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Lions Roar : November 2016
BEGINNER’S MIND As a gay man, I’d like to know how Buddhism views LGBTQ people. I’m not interested in joining any religion that disapproves of who I am. One of the (many) differences between Buddhism and other religions is how little emphasis it places on sexuality as a moral issue. While other religions place rules about sexual behavior, marriage, and sexual preference at the center of their ethical universe, Buddhism pretty much limits its comment to the admonition not to harm others through sexuality. (That’s for lay practitioners, of course. Obviously, there are strict rules for celibate monas- tics.) The result is that Buddhist attitudes toward LGBTQ people are more a reflection of cultural attitudes than Buddhist philosophy per se. While traditional Buddhist societies are more conservative, the Buddhist commu- nity in the West is generally socially liberal and very welcoming to LGBTQ members. There are prominent gay and lesbian teachers, and most major communities host events, meditations, and retreats specifically for LGBTQ practitioners. At lionsroar.com, you’ll find teachings, articles, and resources for and by LGBTQ Buddhists, including a list of LGBTQ Buddhist groups around the country. DHARMA FAQS We answer your questions about Buddhism & meditation. BUDDHISM BY THE NUMBERS IN TRADITIONAL BUDDHIST (as well as Hindu) cosmology, kalpas are unfathomably long periods of time. Though they come in different sizes, even a “reg- ular” kalpa is beyond huge: 16,000,000 years. A “great kalpa” is almost 1,300,000,000,000 years. Sometimes these enormous lengths of time are described in colorful metaphors, such as: • longer than the time it would take to fill a cube that is 16 miles wide and 16 miles high with mustard seeds, at the rate of one mustard seed every 100 years; • longer than it would take, at the same once-a -cen- tury frequency, for the brushing of an eagle’s wing against a mountain to wear that mountain away; • longer than it would take for a turtle (one who appears, again, once every 100 years) to randomly poke its head through a ring floating on the ocean’s surface. Kalpas relate to the nature of the universe itself, describing immeasurably long cycles of creation and destruction. Like modern science, ancient Buddhist cosmology described a universe of almost infinite size, variety, and duration. The kalpa is often evoked as an encouragement to spiritual practice, reminding us how rare it is to be born human and to hear the Buddhist teachings. “The dharma,” as one Zen chant puts it, “is rarely encountered, even in hundreds of thousands of millions of kalpas.” RAYFENWICKILLUSTRATIONSBYNOLANPELLETIER LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2016 32