So I’m sitting on a sofa looking out at a lovely view of the city of Vancouver and its surrounding mountains. Low clouds, gray skies, leaves of red and gold. The bay, the buildings, the docks. I gave my first talk last night. It was really cool. Thanks to everyone who attended.
I have another sitting + talk this afternoon and yet another one of those tomorrow. Then it’s on to Victoria. The full schedule is available at this link.
Last night was the second attempt at what I foresee as an ongoing series of talks about sex and Buddhism. I did my first at the Against The Stream group in Hollywood (Noah Levine’s organization, which is waaaaay more organized than my own disorganization).
It’s an interesting topic, and it’s the theme of the book I just turned in to New World Library for publication by them in 2010, “Sin, Sex and Zen.” I got a lot of really good questions, too. I like answering questions from the audience because I feel like that’s where I can get some connection to what people actually want to talk about.
I’m not good at recalling my own talks, which is why I’ve been video taping most of them lately. The last question was interesting, though. A guy asked how had sex helped my Buddhist practice. It was interesting because until he’d asked that I’d always thought of the flow going in only the opposite direction, how Buddhism had been useful in my own dealings regarding sexuality.
My sex life and my Buddhist life began at more or less the same time. So nearly all of my sexual relationships have been affected by my practice. It’s clear that this philosophy and practice have had an impact on how sex has worked out for me. But as for how sex has benefited my practice… that’s another question.
I am not celibate. I can see the potential benefits of celibacy. But I can also see a lot of potential problems. And as far as my own life is concerned, the problems of celibacy appear to outweigh its potential benefits. I feel like I, personally, would be less peaceful and more unbalanced as a celibate. Though I could be wrong. I’ve never tried celibacy. At least not by choice.
As a vegetarian, I do not campaign for people to give up meat because, unless you’re really committed to giving up meat, becoming a vegetarian can lead to a lot of cognitive dissonance and general weirdness. Mad craving for meat coupled with a hard attitude of suppressing your desires tends to make a person neurotic and outweighs the general feeling of well-being that many vegetarians — me included — get from their dietary choice. I feel like it’s the same with celibacy. It can only work for a person who is truly committed to being celibate. And I am not.
So my approach has been to have a sex life, but to approach sex in as careful a manner as I can. It’s a powerful thing, the sex drive. This video tells it like it is in a very witty but very true way. I do not in any way try to hold myself out as the most exemplary model of how this ought to be done. But I do think that most of us are not prepared for celibacy, so we had better try and find a way to deal with our own sex drives in the least harmful way possible for us. That’s important.
So I suppose sex has been beneficial to my practice in that having a sex life keeps me sane enough to do the practice. I also feel that there is a depth of relationship with other people that only occurs when one crosses that last boundary and has sex with the person. That connection can be very meaningful and you can discover a lot that way.
Finally, I feel there ought to be people who have a Buddhist practice and a sex life who are willing to share what that means to them because Buddhism in the West is mainly non-celibate and these questions arise. I’m probably a lousy example. But I feel like sharing what I have discovered might have some value.
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