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Homosexuality in Buddhist texts (sutras/commentaries)

Hello, I am genuinely interested how different traditions view homosexuality in Buddhism. I always heard that Buddhism did not diffirentiate between heterosexual and homosexual conduct. I believed that too and had the impression that Buddhism was very lgbt friendly. Now I stumbled across this wiki page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_and_sexual_orientation and have some questions.

How does the Theravada and Mahayana standpoints differ on this subject? Why is it that homosexual actions are talked about in various buddhist text but not lesbian actions? Do these texts or commentaries really talk about that homosexuality per se is sinful/unwholesome or were these views (particular the mahayana/tibetan ones against homosexuality in realtion to hygenie or coerceful sex with minors/boys?

How does Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana interpret the texts of Buddhaghosa, Shantideva, Asvaghosa, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Tsongkhapa etc about this issue? Do these teachers draw their conclusions from canonical sutras or are these their own personal opinions?

Are the stances against homosexuality in sutras or texts like Saddharma-smrty upastana, Upasakhashila or Abidharma (are they the only ones that talk about this?) canonical? Do they really talk about this issue or are these stances merely commentaries but not in the sutras themselves? I see that some homophobic Buddhists quote these sutras.

How doe Teachers like the Dalai Lama that see homosexual actions as sexual misconduct justify their opinions? With which texts/sutras? Why is it that the the 3 orifices in Tibetan Buddhism and other schools are taboo but a man has the right to make 5 orgasms in a night? Somehow lesbians are nowhere mentioned and have a freepass?

And how do Teachers like Lama Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and others who spoke in favor of consensual homosexual relationships interpret these, if these texts highly seem to be against homosexual actions?

Were there ever gay disciples of the Buddha?

Shoshin

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited September 13

    @manoman said:
    Hello, I am genuinely interested how different traditions view homosexuality in Buddhism. I always heard that Buddhism did not diffirentiate between heterosexual and homosexual conduct. I believed that too and had the impression that Buddhism was very lgbt friendly. Now I stumbled across this wiki page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_and_sexual_orientation and have some questions.

    How does the Theravada and Mahayana standpoints differ on this subject? Why is it that homosexual actions are talked about in various buddhist text but not lesbian actions? Do these texts or commentaries really talk about that homosexuality per se is sinful/unwholesome or were these views (particular the mahayana/tibetan ones against homosexuality in realtion to hygenie or coerceful sex with minors/boys?

    How does Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana interpret the texts of Buddhaghosa, Shantideva, Asvaghosa, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Tsongkhapa etc about this issue? Do these teachers draw their conclusions from canonical sutras or are these their own personal opinions?

    Are the stances against homosexuality in sutras or texts like Saddharma-smrty upastana, Upasakhashila or Abidharma (are they the only ones that talk about this?) canonical? Do they really talk about this issue or are these stances merely commentaries but not in the sutras themselves? I see that some homophobic Buddhists quote these sutras.

    How doe Teachers like the Dalai Lama that see homosexual actions as sexual misconduct justify their opinions? With which texts/sutras? Why is it that the the 3 orifices in Tibetan Buddhism and other schools are taboo but a man has the right to make 5 orgasms in a night? Somehow lesbians are nowhere mentioned and have a freepass?

    And how do Teachers like Lama Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and others who spoke in favor of consensual homosexual relationships interpret these, if these texts highly seem to be against homosexual actions?

    Were there ever gay disciples of the Buddha?

    Theravada is non-commital. In other words, third precept. providing it isn't harmful, or unskilful, you can indulge as you wish.

    as for Mahayana - IN MY PERSONAL OPINION:

    Mahayana texts came much later, well after the Buddha's passing. Much of what is written therein is as a result of the personal views of those who came after him.
    They are not as I see it, the all encompassing and compassionate, understanding teachings of the Buddha, but they're the slant of later Gurus.
    Even HHDL sees that such teachings are prejudicial and obstructive, but, in the position he holds, he has to abide by the teachings he holds close t his heart,

    My opinion falls in very much in line with Theravada teachings.
    Whatever floats your boat.

    If it feels good, do it.
    If in doubt, don't.

    THIS thread may also be of interest to you.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran
    edited September 13

    My understanding is that the Pali (Theravada) texts make no mention of homosexuality as something negative, I'm not even sure they mention it at all.

    Homosexuality comes up in Mahayana texts early on, somewhere around the first few centuries CE. From there I think it then becomes taken as canon by the traditions as
    they believe some of the teachers are enlightened and their teachings perfect.

    Western Buddhism is a pretty progressive space so LGBT people are fully welcomed and accepted. My experience with Buddhists from more traditional cultures is that they are warm and loving people who wouldn't reject or condemn someone for being homosexual but may still think it is negative karmic behavior. Maybe something akin to "hate the sin, love the sinner" or don't ask, don't tell. That's not great, but its also not "Buddha hates ____". And many Asian teachers who teach in the west have expressed support and acceptance.

    Jeffrey
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @manoman said:
    Hello, I am genuinely interested how different traditions view homosexuality in Buddhism. I always heard that Buddhism did not diffirentiate between heterosexual and homosexual conduct. I believed that too and had the impression that Buddhism was very lgbt friendly. Now I stumbled across this wiki page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_and_sexual_orientation and have some questions.

    How does the Theravada and Mahayana standpoints differ on this subject? Why is it that homosexual actions are talked about in various buddhist text but not lesbian actions? Do these texts or commentaries really talk about that homosexuality per se is sinful/unwholesome or were these views (particular the mahayana/tibetan ones against homosexuality in realtion to hygenie or coerceful sex with minors/boys?

    How does Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana interpret the texts of Buddhaghosa, Shantideva, Asvaghosa, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Tsongkhapa etc about this issue? Do these teachers draw their conclusions from canonical sutras or are these their own personal opinions?

    Are the stances against homosexuality in sutras or texts like Saddharma-smrty upastana, Upasakhashila or Abidharma (are they the only ones that talk about this?) canonical? Do they really talk about this issue or are these stances merely commentaries but not in the sutras themselves? I see that some homophobic Buddhists quote these sutras.

    How doe Teachers like the Dalai Lama that see homosexual actions as sexual misconduct justify their opinions? With which texts/sutras? Why is it that the the 3 orifices in Tibetan Buddhism and other schools are taboo but a man has the right to make 5 orgasms in a night? Somehow lesbians are nowhere mentioned and have a freepass?

    And how do Teachers like Lama Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and others who spoke in favor of consensual homosexual relationships interpret these, if these texts highly seem to be against homosexual actions?

    Were there ever gay disciples of the Buddha?

    I can't speak for specific teacher and what they think or why, but here's an old but still relevant answer to some of these questions.

  • LionduckLionduck Veteran Veteran

    In SGI Nichiren Buddhism, it is not an issue. Men, women, children, Active duty, Veterans, brown eyed, blue eyed, LGBTQ, handicapped, Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian...not an issue.Treasure Towers are Treasure Towers. No two are the same. Each and every one is unique and equally immeasurably valuable.
    When all life is sacred, how can one life be otherwise?

    Peace to all

    lobsterShoshinBunksajhayes
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited September 13

    Homosexuality in Buddhist texts (sutras/commentaries)

    When it comes to Buddhist text/sutras and acceptance of LGBTQI people in Buddhism and by practitioners.... Just like in Abrahamic religions, I think a lot has to do with cultural conditioning and a big dollop of ignorance...

    The Dharma is the Dharma...it goes beyond(AKA trans) gender...beyond (AKA trans) sexual...(and if it didn't.... could it still be called Dharma AKA true nature of all things Anicca Dukkha Anatta :) )

    Gender and Sexuality: From “Other” to Others Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara

    Consider for a moment: How welcoming are you to people of different sexual orientations and gender identities? How welcoming is your Buddhist community? How welcoming is the larger Buddhist world?

    At this historical moment, when people of different sexual and gender orientations and identities are emerging from the shadows, we must ask ourselves deeply and honestly if we meet these differences with an open heart, or if we step back, close off, and shut down our fellowship.

    We are fortunate to be living at a time when people of conscience are called to pay attention to the subtle ways we harm others through our unconscious biases, our lack of awareness, and our stubborn clinging to received ideas buried in our culture.

    Whosoever sees Dependent Origination sees the Dharma...Whosoever sees the Dharma sees Dependent Origination
    In the long run one must see for oneself....Ehipassiko..

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited September 14

    Bearing in mind... doctrines are not immune to a bit of 'doctoring' to suit a particular culture and times...especially when Buddhism started to spread and was taken up and more often than not then 'blended' with the cultural practices of the country, kingdom, state...

    The Devil can cite scriptures ~This proverb comes from the play The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare.~

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran Veteran
    edited September 14

    I don't think you can generalize across particular different traditions even though you can research to get an idea of things. There are liberal sanghas in Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions and probably rather rigid or conservative ones too. Also different teachings practice with different views appearance/emptiness differently. I don't know if there are any Mahayana or Vajrayana vows people take against homosexuality and if there were that would upset me too but I would be surprised from what I have observed in getting to know you magazine and contributions for a cook book that the Tibetan Buddhist sangha I participate in overseas has anyone against equal rights and has people for ending stigma.

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Veteran Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited September 14

    East Asian Mahāyāna, Southeast Asian Theravāda, as well as Tibetan Buddhism are traditionally homophobic. But lots of things that used to be "traditionally" homophobic are no longer. Christians and Jews were "traditionally" homophobic, but now most Christians and Jews, where I live at least, support sex and gender minorities.

    So times change and the flavours of Buddhism often change with those times, like the flavours of Christianity, Judaism, what have you.

    For instance, it is still illegal AFAIK to give abhiṣeka to a homosexual in Thailand and it is not practiced in Burma.

    One only needs go to SuttaCentral and look up the term "eunuch," to see this stretching back to the very core of early Buddhist scripture and memory; "eunuch" being how Venerables Sujāto, Bodhi, etc., are translating the term "paṇḍaka," an old Indian catch-all term for sex and gender minority nonconformists.

    In my opinion at least, the early Buddhist texts are not a cleanly edited monolith. They are a diverse collection that doesn't always internally agree. Take, for instance, this from the Mahāvagga of the Pātimokkha:

    At that time the bhikkhus conferred the pabbajjā ordination on a person whose hands were cut off, on a person whose feet were cut off, whose hands and feet were cut off, whose ears were cut off, whose nose was cut off, whose ears and nose were cut off, whose thumbs were cut off, whose tendons were cut, who had hands like a snake’s hood, who was a hump-back, or a dwarf, or a person that had a goitre, that had been branded, that had been scourged, on a proclaimed robber, on a person that had elephantitis, that was afflicted with bad illness, that gave offence by any deformity to those who saw him, on a eye-eyed person, on a person with a crooked limb, on a lame person, on a person that was paralyzed on one side, on a cripple, on a person weak from age,

    […]

    They told this to the Blessed One. 'Let no person, O Bhikkhus, whose hands are cut off [the list is reproduced] receive the pabbajjā ordination. He who confers the pabbajjā ordination on such persons is guilty of dukkhatā offence.

    (Vinayapiṭaka, Mahāvagga, Pabbajjā ("On Ordination"): The portion on thirty-two cases where one should not let go forth Kd.1.71.1/Pi Tv Kd 1, aren't vinaya citations Byzantine?)

    This passage, rather than homosexuals, is discriminating those with injuries and genetic disorders. Notice that one of the prohibited candidates is called a dwarf, a vāmana. I want to point this out to stress the incoherence of Buddhist literature if we try to look at it as a unified whole, because in the same body of literature, the Pāli Canon, we have the story of Venerable Lakuṇḍa­kabhaddiya, who is a dwarf and a arhat:

    Then Venerable Lakuṇṭaka Bhaddiya went to see the Buddha.

    The Buddha saw him coming off in the distance, and addressed the mendicants: “Mendicants, do you you see this monk coming—ugly, unsightly, deformed, and despised by the mendicants?”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “That mendicant is very mighty and powerful. It’s not easy to find an attainment that he has not already attained. And he has realized the supreme end of the spiritual path in this very life. He lives having achieved with his own insight the goal for which gentlemen rightly go forth from the lay life to homelessness.”

    That is what the Buddha said. Then the Holy One, the Teacher, went on to say:

    “Geese, herons, and peacocks,
    elephants and spotted deer—
    though their bodies are not equal,
    they all fear the lion.

    So it is for humans—
    if a little person is wise,
    they’re the truly great one,
    not the fool with a good body.”

    (Saṁyuttanikāya 21.6, Bhikkhuvagga, Lakuṇḍakabhaddiyasutta)

    So once we see how incoherent early Buddhist literature is toward minorities figures, such as those who have dwarfism in the above examples, we can start to see how Buddhism is not the monolith it appears to be and is actually a collection of historical voices sometimes in concordance with one another but sometimes dissenting with each other.

    We have accounts of a dwarf arhat, yet someone felt the need to forbid the ordination of dwarfs in the saṁgha at some point, and this story was produced. Venerable Lakuṇḍakabhaddiya was not talked about.

    These are all, of course, just my opinion. No one need agree or disagree.

    Similarly, the paṇḍaka also receives incoherent treatment in the vinaya. There are many places that outright bans sex and gender minorities.

    “Bhante, how many reasons are there for suspending the Pātimokkha?”

    “There are, Upāli, ten reasons for suspending the Pātimokkha. What ten? (1) One who has committed a pārājika is sitting in that assembly; (2) a discussion about one who has committed a pārājika is underway; (3) one not fully ordained is sitting in that assembly; (4) a discussion about one not fully ordained is underway; (5) one who has given up the training is sitting in that assembly; (6) a discussion about one who has given up the training is underway; (7) a eunuch is sitting in that assembly; (8) a discussion about a eunuch is underway; (9) a seducer of a bhikkhunī is sitting in that assembly; (10) a discussion about a seducer of a bhikkhunī is underway. These are the ten reasons for suspending the Pātimokkha.”

    (Aṅguttaranikāya 10.32, Pātimokkhaṭṭhapanāsutta, jurisprudence dictating the suspension of the Pātimokkha)

    There is also the fivefold distinction from the elderly Sinhala commentaries as they exist today in translation of Venerable Buddhaghoṣa. From Mahāṭṭhakathā ("The Great Commentary"):

    "Of these, [referring to the fivefold paṇḍakas, see wikipedia] the sprinkled pandaka and the jealous pandaka are not prevented from going forth, while the remaining three are."

    (Vinayapiṭaka, Mahāvaggāṭṭhakathā, Mahākhandhaka, Bodhikathā, @ Tesu āsittapaṇḍakassa ca usūyapaṇḍakassa ca pabbajjā na vāritā, itaresaṃ tiṇṇaṃ vāritā, Ven Buddhaghoṣa)

    So we have here the variety of paṇḍaka known in Pāli as āsittapaṇḍaka, "the sprinkled one" (this is a bit sad but true, but the "sprinkled" here refers to sprinkled with semen), who is actually allowed to ordain at the time, at least, that Ven Buddhaghoṣa is translating in these commentaries.

    And then Ven Buddhaghoṣa, in his seminal work Visuddhimagga, turns around and says

    1. No kaṣina can be developed by any living being described as follows: "Beings hindered by kamma, by defilement, or by kamma-result, who lack faith, zeal, and understanding, will be incapable of entering into the certainty of rightness in profiteable states" (Vibh 341)

    2. Herein, the words hindered by kamma refer to those who possess bad kamma entailing immediate effect on rebirth. By defilement: who have fixed wrong view or are hermaphrodites or eunuchs. By kamma-result: who have had a rebirth-linking with no profitable root-cause or with only two profitable root-causes. Lack faith: are destitute of faith in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṇgha. Zeal: are destitute of zeal for the unopposed way. Understanding: are destitute of mundane and supermundane right view. Will be incapable of entering into the certainty of rightness in profitable states means that they are incapable of entering into the noble path called "certainty" and "rightness in proper states."

    3. And this does not apply only to kaṣinas; for none of them will succeed in developing any meditation subject at all. So the task of devotion to a meditation subject must be undertaken by a clansman who has no hindrance by kamma-result, who shuns hindrance by kamma and by defilement, and who fosters faith, zeal, and understanding by listening to the Dhamma, frequenting good men, and so on.

    (Visuddhimagga 5.40–42, On the Threefold Training, Part II, Samādhi)

    So even Venerable Buddhaghoṣa can't make up with mind as to whether or not homosexuals and other sex and gender minorities make good candidates for practicing Buddhists. This passage of Theravādin post-canonical literature is particularly insidious because it is not just about exclusion from the community of monastics: it is exclusion of an entire blanket category of human beings from participating in the threefold training, ethics, concentration, wisdom, on the grounds that they allegedly cannot concentrate (i.e. sustain a samādhi).

    In this way, targeting laypeople in addition to candidates for the Holy Life, it is like one of the most uncomfortable parts of the Lotus Sūtra, the oddly-named "Division Concerning Peaceful Practices," or Sukhavihāraparivarta (Ch 13 安樂行品), which prohibits close association with the pañcapaṇḍaka (五種不男, "the fives varieties of the emasculated"). The Lotus Sūtra is further interesting because it takes a harsher stance toward sexual minorities in its later Nepalese recension.

    The Nepalese prohibits speaking the dharma to these persons, as they are called ‘incapable of receiving [it]’. The recension known in East Asia, the Kumārajīva, simply prohibits close association with them, indicating that there is a tendency to take a progressively harsher stance, over time, towards sexual minorities (which includes eunuchs and the reproductively-challenged as well as homosexuals) as these scriptures are added to and expanded.

    So what can we take from this? Why would individuals who cannot participate in the threefold training be allowed to ordain? Why was the ordination of the venerable Arhat Lakuṇḍa­kabhaddiya a dukkhatā offense? IMO there is no viewpoint that naturally and without distortion marries these contradictions in a useful manner.

    personadamcrossley
  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    Were there ever gay disciples of the Buddha?

    They were all gay, including the buddha. Just as they were all women. Are we defined by Buddhist/awake or the sleeper cell ...

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I’m glad that current attitudes are becoming more liberal, and attitudes towards gender minorities are more tolerant.

    But I have to say, I have always wondered whether it might not be a case of exploring the destiny of the body. If you were born a male, does that not mean that one should explore what it means to be male and have a male instinct?

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited September 15

    Do these texts or commentaries really talk about that homosexuality per se is sinful/unwholesome or were these views (particular the mahayana/tibetan ones against homosexuality in realtion to hygenie or coerceful sex with minors/boys?

    It seems to me that what they are actually talking about is indulgence in sexual pleasure, in general, while not ruling out basic procreation. Hence the similar statements against hetro oral sex, anal sex, etc. In other words, sex is for procreation and that's it.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    In other words, sex is for procreation and that's it.

    que?
    I have gone wrong again?

    I will be in the naughty corner with the Buddhist perverts if anyone needs [◼️◼️◼️◼️◼️ redacted] ... me ... :p

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Veteran Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited September 15

    This conversation reminds me, there was once a certain Migasālopāsikā, a lay devotee, who, frustrated, said to Venerable Ānanda:

    "Sir, Ānanda, how on earth are we supposed to understand the teaching taught by the Buddha, when the chaste and the unchaste are both reborn in exactly the same place in the next life? My father Purāṇa was celibate, set apart, avoiding the common practice of sex.

    When he passed away, the Buddha declared that he was a once-returner, who was reborn in the host of Joyful Gods. But my uncle Isidatta was not celibate; he lived content with his wife. When he passed away the Buddha declared that he was also a once-returner, who was reborn in the host of Joyful Gods.

    How on earth are we supposed to understand the teaching taught by the Buddha, when the chaste and the unchaste are both reborn in exactly the same place in the next life?”

    The rest of the scripture is at Aṅguttaranikāya 6.44. It makes for very interesting reading.

    There was a discussion earlier about the difference in wording between the two still-extant recensions of early Buddhavacana, the Pāli Theravāda and the Chinese Sarvāstivāda, namely concerning when the Buddha finally dressed down Migasālopāsikā:

    "Who is this laywoman Migasālā, a foolish incompetent matron, with a matron’s wit? And who is it that knows how to assess individuals?"

    The Sarvāstivādin, shorter as typical, reads:

    "Ānanda. Migasālopāsikā, the ignorant, has meagre wisdom."
    (T99.258a10, Saṁyuktāgama: Migasālopāsikānāmasūtra)

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @lobster said:

    In other words, sex is for procreation and that's it.

    que?
    I have gone wrong again?

    I reckon we all have ...

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