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Friday, December 25, 2009

I'm Not a Gay, p2

Religion & sexuality inevitably cross paths. 
Most readers of my posts will know that this blog is mostly about paying homage to the great looks and charm of Sri Lankan men. Some of you may also have noticed the commentary now and then on topics related to Sri Lankan men and Sri Lankan issues.

In keeping with the latter, I offer up a follow-up to the I'm Not a Gay post, which turned out, somewhat unintentionally, to be a call for recognition of the right of any person to be the person he or she is, whether gay or of any other stigmatized group.

A different perspective on the Dharma* >>

Although Sri Lankan Male may not be the best platform for this, I would like to once again raise awareness of some of the issues surrounding being gay, in light of an interesting account related online by a Buddhist monk.

He begins by saying...
Occasionally someone will approach me and after a few minuets of hesitation ask what the Buddhist position on homosexuality is.
What follows is an abbreviated version of his answer, which juxtaposes the tragedy which sometimes surrounds a gay identity with a message that should offer a better understanding of the notion of sexuality and support the idea of complete acceptance of anyone's sexual identity or orientation.

* Dharma (or Dhamma) is the moral law combined with spiritual discipline that guides one's life.

Words to Live not Die By

I tell them that positive intentional acts have positive effects and negative intentional acts have a negative effect. Sexual acts motivated by the usual intentions, feelings and emotions which exist between two people who love each other, would have a positive effect, whether they be homosexual or heterosexual.
Buddhist ethics about sex are primarily concerned with the motives behind our sexual behavior, rather than the gender of our partner.
A few years ago I had an encounter which made me realize that inquiries about homosexuality, whether from gays themselves or their families, should be given my whole attention.

A young man named Julian had rung me asking if he could come and talk to me about Buddhism.

Julian turned out to be about 20 years old, of slight build and with pleasant features.

He was well groomed and neatly dressed.

He started by asking me a few questions about some aspects of Buddhism but I sensed that these were not really what he was interested in.

Finally the question came, “Venerable, can a gay person be a good Buddhist?”

I gave my usual reply but it soon became clear that this did not please him. He kept interjecting and expressing doubts about what I said. I answered all his objections but he remained unconvinced. Arriving at a deadlock and not knowing what more I could say I asked him if he was gay.

He blushed, cleared his throat and said that he was. Then he told me his story.

Since his early teens he noticed that he was attracted to other boys and had a particular interest in woman’s clothes. Horrified by these feelings he kept them well under control.

A year ago while doing his national service he had met another soldier who was gay and since that time they had been having a relationship, although a guilt-filled and fugitive one. Once or twice a month they would pool their resourses and book a hotel for the night. He would dress in woman’s clothes, put on makeup and they would spend the night together.

For Julian at least, this would be followed by days of self-loathing and resolutions never to do it again.

Satisfying sexual urges--a perfectly natural thing to do, acceptable where it does not involve adultery or harming others.

After he had finished telling me this he hung his head and said, “This must be wrong.” “Well,” I said, “some people would find it a bit strange. But from a Buddhist perspective I really can’t see that it is particularly harmful. The conflict you create within yourself by hating what are completely harmless feelings hurts you much more than being gay ever could.

He was silent but I could see that I had not been able to still his doubts.

Julian visited me two more times over the next two months and our conversations were about the Dhamma in general although we also went over the same territory concerning homosexuality with very much the same results.

Then, after not having seen or heard from Julian for nearly six months I got a call from him. He told me that a famous Taiwanese monk was in town giving a series of talks and that he had managed to get a few minutes with him.

He had asked the monk the same question he had asked me and the monk had told him that homosexuality was a filthy, evil thing and that homosexuals get reborn in the lowest hell where they are boiled in excrement for eons.

Julian said this with in an almost triumphant tone, seemingly glad that he had proved me wrong or that he had found someone who agreed with him.

How often has this happened to me? I have told an inquirer something about Buddhism which I know to be sound, sensible and in accordance with the Tipitaka, they go to another monk who tells them the exact opposite and then they come back to me asking me to explain the anomaly.

Then I am stuck with the problem of either saying that the other monk doesn’t know what he is talking about (which is often the case) and appearing to be an arrogant upstart, or biting my lip, saying nothing and letting the person go away with yet another half-baked notion or superstition thinking that it is Dhamma.

“Look Julian” I said, “You asked me what Buddhism would say about homosexuality and I told you based on my 20 years of studying the Buddhist scriptures and thinking about various issues in the light of the Buddha’s Dhamma.

I don’t know what else I can say.”

I told him that if he wanted to talk with me at any time he was welcome to do so and then we hung up.

Four days later I was browsing through the paper and a small article tucked away on the eighth page caught my eye. The heading read ‘Man’s Body Found in Park.’

I scanned the article briefly and was about to turn to something else when the name Julian sprung out at me. In an instant my attention was riveted. I read the part where this name appeared and sure enough it was the Julian who had come to see me. I returned to the top of the article and read all the way through.

Four days earlier, perhaps only a few hours after ringing me, Julian had gone to a park late at night, taken an overdose of sleeping pills and been found dead the next morning. A suicide note had been found in his pocket but the article did mention what it said.

I was overwhelmed by sorrow. The thought of him lying there utterly alone, hating himself and in such despair that he would kill himself almost made me cry.

But soon anger was welling up through the sadness and diluting it until it had completely replaced the sadness.

I pictured the Taiwanese monk blithely dispensing his ignorant and ultimately toxic opinion before rushing off to give a sermon about compassion or receive the accolade of the crowd.

I became so angry that I resolved to write him a letter and tell him what he had been responsible for. Then I thought it would probably be a waste of time. He probably wouldn’t even remember talking to Julian.
What lifts sex above the fluids exchange level is the motives and emotions behind it – affection, tenderness, the desire to give and receive, the bonds of companionship, fun even.

It seems to me that most thoughtful people would agree that sex without love is a pretty unattractive thing. Physically, it is little more than ‘exchanging fluids’ as the AIDS awareness literature so delicately puts it.

This fits well into the Buddha’s famous statement, “I say that intention is kamma.”

From the Buddhist perspective, sexual behavior is not judged primarily by the gender of the people involved, by the dictates of a code of behavior drawn up in the Bronze Age or by whether a legal document has been signed, but by its psychological components.

Homosexuals are as capable of wanting and of feeling love and affection towards their partners as heterosexuals are and where such states are present homosexual sex is as acceptable as heterosexual sex.
This is a simple and logical truth and it is in accordance with Buddhist teachings.

But circumstances were such that I was unable to help Julian see it.

All his experience had told him that being attracted to people of the same gender is wrong.

Those around him had always expressed disapproval towards homosexuality and sniggered at gays. The law told him that homosexuality is so heinous that it must be punished by 10 years imprisonment, more than for manslaughter.

He knew that religious teachers, Christian, Muslim and even some Buddhists, consider it so evil that it will have dreadful consequences in the life hereafter.

All this denigration and ignorance prevented him from hearing the gentle, reasonable and kindly words of the Buddha. It caused him inestimable suffering and finally drove him to suicide.

Original post of Venerable Shravasti Dhammika; a Sinhalese translation also availble.

My Thoughts

The story related by the monk clearly has a tragic element, but at the same time communicates a positive message of self-acceptance.

It makes the case that sexual intimacy is far more profound than the simple question of a person's gender.

It is a message that he also frames within the principles of Buddhism. But as he explains and illustrates himself, the authority of religion is not sufficient to support any such claims. This is so apparent, in that you will have different and sometimes contradicting interpretations and statements coming from within the same religious tradition.

What is interesting in the monks understanding is that ultimately it is an argument based in logic. He says,
I have told an inquirer something about Buddhism which I know to be sound, sensible and in accordance with the Tipitaka...

I told you based on my 20 years of studying the Buddhist scriptures and thinking about various issues in the light of the Buddha’s Dhamma.

This is a simple and logical truth and it is in accordance with Buddhist teachings.

Although there are repeated references to the religion or philosophy of Buddhism, what underlies all of these statements is a deference to soundness, sensibility, long thought and ultimately simple logic.

This ties in precisely with the point I sought to make in the earlier I'm Not a Gay post.

It should be, if nothing else, common sense that there is nothing wrong in being gay, bisexual or in having any number of other characteristics which our very imperfect societies and cultures deem wrongful.

In truth, it is simply the fact of these things being different from what is most common that they are damned as being...
wrong, against nature... against God.

Why is human society so infantile that it cannot appreciate and accept the simple fact that there are differences among us?
In fact, there is often so much beauty and richness in these differences
that we are all the more better with them than without.

The images in this post were obtained from a variety of sources and no claims of ownership are being made by this author. Many of the images have, however, been digitally modified for artistic purposes in accordance with the theme of this post.

Sri Lankan Male Audiocast--001 (Gay Buddha)

Beyond the topic introduced in the title Gay Buddha, this is the very first audiocast for Sri Lankan Male--completely adlibbed, with apologies for all the uhms and ahms.

The topic itself relates to a message I received from a Sri Lankan Male reader in reaction to the post featured here, which deals with the issue of being gay and Buddhist.

Hope you'll give it a listen.  Running time, 5 minutes. (--/)

MP3 File

50 Words (this author's aside)

Christmas Day. I'll probably have a late night dinner at home with my partner. Gifts--maybe I'll buy him one, probably not. Not into that. Ok for kids, but come on, we're adults; we both work.

The only purpose gift-giving serves is to honor commercialism. Spending time together has meaning.

50 words, No. 011 (/)

Photographs & MeditationsMilestones 2009
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Blogger Dee said...

wow julien's story is tragic. I think in Buddhism, attraction is attraction and there isnt any difference if its between man/woman or a man & man. These monks should be trained how to handle situations and counselling!! >.<

Saturday, December 26, 2009 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger B.D. said...

Agreed. The monk who related this story is obviously one of the more enlightened. The tragedy, of Julian's story is that it took only the words of one errant monk to lead him to suicide. That isn't, however, so much an indictment of that one monk but rather an indictment of the whole of society which made Julian feel that his life was so worthless. As a society we need to change our stance on the issue of same sex attraction.

Saturday, December 26, 2009 12:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post!!

Saturday, December 26, 2009 2:20:00 PM  

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