One of the 5 basic vows (or, aspirations) is not to behave sexually in an
inappropriate manner. For monastics and others keeping stricter forms of
these vows, this means to remain celibate.
There are two types of prohibitions concerning activity of body, speech &
mind: The first is against actions that prevent us from practicing dharma
without distraction and hence prolong our suffering by delaying attainment
of full realization. The second type consists of prohibitions against actions
which threaten the propagation of dharma, or the reputation of the sangha.
Some address both. For example, Thai monks, who observe Vinaya [Buddha's
rules for monastic conduct] very strictly, will not touch women at all.
Many will not shake hands, sit beside a woman or even sit on a cloth that could
be a woman's garment.
However, in some traditions, such rules are not strictly observed except
There is no essential difference between one part of the body and another.
We are all composed of a temporary mass of flesh that is quick to rot. And
we know that disease can readily be transferred from one body to another and
that we can even cause death to someone via any opening in the body, even a tiny
One who has taken the vow of celibacy should realize (unlike a former married
US president, who once claimed that he had "not had sex with that woman") that
sex is not only confined to mutual genital stimulation. In other words,
just because we are not using the reproductive organs does not mean that the vow
is not being broken.
So whether the activity is being performed by "one monk, or two monks, or one
monk and one nun, or two nuns, or one monk and two nuns, or one monk and three
or four or five nuns, or one nun and three monks, or any combination of monks,
nuns and non-ordained practitioners or yaks, even involved in passionate
kissing, would essentially constitute breaking a monk or nun's vows because the
whole point is that you are not supposed to be getting it on at all, as this
results in further craving and attachment."
- ~ From a Nov. 09/05 comment to the Yahoo! Kagyu list
As we know, there has generally been a great deal of hypocrisy regarding
attitudes to same-sex relations. Thousands have suffered from the
ignorance and hostility of others, and many have died as a consequence of their
Start Where You Are -- Just Practice !
A large factor in determining whether one will be hetero- or homo-sexual has
to do with genetics. The proportion of homosexuals in
any society is about the same as that of lefthanders. A few studies indicate that, in about 15% of cases, birth
order plays a role in determining sexual orientation. A common factor
seems having a dominant older brother or brothers.
Researchers agree that it is likely homosexuality has always been a usual variation of human behaviour:
Many more relevant links at the foot of this page.
A Lama Speaks
It is liberating and refreshing to
come across the attitude expressed in:
"I am a Drikung Kagyu and a lesbian "out" in my sangha. I have
this story to share:
Several summers ago, at a retreat given by H. E. Garchen Rinpoche (my most
kind and generous teacher!), we were given Chakrasamvara empowerment. The
visualization involves sexual imagery. Rinpoche was going into very minute
detail on the visualization and explaining how one might do the practice with
a real live partner.
A woman in the sangha, known forever after as "N. the Brave" raised
her hand to ask a question. I knew what she was going to ask, and so did my
partner. We knew she was going to ask the un-askable: what to do if one's
partner were the same sex? In the seconds between her question and the
translation, I looked around for my things. For surely Rinpoche would
rebuke her and we would have to leave the retreat, leave the Dharma. My
heart was a stone in my chest.
The translator translated to Rinpoche. There was no hesitation. Rinpoche
spoke. The translator translated, "No problem. Just practice."
N. was sure her question had been misunderstood. She repeated it. The
translator translated. Again the firm reply, "Just practice."
In that moment my heart melted and I embraced the Dharma completely. I
took refuge fully. Just practice. It is so simple. My sexuality, my gender, my
race, my class, nothing really mattered except my willingness to practice, to
end the suffering of all beings.
This is only my experience. But in my experience, the Dharma doesn't
care if you are queer. Only that you practice.
May all beings benefit!" ~ J. at the Kagyu list
concerning the guru's response:
" . . . . I came out as a freak gay activist at a
radical campus (U. W. Madison) in 1970, amidst post-Stonewall determination and
euphoria [the uprising at a gay bath-house in New York
City]. But I was simultaneously doing the Baba Rama Das, "Be Here
Now" transition and was soon looking for a guru more than for a humpy
life-mate. The Guru I found taught celibacy aside for procreation, and I
was celibate for twelve years. This probably saved my life, but precluded any
When I finally went to one of my Guru's successors and shared
my loneliness and pain, and sought permission to take a companion,
I was told that gay sex was "throwing your seed into a fire",
and that I should marry a women. I actually proposed to an old friend, a
"bi" (now lesbian) woman, (we even had a former lover in
common). She found the suggestion quite hysterically funny. When I went
back to the "guru" to report my lack of success and continuing pain
I was told to devote myself to my practice, amidst laughter, because it would
only be when I perfected my meditation that " the Negative Power "
would have something to seek to spoil by providing a partner.
This struck me as uncompassionate, misogynistic generic
village punditry. What compassion was there in it for any woman who might
marry me ? What compassion for women when seen as "The Yogi's
Downfall"? I knew in an instant that I was SO out of there
. . . [3x mantra for
overcoming 'poisons'] . . .
In the next two years (I first took refuge from Thrangu Rinpoche,) received
Manjushri [empowerment] from Jetsun Kusho, Chenrezik from Jamgon Kongtrul . .
but it was another ten years before I had a chance to ask Thrangu Rinpoche the
essential questions. At the small group interview at the Mahamudra
teachings at Loon Lake, I asked two questions.
First: "Would Rinpoche be willing to give his blessings to
a commitment ceremony between two of his student's of the same sex?"
After a brief pause he replied that he would. At that
point a little knot of residual fear and apprehension regarding trust and samaya
dissolved but I still had Question Two for the public record. I'm still
all  Yogas of Naropa short of ever being ready for highest yoga tantra, but
still I asked.
Second: "Would it be possible for two qualified
practitioners of the same sex to practice the Tantra of the Lower Gate
Rinpoche paused for a longer time. When he resumed he
apologized, saying that no one had asked him these things before and it
had required some thought. He replied that he thought that it would
be possible, on the provision that the practitioners first mastered
the Tantra of the Upper Gate, the only sort that we monks practice,
he explained, smiling.
Karma Lodro, Splendor of the Teachings, may you remain steadfastly present!
is Ven. Thrangu Rinpoche's name.]
LK from the Kagyu Mailing List
What factors contribute to this "liberal" attitude?
At least five factors enable the understanding attitude
of the Kagyu lamas:
1. They are compassionate beings motivated by a wish to
2. They come from a cultural context in which plural
marriage (polygyny and polyandry) is not unknown, in which sexuality is not a
taboo topic and in which many forms of sexual relationships besides marriage
are not only tolerated but honoured. Sex may be humorous sometimes, but
it is rarely considered disgusting.
3. They are tantric teachers who, though many are
celibate monks, have been educated in a system in which sexual energy has been
intelligently and skilfully utilized for hundreds of years both as a
technique but also a powerful medium for the transformation of the self.
4. Since progress and transformation are the objectives,
any hard line or puritanical attitude is not seen as productive.
5. They are products of mythological and religious
traditions that are neither dualistic nor fatalistic. That is, the world
and its inhabitants are not generally perceived as inherently either Good or
Evil. Rather life is considered an opportunity for improvement and our
behaviour is due to the conditioning and consequences of present and past
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