29 September, 2020

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Buddhism And The Politics Of Homosexuality

By Thrishantha Nanayakkara

Thrishantha Nanayakkara

Last weekend, I enjoyed some time with the kids and my wife in the beach. As always, it was so relaxing to watch how the waves arose, broke down on sand, and receded back to the sea. Walking along, we were paying attention to the sound of waves impounding on sand. Every wave had a sound track with its own subtle uniqueness that sent waves of unique feelings inside me. At some point, I closed my eyes, and started to watch these waves of feelings triggered by every new wave that broke on the beach. It re-confirmed me that I had no control over the waves of feelings being propagated in my mind – ear (rupa) comes into contact with sound (rupa), a vinyana or the discriminative awareness arises (vi-for vibhedana or splitting, and nyana-for knowing that splits a “me” here vs a “wave” out there), detailed sensations (vedana) of the sound comes under discriminative awareness, and perceptions and judgments arise (sanya). When I closed one ear (augmented the physical organization of the process of hearing or kaya sankara), the way I felt the sound of waves changed. So my feelings and perceptions depended on kaya sankara too (sankara in general refers to any thing with a structure in body, mind, or language).

What was striking is that this whole internal wave starting from the contact of a sound wave on the ear all the way to perceptions was so self-driven. I had no control over the process, and the end effect depended on so many laws of nature (dharmatha) of which I was only a manifestation, than a controlling authority. This notion is explained in Buddhism in one word called anatta (the non-self nature).  When we are unaware of this process, somebody who goes to the beach will enjoy the feelings for sometime, but get bored of it over time, or find some fault there, like the chill in the air. This non-satisfactory nature of being unaware of sensations is called the quality of dukka (du– for weak, akka-for axis), or in other words the compulsion to move away seeking a more pleasurable thing out there. It works like a wheel mounted on a weak axis – hence it is called du-akka or dukka. Moreover, the variation of the sound track of every new breaking wave, and the variability of resulting perceptions is called the quality of anicca or anithya every present in nature. Buddha explained that all five aggregates – rupa, vedana, sanya, sankara, and vinyana – that underpin compounded objects and mind, possess the three qualities – unaware clinging leads to unsatisfactoriness (dukka), the aggregates are subject to change (anithya), and there is no superseding owner of the five aggregates but they are self driven, conditioned, and transient phenomena (anatta).

Take another experience like handedness. When you open a bottle, if you are right handed, you would most often choose the left hand to hold the bottle and the right hand to twist the cap. Do it over and over again, you may notice that how the two hands share responsibility to do the task vary (anithya). If you do not pay enough attention to the task, there maybe things you want to blame, like the lack of grip in the hands, lack of stability, and lack of strength, without realizing that it is the best the two hands could do, etc (dukka). And you may notice that this particular organization (sankara) that led to how the two hands shared responsibility can be conditioned to a different pattern to change the self-driven process with you having no control over it (anatta).

The same applies to sexuality. I married a woman because I get attracted to women. I have no control over the process that starts from the sight of a woman to a sexual attraction. All I have control over as a Buddhist are: practicing self-restraint (sila), practicing mindfulness (samadhi) to be aware of my feelings and to strive to develop wholesome qualities while weakening unwholesome qualities, and practicing to refine the view about the nature of this process (ditti), and the conditioning of my intentions (sankappa), together grouped as wisdom (pragnya). This way we can train ourselves to take control over things from feelings to actions, though we have no control over the former part of the process that leads from sensory contact to feelings. Therefore, one who gets attracted to the same sex has no control or ownership of that process starting from the sight of a person to the feeling of homosexual attraction. However, we may not like that sensual manifestation called homosexuality. This is one instant where Buddhist practice helps us to come to perfect peace with the way things are. Just like homosexuality, there are so many things in the universe we may not like. However, the realization that all those things we like and dislike are driven by waves of causes and conditions formed by natural laws (dharmatha) that work for and against our desires, and the fact that there is no owner to be blamed, brings a radical ability to be in harmony with the World, leading to the end result – unconditioned happiness.

Why I took homosexuality as the focus of this note is the way the Government abused an incident where Dr. Harsha De Silva, an opposition MP in the parliament of Sri Lanka, had rested his hand on the shoulders of a Buddhist monk in a political rally. There were several things we can think of improving there. First, it is a totally inappropriate event for a Buddhist monk to participate. Second, it is wrong judgment of the opposition to fall down to the level of the Rajapaksa administration in the way they abuse the presence of Buddhist monks in politics. Third, Dr. Harsha de Silva could have been more mindful, though quite understandably, the situation took his attention to the gathering in front of him. Fourth, it is not very appropriate for those who claim to be Guardians of Buddhism to abuse public phobia on homosexuality to gain political mileage by interpreting it as an act of homosexuality.Fifth, it is hypocritical to point fingers at homosexuals while covering up rapists among Government ranksHowever, it is so encouraging to see Dr. Harsha de Silva’s bravery to come on media to make a public apology. This is a ray of hope in modern politics in Sri Lanka, when everybody is hell-bent on covering up misbehavior.

Even if it was an act of homosexuality, as practicing Buddhists, we realize that the process that works in homosexuals is exactly the same as ours, but it is only that their sankaras lead the process to a different destination of feeling and then a perception. They have no control over it, because the process does not have an owner (anatta). What should happen therefore is a spontaneous arising of compassion towards them.

Finally, I request again from the opposition not to drag Buddhist monks to politics. Yes, I understand that the majority of voters have made a soup out of religion, ethnicity, and politics. Yes, I do understand that the Rajapaksa administration just nurtures on that soup and kindles the fire underneath the pot too. Our reaction to that should not be falling down to the same level, but to practice our religions in their true sense and encourage others to do the same. Bad politics will just fade away when people penetrate ignorance. If possible, do something to construct forest retreat centers for practicing Buddhists in the working masses to take weekends off to practice, than having symbolic presence of the yellow robe in your politics. Please also reflect upon the way state media was abused by the UNP led administrations in the past too. Like Dr. Harsha de Silva demonstrated his gentlemanship and bravery by coming on public media to apologize for his misbehavior, if possible publicly confess misuse of state properties and media in your own past, with a firm resolve to correct them in the future as the main political party in the opposition. This would be more powerful in our eyes than mirroring the Rajapaksa administration of which we are losing hope so fast.

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    i think it’s an argument that can take away personal and social responsibility, which is a key aspect of buddhism. if someone likes to have sex with children, he can argue that it is a result of his thought process, therefore is anatta, beyond his control. it’s a cheeky argument. it’s quite similar to the medieval catholic practice of blaming the Satan for one’s own wrongdoings. If one truely ‘sees’ anatta, the notion of ‘I’ won’t be there in the first place. then how can we even define ‘my or his/her sexuality’? if we are talking about sexuality and sexual orientation, we are already dealing with sammuthi or conventions. using anatta to justify any sammuthi is a contradiction. sammuthi have to be discussed within the sammuthi context.

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      I think that is why this part of the note in important – “All I have control over as a Buddhist are: practicing self-restraint (sila), practicing mindfulness (samadhi) to be aware of my feelings and to strive to develop wholesome qualities while weakening unwholesome qualities, and practicing to refine the view about the nature of this process (ditti), and the conditioning of my intentions (sankappa), together grouped as wisdom (pragnya). This way we can train ourselves to take control over things from feelings to actions, though we have no control over the former part of the process that leads from sensory contact to feelings. “

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      great reply!

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      Sex with children isn’t an act between two consenting adults who understand the situation fully. What is the relevance?

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    The clergy as the guardians of religon have a duty to uphold the religous teachings and be role models for the lay public. If they descend to the level of terrorist, thugs and hooligans or even political stooges, then they forego the right to the respect and regard due to them and may no longer be considered to be members of the clergy.

    We expect them to be at a very high level of sprituality and ethical behaviour which is a reflection on the religons they claim to follow. By mingling with the common people and riff raff they tend to devalue their religous and spiritual standing. Those who sleep with the dogs will arise with the fleas.

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    It’s a great reply by Dharshana

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    Thrishantha Nanayakkara,-

    “Why I took homosexuality as the focus of this note is the way the Government abused an incident where Dr. Harsha De Silva, an opposition MP in the parliament of Sri Lanka, had rested his hand on the shoulders of a Buddhist monk in a political rally. There were several things we can think of improving there. First, it is a totally inappropriate event for a Buddhist monk to participate. “

    This is one of many, many appropriate events for Buddhist Monks to participate, if they follow the teaching of Buddha. Look at the activities of BBS, Sinhala Ravaya Monks in Sri Lanka, Burma Monks and Tibetan Monks, before Tibet was “Liberated” from Monk Hegemony.

    It is about Monk Hegemony, and the politicians are the clients of the Monks. Europe got over that sometime ago.

    See Below:

    Buddhism The Great — Part 1

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNOfTGSADdY

    Buddhism The Great — Part 2

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clcs2PSze0I

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    As a christian I’m afraid I have difficulty in understanding the morality of this.Thrishantha seems to say that a man is responsible for his own actions-right or wrong. If that is true does he escape punishment for evil,or does he wait till death to see the consequences of his acts?
    As no one really knows what happens after death (we only know what we are taught to believe), he could get off scot-free, couldnt he?

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      The Dhammapada explains this well. If one performs a bad deed with intention, it follows him like a cart following the ox during the lifetime and beyond. The point of the note is to highlight that we have little control over the orientation of how feelings are generated, but can train ourselves on how actions are taken based on those feelings. So, it is not very appropriate to label people based on how they look like and how they feel things. Cultural conventions on things like sexuality can be there, but Buddhism never encourages to identify any human being as less normal than others, like right handed and left handed people are equally normal in front of natural laws.

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      essie,

      “As a christian I’m afraid I have difficulty in understanding the morality of this”

      You need not be a Christian to have difficulty understanding this.

      Anybody with common sense can understand that.

      So, the religions have brainwashed and scared them with hell, and rebirth etc. to behave morally and the monks, priests and mullahs set themselves up as administrators, to punish the deviant faithful in the next life (if there is one).

      I would prefer the culprits are punished in this life for their crimes in this life, and let the Gods take care of after life punishment.

      That is an Enlightened society in this life.

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      /*
      Thrishantha seems to say that a man is responsible for his own actions-right or wrong. If that is true does he escape punishment for evil,or does he wait till death to see the consequences of his acts?
      */

      A baby is born with a birth defect. A god believer will lament ‘O Lord why you work in such ‘mysterious ways’. Just as Newton’s 3rd law every effect has an equal opposite reaction. A Buddhist on the other hand know its merely the causal effect from a previous incarnation. If human conscience is a form of energy, re-incarnation is simply energy transfer from one form to another.

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        A bit out of the topic though, there are few things we have to be careful of.

        1. Reincarnation (punar-uppatti) is not within Buddhist teachings. Instead Buddha taught about punar-bhawa, which is in accord with anatta or anathma. It is like a sea wave moving without the water physically moving. It is mostly driven by the compulsion to become.

        2. Everything we experience is not a result of some karma linked to previous lives. Instead, he taught that everything we experience is a conditioned result of the forces of a mix of natural laws called niyama dharmatha – (bija niyama (how genetics and resulting organic reactions work), dhamma niyama (all the physical laws and inorganic laws), utu niyama (what we experience like seasons due to planetary movements), citta niyama (all the psychological laws), and mamma niyama (how the body and mind get oriented to relate and respond to situations due to previous responses to similar situations)). So, the anomaly of a child can come from parent’s genetics, due to food reactions, a seasonal effect, or mamma too.

        3. Buddha said that these Dharmatha are omnipresent and apparent here and now (Sandhttika), like i mentioned in the note, these laws can be seen right in your own body and mind and in the immediate environment, Akaliko (they don’t change with time), Eheipassiko (they are self inviting to see more), Opanaiko (leading inwards than outward symbols and labels), and Pacchattan Veditabbo Vinyuhi (to be directly experienced and realized by those who develop insight). So, if you look carefully, Christian notion of God, and the qualities of the God are the same. They call it God, and we call it the omnipresent, never changing Dhamma, that govern all causes and conditions leading to manifestations we experience. The only difference is that they give it a personality (The God) and we don’t.

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          Sorry for the typo. Above “mamma” should be kamma. Just noticed that my editor is trying to be too smart.

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            As soon as something goes wrong a normal human reaction is “why me?”. I actually forgot I have heard of “niyama dharmatha” before in the context of the Tsunami disaster. I questioned whether its possible for over hundred thousand people to perish entirely as result of ones Vipakka, Then someone responded people suffer because that is simply how things are. It does not always have to be a result of a previous action.

            This is useful to know because some blame themselves when things go wrong. Knowledge of “niyama dharmatha” can in fact prevent self-harm. Bad/good things happen in cycles simply because that is how things are.

            The position of the moon is relation to Earth has an impact on water tide. Anatomy of human being is mostly water. The “utu niyama” explains how planetary positions can affect people. Perhaps Astrology taps into the utu niyama to predict future based on position of planets.

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          Thrishantha,

          //1. Reincarnation (punar-uppatti) is not within Buddhist teachings. Instead Buddha taught about punar-bhawa, which is in accord with anatta or anathma. It is like a sea wave moving without the water physically moving. It is mostly driven by the compulsion to become.//

          Yes, a bit out of the topic…But a simple and clear question related to next birth (or prathisandhiya), How do you know this (//….//) beyond any doubt? If you say, punarbhawa is the correct concept, then punaruthpaththi can not be correct. The similarity of these two concepts is that we can not prove both. In logic, both concepts has equal chances to become true, as we can not prove both of them!

          In other words, my question is… why we should believe in punarbhawa over punaruthpaththi?

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    Wow,
    From Boston to London you changed your opinion a lot

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    This is just a garbage in – garbage out type of article.

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      Difficult to comprehend or cannot find answers in the Internet to cut & paste ? Easy to attack Islam, no ?

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      Because you don’t about him who is? may be for you it is garbage not for the other readers here…………
      It has been confirmed that you are one of the agent for BBS and working for money…….

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    Well said Trishantha.

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    Hey Trishantha

    Dr. Harsha de Silva demonstrated his gentlemanship and bravery by coming on public media to apologize for his misbehavior

    Why don’t you request from Ranil and Mangala to come forward and confess like Harsha about their homosexual miss behaviour

    before you blame the present rules

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      KK:-In any other country, where the Rule of Law reigns supreme, your kind of comment would lead to Legal Action. This is uncalled for personal vilification, pure and simple. Shame on you, KK.

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        They can take legal action if I am not telling the truth

        pure and simple that is truth , I know it hearts UNP supporters

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          They might if you request that MR and his clan come clean with all the commissions in exchange? Let’s try that?

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    So you should not punish a paedophile or a rapist or a murderer in this life? Christianity suggests the same thing-‘vengeance is mine; I will repay’, says the Lord. That means no laws for a community? No overt control?

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      Physical punishment like imprisonment maybe required to maintain the law and order in the society. But punishment is on the feeling -> action part of the wave, that people can improve as I said in the note.

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        I have the feeling Thrishantha is just few steps about to attain Nirwana.

        What we face in the aspects of increasing crime rate in SL today, is nothing else due to the lack of due enforcement of law and order as had been in the country few decades ago (or before 2005). Multi Murders are to be punished putting them in Jails but in the same times, they should be subjected to rehabilitation programs as it is practised in Germany for example. Just to ignore these high criminals as it is the fact seen in the country today – is a greater threat for the day today life of normal civil folks. If one would gather information from the people today, 99% would join adding their worrying remarks about the threat to continuation of their lives today.
        Women, aged parents and children are becoming more vulnerable to be victimised to all crimes.

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    “If one performs a bad deed with intention, it follows him like a cart following the ox during the lifetime and beyond.”

    If karma really is true, why don’t pigeons get shat on?

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    No. The article is certainly not garbage. it does however imply a humanity in man, who is not born human but inhuman-he has to be trained to be human; and that cannot be done without rules. A child of 3 yrs, ill-treating an animal or pulling the wings off a butterfly,cannot be taught the laws of cause and effect or hell and damnation. He has to be told to stop it or else! The codes of right and wrong HAVE to be taught early, not discussed.

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    Very good. Sexual activity is an extender of samsaric journeys and there is not qualification of the anatomies of the human beings engaging in this.

    Bhikkhus or Monks, as they are qualified by the Buddha’s dharma, are those who display the four qualities of Supatipanna, Upupatipanna, Gnayapatipanna and Samichipatipanna, who observe the Uposatha and the Pathimokka. A majority of those who wear the cloth do not possess those qualities nor do they engage their time in the practice and therefore cannot be considered Bhikkhus. What they do is project to the world an idea of the “Monk following the Buddha” which goes completely against what the Buddha preached. Therefore, they are guilty of the 5th heinous crime of Ariya Upavada or causing schism within the order of Bhikkhus. The karmic reward of such activity is well known so we need not be too bothered by these things since the Dharma is Akalika and its rewards are instantaneous. What we need to do as lay persons is be diligent in the practice of the Dharma as preached by the Buddha and complete in itself without the need for interpretation (Svakkatha).

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    buddhists have compassion for everybody irrespective good, bad or abnormal things they do.

    buddhists understand everybody mayhem in their lives whether it is solely mental or not.

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    Buddhism allows gay marriage. Check this video on YouTube. Gay Marriage, Why Not? By monk Ajahn Brahm
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOPcbFhCEj0

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    Gay concept is western.

    buddha talked about abnormal sexual behaviour to one king, Kosala, I suppose.

    Buddha saw that abnormal sexual activity would become normal as the world become polluted.

    Other than that, in order to achieve Salvation, Tibetan buddhist practitioners would use same sex partners.

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      Can you kindly tell us in which Sutta we can find that Buddha’s teaching, so that we can check the details? For instance, what I wrote in the note can be found in Anattalakkana sutra.

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    Life after death is real.When you are in your mothers womb,if some one says you are coming into a bigger world from your perspective buddhist you wont beleive. Every soul will have to account for its deeds. Islam teaches there are 5 world a person lives in:
    1.World of the souls
    2.Mothers womb
    3.Material world-earth
    4.Kabbar-grave
    5.Heaven or Hell- depending on you believe in your creator or not.

    World of the souls all humans promise allah that they will worship only allah(only one god).but when they come to be born they start worshiping idols-things made of stone and wood and give imaginary powers to the created beings- No other religion can give you direct and
    proven answers for any of your questions like Islam.
    All other religions have been corrupted by there priest to such extent,that the essence of oneness of god is not there.Listen to Zakir Naik in YOU Tube you will be amazed.

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    Thank you Dr.Thrishantha.

    I guess I am homosexual in terms of my sexual orientation. As a first step I understood that there are many other dimensions to ‘who I am'(identity) and that for Buddhist. So as I focused on my understanding and reflection upon the Dhamma, then my basic understanding of ‘Dukka’,’Annatta’ and ‘Anicca’ helped me to deal with my orientation.

    I consider myself a practising Buddhist, trying to maintain ‘sila’, ‘samadhi’ without letting my orientation without making it a barrier.

    As a teenager, it was a struggled to understand my orientation and why I was different. I grew up in a Buddhist environment that helped me to reconcile with the realization and kind of an acceptance of this orientation. My understanding, practice and may be something brought from a previous ‘bawa’ helped me not to stray from the dhamma in a big way. I try to be mindful of lust and to remind myself of the sila that I aspire for. A lot to improve but I know I’m on a good path path.

    However for a long time and I guess even now, there is an element of guilt that I associated towards my orientation due to the social norms in society. This I realize is a challenge to my practice and something I’m trying to be mindful of and overcome. I think you have helped me in this regard. Thank you for writing on this as many would just shy away from it not being able to grapple with the issue or not being able to articulate themselves well.

    May all beings be happy, may they be healthy and may they be healed !

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    Sodomy is a biological need in a human being who has that desire, the writer is trying to explain something that is his opinion.

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