Buddha Precepts, Part Four
No sexual misconduct: I vow to use my sexuality to enhance and nurture the lives of others
Consider this vow as it is written. How often do we understand our sexual behavior in the context of its power to enhance and nurture? It seems to me we spend an awful lot of time fretting about the morality of sex and far too little time on considering its humanizing, spiritual, and healing potential.
When we look at sexual behavior in the context of the bodhisattva path what happens? In our Zen practice, our tools are ourselves: our bodies, hearts, and minds. We vow to use ourselves for the benefit of all beings. In recognizing our human sexual nature, the question is, then, how do we use this aspect of ourselves to enhance and nurture? Our sexuality is a powerful medicine against dehumanization, alienation, isolation, and de-personalization. In Zen, we vow to use it to heal.
A few upfront observations: Just as we are eating beings, sleeping beings, or breathing beings, we are also sexual beings. Just as killing and stealing can be disruptive to community life, sexual conduct has the power to destroy individual lives within community. Sex is at the center of much of our waking life. We spend an awful lot of time in denial about our sexual nature. We spend the rest of our time trying our best to act it out. Personally, I have little time and patience with our societal neurosis over sex. We do it or we don’t and we should not infuse sexual conduct with notions of moral purity or impurity.
Yet, in the Puritanized, sanitized, and neuroticized West, we have raised the domain of sexual conduct to inhuman heights. Sexual thoughts are often considered to be “impure” thoughts. Sex is understood as “dirty.” We fear our bodies, are loathe to look at our sexual selves, and as a result are often completely at the mercy of our impulses and feel incredibly guilty as a result. Get over it.
The litmus test is simple: am I nurturing through this behavior or am I harming through this behavior? If cases where it may be apparent that both are happening at the same time, we might ask ourselves, what produces the most good over bad for those involved? Using an absolute ethical/moral rule is not arising from prajna, but is inhuman and totally denies context.
Enjoy with due regard for the well-being of all concerned.