Thursday, January 10, 2008

Volatile Topics

I have received separate inquiries about (1) abortion, (2) narcotics, (3) gay sex, and (4) suicide, all to the effect of asking "what is Buddhism's position" on these topics. I am not running for public office, so I didn't see any reason to answer these questions, and I am not sure I am entirely qualified to state "Buddhism's position" on anything except my own arising stupidity. Nevertheless, since I have received more than three requests, here are my answers. Bear in mind that these are my personal opinions, based upon my understanding of past instruction I have received, and that my opinion may be wrong and my understanding may be imperfect.

(1) Abortion.
I have written at length on this subject elsewhere. Generally speaking, abortion is an extremely negative action with the most serious possible consequences not only in this life, but in many future lifetimes. The future consequences are particularly severe. However, when we evaluate this action, we must do so in the same fashion by which we evaluate all other actions; i.e., by examining the constituents of intention, execution, and result. If you had an abortion when your life was in danger, and now you feel rather terrible about it, then this is one sort of case. If you had multiple abortions and now have a few questions, then this is quite another sort of case. Does the mere fact that you had an abortion "exclude" you from Buddhism? Of course not, but you need to take it up directly with a teacher and get to work.

(2) Narcotics.
This blog has touched on the subject, but never at length. This is a very easy: if you take narcotics, please stop. All that drugs accomplish is to compound delusion. Since the aim of Buddhism is precisely contrary, I do not see how coexistence is possible. Someone I love very dearly takes narcotics like there is no tomorrow. If you also take narcotics, I will say to you what I say to this person: "Please understand precisely what you are doing, why you are doing it, and all the possible consequences. Then weigh risk versus benefit. If addiction is worth whatever you feel you are gaining, and more importantly, if addiction is worth whatever you are losing, then that is your decision." If you take narcotics can you still be a Buddhist? Yes, but you won't be very successful.

(3) Homosexuality and Buddhism.
Desire is desire, or as a pilot I know once said, "When I'm flying, and it comes time to land the plane, I don't care if the runway is north-south or east-west: I just land the plane." Does Buddhism explicitly "prohibit" homosexuality? Well, Buddhism doesn't necessarily "prohibit" anything. Buddhism explains the causes and the consequences. Thus, I think an enlightened discussion of homosexuality would necessarily devolve into a discussion of the causes and consequences of desire. Here, it is easy to see that the consequences of desire are the same no matter who you have sex with, or how you manage to accomplish this. I do have a strong objection to what is popularly called "queer dharma," simply because I don't think it serves any useful purpose. If you want to thrash out your life in terms of your sexual preferences, then go wait in line with all the other people who are thrashing out their lives in terms of single-issue obsessions. It just doesn't work very well. Without venturing forth into the Vinaya, I think the matter needs to be examined in practical terms that lay people can use to make practical decisions. Is Buddhism against same-sex marriages? No. Can you be gay and Buddhist at the same time? Yes. Is being a Gay Buddhist (note the distinction) useful or necessary? No. What does the Dalai Lama say? Ask the Dalai Lama. The only thing I ever personally heard him say on the subject is that gay sex is generally regarded as sexual misconduct. As sexual misconduct is endemic in the human condition, that doesn't necessarily single out gay people. Does Buddhism support equal rights for gay people and a policy of non-discrimination? Absolutely, yes. It is inexcusable to discriminate against a person because of their sexual orientation.

(4) Suicide.
Big newsflash: we're against it. Read the statement on abortion, above. Suicide is is an extremely negative action with the heaviest possible consequences. I do not think "lama stories" do this one justice. A lama friend of mine once counseled a troubled young lady in San Francisco, "If you go suicide, you'll be reborn 500 times as a suicide." She replied, "How do I know this is not one of those lifetimes," and a week later she was in the locked ward behind another suicide attempt. I want to put this directly: suicide is equivalent to murdering all the sentient beings of all the realms that sentient beings inhabit. Perhaps there are bodhisattvas who would prefer to murder you, rather than allowing you to die a suicide. Yes, it is that heavy. What happens if a Buddhist commits suicide? You will not be able to benefit from the intermediate stage between life and rebirth. What if someone has attempted suicide in the past? There are more constructive forms of self-criticism, one of which is examination of one's life by means of meditation.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

0 reader comments: