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Lions Roar : January 2005
74 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2005 vinaya regulations and so on into the slots we’ve already estab- lished for sinful behavior. But the Buddhist attitude toward sex has nothing to do with any notion of sin and everything to do with following the Middle Way in all of our activities. To practice the Middle Way means applying it to all areas of your life without any exception. You can’t establish real balance if you hold certain areas of experience apart and say it’s OK to go to extremes as long as it has to do with sex, or skee-ball, or whatever it is you’re obsessed with. Constantly moving from one extreme to the other is what got your brain and body into the mess they’re in right now. How can you expect to get at the root cause of your troubles by doing the very thing that caused them in the first place? People often tend to misunderstand the point of Buddhism to be the utter destruction of all desire, including the desire to get one’s rocks off. But you can’t live if you don’t desire to breathe or eat. And the human race couldn’t survive if we did away with the desire for sex. While sex isn’t sinful as far as Buddhism is concerned, it’s obvious to anyone who pays any attention to his or her own life that improper sexual behavior causes trouble for oneself and others. One way to get around these problems is to simply refrain from sexual relations altogether. My own teacher gave up doing the dirty deed in his mid-fifties, but when asked if he could have done so earlier in his life he replied, “Let me tell you clearly: that would have been absolutely impossible.” Most Zen teachers I know of caution against attempting to practice total abstinence from sex, since that often ends up making people even more sex crazed. The next best option is having a long-term, faithful, monog- amous relationship. Yeah, I know, that sounds really boring. But, as usual, the most boring option is usually the best one. Let me tell you why I think so. The early eighties punk rock scene I was part of in Akron, Ohio, emerged just before the AIDS epidemic started and before the sexual revolution of the seventies had quite wound down. Lots of people were experimenting with interesting sexual rela- tionships. As far as I could see, it drove all of them nuts. I’m sure the sex itself was fun, at least sometimes, but it led to all kinds of interpersonal weirdness that could make the atmosphere extremely uncomfortable at times when large groups gathered together. And, in fact, some of the people involved in these var- ious groupings told me that, really, even the sex itself hadn’t been as much fun as they’d imagined. Real life rarely works out quite like the stuff they show you on the Playboy Channel. In the end, most of these folks found it far more pleasant to avoid all the nutty stuff and stick with one person. So no matter what kinky things you get up to in the bed- room, or the kitchen, or wherever you choose, no Buddhist will consider you sinful. To a Buddhist these things are a waste of time at worst. But there’s the rub (heh-heh). As far as Buddhism is concerned, wasting time is the most heinous thing a person can do. ©