Project Conversion

Project Conversion


He Wants Meditation, She Wants Sex

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Sounds like a title from the “Self Help” section, doesn’t it? Hmm, maybe it should be…

Many times here on Project Conversion, the social issues that affect the faith hit close to home. Remember when I did this:

I decided to shave my head to at least partially experience what it’s like to be a Buddhist monk. There are other factors included, at least for the novice, including: wearing the robes, not handling money, no music or entertainment, and…no sex.

“But…dude, you’re married.”

Yeah, I know. And because I’m such a hot piece of man meat, even as a monk, this comes as a great injustice to my poor wife.

"Oh Andrew, why not return to the--ahem--Lay-ity?

Because I’m striving for Enlightenment, woman. I cannot be distracted by your bewitching allure and temptations. But really, what’s the big deal, it’s only one day of the week right? Surely it’s not that dramatic. And what’s so bad about sex anyway?

Sex itself isn’t bad, it’s the craving for sex that causes problems. If we look back at the Four Noble Truths which constitute the foundation of Buddhism, we find that craving or desire is the root of all suffering. When our emotions/feelings/desires condition our actions, we are subject to suffering because these occurences are never satisfied. Our sexual desire is never satisfied because we always want it again. Anger/excitement/obsession will always snowball if we do not release ourselves from the craving to continue the sensation. Ever notice that smiles and bad attitudes are “contagious?” This is why the monk renounces sexual pleasures (and attachment to emotion/feelings), because the desire for sex is a craving that leads to suffering (You don’t get laid, you suffer). If we defeat the root cause, then the need for sex naturally falls away.

The Buddha says:

There is no satisfying the passions even by a shower of gold coins; the wise man, knowing that sense delights are of fleeting pleasure and productive of pain, finds no joy even in celestial pleasures. The true disciple of the Fully Enlightened One delights only in the destruction of all worldly desires. –The Dhammapada, Canto 14, verse 186-187

Well, that’s great for the monks, but not every Buddhist is a monk. Does that mean it’s wrong for the laity to have and enjoy sex? This is where terms such as “right” and “wrong” become a slippery slope. The Buddha preferred “skillful” and “unskillful.” Basically, he said, if you want to reach Enlightenment and Nirvana, you’ll have to let go of desire. The side effect: you probably won’t look at the opposite (and for some of us, the same) sex again.

The cool thing about this month is that I straddle both worlds. For one day out of the week, I’m as monk-like as I can be. The other days, well, I’m not.

 But that’s not where the story ends.

Something I’ve noticed in the last five months of Project Conversion is that my entire personality changes each month. My wife has actually told me on a few occasions that she’s ready for me to quit speaking/acting/thinking/looking a certain way. One of the aspects that changes dramatically is my libido.

OMG! You said libido on a website about religion.

Honestly, it’s a little weird. Out of the five months we’ve covered so far, it’s the traditions out of the Indian subcontinent (Hinduism and Buddhism) that have stunted my desire. What’s up with that? I think what it really comes down to is a focus realignment. Within some schools of Hindu thought and much of the Buddhist tradition, the effort of liberation and Nirvana lie within the individual, meaning there’s more of a personal workout involved. In theistic traditions, much of the heavy lifting is worked out in devotional and outward practice.

The difference becomes inward vs. outward. 

My wife has said on many occasions that I seem more withdrawn during the Hindu and Buddhist months. I honestly hadn’t noticed, until she mentioned it. This is part of the Buddhist practice of meditation which involves analyzing one’s actions, emotions, sensations, and feelings. Why does this happen? Because as opposed to many theistic traditions where salvation is sought outwardly, within Buddhism and much of Hinduism, “salvation” is found inside. Naturally it requires one to focus all of their attention and energy to achieve this state. One of the side effects is that with my radical change of focus, I’m not giving my wife a suggestive smack on the behind every time I walk by. Now she has to hit on me. Which, honestly, is kinda cool sometimes.

So it begs the question, how much introspection, how much self-analysis is too much? I have read a few accounts where men and women adopt Buddhism or Hinduism (and some other faiths) and leave their families to pursue the monastic or ascetic lifestyle. This practice is very common and even honorable in the East. In fact, the Buddha himself left his wife and son to accomplish this goal. Many of our religious leaders felt compelled to abandon the life of a householder in order to acquire the knowledge/experience of the subtle truths and bring them to their people.

Is this going too far, or are some of us just not strong enough to go the distance? What would the world be like had these folks not gone the distance?



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Anonymous

posted May 20, 2011 at 4:31 pm


The guys who kick dogs are the worst, hypocrits notwithstanding.



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Anonymous

posted May 20, 2011 at 4:31 pm


The guys who kick dogs are the worst, hypocrits notwithstanding.



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Nancy Shehata

posted May 20, 2011 at 1:27 pm


 Well, of course the ideal would be to remain in your highest spiritual state at all times throughout the year, but most of us fall short of this lofty aim.  Ramadan, Lent, Yom Kippur – these are times when we make a special effort to remember our place in the universe.  The lessons learned should of course carry over to the rest of the year, otherwise we’d be like the guy who sits in the amen pew on Sunday and then curses, drinks, cheats, and kicks his dog during the week.  I do enjoy Ramadan and then the Eid after.  I look forward to sharing it with you!



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Nancy Shehata

posted May 20, 2011 at 1:27 pm


 Well, of course the ideal would be to remain in your highest spiritual state at all times throughout the year, but most of us fall short of this lofty aim.  Ramadan, Lent, Yom Kippur – these are times when we make a special effort to remember our place in the universe.  The lessons learned should of course carry over to the rest of the year, otherwise we’d be like the guy who sits in the amen pew on Sunday and then curses, drinks, cheats, and kicks his dog during the week.  I do enjoy Ramadan and then the Eid after.  I look forward to sharing it with you!



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Anonymous

posted May 20, 2011 at 1:46 am


Thanks for pointing out this tradition!



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Anonymous

posted May 20, 2011 at 1:46 am


Thanks for pointing out this tradition!



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Sjoeyb

posted May 20, 2011 at 12:50 am


 It’s
important to remember that there are many different sects of Buddhism. Many
Hinayana beliefs are centered on the elimination of desires. This is not so
with some Mahayana schools of thought such as the Lotus Sutra. Japanese Monk Nichiren
Daishonin wrote a letter to one of his disciples in 1272 entitled “Earthly
Desires are Enlightenment.” Practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism
chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo which translated literally means “Devotion to the
mystic law of cause and effect through the Buddha’s Teachings.” By chanting
this mantra we fuse ourselves with the world around us.  In essence there is no difference between
desires and enlightenment. When you base your life on Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo your
earthly desires will work naturally for your own happiness and more importantly
for other’s happiness.
 



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Sjoeyb

posted May 20, 2011 at 12:50 am


 It’s
important to remember that there are many different sects of Buddhism. Many
Hinayana beliefs are centered on the elimination of desires. This is not so
with some Mahayana schools of thought such as the Lotus Sutra. Japanese Monk Nichiren
Daishonin wrote a letter to one of his disciples in 1272 entitled “Earthly
Desires are Enlightenment.” Practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism
chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo which translated literally means “Devotion to the
mystic law of cause and effect through the Buddha’s Teachings.” By chanting
this mantra we fuse ourselves with the world around us.  In essence there is no difference between
desires and enlightenment. When you base your life on Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo your
earthly desires will work naturally for your own happiness and more importantly
for other’s happiness.
 



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 10:49 pm


Don’t think I’d place eating, sleeping, and drinking in the same boat as sex. You need the first three to survive; the last one, not so much.

The Buddha gradually reached Enlightenment yes, but once he “woke up” (Buddha means “one who is awake”), that was it. It’s a dramatic transition. He may have taken six years to discover the path, but once Enlightenment is reached and Nirvana is obtained, your desires end and everlasting, unshakable joy begins.



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 10:49 pm


Don’t think I’d place eating, sleeping, and drinking in the same boat as sex. You need the first three to survive; the last one, not so much.

The Buddha gradually reached Enlightenment yes, but once he “woke up” (Buddha means “one who is awake”), that was it. It’s a dramatic transition. He may have taken six years to discover the path, but once Enlightenment is reached and Nirvana is obtained, your desires end and everlasting, unshakable joy begins.



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 10:44 pm


Very true. I discovered this while observing Shabbat during my month with Judaism. It felt good to just turn the world off and decompress



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 10:44 pm


Very true. I discovered this while observing Shabbat during my month with Judaism. It felt good to just turn the world off and decompress



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 10:43 pm


I can see that, especially in popular culture.



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 10:43 pm


I can see that, especially in popular culture.



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janine van rooij

posted May 19, 2011 at 9:44 pm


I can understand that if one seeks enlightenment one gives up sex for a period of time at least, maybe forever. Physical activities like eating, drinking, sleeping and sex can distract one so one becomes less focussed if one engages too much in those activities. HOwever, sometimes I get the impression that there is an undercurrent that by definition abstaining from sex and living a frugal life is ‘better’, that if one can do this one is ‘nobler’. One sees that in all religions, also in Buddhism. I know some Buddhists who think that way.
You say, the Buddha ended all desire simultaneously. But surely that can only happen when one has already become aware and is focussed? I am wondering if he was this focussed and aware when he started out? If so, then why do people need to practice? I want to point out that maybe he was not that totally free of desire when he began, maybe his focus was just on something else, so he felt less tormented by desire. And that when he became more aware, his desire was quenched, as a natural effect of the growth of his focus and awareness both.



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janine van rooij

posted May 19, 2011 at 9:44 pm


I can understand that if one seeks enlightenment one gives up sex for a period of time at least, maybe forever. Physical activities like eating, drinking, sleeping and sex can distract one so one becomes less focussed if one engages too much in those activities. HOwever, sometimes I get the impression that there is an undercurrent that by definition abstaining from sex and living a frugal life is ‘better’, that if one can do this one is ‘nobler’. One sees that in all religions, also in Buddhism. I know some Buddhists who think that way.
You say, the Buddha ended all desire simultaneously. But surely that can only happen when one has already become aware and is focussed? I am wondering if he was this focussed and aware when he started out? If so, then why do people need to practice? I want to point out that maybe he was not that totally free of desire when he began, maybe his focus was just on something else, so he felt less tormented by desire. And that when he became more aware, his desire was quenched, as a natural effect of the growth of his focus and awareness both.



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janine van rooij

posted May 19, 2011 at 9:27 pm


 I would agree… although having certain periods assigned where one abstains of one or the other can help to refocus.



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janine van rooij

posted May 19, 2011 at 9:27 pm


 I would agree… although having certain periods assigned where one abstains of one or the other can help to refocus.



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janine van rooij

posted May 19, 2011 at 9:25 pm


 living a celibate life now is a lot easier.. since i know now that sex does not necessarily bring instant enlightenment ;) and it is not such a mystery for me anymore ;)
I often feel that society of today is too much focussed on it being the ultimate bliss for human beings. So they get totally disappointed when it is not always mind and body and earth shattering.



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janine van rooij

posted May 19, 2011 at 9:25 pm


 living a celibate life now is a lot easier.. since i know now that sex does not necessarily bring instant enlightenment ;) and it is not such a mystery for me anymore ;)
I often feel that society of today is too much focussed on it being the ultimate bliss for human beings. So they get totally disappointed when it is not always mind and body and earth shattering.



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 8:43 pm


He said a lot of things, and oddly enough, they all seem relevant right now



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 8:43 pm


He said a lot of things, and oddly enough, they all seem relevant right now



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Dan Jensen

posted May 19, 2011 at 8:36 pm


 Hmmm … what was it that Johnny Rotten used to say?



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Dan Jensen

posted May 19, 2011 at 8:36 pm


 Hmmm … what was it that Johnny Rotten used to say?



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 7:36 pm


Sorry about your meditation efforts. No one said it was easy ; )

I like your footprint comparison. I see the idea of rebirth and karma like the cycle of presidents. Each one comes into office as a new person, however they inherit the issues the last presidents left behind. They must deal with that but will also create new karma for the next pres. That’s the funny thing about Buddhism and all religions: there is always another interpretation and school of thought. For me, it’s whatever brings joy and meaning to the individual.



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 7:36 pm


Sorry about your meditation efforts. No one said it was easy ; )

I like your footprint comparison. I see the idea of rebirth and karma like the cycle of presidents. Each one comes into office as a new person, however they inherit the issues the last presidents left behind. They must deal with that but will also create new karma for the next pres. That’s the funny thing about Buddhism and all religions: there is always another interpretation and school of thought. For me, it’s whatever brings joy and meaning to the individual.



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 7:20 pm


Nirvana is the goal, enlightenment is the way. In order to end the cycle of rebirth one must be willing to let go of desire in general. The sex issue is just a particular effect. When Nirvana is reached, all desires are quenched, including sex. So going without is not a choice, like yours, but of giving up desire all together. There was no distinction regarding what is better. It’s simply do you follow the path or not.



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 7:20 pm


Nirvana is the goal, enlightenment is the way. In order to end the cycle of rebirth one must be willing to let go of desire in general. The sex issue is just a particular effect. When Nirvana is reached, all desires are quenched, including sex. So going without is not a choice, like yours, but of giving up desire all together. There was no distinction regarding what is better. It’s simply do you follow the path or not.



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janine van rooij

posted May 19, 2011 at 7:09 pm


 Hi Andrew,

If it comes across that one can be only an effective member of society if one does participate in sex or any other craving, then I was not at all clear…. my intention was to show that awareness and focus is more important than a life commitment to celibacy and or living very frugally or something like that…. I have been celibate for many years myself now, because it is impossible for me to live in a romantic relationship with another person, and rather than adding more broken hearts and misery to myself and others than I have already done, I decided that celibacy suits me best at this moment…. I wanted to convey that balance is very important, not the outward things, although the outward things can be a reminder and a help in focussing… the inner and the outer thing should go hand in hand, and yes, I find that monks and nuns have a special status in many societies where Buddhism is the norm, as does celibacy. And it feels to me that that is not exactly what the Buddha intended, that it should be seen as ‘better’. Celibacy and sexual intercourse do not necessarily lead to awareness and focus, each can be distracting in its way, they are not the goal, the goal of all of Buddha’s teachings, as far as I can gather is to increase one’s awareness and reach enlightenment.



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janine van rooij

posted May 19, 2011 at 7:09 pm


 Hi Andrew,

If it comes across that one can be only an effective member of society if one does participate in sex or any other craving, then I was not at all clear…. my intention was to show that awareness and focus is more important than a life commitment to celibacy and or living very frugally or something like that…. I have been celibate for many years myself now, because it is impossible for me to live in a romantic relationship with another person, and rather than adding more broken hearts and misery to myself and others than I have already done, I decided that celibacy suits me best at this moment…. I wanted to convey that balance is very important, not the outward things, although the outward things can be a reminder and a help in focussing… the inner and the outer thing should go hand in hand, and yes, I find that monks and nuns have a special status in many societies where Buddhism is the norm, as does celibacy. And it feels to me that that is not exactly what the Buddha intended, that it should be seen as ‘better’. Celibacy and sexual intercourse do not necessarily lead to awareness and focus, each can be distracting in its way, they are not the goal, the goal of all of Buddha’s teachings, as far as I can gather is to increase one’s awareness and reach enlightenment.



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 6:36 pm


 *like a ton of bricks* sorry



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 6:36 pm


 *like a ton of bricks* sorry



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 6:33 pm


Good point, however I don’t think the post was about service vs. non-service. The Buddha indeed suffered. His trial to discover Enlightenment lasted a painful and stressful six years. Reality in the palace smacked him him a ton of bricks. And I’m not sure I’ve ever met a Buddhist who wasn’t a delight to be around.

Enlightenment by definition is the wisdom of emptyness. It’s the realization that nothing is independent without a cause (in other words, we’re all connected) and that everything is transient. If everything is transient, the Buddha asks, then what’s the point of clinging (desire)? Countless Buddhists and monks have abstained from sex and other things and yet contribute more joy to the world than most. From your position, it seems that one can only be an effective member of society if one does participate in sex or any other craving. The Buddha would most likely say, “Okay. To each their own…”



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 6:33 pm


Good point, however I don’t think the post was about service vs. non-service. The Buddha indeed suffered. His trial to discover Enlightenment lasted a painful and stressful six years. Reality in the palace smacked him him a ton of bricks. And I’m not sure I’ve ever met a Buddhist who wasn’t a delight to be around.

Enlightenment by definition is the wisdom of emptyness. It’s the realization that nothing is independent without a cause (in other words, we’re all connected) and that everything is transient. If everything is transient, the Buddha asks, then what’s the point of clinging (desire)? Countless Buddhists and monks have abstained from sex and other things and yet contribute more joy to the world than most. From your position, it seems that one can only be an effective member of society if one does participate in sex or any other craving. The Buddha would most likely say, “Okay. To each their own…”



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 6:28 pm


Haha Lopez! I knew you’d show up for this one. Meditation as birth control would be a far cheaper and less controversial method huh?



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 6:28 pm


Haha Lopez! I knew you’d show up for this one. Meditation as birth control would be a far cheaper and less controversial method huh?



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 6:25 pm


Hey there Janine,

Actually, if we read what the Buddha taught about rebirth, that’s exactly what he meant. His teachings imply that existance in all realms is due to attachment which stems from craving. Our karma “sticks” us to existance because we desire things. Nirvana, the Buddha taught, is the state one reaches in which suffering (due to craving) and rebirth end. If you are here now, the Buddha would say that your karma and the actions of others led you here. The idea is to cease the cycle of rebirth. So for there not to be children born to a Buddhist family is actually a good thing. Why would one want to run through this circus again? the Buddha would ask.

As for the narrowminded comment, think about the Buddha himself. He chose celibacy before Enlightenment and afterward. It was the effect of non-craving, not a specific goal, remember? He didn’t sit down under that tree and say “Okay, Enlightenment comes only after I refuse sex.” Nope, he ended all desire simultaneously. This is why my personal libido dropped without my making a conscious choice in the matter. By focusing on the path to Enlightenment and Nirvanan, it was a natural side effect.



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 6:25 pm


Hey there Janine,

Actually, if we read what the Buddha taught about rebirth, that’s exactly what he meant. His teachings imply that existance in all realms is due to attachment which stems from craving. Our karma “sticks” us to existance because we desire things. Nirvana, the Buddha taught, is the state one reaches in which suffering (due to craving) and rebirth end. If you are here now, the Buddha would say that your karma and the actions of others led you here. The idea is to cease the cycle of rebirth. So for there not to be children born to a Buddhist family is actually a good thing. Why would one want to run through this circus again? the Buddha would ask.

As for the narrowminded comment, think about the Buddha himself. He chose celibacy before Enlightenment and afterward. It was the effect of non-craving, not a specific goal, remember? He didn’t sit down under that tree and say “Okay, Enlightenment comes only after I refuse sex.” Nope, he ended all desire simultaneously. This is why my personal libido dropped without my making a conscious choice in the matter. By focusing on the path to Enlightenment and Nirvanan, it was a natural side effect.



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 6:16 pm


Very good Jenni! Yes, it was the Hindus who came up with the Kama Sutra. We must not forget though that Hinduism is far from monolithic. To say that every Hindu agrees with or follows a particular school of thought is like saying every Christian is a snake handler.



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 6:16 pm


Very good Jenni! Yes, it was the Hindus who came up with the Kama Sutra. We must not forget though that Hinduism is far from monolithic. To say that every Hindu agrees with or follows a particular school of thought is like saying every Christian is a snake handler.



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 6:15 pm


Haha I’ll try not too! Mmm, October sounds fun then ; )



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 6:15 pm


Haha I’ll try not too! Mmm, October sounds fun then ; )



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 6:14 pm


I think so, Susan. It’s a way to prepare yourself for the world. What good is one if not fully ready on the inside? A mountain trip would be nice…



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 6:14 pm


I think so, Susan. It’s a way to prepare yourself for the world. What good is one if not fully ready on the inside? A mountain trip would be nice…



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 6:13 pm


Ah well played, and if I believed in a personal God this month, I might agree. Interesting how many of our faiths have a time of year when we are called to be especially spiritual in order to become closer to the divine. These ascetics might argue that they don’t need a special time.



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Anonymous

posted May 19, 2011 at 6:13 pm


Ah well played, and if I believed in a personal God this month, I might agree. Interesting how many of our faiths have a time of year when we are called to be especially spiritual in order to become closer to the divine. These ascetics might argue that they don’t need a special time.



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janine van rooij

posted May 19, 2011 at 4:43 pm


Oh…. another thought.  What is the goal of enlightenment? Why should we strive after it? Why did Buddha leave his comfortable way of life behind?  If I remember properly, it was out of compassion. He was not suffering but he saw another person suffering and this sent him on a quest, whereby he contemplated about the nature and cause of suffering. True enlightened people give back to the world… are a delight for their environment, know what it is that the situation demands and will be able to provide that.  The more enlightened a person is the more service such a person will give to mankind. It is impossible to be enlightened and not serve.



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janine van rooij

posted May 19, 2011 at 4:43 pm


Oh…. another thought.  What is the goal of enlightenment? Why should we strive after it? Why did Buddha leave his comfortable way of life behind?  If I remember properly, it was out of compassion. He was not suffering but he saw another person suffering and this sent him on a quest, whereby he contemplated about the nature and cause of suffering. True enlightened people give back to the world… are a delight for their environment, know what it is that the situation demands and will be able to provide that.  The more enlightened a person is the more service such a person will give to mankind. It is impossible to be enlightened and not serve.



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J. Lea Lopez

posted May 19, 2011 at 4:35 pm


Intetesting post, Andrew. I think it also begs the question “what would the world be like if MORE people went the distance?” Meditation as a means of birth control/population control? haha.



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J. Lea Lopez

posted May 19, 2011 at 4:35 pm


Intetesting post, Andrew. I think it also begs the question “what would the world be like if MORE people went the distance?” Meditation as a means of birth control/population control? haha.



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janine van rooij

posted May 19, 2011 at 4:33 pm


I would say that if all Buddhists were able to give up sex, soon there would be no children born to Buddhists. I cannot imagine that that is what Buddha intended. So I think it is not that one is ‘better’ if one gives up sex, not even after children have been born. Not automatically, that is. Or that it automatically leads to more quenching of desires. In my view, one becomes ‘better’ when one can control one’s desires, when one is not attached. In my view it is a question of focus.

You find in several religions this idea that a celibate lifestyle is better ultimately for gaining insight, becoming a better person, enlightened. I don’t think that this always the case, I think we should leave those kind of thoughts behind.

In my experience, what is conducive to elimination of suffering is awareness of what is inside oneself, and also focus. Awareness helps one to gain more insight, in oneself, in what the situation one is in demands. Focus helps to be able to make those choices that are conducive to one’s ultimate goal. Awareness and focus help us to become free of desires, in the sense that we may still feel the desire but it does not keep us from our focus. It is also possible that the more aware we become the more in tune with all that is around us an ourselves we become, and in that way we radiate more enlightenment, are able to make more often the choice which is totally in line with what the situation that one finds oneself in, demands. The more you become aware of what is inside you, the more you are able to control your thoughts and with your thoughts you can control whether you act on them or not.  My experiences with this lead me to believe that this is where true freedom, enlightenment and happiness lie: to be able to choose, to be free from the prison of self. Focus and awareness are the most important in this proces, not so much automatically choosing a celibate lifestyle.

In my view human beings differ in capacity with regard to enlightenment. Just like an ecosystem has different species of plants, who all have different functions. It is not fair to either a chestnut tree nor to a blade of grass to compare them to one another. Problem with humans is that we cannot know for certainty what the capacity of ourself or another human is. So we can never say that such and such a person is living according to their full capacity. Even someone like the Dalai Lama for example could be living below his true capacity. As we do not know our own full capacity let alone the capacity of another, we cannot judge one another. What if I have the capacity of a blade of grass but I live as if I had the capacity of only a tiny piece of lichen?
To interpret the text of the Buddha about quenching desires as meaning that celibacy is always better than non-celibacy because it will lead you quicker to quenching desires, I think is quite narrowminded and not true.

Janine



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janine van rooij

posted May 19, 2011 at 4:33 pm


I would say that if all Buddhists were able to give up sex, soon there would be no children born to Buddhists. I cannot imagine that that is what Buddha intended. So I think it is not that one is ‘better’ if one gives up sex, not even after children have been born. Not automatically, that is. Or that it automatically leads to more quenching of desires. In my view, one becomes ‘better’ when one can control one’s desires, when one is not attached. In my view it is a question of focus.

You find in several religions this idea that a celibate lifestyle is better ultimately for gaining insight, becoming a better person, enlightened. I don’t think that this always the case, I think we should leave those kind of thoughts behind.

In my experience, what is conducive to elimination of suffering is awareness of what is inside oneself, and also focus. Awareness helps one to gain more insight, in oneself, in what the situation one is in demands. Focus helps to be able to make those choices that are conducive to one’s ultimate goal. Awareness and focus help us to become free of desires, in the sense that we may still feel the desire but it does not keep us from our focus. It is also possible that the more aware we become the more in tune with all that is around us an ourselves we become, and in that way we radiate more enlightenment, are able to make more often the choice which is totally in line with what the situation that one finds oneself in, demands. The more you become aware of what is inside you, the more you are able to control your thoughts and with your thoughts you can control whether you act on them or not.  My experiences with this lead me to believe that this is where true freedom, enlightenment and happiness lie: to be able to choose, to be free from the prison of self. Focus and awareness are the most important in this proces, not so much automatically choosing a celibate lifestyle.

In my view human beings differ in capacity with regard to enlightenment. Just like an ecosystem has different species of plants, who all have different functions. It is not fair to either a chestnut tree nor to a blade of grass to compare them to one another. Problem with humans is that we cannot know for certainty what the capacity of ourself or another human is. So we can never say that such and such a person is living according to their full capacity. Even someone like the Dalai Lama for example could be living below his true capacity. As we do not know our own full capacity let alone the capacity of another, we cannot judge one another. What if I have the capacity of a blade of grass but I live as if I had the capacity of only a tiny piece of lichen?
To interpret the text of the Buddha about quenching desires as meaning that celibacy is always better than non-celibacy because it will lead you quicker to quenching desires, I think is quite narrowminded and not true.

Janine



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jenni

posted May 19, 2011 at 4:12 pm


Interesting, considering that it was the Hindus who came up with the Kama Sutra and tantric sex…sexuality is a way of achieving enlightenment from what I understand. 



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jenni

posted May 19, 2011 at 4:12 pm


Interesting, considering that it was the Hindus who came up with the Kama Sutra and tantric sex…sexuality is a way of achieving enlightenment from what I understand. 



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Pagolesher

posted May 19, 2011 at 3:46 pm


 Hey, Andrew, don’t get so spiritual that you become no Earthly good.

Wait ’til you get to Paganism…. sex is a way to connect with Diety :-)



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Pagolesher

posted May 19, 2011 at 3:46 pm


 Hey, Andrew, don’t get so spiritual that you become no Earthly good.

Wait ’til you get to Paganism…. sex is a way to connect with Diety :-)



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susan

posted May 19, 2011 at 3:26 pm


 In your prior religious experiences, it seems that the focus was on family, people, communication, love of one another above all. It was the way to honor the God. In these, the focus is on self, or quite probably, self first, in that you must become of a mind that is stable and true before accepting outside influence. That’s why the outside world becomes such a distraction to the process. You probably would need to go away and camp on a mountain alone for a while.



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susan

posted May 19, 2011 at 3:26 pm


 In your prior religious experiences, it seems that the focus was on family, people, communication, love of one another above all. It was the way to honor the God. In these, the focus is on self, or quite probably, self first, in that you must become of a mind that is stable and true before accepting outside influence. That’s why the outside world becomes such a distraction to the process. You probably would need to go away and camp on a mountain alone for a while.



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Nancy Shehata

posted May 19, 2011 at 3:22 pm


 Very interesting outlook.  I, being a Muslim, feel that God created in us this desire, so renouncing it is doing ourselves a disservice and being ungrateful for something that is normal and good (within the bounds of marriage).  Trying to beat your desire into submission and snuff it out is a waste of energy when a good tumble will take care of you for a while, and sexual intimacy can also strengthen the bonds between you and your spouse.

We Muslims have our ascetic times, as you’ll see God willing in Ramadan when you are abstaining from food, drink, and intimacy in the daylight hours.  But as a habit, it is a constant drain on a person as you struggle to remain celibate.  Why does not engaging in sexual activity make you less able to be enlightened?  We do far “messier” things in our daily lives (defacation, urination) and still can achieve lofty and highly spiritual states.  When we stop treating sexuality as abnormal or something to be viewed with distaste, then we will have found a certain type of enlightenment.



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Nancy Shehata

posted May 19, 2011 at 3:22 pm


 Very interesting outlook.  I, being a Muslim, feel that God created in us this desire, so renouncing it is doing ourselves a disservice and being ungrateful for something that is normal and good (within the bounds of marriage).  Trying to beat your desire into submission and snuff it out is a waste of energy when a good tumble will take care of you for a while, and sexual intimacy can also strengthen the bonds between you and your spouse.

We Muslims have our ascetic times, as you’ll see God willing in Ramadan when you are abstaining from food, drink, and intimacy in the daylight hours.  But as a habit, it is a constant drain on a person as you struggle to remain celibate.  Why does not engaging in sexual activity make you less able to be enlightened?  We do far “messier” things in our daily lives (defacation, urination) and still can achieve lofty and highly spiritual states.  When we stop treating sexuality as abnormal or something to be viewed with distaste, then we will have found a certain type of enlightenment.



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