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A wonderful post from Ajahn Sujato:

http://sujato.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/1430/

Sourcehttp://www.fridae.asia/newsfeatures/2011/08/23/11125.buddhists-share-their-thoughts-about-homosexuality-at-forum-in-kuala-lumpur

23 Aug 2011

Buddhists share their thoughts about homosexuality at forum in Kuala Lumpur

Venerable Miao Jan, the coordinator of Prajna Meditation Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor: Gay people should face their own sexual orientation honestly and openly, come out bravely and not live in the closet.

The Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia (YBAM) and Buddhist Research Society of Malaysia (BRSM) held a seminar titled “Homosexuality: The Controversy in the Midst of Morality and Social Value” on Aug 19 in Kuala Lumpur.

Established in 1970, the Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia (YBAM) coordinates 270 member organisations through 13 State Liaison Committees across Malaysia.

The Sin Chew Daily on August 19 reported that about 200 people attended the open forum which had three panelists: Venerable Miao Jan, the coordinator of Prajna Meditation Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor; Datuk Ang Choo Hong, the president of the Buddhist Research Society of Malaysia; and Yap Hock Heng, a registered and licensed counsellor. The forum was emceed by YBAM secretary general See Chan Wing.

The following is a translation (by Fridae member Felix Liew) of a report published by Chinese language Sin Chew Daily on August 20:

The news of the traditional Chinese wedding of Malaysia’s first lesbian couple and the upcoming same-sex marriage of Rev. Ouyang Wen Feng to be celebrated in Malaysia has caused a stir in Malaysian society, drawing criticisms particularly from Christian groups. However, the coordinator of Prajna Meditation Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, the Venerable Miao Jan, encouraged gay people to face their own sexual orientation honestly and openly, urging them to come out bravely and not live in the closet [literally dark corners].

Ven. Miao Jan pointed out that she was not promoting the gay culture. But in her opinion, if gay people did not live honestly with their sexuality, they would fall in love with the wrong person someday, which would lead to pain not only for themselves, but also for their loved one(s).

“Let gay people talk about their love life. We could only respect them and learn how to get along with them.” “I have a lot of gay friends too. Don’t treat them as though they are horrible people. They are also fun to be with and they are such lovable people. Besides, how does this present a problem to non-gay people?”

When asked whether gay people adopting children would create social problem, she did not answer the question squarely, but turned the question around and asked: “How much happiness can straight families today guarantee their children? The divorce rate is high these days, and this should give us room for thought.”

Datuk Ang Choo Hong said he treats gay people as normal. Gay people have long existed since the time of Buddha. He said if people could not bless Rev. Ouyang’s marriage, then they should keep quiet.

Yap Hock Heng was more concerned with the attitude that people have towards a gay person. Are they friendly? Are they willing to be in a gay person’s company? Are they willing to listen to their story and guide them?

He said that the fact that the media reported heavily on same-sex marriage would not encourage the gay culture [turn more people gay]. Rather, it would cause people who are already gay to come out of the closet.

The Chinese language Nanyang Daily report published a report on August 20. The following is a translation of the report by Fridae’s Chinese editor:

Ven. Miao Jan blesses Oyoung Wenfeng; we need not fear our homosexual friends

Ven. Miao Jan (Coordinator of Persatuan Meditasi Prajna KL and Selangor) says she has several homosexual friends around her and she does not regard them as fearsome; afterall, what has that got to do with the non-homosexuals?

With regards to Oyoung’s marriage, she pointed out that so long as he abides by the law, it is fine. It does not matter whether non-homosexuals with be happy or unhappy about it. She says as long as he will carry the responsibility of a marriage, his marital affairs is his own business; we do not have a say.

She feels that many people in society create too many assumptions about homosexuals/homosexuality, speculating that if everyone is homosexual, human kind will become extinct. She retorts: Do you think everyone will want to become a monk/nun/ordained (出家)? Once homosexuality becomes recognised/accepted, will everyone become homosexual?

When asked about whether social problems will arise when homosexuals begin to bear/raise children, she rebuts by asking: How much do heterosexual marriages ensure the happiness and well-being (幸福) of their children?

She also cited the Lotus Sutra chapter/scripture (《法华经》Sad-dharma Puṇḍárīka Sūtra) where it is taught that monk/nun/ordained persons should avoid contact with five types of people:

1. those born without sexual organs

2. those who lost their sexual organs due to surgery or injury

3. those with a mental state that is neither male nor female (homosexuals)

4. those who dresses like neither male nor female and

5. bisexuals

Datuk Ang Choo Hong (President of Buddhist Research Society of Malaysia): If you can’t bless Oyoung, then just keep quiet

He mentioned two tales from early Buddhism: Soreyya, who is sometimes male, sometimes female; and Vakhali who is homosexual. Both did not attain enlightenment through spiritual means eventually.

The commandments/doctrine of Buddhism are applicable for ordained persons (monks/nuns), specifying that the third gender cannot be ordained. For Buddhists who are not ordained, they are not allowed to have sexual contact with 20 categories of people, including parents, siblings, married persons and prisoners.

Brahmajala Suttam scriptures (梵网经 / Brahmajala Suttam) of the later period also states that same-sex intercourse, anal sex and oral sex are not allowed. The earlier scriptures however have no mention. What shall we do?

Mr Yap Hock Heng (Registered & Licensed Counsellor): Homosexuality cannot be suppressed

Homosexuals refer to people who are unable to suppress a sustained fantasy of intimacy with someone of the same sex, and who are repulsed by the opposite sex.

We should extend our kindness to them, rather than over-reacting to them.

He also points out that some teenagers and young people may have special feelings towards a specific friend, but that cannot be categorised as homosexuality. It is common for those aged four to six, and those in their adolescence to experience confusion about gender and sexuality.

There are many factors leading to homosexuality. For those who wish to change through therapy, it is possible to succeed.

If you were present at the forum, please share your observations and/or below.

Recently there was a forum organised by one of the Buddhist society in Malaysia on the topic of homosexuality. A summary is reported here:

http://buddhistcelebrities.blogspot.com/2011/08/buddhism-homosexuality-forum.html

I have copied here for archival purpose:

The Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia (YBAM) and Buddhist Research Society of Malaysia (BRSM) held a seminar titled “Homosexuality: The Controversy in the Midst of Morality and Social Value” on Aug 19 in Kuala Lumpur.

about 200 people attended the open forum which had three panelists: Venerable Miao Jan, the coordinator of Prajna Meditation Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor; Datuk Ang Choo Hong, the president of the Buddhist Research Society of Malaysia; and Yap Hock Heng, a registered and licensed counsellor. The forum was emceed by YBAM secretary general See Chan Wing.

The news of the traditional Chinese wedding of Malaysia’s first lesbian couple and the upcoming same-sex marriage of Malaysian Christian Pastor, Rev. Ouyang Wen Feng to be celebrated in Malaysia has caused a stir in Malaysian society, drawing criticisms particularly from Christian groups. However, the coordinator of Prajna Meditation Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, the Venerable Miao Jan, encouraged gay people to face their own sexual orientation honestly and openly, urging them to come out bravely and not live in the closet [literally dark corners]. Continue Reading »

Big Buddhist Circle is a Buddhist gay women group based in Singapore. They are looks for like-minded gay women to join their upcoming discussion and activities.

If you are interested, please visit their website below:

https://spreadsheets.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dFAxSUdZTVliR0RWQmxDOHB4Wmp4d3c6MQ

 

 

A quick answer: No and probably nothing to do with Buddhism or Buddhist teachings.

How did the “four-faced buddha”, so popular amongst some Singaporeans (and Thais, needless to say) who goes religiously to Erawan Shrine in Bangkok to “pay back wishes” and to worship, become confused with “a buddha”.

Firstly, when I say buddha (in small), I am talking about a being who is enlightened, full of wisdom, and had escaped the cycle of rebirth according to Buddhist teachings. Whereas the “Buddha” is the founding teacher of Buddhism. More importantly, a buddha:

  • does not require your worshiping (he/she is not a god)
  • does not grant you wishes, no matter how much you pray or offer
  • does not require you to please him/her nor to return any promise for wishes you think you were granted
  • he/she does not get angry, punish you, gets pissed off for offending him or not keeping your promise or not paying respect to him/her
  • most important we don’t fear a buddha for one is loving, kind, compassion, joyful and generous.

If anyone describes a buddha outside these characteristics, he/she is probably describing a petty deity, not a buddha or the Buddha.

Who is the four-faced buddha then?

The most probable explanation is that he (I used he for sake of convenience) is Brahma (the Hindu/Vedic  creator god) or one of the avatars as described in Buddhist texts occasionally. Why would he be confused as a buddha?

Thailand has long been practicing some form of Brahmanism (what we call Hinduism now) long before the arrival of Buddhism. Brahma, although usually worshiped, forms the trinity of creator, preserver and destroyer. Brahma is, of course, often depicted with four-faced and 4 pairs of hands. Over time in India and with the demise of Buddhism in India, the Buddha was somehow assimilated into Hinduism as they claimed that Buddha is just another avatar of Vishnu. Cross fertilization of teachings and worship introduced forms of Buddhism with Brahmic influence arose. So the practice of worshiping various deities also arose in later Buddhism. This mixed form of religion probably got into Thailand through the trade routes, together with the confusion of Brahma as a buddha. Over time, later Buddhism began to worship various Buddhas and deities and Brahma probably became one of the worshiped buddhas. This also explains why amulets and talisman and spells are so commonly associated with Buddhism in Thailand, mainly due to Hinduism and its local religion.

That said, it does not mean that Buddhist teaching have no mention of Brahma. In Buddhist teachings, Brahma is sometimes associated with wisdom or a sublime state of being. We must not forget also that during Buddha’s time, the Vedic tradition is very popular and sometimes teachings have to be explained using the language of the time.

In one text, the story goes that when The Buddha gained enlightenment, he could not decide whether to teach it to the rest of the people because its so difficult. Then Brahma appeared and convinced him to start teaching. Personally, I don’ t think that we can ever take these stories literally; rather, its probably explains the arising of the wisdom within the Buddha to see the benefit of teaching the Dharma to the masses. In the famous text called Brahma Vihara or the abode of Brahma, the Buddha teaches fellow Brahmins that they should develop the states of  loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity which will allow them to transcending into the abode of Brahma.

However, we must know that the idea of Brahma as the idea of a creator god concept, is rejected by Buddhist teachings as incomplete and incorrect.  In Buddhist view, a creator god is just a being who have lived for so long that they have witness the birth of this universe and thought that they had created it. Some are born together with the universe and its life span is tied to it and hence thought themselves as creator. These “creator gods” being still have a life span, albeit very long, and are subject to the same laws of rebirth and when their life span is up and they will too be reborn; and only a rebirth as a human (a bit chauvinistic, I must say) can one then be able to gain enlightenment, liberation and a way out of the rebirth cycle.

As such, I sometimes find it strange that some Hindu traditions can claim the Buddha as an avatar of Vishnu because a lot of Buddha’s teachings is directly against the teachings of the Hindu’s idea of a soul and rebirth.

Anyway, Buddhist teachings are considered only a guideline for a lay person. So whether or not you are Buddhist or not or whether you do follow the guidelines or not, it does not offend or anger anyone or any Buddhas. However, as a Buddhist it is important to know that the worship of the four-faced Buddha is not a Buddhist teaching and neither is the entity a “buddha” in anyway. No one, though, will or should stop you for worshiping it at Erawan or any of its shrine, neither should we show disrespect or disgust for Buddhism encourage respect towards other’s believe systems as long as it does not bring harm to oneself or others or does not cause a Buddhist to get the wrong idea of Buddhist teachings.

A very interesting article about how dogmatic one can go in following rituals and rules but not the essence nor understanding of them.

http://www.island.lk/2008/05/23/opinion7.html

The Panchaseela and Buddhism

Dr. H. S. S. Nissanka’s contribution to The Island Midweek Review of 14/5 is very informative and interesting. Among many other things, he refers to a “stormy session at Kuliyapitiya Central College. About 400 students had come from all over the country for a Dhamma discussion session. At 9 a.m. the session was started. No panchaseela was recited and because of this the local crowds became very unruly questioning both the reasons for not reciting the panchaseela as well as the ‘Buddhistness’ of the All Ceylon Buddhist Students Union. I tried to respond to them but was shouted down. Even Lionel Lokuliyana, the principal of the school (a greatly respected man not only among Buddhist leaders but also as a prominent writer) was shouted down.”

The unruly crowds were now turning abusive and violent (which reminds me of a typical parliamentary session today in Sri Lanka) and Dr. Nissanka continues, “The crowds demanded an answer by a person who was a well known Buddhist and someone who has read the Tripitakaya. A small-made man in the last row of the hall got up to answer. When I saw that this was Dr. Adkiaram, I ran up to him and invited him to come up to the microphone. He came and sat there and Mr. Mivanapalana (the famous Buddhist scholar) introduced him to the audience. Dr. Adikaram (who had never recited the panchaseela) responded: “I have read all the books of the Tripitakaya, both in Pali and in English. What is the exact question you would like to ask?”

And Dr. Adikaram the only true Buddhist this writer has yet come across, had said that there were famous scholars, Tripitaka acharis, who could recite by heart entire sections of the Tripitaka, and one may have read and re-read all the Buddhist texts and yet remain a crook or a murderer. Dr. Adikaram had added, if one could at least understand one word of the Buddha like Appamada that would be sufficient for him or her to become an arahat. Dr. Nissanka, in his useful essay, says, “With the words of Dr. Adikaram we enjoyed a clam and quiet atmosphere at Kuliyapitiya Central College.”

In a country which is predominantly Buddhist, whether we like it or not, we have an overdose of panchaseela blaring out from every street-corner through loudspeakers from dawn to dusk and again till the late hours permitted by law!

The popular misconception among the Buddhists is if one recites panchaseela or the five precepts not once but as many times as possible he becomes a good Buddhist.

What matters to a Buddhist is not the carrying out of the precepts but the mere utterance. This writer was once invited to a Dhamma sermon at his aunt’s when Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha Thero delivered the sermon commencing with the five precepts or panchaseela which every member of the congregation recited audibly (except this writer).

At the end of the sermon which everybody seemed to listen to, the Venerable monk was driven to the Bambalapitiya Vajiraramaya by the aunt’s son who was a prominent secretary to an equally prominent Buddhist Cabinet Minister.

On his return home he opened a bottle of special arrack which was shared by the pious Buddhist who had just promised to refrain from intoxicants. When the aunt discovered that yours truly was not drinking she whispered, “Jayatissata brandy tikak denanda?” and she, plus the entire congregation were shocked to hear Jayatissa chanting loud as ever “Surameraya majjha pamadatthana veramani.”

The Buddhists in this country have made panchaseela a joke by consuming liquor not only after a bana sermon but even during bana! No almsgiving is complete without the men folk enjoying a ‘sumihiri paanaya’, even inside a room. All monks know this.

Chanting panchaseela is a system, a system being a method, a practice, the repetition of something over and over again. Does that make the mind sensitive, alive, active, intelligent?

On the contrary, it makes the mind mechanical. Any system, the Hindu system, the Christian system or whatever prevents the mind from perceiving what is true. Panchaseela does not lead you anywhere. It only makes the mind so dull that one does not realize even the meaning of a single precept after constant repetition.

Chanting panchaseela, repeating the words of a monk, implies authority. A mind that is held by authority is not a free mind, the authority of a monk or bishop, and such a mind is incapable of observing the truth. So repeating after somebody the panchaseela will never make one a Buddhist. If it were so this land must be heaven considering the number of times one hears it daily over the radio, TV and loudspeakers.

If you want to understand the truth of something whether it is panchaseela or anything else you must stop repeating it like a parrot. You must give your whole attention, all your energy. Then you will observe how the repetition of the five precepts or panchaseela is not going to make you a Buddhist though that is the popular misconception.

No wonder a great man like Dr. E. W. Adikaram, a man among men lived a holy life without ever chanting panchaseela.

Such men are the true Buddhists!

Jayatissa Perera,
Bambalapitiya.

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