Friday, May 25, 2012

sexual ethics article

Sangha night we read an article by Winton Higgins from BuddhaNet.

We had a lively discussion, not about celibacy, but which got me to thinking about what I've read about celibacy in the order.

And there's a bit in one of the female memoirs, (Breaking Free: Glimpses of a Buddhist Life by Srimala) where she talks about dating Subhuti and his attempts at celibacy at times, which led to her attempts.  Seemed like it was his idea the way she told the story.

Thirdly I'm reading Through Buddhist Eyes: Travel Letters(a book of Bhante's travel letters to Shabda in the 80's and 90's, which is not always exciting reading, and oddly disappointing at times, though good in others), and in it Sangharakshita recommends in 1989 Liz Hodgkinson's Sex is Not Compulsory.  Bhante, "....I strongly recommend the book to those of you who have not yet read it.  Those who have read it, but who have still not given serious consideration to the question of celibacy, should, I think, read it again." (p. 89).

I would also add, that in Gautama Buddha: The Life and Times of the Awakened One. Vishvapani Blomfield, an excellent biography of the Buddha, he quotes in the Pali Cannon an incident where a monk sleeps with his ex-wife so she can have a child.  The Buddha says he would do better to stick his penis into a snakes mouth, than to procreate with his ex-wife, which seems pretty intense.

So I'm not about to go celibate, but it's interesting to see how the order deals with this in public.  Inside the order, and not public, is another matter, probably deeper and personal.  It's quite a strong quote from Bhante about the Hodgkinson book, and a strong quote from the Pali Cannon in the Vishvapani book.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I went to sangha night for the first time in ages, and it was wonderful to be around everyone.  I'd forgotten how much I like everyone.  I'd forgotten how important it is to meditate with others.  I'd forgotten how cool it is to read something together and discuss, and get to know each other better.  Yay, sangha.  I take refuge in the sangha jewel.

Thomas Jefferson with a Buddhist advisor?

What if Thomas Jefferson had a quasi-Buddhist advisor (who focuses on wellness) and his letters were recently discovered?  Suneel Dhand has written a book that explores these themes in a pleasant and clear little book.

Suneel Dhand is a doctor who has focused on wellness.  You can follow his tweets about wellness.

At times reading Thomas Jefferson: Lessons from a Secret Buddha I was a bit incredulous.  This Buddha friend participated in the Boston Tea Party?  I mean, I believe in engaged Buddhism and all, but the Buddha didn't get involved in the various kingdoms of his time beyond advising kings on how to deepen their spirituality.  He didn't take to modern political protesting.  As revolutionary as he was, he operated mostly on a personal level, he was a revolutionary of the internal world.

In many ways, this wasn't the Buddha I recognize, he was more like a modern wellness guru, and a political activist.  Like Dr. Suneel Bhand perhaps.  Perhaps I took the word "Buddha" too literally regarding the historical Buddha.  There were many politically active buddhist including Ashoka The Great.  There's no telling what the Buddha would have done in Revolutionary America.  And this is an honest act of imagination.

Dr. Bhand says the quotes are from the Buddha, but I have the feeling they were more along the lines of fake Buddha quotes.  I can't actually prove that, but I do know the "live in the now" stuff isn't so much exact Buddhism, but a vague kind of modern version.  Mindfulness in the Buddhist context is much more specific.  Not that I mind different definitions of mindfulness and wellness.  And you can create any kind of Buddha you want, there's no such thing as blasphemy in Buddhism.  "My thinking was so uptight," as the Dude says.  I think it's a kind of western thing to be such a fussbudget.  In the east syncretism is much more acceptable, I imagine.  Alas, that was my initial reaction to this fine book.  He's really trying to put forth the positive wellness aspects of certain approaches of Thomas Jefferson that are congenial to eastern ways.

When I settled in to this Buddhist inspired wellness guru (instead of quibbling about his vision of the Buddha), Thomas Jefferson and the American Revolution, I enjoyed this book on revolutionary history and the wellness of one of our great founders.  Dr Bhand is also the author of a book on wellness, and I take his comments about wellness seriously.  I think I would like Dr. Suneel Dhand if I ever met him, and I think he's tackled an awesome project of retranslating eastern spirituality into western culture by weaving into Thomas Jefferson's life a kind of eastern guru of wellness.  A very impressive book.  Thank you.

I always appreciate a book that gets me thinking and this one did.

I kept singing Shot Heard Round The World, after I read the book.

Which of course lead me to this video

which of course lead to this video