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Mahayana Buddhism and Sexuality?

Hey everyone! I read on [url]http://www.religioustolerance.org/[/url] that Mahayana Buddhism is the most liberal form of Buddhism. So, I ask, what is the Mahayana Buddhist stance on homosexuality, premarital sex, and birth control usage? Sorry, I know I have asked similar questions before but I can't remember what the answers were. Also, what is the Mahayana Buddhist stance on abortion?

Comments

  • edited August 2010
    I would think that the Mahayana stance, especially in America, would be; do whatever you want to do as long as it does not create further suffering for you or anyone else. It is not a matter of right or wrong action. It is a matter of compassion and skillful means.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited August 2010
    [QUOTE=BuddhaGirl02;124216]Hey everyone! I read on [url]http://www.religioustolerance.org/[/url] that Mahayana Buddhism is the most liberal form of Buddhism.[/QUOTE]
    I happen to disagree, but then again, I would, as I'm Theravada.
    Why do they say that, exactly? on what premise?

    [QUOTE][I]So, I ask, what is the Mahayana Buddhist stance on homosexuality, [/I][/QUOTE]
    Case in point. Tibetan Buddhism, for example, which is the main Mahayana Tradition, advises against it, and declares it unskillful to use other sexual orifices other than a vagina for sex.
    Theravada has no such [I]caveat[/I], and makes no such distinction.
    For this reason, I do not find Tibetan/Mahayana Buddhism to be as liberal as Theravada.
    [QUOTE][I]premarital sex, and birth control usage? [/I][/QUOTE]
    As far as I know, there is no standpoint on either of these two.
    Remember that Buddhism per se has no distinctive marriage ceremony, so strictly speaking, the issue of 'pre-marital sex' doesn't have any particular instruction.
    Similarly, birth control is of no consequence, as far as I know.

    The Third precept instructs us to abstain form inappropriate sexual behaviour. as pointed out, what that behaviour is, is for you yourself to determine. Briefly, I guess, it's when it feels good, do it. When in doubt - don't.

    [QUOTE][I]Sorry, I know I have asked similar questions before but I can't remember what the answers were. Also, what is the Mahayana Buddhist stance on abortion?[/I][/QUOTE]
    Abortion is killing.
    Killing is wrong.
    No matter which the tradition.

    Again though, the skilfulness (or otherwise) of abortion is for the woman to make her own decision, and Buddhism - while stating that abortion is killing - cultivates compassion for ALL concerned, in the act.
    This is a good and informative [URL="http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/buddhism/buddhistethics/abortion.shtml"]link[/URL].
  • edited August 2010
    I heard that in Thailand, (I think), there was a problem of back street abortion and deaths for the women. I understand that it was then allowed as being preferable to the death of the young woman.

    This seems pragmatic in a culturally bound, imperfect world
  • edited August 2010
    What about in cases of rape or incest? I've always thought that those circumstances (either alone or combined) would permit, if the mother wants, to have an abortion. But would that still be a negative action?


    I think that abortion is pretty much a topic that is strictly opinion. Many people agree, many disagree. I don't think the "right answer" will ever be found for every single case.
  • edited August 2010
    [quote=Shawn M.;124318]What about in cases of rape or incest? I've always thought that those circumstances (either alone or combined) would permit, if the mother wants, to have an abortion. But would that still be a negative action?[/quote]

    I think it would still be a negative action...you're still killing a child, no matter who the father is. I understand that there might be a certain amount of revulsion involved...after all, who wants to get pregnant that way?

    I actually knew a guy that was born as a result of a rape. He wasn't ashamed of the fact at all. I don't know what his views on abortion were, but his mother could have legally aborted him at the time but didn't.

    I'm amazed that this issue almost [I]always[/I] comes up during an abortion debate. But realistically, at least in the U.S., nearly all cases of abortion involve irresponsibility. Like not using birth control, not preparing for the event of a pregnancy, etc.

    In my view, if you're enough of an adult to have sex, you are enough of an adult to handle a child. If you simply can't handle the notion of having a child, yet refuse more permanent birth control techniques (like vasectomies, or having tubes tied), then you're just not ready for sex.
  • edited August 2010
    I think "Mahayana" is too broad and you will find variations from school to school.

    In Shin Buddhism things are generally very liberal. However there is no Pope-like figure telling us what to believe so you will find different opinions from person to person.
    Over-all though at least in Canada, Shin has no issues regarding homosexuality, and our ministers have performed same sex marriage ceremonies (I always say...for conservatives who want to end homosexual sex...let them marry! nothing kills a sex life like marriage! :lol::( )

    Regarding Abortion I had a discussion with several Sensei's all at once, and was pleased that we all held the same opinion.
    Abortion is not the problem. It is a symptom of the problem of unwanted pregnancy. Therefore it would be more prudent for the pro choice and pro life people to join together to educate, make birth control easily available, and tryt o influence society to use sex as a marketing tool less especially marketing to young people.

    Still Abortions will happen and as a matter of being pragmatic, it is probably better to make them safely performed, and this also allows counsellors to work with pregnant women/girls, to be certain of the full ramifications of that decision.

    Regarding pre-marital sex... I suspect it is a bit like masturbation...there are mostly two types of people, those who have, and those who lie about it.:lol:
  • edited August 2010
    Fredericka mentioned precepts - I haven't come across a situation in my life that I couldn't see at the time (or a little too late afterwards!) where the most satisfying and skillful way through a choice or dilemma was in keeping the precepts in mind. They go far, far, deeper than the literal words, and are all about acting compassionately and with mindfulness for everyone/thing involved.

    As far as I know, the only stipulations regarding homosexual sex were cultural or situational factors (i.e.; stubborn insistence on the conventional say-so of tradition, or to avoid awkward situations in single-sex communities). I think a Buddhist wouldn't give a flying rat about whom a person was sleeping with - as long the parties involved weren't being harmed in some way, and were respectful and mindful of it :D

    On the pre-marital sex situation - the only time that would be a problem (especially considering the marriage is not a Buddhist 'tradition' or spiritual ritual) is if one or both (or more?!) of the people involved suffered from it. If it's a strict tradition that you follow (as a Christian, say), then it's likely you'll feel terrible about it afterward. Otherwise, if you don't follow the tradition, and are responsible enough to face getting burnt playing with that particular fire, then how is it a problem?
  • edited August 2010
    [quote=Shutoku;124347]I always say...for conservatives who want to end homosexual sex...let them marry! nothing kills a sex life like marriage! :lol::([/quote]


    That is so gorgeously cheeky and ironic - I love it! :lol:
  • edited August 2010
    [quote=federica;124235]
    Case in point. Tibetan Buddhism, for example, which is the main Mahayana Tradition, advises against it, and declares it unskillful to use other sexual orifices other than a vagina for sex.
    Theravada has no such [I]caveat[/I], and makes no such distinction.
    For this reason, I do not find Tibetan/Mahayana Buddhism to be as liberal as Theravada.[/quote]
    This being just a side remark, I dont think you can actually refer to Tibetan buddhism as the primary mahayana tradition since mahayana also reaches much farther eastward, Mahayana being the most prominent buddhism of east asia.

    as far as I know, the Mahayana stance can vary from practitioner to practitioner, and this probably goes the same for Theravada. some buddhists of either branch will definitely be opposed to abortion. in the west you'll find a lot more liberal attitudes towards these issues, but the buddhism in the west is its whole new thing. as shutoku said the problem is more that people are engaging in sexual activity without enough mindfulness, so the negative result is you have to get an abortion, something which could have been prevented in responsible intercourse.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited August 2010
    [SIZE="4"][COLOR="Red"]Moderator note:[/COLOR]

    This thread has now developed further and several posts have been entered since I contributed earlier on.
    I had reason to remove an earlier post made by a member, because rather than addressing the specific topic outlined by the OP, (Mahayana Buddhism and sexuality) the member in question chose to address the social, moral, and ethical reasoning behind abortions, and whether they should be legal.
    This was clearly off-topic.

    Several posts since have also strayed into areas which are irrelevant to the original question. Several members have also spoken of social implications , and introduced factors not necessarily pertinent or connected to the original post.

    In order to prevent this thread from turning into yet another abortion debate, (and in fairness to the member whose post I deleted!) [B]would all members kindly confine themselves to addressing the specific points made by the OP, with regard to Mahayana Buddhism and sexuality.[/B]

    Plenty of threads exist with regard to debating the right to abortion, and the questionable consequences. Such remarks would not be out of place there.

    Here - they are.

    Should any member wish to create a thread discussing Abortion from a Buddhist point of view - feel free.
    (See link in my post, above.)
    Please stick to topic in this thread, and address questions posed in the Original Post.

    Thank you. [/SIZE]
  • edited August 2010
    Oops! We're worse than an unruly river :D (The link doesn't work, btw)

    BuddhaGirl02 - have any of your questions been made clearer?

    W/ metta, yo!
  • edited August 2010
    As a practitioner in both the Theravadin and Zen (Mahayana) streams of Buddhism, I would say the statement about Mahayana being the most liberal is off. There are a spectrum of attitudes around sexuality in both schools. Western Buddhists (here in Canada) are generally pretty liberal and socially progressive people. I don't know a single person in either Sangha who has a strong opinion on sexual politics, other than keeping the common precept of not using sexuality to harm another. Consensual sex between adults is not an issue, regardless of gender. Sexual addiction is obviously an issue that has to be dealt with in order to have a healthy practice.

    Abortion is not discussed, no kidding. There may be a variety of views but a[I]ttachment to view[/I] is the matter at hand in practice. The people I know are mature people who reflect and make mindful choices. That is how we leave it.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited August 2010
    [QUOTE=Gecko;124493]Oops! We're worse than an unruly river :D (The link doesn't work, btw)[/QUOTE]
    Shame. It does for me......
    This is the link in its entirety:

    [url]http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/buddhism/buddhistethics/abortion.shtml[/url]

    here is a cut&paste of the whole article:

    [B]Buddhism and abortion[/B]
    There is no single Buddhist view on abortion:

    [QUOTE][I]...Most Western and Japanese Buddhists come away believing in the permissibility of abortion, while many other Buddhists believe abortion to be murder.[/I][/QUOTE]
    [I]James Hughes[/I]

    Buddhists believe that life should not be destroyed, but they regard causing death as morally wrong only if the death is caused deliberately or by negligence.

    Traditional Buddhism rejects abortion because it involves the deliberate destroying of a life.
    Buddhists regard life as starting at conception.

    [QUOTE][I]Buddhism believes in rebirth and teaches that individual human life begins at conception. The new being, bearing the karmic identity of a recently deceased individual, is therefore as entitled to the same moral respect as an adult human being.[/I][/QUOTE]
    [I]Damien Keown, Science and Theology News, April 2004[/I]

    Modern Buddhists, however, are more divided about the morality of abortion.

    [B]It's personal[/B]
    Buddhists are expected to take full personal responsibility for everything they do and for the consequences that follow.

    The decision to abort is therefore a highly personal one, and one that requires careful and compassionate exploration of the ethical issues involved, and a willingness to carry the burden of whatever happens as a result of the decision.

    The ethical consequences of the decision will also depend on the motive and intention behind the decision, and the level of mindfulness with which it was taken.

    [B]Buddhism and killing[/B]
    According to the teachings of Buddha, five conditions must be present to constitute an act of killing.

    [LIST]
    [*]the thing killed must be a living being
    [*]you, the killer, must know or be aware that it is a living being
    [*]you must have the intention to kill it
    [*]there must be an effort to kill
    [*]the being must be killed as the result
    [/LIST]

    Here's an example of how an abortion might constitute an act of killing:

    When a baby is conceived, a living being is created and that satisfies the first condition. Although Buddhists believe that beings live in a cycle of birth death and rebirth, they regard the moment of conception as the beginning of the life of an embodied individual.
    After a few weeks the woman becomes aware of its existence and that meets the second condition.
    If she decides she wants an abortion that provides an intention to kill.
    When she seeks an abortion that meets the fourth condition of making an effort to kill.
    Finally the being is killed because of that action.
    Therefore the First Precept of Buddhism - not to kill - is violated and this is tantamount to killing a human being.

    [B]Lives in the balance[/B]
    Buddhists face a difficulty where an abortion is medically necessary to save the life of the mother and so a life will be lost whether there is or isn't an abortion.

    In such cases the moral status of an abortion will depend on the intentions of those carrying it out.

    If the decision is taken compassionately, and after long and careful thought then although the action may be wrong the moral harm done will be reduced by the good intentions involved.

    [B]Abortion for the sake of the baby[/B]
    There are cases where not having an abortion may result in the birth of a child with medical conditions that cause it to suffer.

    Traditional Buddhist thinking does not deal with these cases, but it has been argued by some Buddhists that if the child would be so severely handicapped that it would undergo great suffering, abortion is permissible.

    The [I]Dalai Lama[/I] has said:

    [QUOTE][I]Of course, abortion, from a Buddhist viewpoint, is an act of killing and is negative, generally speaking. But it depends on the circumstances.
    If the unborn child will be retarded or if the birth will create serious problems for the parent, these are cases where there can be an exception. I think abortion should be approved or disapproved according to each circumstance.[/I][/QUOTE]
    [B]Dalai Lama, New York Times, 28/11/1993[/B]

    [B]Karma[/B]
    While it's pretty obvious why abortion is considered to generate bad karma for the mother and the abortionist it may not be so obvious why it generates bad karma for the foetus.

    The foetus suffers bad karma because its "soul" is deprived of the opportunities that an earthly existence would have given it to earn good karma, and is returned immediately to the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Thus abortion hinders its spiritual progress.

    [B]JAPAN[/B]

    Japanese Buddhists have had to make significant efforts to reconcile abortion with their religion, as abortion is common in Japan, and has been used as a form of birth control.

    Some followers of Japanese Buddhism who have had an abortion make offerings to Jizo, the god of lost travellers and children. They believe that Jizo will steward the child until it is reborn in another incarnation.

    They do this in a mizuko kuyō, a memorial service for aborted children that became popular in the 1970s. (The service can also be used in cases of miscarriage or stillbirth.) The ritual includes elements of folk religion and Shinto as well as Buddhism.

    The writer William R. Lafleur has pointed out some difficulties with this tradition:

    [QUOTE][I]...within the Japanese Buddhist community the discussion of abortion is now limited largely to criticisms of those temples and temple-like organizations which employ the notion of 'foetal retribution' to coerce the "parents" of an aborted foetus into performing rituals that memorialize the foetus, remove its 'grudges,' and facilitate its rebirth or its Buddhahood.
    Many Buddhists find repugnant such types of manipulation of parental guilt - especially when expressed in the notion that a foetus in limbo will wreak vengeance (tatari) on parents who neglect to memorialize it.[/I][/QUOTE]
  • edited August 2010
    from the stand point of the Lotus tradition of Mahayana ( includes Nichiren, Tentai/Tientai and their deriviative ) ; every living beings ( mainly refers to biped ) has the potential to attain Buddhahood ( even at their present life time ), regardless of what condition one present body manifestation may be ( be in male, female or others , regardless of gender and social class etc, the example of the the young dragon princess attaining buddhahood at her present form in the Lotus sutra demonrated this statement, as she was not even a human, being a female and young in age . and the Buddhha's prediction of future Buddha for the evil man Devadatta ( who had many attempts to kill the Buddha ) shows that there is no condemnation in the teaching. The teaching is to attempt to see the goodness of Buddhahood potential in each of the human beings we encountered, and when one preached the Law ( Dharma of Lotus teaching ) with one best effort and sincete, one should regards as the envoy of the Buddha himself .

    In Mahayana , especially in the western world, it is quite common to see woman or any gender group to take up the role of the lay Dharma teachers role , or lay priest/priestess, especially in the Japanese lineage
  • edited August 2010
    (Thanks Frederica - I was having internet issues)
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited August 2010
    I suggest counselling.....:p
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