The vows are not about this self.
Growing up imprinted with the Catholic traditions, I was taught that all of my actions would be the causes of where I would spend eternity. That if I took the vows called the ten commandments I could go to heaven, that if I failed on some I would go to a middle place of suffering called purgatory and that there were a few that if I failed , I would spend eternity in hell. Once my imaginary soul was spotted with the sins of failing these vows, my soul would be marked for eternity until Jesus came back and absolved all of us of sin, except those in hell. It was all about me getting what I wanted, not about the inherent goodness of not causing harm to others.
This seems to also be the heart of the grading system in education, the crime, punishment and incarceration system, as well as the capitalistic economic structure. All have the primary motivation of what is good or bad, punishment or reward for the self. Even the new age spirituality inspired by eastern traditions, morphed into the “self help” movement. So there may be a tendency to look at these vows and even experience the practice of the vows as a way to get something for this self.
During the study and reflection on dana paramita several folks in the sangha shared that the practice of giving selflessly uncovered an ever present experience of lightness or joy and that the practice also clarified previously unconscious tendencies of selfishness and greed. Practicing the moral precepts with selflessness and harmlessness as the focal points may offer similar unveilings; that cherishing life, receiving gifts, respecting others, and practicing truthfulness and clarity of mind, are specific, inherent, ever present capacities or states of being, that have been obstructed by the habitual tendencies of the mind stream that see selfishness as the way to be happy and to survive.
I Vow to Respect Others, No to Misuse Sexuality.
Of the five precepts, this one is both personal and communal.The first two, killing and stealing, relate to how my actions in the commun can cause harm to others; the last two relate more to how lack of self awareness and personal development can cause harm to others. Sexuality is very personal and also about being in relationship with others. There are tens of thousands of words in Buddhist suttas and their commentaries about sexuality. Who can have it? How can they have it? Where can it be done? What parts of the body can be used? Underlying all of this is at least one consistent theme: sexuality in any form tends to obscure the realization of non conceptual wakefulness or enlightenment.
I experience a little hitch here because it seems to me that the last sixty years of sexual liberation have broken the harmful dominance of sexuality by heterosexual males. However I also have the direct experience of sexuality and passion for physical intimacy has cluttered any experience of open sky mind that I have had.
In the context that is being used in this approach to this vow, the precept is specific to refraining from using sexuality for personal gain or to harm another. And as as this practice of respecting others and not misusing sexuality evolves there can be a deeper understanding of sexual expression in one’s life. A few questions that might be considered are: What is the intent of my sexual expression? How does this sexuality affect others? How does it inform or detract from the practice of harmlessness? How does my sexuality impede or enhance mindfulness and the expression of goodness?
There are many thorough contemporary discussions about sexuality and Buddhism. Here are a few.
”Does Dispassion Belong in the Bedroom?” Randy Rosenthal. Tricycle August 19, 2018. https://tricycle.org/article/what-the-buddha-taught-sex/
Buddhist Sexual Ethics: An Historical Perspective. Dr. Alexander Berlin. Edited transcription of a lecture, Moscow Russia, October 2009.https://studybuddhism.com/en/advanced-studies/lam-rim/karma-advanced/buddhist-sexual-ethics-an-historical-perspective
With these words I pay homage to all buddhas, bodhisattvas, sentient beings, and the totality. May these words not confuse, bring doubt, or harm, but bring ease and warmth and an end to suffering for all being
Practicing in sangha, even virtually, supports the practice of meditation differently than practicing solitarily. The members of the Sangha of the Pandemic, invite you to practice with us. No experience is required. There is no cost. Everyone is welcome.
We practice on ZOOM: Notice weekday morning sit time is changed to 6:30 instead of 6.
- Mondays – Calm abiding and insight meditation. 6:30 AM Pacific Time
- Tuesdays – Body awareness. 6:30 AM Pacific Time
- Thursdays – Tonglen, 6:30 AM Pacific Time
- Sundays – Brahmavihara. 7 AM Pacific Time
ZOOM Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789 Please Note. We will be putting the afternoon practices on hold for a bit. We look forward to seeing you in the morning sessions! Please feel free to reach out with questions or insights. Please also feel free to forward this post and invite others to join the sangha. You may find more reflections, poetry, art at sanghaofthepandemic.org . If you would like to comment or offer feedback and insight you may do so in the comment section on the website or by email to email@example.com