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the buddhist precept on sexual conduct

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bokudo_chozenBuddhist precepts are pointers (not laws or commandments) intended to support and deepen practice in everyday life. They’re a source of contemplation and help us to continually awaken to the universal nature of reality called Buddha Nature. I bowed to receive the 16 precepts from Jan Chozen Bays Roshi during a public ceremony called jukai at Great Vow Zen Monastery in 2002.

Chozen herself received authority to teach and to ordain in 1983 from her Japanese-born teacher Taizan Maezumi Roshi (1931-1995). In this way, the transmission of teachings continues from teacher to student through the 2500-year lineage that began with Siddhartha Gautama (called the Buddha). 

In yesterday’s post I touched on sexuality (once more). Given its problematic nature, it’s no wonder that the Buddha addressed it directly. Ven. Kusala Bhikshu, an American-born Zen monk in the Vietnamese tradition, describes the precept on sexual conduct:

 What did the Buddha say specifically to lay people about sex? He said four things. He said, do not have sex with people who are married. Do not have sex with people who are engaged. Do not have sex with people who are being supported by their parents — children. And do not have sex with people against their will. That’s all he said. He didn’t say anything else. I’m assuming he felt every community, every city, every state, every nation would initiate their own laws, their own way of moderating sexual activity.

He did say a lot to monks and nuns about not having sex. Let me say there is nothing wrong with sex. Sex is wonderful. It’s the desire for sex that keeps getting in the way of our ultimate satisfaction. Celibacy offers a monk or nun greater flexibility in how they live their life.

I don’t look at not having sex as a penalty. I look at it as an opportunity. When I stopped having sexual relationships, I started to see myself in a totally different way. Not having sex became part of my inner exploration, part of my practice. Now, does not having sex end suffering? No, it just means you suffer in a different way. Desire in not ended by not having sex …

image: During our monastery’s early days not every event was recorded on camera. The nearest picture of a jukay ceremony is this one of our friend Bokudo receiving the precepts and blessings from Chozen in 2009. And that’s me in black and white just above his freshly shaved head.


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