s more real, and more accessible.

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Orgyen Rigpa Dorje

posted July 17, 2009 at 10:01 pm

As for what the Buddha would do, he would not seek happiness outside himself. On the other hand, he would love all beings. As for making love to a specific person, he might do that if it was consensual for both parties, and would not harm anyone, and would probably be more likely to do it if doing so were likely to bring that specific person closer to enlightenment, or to teach them some aspect of the dharma or practice. Of course, he would not become attached to the person or the experience, but would appreciate it for its transient beauty in the moment, and then let go. Finally, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas aspire for all sentient beings to become enlightened, including, and especially, Republicans.

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Orgyen Rigpa Dorje

posted July 17, 2009 at 10:20 pm

@Ethan: I learned things from my Kindergarten teacher, but none of it really had much to do with dharma (other than to share I suppose). At some point you realize that everyone is your teacher, and that all you perceive is a creation of your mind. However, if you haven’t reached that point, then you need to try to limit the sources of your teachings until such time as you can treat everyone as your teacher.
The Buddha gave us extensive teachings, and even his life prior to enlightenment was crucial to his teachings. However, I would be careful about taking instruction outside of an authentic lineage, and that would include speculation about what a pre-enlightenment Sid might do. I agree that his life pre-enlightenment does disclose his motivation as a bodhisattva, and also demonstrates some techniques that the Buddha counseled us to avoid insofar as those techniques do not advance one along that path.
The Buddha gave a great many instructions and they were aimed at a great number of personality types. Certainly the Buddha did not expect that any one person should follow all of his teachings. But somewhere in there is a teaching that is optimal for your personality type.
In order to avoid confusion for most people, I would say that one should spend less time focusing on what Sid would do, and more time finding an enlightened master to help guide one to the right teaching for oneself.
That’s really the great thing about Buddhism: Buddha Shakyamuni was not the only Buddha in recorded history. There were several before him, and there have been many after him. There are some living today, and there are some who are very close to Buddhahood now. And despite the terrible things happening in Tibet, the bright side is that there are many Tibetan Rinpoches teaching and traveling in the West today. Find one.

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Lodro Rinzler

posted July 18, 2009 at 3:14 am

Thank you both for these comments. As Ethan stated this weekly column is written by and for individuals trying to bring mindfulness and compassion into their daily life even though they are not enlightened.
These posts focus on our individual journey and feeling out what aspects of the Buddha’s teachings feel true to us. It is not “What would the Buddha do” (I imagine that can be found elsewhere for those interested) or a do and don’t list for how to live your life. We can look to Sid as an example of someone struggling to find a spiritual path and as someone who succeeded and attained enlightenment. I personally find that inspiring and that is what this column is about.
It is not meant to take the place of one receiving teachings in-person from any number of Buddhist teachers or lamas. In fact, I fully encourage that. Please consider these posts a resource, not a guidebook, for the difficult task we are all faced with: living a spiritual life in a time of great chaos and confusion.
All the best,
PS Ogyen – I really like your second post and think it captures the essence of things quite nicely. Thanks for that.

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posted July 18, 2009 at 8:28 am

I think the unplugged, stripped down answer to this is, who are we to judge?
Other peoples politics , are just that and beneath the politics ,do they live kind compassionate lives? I’m an old leftie from way back..
The love of my life has republican leanings, (although would always call himself independent), At times I let myself have critical mind about certain “beliefs” but if the right action , rather than right thought is usually present, then it’s not about what I believe or feel, and never was.

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christopher mohr

posted July 18, 2009 at 9:15 am

The very title of this topic is ridiculous in terms of Buddhism. You cannot be either to the left or to the right and still be a practicing Buddhist. Middle way, people. Middle way. The biggest mistake people in the West make about Buddhism is to say that we are to one side or the other in the world of politics (usually saying that Buddhism is to the left of center).

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posted July 18, 2009 at 10:36 am

I married a Republican so I must be Enlightened!….or forced to practice more..

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posted July 18, 2009 at 11:34 am

There are Buddhist Republicans. Buddhism is not a political party.

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Lodro Rinzler

posted July 18, 2009 at 12:59 pm

A quick follow up comment: The way the topics are determined for this column each week is that people write to me (e-mail link above) and ask a question. This week’s question is listed at the top of this post.
I fully agree that there are Buddhist Republicans. I know and love some of them. Buddhists don’t have to be Democrats. The person who wrote in this week seems to have a strong feeling about being liberally minded which he feels is in contrast to a Republican point of view. I hope that level of dualistic thought is clearly addressed in my post above.
Ok – continue on. Thank you all for these comments.

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posted July 18, 2009 at 3:07 pm

christopher mohr knocked it out of the park.
Both parties are outta whack anyway. Pubs preach conservative values and financial conservation and when bush got in power spent like a drunken sailor. obama is continuing bushs outlandish spending and actually oneupping him on that point whilst still continuing bush’s warmongering.
people need to wake up from this partisan bs

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posted July 18, 2009 at 9:07 pm

overall, I am grateful that you (hopefully) put this issue to rest. However, contradictions abound in this piece. for example, what does this mean? “Heck, maybe one of the ladies in his royal palace pre-escape/spiritual journey was a Palin-supporter”….um, I hope you aren’t implying that only an un-enlightened Sid would do such a thing? Sigh. This is so absurd.
you first make the logical point that a Buddhist doesn’t involve him/herself in the dualism of Republican vs. Democrat. But then seem to subsequently contradict yourself the second you bring up Palin. After all folks, I hate to burst your partisan bubbles, but really, there is only one party disguised as two for the purposes of network entertainment, comedians, @sshole radio talk show hosts, and for the notion of having a two-party system.
To debate whether or not one should have f*cked a Republican is so non-sensical that I can only hope Hannah Montana starts her own Buddhist blog to really delve into the details on that one.
Democrats asking such questions, or bashing Palin for sport, have proven themselves very juvenile. Very non-Buddhist. I think I will now go meditate to deal with my own aversion to self-righteous liberal Dems sporting Buddhism as a type of moral authority.
bottom line: get to know some Republicans, Libertarians, crazy-rightwingers, Code-pink freaks, whatever. Mix it up and even f*ck a few. It might do you some good to realize they aren’t monsters any more than you are. They may even be the folks you’ve been meditating next to at sangha for years. (oh the horror!)

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posted July 19, 2009 at 9:33 am

Regarding the non-dualistic, middle way politics argument…
I think that a big part of Buddhism is self realization – finding out about the nitty gritty of your mind, stripping away the multiple layers of wallpaper that have been put up to find the woodwork underneath.
Well, if along the path, as you are doing the work, you find that the values that mean the most to you are the ones that are typically left-leaning, and these are the values you wish to emulate in your life and your practice…I don’t think this is confusion, I think that this is an aspect of the 21st century Buddhist path.
I have this argument with a number of people: Buddhist teachings, just like Christian teachings and Jewish teachings and Muslim teachings and all other religious and spiritual philosophies, need to be re-evaluated in the context of life in 2009. I’m not saying there wasn’t something like political parties when the historical Buddha lived, but it’s not the same. Politics are, for now, the way they are, and we have to deal with that. We can work to change the 2-party system, but we have to face the reality that this is how most of the country lives.
I don’t think I owe it to myself or to my meditation practice to go out and f*ck a Republican (or someone whose values I feel are not the ones I have found to be true for me) if I don’t want to. I don’t think I have to work in that way with my aversions and attractions. Noticing it is enough, without dragging it into the bedroom.

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posted July 19, 2009 at 12:11 pm

I don’t know how accurate it is to assume that Sid would prefer the Democratic Party. I mean, it is feasible that many Buddhists in America prefer the Democrats because they oppose the war in Iraq, but there are other reasons some Buddhists are more in tune with Republicans. I am a member of a “Free Tibet” group on Facebook, and just before the election, the group’s president sent several messages urging us not to vote for Obama because Obama is a socialist who supports abortion and homosexuality, two things the Dalai Lama and historic Buddhist teachings supposedly frown upon. The Dalai Lama’s views on the culture war issues are not entirely dissimilar to those of James Dobson- but those two men have profoundly different approaches to them. The Dalai Lama has gone on record as saying that homosexual sex -as well as any sex outside of heterosexual marriage- is not conducive to spiritual growth, but he still advocates against anti-gay discrimination and thinks LGBT citizens should be accepted in society as a whole-just not in Buddhist practice. So there are some Buddhists who hold conservative views on some political matters.

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posted July 19, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Interesting to me that there is a lot of discussion of political parties and whether Buddhists can be Republicans, but no one commented on this:
At the risk of sounding too old-fashioned — or too “2nd-wave” feminist — perhaps Sid — or at least the true self he strove to become — wouldn’t have “hooked up” or “f-cked” anyone upon just having met her. I am not wedded (pardon the pun) to the interpretation of the Buddha’s teachings that says one should not be sexual outside the structure of long-term commitment created by monogamous marriage.
I do believe, however, that the Teachings recommend, in the context of having great compassion both for another and for ourselves, that we engage in an interaction as intense and complex as sexual activity with another only when we are really concerned for and committed to each other’s well-being…that is, in a mutually-sensitive relationship in which each person really matters to the other and is ‘known’ by the other. Sex is a marvelous activity, fun, playful, and extremely pleasurable…and, at its best, simultaneously incredibly vulnerable and, ultimately, enlightening. I believe that the Buddha encourages us to engage in sex “at its best,” out of deep compassion for ourselves and each other.
[Interestingly, this is the nature of the sexuality that feminists in the 1970s were attempting to articulate as the one that women yearn for in their deepest, truest selves. Many young women I listen to today still seem to understand this.]
Love to you all!

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posted July 19, 2009 at 7:26 pm

[P.S. — I might add that for all these years I have actually wondered whether, and suspected that, men also yearn for the same thing!]

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posted July 19, 2009 at 9:18 pm

PhoenixOrion – where did it say in the post that Sid was a democrat? i didn’t see that in there. maybe you are responding to some of the other comments?
i thought the whole point about going beyond dualism and having compassion or at least a willingness to engage others in their beliefs made a lot of sense. thanks for this post.

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posted July 20, 2009 at 1:23 am

“I interestingly dated a woman in the Eisenhover administration, briefly, and it was ironic to me because I was trying to do to her what Eisenhover has been doing to the country for the last eight years” Woody Allen in Annie Hall

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posted July 21, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Orgyen Rigpa Dorje writes
“In order to avoid confusion for most people, I would say that one should spend less time focusing on what Sid would do, and more time finding an enlightened master to help guide one to the right teaching for oneself.”
I think it is more worthwhile to reflect on ethical issues with ones own critical intelligence than to expect an “enlightened master” to supply all of the answers.

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Meeting Women In Bars

posted November 14, 2010 at 8:49 am

Many people look to Siddhartha as an example of someone who attained nirvana, a buddha. But here we look at a younger Sid as a confused guy struggling with his daily life.

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Picking up Women

posted February 10, 2011 at 7:27 am

Many people look to Siddhartha as an example of someone who attained nirvana, a buddha. But here we look at a younger Sid as a confused guy struggling with his daily life.

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Picking up Women

posted February 21, 2011 at 2:38 am

The second problem with that is that there is no one who can serve as a perfect compliment to you considering you’re such a slippery fellow.

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