My girlfriend and I work for a Buddhist publishing company in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Our young and growing publishing house has 11 full and part time staff, and while 10 are female, most are straight women. However, we are out to everyone at our Buddhist centre and all are our friends and openly supportive of our relationship. Within the Buddhist organisation, we are accepted and it’s not a big deal. But recently, I heard someone belonging to another Buddhist organisation mention rather excitedly that our Buddhist organisation was full of gays! Full of gays? I was at first taken aback which turned to amusement. Our Buddhist organisation is unconventional but I had never heard that we had a rainbow flag waving above our roof. Yes, like every organisation, there are a few gays and lesbians (some still firmly in their closet but we can seeeee you!) but full of gays?!
Apparently, at that time, His Eminence did innocently ask some of his students why there was a stream of gay people who came to the centre at that time! We no longer use the tagline, not because His Eminence or anyone in the centre wanted to discourage gay students, far from it, as we are very inclusive, but because our Buddhist centre offers Buddhism for all and we did not want a misconception that it is aimed at any particular group. For the record, our centre is merely a sample of the world at large, with a majority straight crowd but with a lively sprinkle of pink.
My girlfriend was previously a Christian and she went through a lot of angst over whether her sexuality was a sin, to the extent of even contemplating suicide. And she is by no means the only gay person to do so. I had previously been a spiritual seeker and had not committed myself to any particular religion until a few years ago, just a little more recently than when I had discovered my love for women, so conversely, I had no spiritual guilt over my previous relationships.
After I had known my Guru and spiritual guide for awhile, I was convinced of the consistency of his good qualities and I wanted to ‘officially’ become a Buddhist under his guidance. I wanted to take refuge from this erudite Master. However, when I read the refuge vows, I had stopped short at the vow of no sexual misconduct. My life up until about seven years ago had pretty much been all about sexual misconduct. However, I have been in a monogamous relationship for seven years now so I thought I was pretty good. But it did nag at me a little - was homosexuality considered sexual misconduct?
The best person to ask was my Guru so I did. Different Buddhist Masters may have different points of view regarding this but for me, His Eminence’s perspective was simply logical. He explained that we have all been male, female, cat, dog, insect, hell being, spirit, in our countless lives since beginningless time. What we are today are simply physical manifestations. And when we die, this physical manifestation will decay and disappear. Only our minds will continue to the next life and the form it will manifest will depend on our karma. So our physical body – whether male or female - is actually transient and inconsequential in the macro view.
Sex is actually just friction, H.E. said candidly. It doesn’t really matter who you do it with, so long as you don’t hurt the person you are with. It is more important that you love, support and care for your partner than who your partner is. It is more important that you are loyal and faithful to your partner, than whether your partner is of the same sex as you.
There’s no need to beat yourself up over who you’re sleeping with. Sex is such a small part of a relationship – especially the longer term relationships (I’ll talk about lesbian bed death another time). Why get worked up over a physical act which is proportionately minor in our lives? Isn’t it better to focus on what we do for the rest of the day – whether we’re kind, caring, bitchy or lying.
Heterosexual or homosexual, lust is lust. From a Buddhist perspective, it is better not to over indulge in lust, but since we are lay practitioners and not ready to renounce (yet), my Guru is compassionate and kind and simply tells me to respect each other’s lifestyle and make sure we don’t hurt anyone.
It’s that simple.
Sharon Saw is a writer / editor at Kechara Media & Publications, which focuses on publishing the teachings of H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche, a high incarnate Lama of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. A selection of Buddhist and non-Buddhist related books from Kechara Publications is now available on Fridae Shop. You can follow Sharon on Twitter. This column will appear every other Friday.
As is sometimes the case with me, reading an article on one subject brings up questions quite apart from the topic. In Sharon's 6th paragraph, H.E. mentions "...beginningless time." and it got me to thinking. Is time beginningless? Or did it begin with the Big Bang? A new question for me to drive myself crazy with.
My understanding is that homosexuality is another label that our mind created once there is something for the mind to compare e.g. heterosexuality.
Law of Karma and story of Samsara are something you cannot proof. However, the gist of the bhudda's teaching is that to end suffering and lead you to the ultimate truth called "nirvana" or "God' or "Tao" or whatever you wanna call.
The insight meditation is a vehicle of our spiritual advancement...
I am a little bothered by the two Buddhisms. I read/speak Chinese, and I have also studied Tibetan with the Dalai Lama's brother, so I'm well-acquainted with Buddhism,and I'm getting really uneasy with the whole 'buddhism isn't a religion' crowd. It's true that it doesn't have to be: there's are bundles of books on meditation and the madhyamaka ideas on emptiness. Yet if you walk into a Chinese or Korean Buddhist temple, there sure is a lot of praying-to-supernatural-being going on. The Dalai Lama ordered his followers to stop the worship of Dorje Shugdan because this 'being' could hurt his health. He also consults a spirit-possessed oracle. I've seen the 'laughing buddha' (read: fat guy who came to represent the future Buddha in 18th century China) getting a lot of prostrating from visitors. And how the heck do we know that there is a future buddha if we don't have supernatural powers to divine that?
Call me small minded, but this isn't psychology. I think Nagarjuna is a wild read as much as anybody, but can we stop ignoring the 800-pound gorilla in the room? Buddhism is a religion.
Here's the real question: who cares if Buddhism allows gay people? Reality allows gay people. If Buddhism doesn't allow them, then maybe you should consider joining a gym or a book club! Or better yet, get off your ass and tell your parents and try to transform cultures based on the opinions of people dead for thousands of years! (I should know: I was raised in a culture that thought the answers to everything were in the mythologies of shepherds wandering Sinai!)
Our sciences reveal a much more interesting universe than anything invented by a rabbi, priest, yogi, or lama. Go to the library!
This is a common idea in pop psychology and postmodernism. It derives from Ferdinand de Saussure's "Course in General Linguistics." [Published 1916]
Despite the rich evolution of linguistic theory in the 20th theory, the French, especially in the 1960s, fell in love with this idea that 'we can't understand white without black', etc. I wish I had a dime for every time this argument comes up.
OK, here's a thought experiment for you: what do you do when you see a platypus?
You don't need an opposite or a 'difference' (or, as Derrida coined it, differance) to label it.
By the way, Umberto Eco, a writer in the tradition of semiotics (however, much closer to Charles Peirce's semiotics than de Saussure's semiology), did write a book called "Kant and the Platypus" for all the pomos out there.
Just a footnote; it's a habit.
Our oldest Pali scriptures are fairly young, as writing on leaves isn't the best way to preserve documents. Sanskrit was rewritten, ergo re-edited, many times. Again, claim you have the original Buddha's teachings if you want. The Mormons in Salt Lake City have another claim on 'true teachings'. I'm just skeptical how you (plural) figured out what the Great/Enlightened/Super being said. In phonetics and astronomy, they talk about background 'noise'. Well, in historical philology and phonology, that noise is really, really loud.
I would rather rely on people's actions than on history. History is a mess. And the holes are bigger than most people know, especially in India. Indians didn't regard history as important for centuries while chinese did. (Of course, chinese enjoyed fictions, too.) Historians of the Sui-Tang dynasties check the Chinese, ignore the Sanskrit, and trust the Arabic. There are reasons for all three.
Good luck with your dhamma.
Some of the ways that chanting has helped me: I used to suffer from social phobia and depression -- but no more after chanting and wisdom. I've learned not to blame others, but rather to see my responsibility in all aspects of my life. I've learned to chant for the happiness of those who make make life hard. And how to turn poison into medicine.
If anyone is interested in learning more, go to SGI-USA.ORG.
and I am always polite... there was no personal attack (verbal or otherwise) from my side... merely my opinion and observation...
Im a member of sgi here in Cebu Philippines as i read your column it open my mind again regarding homosexual, as my previous religion is catholic.... i remember i join other religion to find more about my self, but mostly they say, Gay is a sin..... but for me, i don't want to argue about that, coz since when i was kid, im gay already and that part is hard coz they make comments about being gay specially family, i been thru many hardship in life.... last 5 years i found it SGI and SGI was the one who accept me even my sexuality, they told there's nothing wrong being gay, GAY MEAN'S HAPPY, GAY MEAN "ME" and they told me, your not changing of who you are, you changing your bad karma to good karma... so then i accept SGI WITH ALL MY HEART and that, i have freedom and more happier, and mostly in SGI many gay and lesbian member....that's cool and more happier, more colorful and now im a Buddhist for 5 years
cin Buddhism they accept all, all human, plants, everything you name it....
like i said, Its okay to be Buddhist and gay, there's nothing wrong with that..
this is my opinion.....
IN Buddhism they accept all, all human , plants, everything you name it...
like i said, Its okay to be Buddhist and gay, there's nothing wrong with that....
this is my opinion
Nice to see another SGI member here. I can only speak to my experience of 25 years, but I've had very positive experiences in the SGI. I know in Japan, the organization has a more political influence.
But at the end of the day, people only can know an experience by having participated themselves. Otherwise their views are superficial and second hand. One powerful concept I like is "human revolution". The notion that in each life, a person must go through their own personal transformation by confronting their karma...and thus doing their "human revolution." In the end, it is about each person find the religion or philosophy that allows them to be happiest and most valuable to the community.
I'd be interested in what thoughts author Sharon Saw has on this discussion.
At the end of the day, does it really matter what is religion and what is a gorilla?
We are all at various stages of enlightenment. Some chant, some burn joss sticks, some wear amulets, some do the 三步一拜, whatever. To each his/her own.
The Buddha's teachings are so many. There are so many Buddhists sects in the world, just as many for every belief. 百种米养百种人。As human being, we gravitate towards what we agree with, what appeals to us. All of us pick the parts of the Buddha's teachings that we seek refuge in, the part that speaks to us at that point in our lives. Everyone's Buddhism and understanding of Buddhism is different.
At the end of it, who are we to judge if someone's beliefs and practices are real, are correct, are right? Does it matter if we can read and pronounce the Sanskrit words accurately but our heart is not in the right place? "What is essential is invisible to the eye." ~ Saint Exupery. 看心。
So what if someone is intelligent and can read and expound on the Buddhist philisophies and teachings; and tell the difference between religion and gorilla? Show me compassion, empathy, gentleness of manner and mind. And I will show you a Buddhist who is not a Buddhist.
Thank you for your comments on my article. Since one of the readers has expressed interest in my thoughts on the discussion in the thread, here they are.
Frankly, I don’t know much about SGI or any other Buddhist lineage aside from my own, which is the Gelugpa school from Gaden Monastery, as taught by His Eminence Tsem Tulku Rinpoche. As such, I cannot comment on any other school. In any case, H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche is extremely firm about his students not saying anything negative about another school of Buddhism, another Buddhist centre, or any other religion for that matter. Sectarianism is considered extremely negative and not tolerated at our centre. I strongly believe in respecting each other’s belief systems as this is the only way we can create harmony and peace within and without.
In his book, “Gurus for Hire, Enlightenment for Sale”, H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche says: “A real spiritual teacher or one aspiring to be one will not criticise another spiritual teacher and will not put another Dharma centre down. If we hear a person putting our centre or any centre down, we should immediately advise them, ‘Please show a good reflection of your teacher, don’t do that.’”
In my Dharma centre, I too discourage people from criticising other lineages, Gurus and centres. I stop them immediately. I cut down and stamp down on sectarianism. I have never at any time taught any of my friends or students anything about politics. I have never, ever told anyone in our centre or in any place to take sides or to criticise another side. I have always critically and openly given my students both sides of the coin, explained things to them and let them decide for themselves.
I regardless of sects and denominations of Buddhism. In general, Buddhism speaks about karma, cause and effect and its consequences.
I am a SGI member for 15 years. I can still see that Singapore Soka members are still very conservative about being gay. But I do have friends from SGI USA who are very embracing to gay people.
The teaching of Nichiren Buddhism is considered very simple and yet difficult.
Its simple cause you only need to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Its difficult cause you have to do it twice everyday. Ha ha... The word 'Human Revolution' is not from Nichiren himself but from Josei Toda, 2nd president of Soka Gakkai.
But the beauty of Nichiren Buddhism is that you need not change your true nature to attain enlightenment. Cause your true nature is your own Buddhahood.
SGI members always put this in mind that whoever practises Buddhism should genuinely think and care for others and also behave like a Buddha. Of course, black sheeps are also part of the family in any organizations.
SGI is just like any organizations just that it places human true happiness as the foremost priority by implementing faith in Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. Definitely, other religious organizations are doing the same.
Buddhism is a religion. If you rely a particular object, theory or teaching as a means for you to attain Happiness and Stability in life. That is a religion. Any religion in this world has their own unique way of life. In general, all teaches us to be good. But certain practices are unique.
And these unique practices have their meanings and effects if applied.
Imagine, a Christain who visits a Zen Temple. S/he will finds it awfully boring and idle to sit there 'doing nothing' Worse if s/he visits a daimoku session in a Gakkai member's house. It sounds fanatical.
Juz like a Buddhist who visits a Charismatic Church. S/he will think that the people there are possessed or in trance.
All these leads to misunderstanding. No one should say that this is right and there is perverted. Understand the true intentions, you are enlightened.
I am a extreme liberal SG member. I appreciate the founders of other Buddhist denominations. esp Padmasambhava of the Nyingma school, because his practice is exactly the same as Shakubuku as in Nichiren. This is when he first introduced Buddhism to Tibet where Shamanism is the practice.
Honen of the Jodo school was also exiled to Sado before Nichiren. All these pioneers of Buddhism had actually use their life to propagate Buddhism. Not because they want people to worship them. It is their mission to keep Buddhism alive in all eras.
I am proud to be a SGI member. But I am also proud to be gay.
The answer is: To be gay or lesbian (homosexual) is nothing wrong or against Buddhist rules or priciple, as long as you understand and obey
to the precept of " being concubine to the other's lover is sin "
Ello Kitty can daddy hug u? hee...
I have not seen a 'Buddha' kitty before. So Cute!!! =D
Yes yes! To have a legimate lover irregardless is not breaching the precept, but to sleep around and having 'open relationships' is a sin.
Human beings can be superficial and fake. You'll be surprised that some Soka people shun gay people like hell. There sure to be all kinds of people in an organization.
And I don't disagree with what you have mentioned. What is most important is personal practice. Sincere or not all depends on an individual. Hope I have clarify your point.
be buddhist.. be mindfull... be happy...
I personally like the following paragraph, simply because that was what it was taught in Buddhism:
"He explained that we have all been male, female, cat, dog, insect, hell being, spirit, in our countless lives since beginning less time. What we are today are simply physical manifestations. And when we die, this physical manifestation will decay and disappear. Only our minds will continue to the next life and the form it will manifest will depend on our karma. So our physical body – whether male or female - is actually transient and inconsequential in the macro view."
I ponder upon the question before about the existence of soul and matter.
Sometimes I wonder whether I was a man in the past, ... and reincarnated as a woman in this life. Could my "subconscious" mind still retain a friction of memories, feelings and desire from the past life? Could this be the reason why I am a lesbian today?
Anyway, thanks for sharing the article... will be looking forward to read more of your article :)
Nice to know another Malaysian Buddhist and a fellow in the GLBTI circle and keep up with the articles. I have no affinity (as of yet) to meet Tsem Tulku Rinpoche in person as of yet but his teachings via Youtube and books have been 'thunder and lightning' at many stages and crossroads in my life. Just wanna share one 'Psalm of the Sisters' or 'Therigatha' which I have kept it from day one of my journey as a gay Buddhist: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn05/sn05.002.than.html
"Then Mara the Evil One, wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in her, wanting to make her fall away from concentration, approached her & addressed her in verse:
That which is to be attained by seers,
the place so very hard to reach,
with their two-inch discernment — attain."
Then, having understood that "This is Mara the Evil One," she replied to him in verses:
"What difference does being a woman make
when the mind's well-centered,
when knowledge is progressing,
seeing clearly, rightly, into the Dhamma.
Anyone who thinks 'I'm a woman' or 'a man'
or 'Am I anything at all?' —
that's who Mara's fit to address.
Then Mara the Evil One — sad & dejected at realizing, "Soma the nun knows me" — vanished right there"
Please remember me in your daily aspirations to the Triple Gem!
Many thanks and full on with your contributions here!
Thanks for your feedback and sharing! Next Saturday (26 Sept), I am launching my new book, Setrap the Protector, at Kechara Paradise Bangsar, 24 Jalan Telawi 2 (same row as La Bodega), 3-5pm. If you're free, do drop by and say hi!
Hope to see you,
All the best,
Gore Vidal says there are no homosexuals, only homosexual acts :)