One City

photo shot by the author in williamsburg, nyc

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 Lodro will probably get to it!

Is masturbation allowed in Buddhism? Some medical articles stated that it’s harmless for health, but what does Buddhism say about this issue? Thank you. – Zoe

According to the Vinaya monks and nuns
are not supposed to masturbate. In fact there’s all sorts of fun rules that
came as a result of monastics trying to cling to the letter not the nature of
the law by doing things like walking through tall grass without wearing
underwear (hey, whatever works right?). I should also mention that a few weeks ago there was a really great discussion on this blog about manual, oral, and anal sex.

For today’s discussion though I have to say that there is nothing in what the Buddha said before or after
his enlightenment that condemns lay people masturbating. As such,
to the vast majority of this site’s readers I think Sid would say
“go for it.”

In fact, sometimes pleasuring yourself can
actually save you from causing harm. If Sid was living in our modern world and
met a beautiful woman I’d like to think that instead getting horny or drunk and
dialing up the lady he’d instead take some “me time.” Granted there
are other alternatives to engaging in promiscuous behavior than masturbating
but even if you had Sid’s level of commitment sometimes you might need a
release, no?
we continue to discuss on this weekly column, he’s only human!

To address the second part of your
question I want to point out that not only is masturbation deemed harmless for
health there’s all sorts of studies that have deemed it beneficial. Even a
simple Wikipedia search shows that regular masturbation
can lower your blood pressure, help create harmony in relationships, lower the
chance of prostate cancer for men, and leave you in a relaxed and contented

The Buddha did, however, say a lot
about how we should neither be attached to nor crave sensual pleasure. In other
words, don’t overdo it. If you see yourself choosing masturbation over work,
time with friends, or your meditation practice then that’s a problem. Masturbation
can also serve as a distraction or a means of avoidance of spiritual practice.
Sure we could go sit on the cushion for a half hour but thinking of naked
writhing bodies sounds like more fun right? Agreed. So I’m sure Sid would say that you
should not over-indulge to the point where playing with yourself means less
time playing with the dharma.

For more information on this topic here’s a fun site where you can gain even more critical
insight such as “Every time you masturbate, Buddha saves a kitten from
cyclic existence.” Hard to argue with that.

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