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Enlightenment through Celibacy or Celibacy through Enlightenment? |
Enlightenment through Celibacy or Celibacy through Enlightenment?
Yuki Sirimane(University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka)
Twenty One out of the Two Hundred and Twenty Seven disciplinary rules for a bhikkhu concern sexual behavior. The four Parajika rules laid down for the bhikkhus have been increased to eight parajika rules in the disciplinary rules applicable to the bhikkhunis. Three out of these additional four rules applicable to the bhikkhunis pertain to sex life and can be considered as secondary rules deriving from the first parajika rule. Hence half the number of the parajika rules laid down for bhikkhunis deal with sex in one way or another.1) Similarly amongst the many additional
1) Jothiya Dheerasekara, Buddhist Monastic Discipline, Colombo, 1992, 149.
disciplinary rules introduced for Bhikkhunis in the category of Sanghadisesa and Pacittiya rules too, a substantial number deal with sexual behavior and impairment to the life of brahmacariya.
II. The place for celibacy in the Disciplinary Code for bhikkhunis
The process of the evolution of the Universe and man kind accordingto Buddhism is set out in Agganna Sutta (A Book of Genesis). The first referenceitself to sexual intercourse between man and woman as set out in this sutta portraits it as an act of immorality and vulgarity. Accordingly in the process of evolution, with the physical appearance of¡® sex distinction¡¯ in the beings who up to such time had no such distinction, the newly evolved male and female, being overcome by lust, indulged in sexual intercourse with each other which lead to the on- lookers in the rest of the community throwing sand, ash and cow - dung at them saying¡® perish you foul (impure) one, how can a being treat a being so?3) Nibbana the ultimate goal of Buddhism being the complete destruction without remainder, of lust, aversion and ignorance (raga dosa moha) , the emphasis on restraining or abstaining from sensual pleasures including sexual relations in the practice towards this goal is understandable. More over the Buddha says Monks I know of no other single form by which a man¡¯s heart is so enslaved as it is by that of a woman. Monks a woman¡¯s form obsesses a man¡¯s heart . I know of no other single sound by which a man¡¯s heart is so enslaved as it is by the voice of a woman. Monks a woman¡¯s voice obsesses a man¡¯s heart ⋯scent ⋯savour ⋯touch ⋯
Parajika rule 1- Whatever bhikkhuni should deliberately indulge in sexual intercourse, even with an animal, she becomes one who is defeated. She cannot live any more with the other bhikkhunis.7)
The equivalent of the above rule for the bhikkhus is as follows;¡® If a monk who has accepted the discipline , without rejecting it, without pronouncing his ability to continue (monastic life), has sexual intercourse, even with a female animal, he commits an offence entailing defeat⋯�⋯¡¯ In the bhikkhuni¡¯s rule the words¡® without rejecting it, without pronouncing his ability to continue (monastic life)¡¯has not being included.
Parajika rule 5- Whatever bhikkhuni filled with desire, should consent to rubbing, or rubbing up against, or taking hold of or touching or pressing against a male person who is filled with desire, below the collor bone and above the circle of the knees, she becomes one who is defeated⋯
Parijika rule 8- Whatever bhikkhuni, filled with desire, for the sake of following this unsuitable thing , should consent to a male person who is filled with desire, taking her hand, or should consent to his taking hold of even by the edge of her outer cloak (sanghati), or should stand or should talk or should go to rendezvous, or should consent to a man coming towards her , or should enter a covered place or should dispose her body for such a purpose, she becomes one who is defeated⋯
In both above rules though it appears as a passive role physically, the words¡® filled with desire¡¯and¡® consent to¡¯(sadiyeyya) indicates the role of the mind.
Sanghadisesa 3 - No bhikkhuni shall, alone leave the village , cross the river and go beyond, shall stay a night out, or be out of the company of the group. Whoever does so shall be guilty of an Sanghadisesaoffence.
Sanghadisesa 5 - No bhikkhuni shall with lustful intentions receive and partake of any food from a lustful man with similar intentions.
Sanghadisesa 6 - No bhikkhuni shall tell another¡® whatever will this man do to you. whether he is lustful or otherwise, as long as you entertain no such thoughts. Therefore you accept and partake of whatever he offers you¡¯
The above rules seem to be with the objective of not only to curtail the opportunities to entertain lustful thoughts and conduct but also to safeguard the bhikkhunis from being victims of rape, molestation and
The following Pacittiya rules11) are also for the same objective.
Pacittiya rule 11 - No bhikkhuni shall in the darkness of the night, at a place there is no lamp, stay alone in the company of a man or converse with him. Whoever does so will be guilty of a Pacittiya offence.
Pacittiya rule 12 - No bhikkhuni shall stay alone in the company of a man or converse with him in a secluded place.
Pacittiya rule 13 - No bhikkhuni shall stay alone in the company of a man or converse with him in an open place.
Pacittiya rule 14 - No bhikkhuni shall, in the street, in a blind alley or at the cross roads, stay alone in the company of a man, converse with him, whisper in his ear, or send away the bhikkhuni who is her only companion.
It is noteworthy that the above conduct is considered an offence what ever the state of mind of the bhikkhuni may be, whether she acts with or
Pacittiya rule 103 - Whatever bhikkhuni who teaches Dhamma to a man in more than five or six sentences , unless a knowledgeable woman is present ⋯
Pacittiya rule 125 - Whatever bhikkhuni should sit down and wait in private in a secluded seat with a man ⋯
Pacittiya rule 126- Whatever bhikkhuni should sit down and wait together with a man ⋯
In the bhikkhuni Vinaya there seem to be several rules to safeguard against sexual practicessuch as masturbation, homosexuality etc. The restrictions in the Vinaya againstsharing the same bed, couch, sharing the same blanket, from rubbing each others bodies, applying oils etc on another could be multi purpose including to safeguard against possible
Pacittiya rule 3 - In slapping with the palms of the hands (on the private parts of the body), a bhikkhuni is guilty of a Pacittiya offence
Pacittiya rule 4 - In penetrating some thing e.g. some thing made out of wax (in the private part of the body) a bhikkhuni is guilty of an offence
There is a reference in the Pali text to a bhikkhuni inserting a ¡®jatumutthaka¡¯inside her genitals. The term jattumuthaka is translated in to English as a¡® decking with lac¡¯(Pali English Dictionary - PTS London), a device used by women in society at that time to prevent conception. It is something made of wood, flour or clay. Subsequent to this incident the Buddha laid downa rule which not only forbids them from using jatthumuttaka but also touching their genitals even with a blade of grass.13)
Pacittiya rule 5 - states that when bhikkhunis wash their genitals, their fingers should not be inserted for more than two inches inside the vaginas.14)
Pacittiya rule 31 - Whatever two bhikkhunis who should share one couch , they are guilty of a fault⋯�⋯ 13) Chamindaji Gamage, Buddhism and Sensuality, Colombo, 1998, 63. 14) - do - , 64.
Pacittiya rule 32 - whatever two bhikkhunis should share one blanket or one bed sheet, they are guilty of an offence⋯
Pacittiya rule 90 - Whatever bhikkhuni should cause herself to be rubbed with ointment massaged by a nun, she is guilty of a fault of pacittiya
Pacittiya rule 91 - Whatever Bhikkhuni should cause herself to be rubbed with ointment or massaged by a postulant , she is guilty⋯
Pacittiya rule 92 - Whatever bhikkhuni should cause herself to be rubbed with ointment or massaged by a female novice, she is guilty ⋯
Pacittiya rule 93 - Whatever bhikkhuni should cause herself to be rubbed with ointment or massaged by a woman householder, she is guilty The Vinaya rules also safeguards against the bhikkhunis conducting themselves in such a manner that would arouse lustful feelings in men i.e. wearing ornaments, scents, bathing naked in public places etc.
Pacittiya rule 96 - Whatever bhikhuni who should enter the village without her vest , she is guilty ⋯
Pacittiya rule 86 - What ever bhikkhuni should wear a sanghani, she is guilty of ⋯�⋯�(a sanghani is a decorated cloth or an ornamental chain to wear around the hip).15)
Pacittiya rule 87 - Whatever bhikkhuni would wear women¡¯s ornaments, she is guilty of ⋯
Pacittiya rule 88 - Whatever bhikkhuni should bath with scent and skin lotions , she is guilty of ⋯
Pacittiya rule 21 - Whatever bhikkhunishould bathe naked, she is guilty
Sexual intercourse has been commonly referred to in the text as not true dhamma, it is a village dhamma, low-caste dhamma, wickedness, the final ablution, secrecy, having obtained in couples. The extent of the sexual taboo on the Path to Enlightenment of a monk or a nun who has renounced the household life can be determined by the Buddha¡¯s advice to Sudinna at the time of promulgation of the first parajika rule as follows;
It were better for you, foolish man that your male organ should enter the mouth of a terrible and a poisonous snake , than it should enter a woman. It were better for you, foolish man , that your male organ should enter the mouth of a black snake⋯�⋯ charcoal pit ⋯�⋯burning ablaze, a fire than enter a woman.16)
15) Mohan Wijeratne, Buddhist Nuns, note 4, 200.
Based on these statements there is a tendency to interpret the essence of the brahmacari life as celibacy. However in Methuna Sutta of Anguttara Nikaya, replying to brahmin Janussoni the Buddha declared a bhikkhu or Brahmin who declares himself to be a person of perfect brahmacariya, may not enjoy sexual intercourse with a woman, but this is not enough to warrant such a declaration.17) It is further said that if he allows a woman to rub his body with oil or perfume, to give him a bath and shampoo him and enjoys or longs for it, if he laughs sports or enjoys with a woman, if he looks in to, watches with expectation, the eyes of a woman who does the same in return, if he listens through a wall or a fence to the noise of a woman who is laughing, reciting, singing, or weeping , if he remembers that he has formally laughed, talked , and sported together with a woman, if he sees a householder or a householder¡¯s son, in possession of five sorts of pleasure and being attended by a woman or if he practices brahmacariya desiring to join a class of celestial beings, such brahmacariya cannot be called unbroken, uninterrupted, unvaried, unadulterated, perfect and pure brahmacariya.18)
The above clearly shows that abstinence from sexual activity is not the essence of the practice towards Enlightenment even in the case of a monk or a nun . Mohan Wijeratne in Buddhist Nuns writes; 17) Anguttaranikaya, Buddha Jayanthi Tipitaka Series, Colombo, 1960-77, Vol. 21, Pt. 4, 362 / Chamindaji Gamage, Buddhism and Sensuality, Colombo, 1998, 83.
A married woman is permitted to enter the order of nuns at the age of twelve years provided there is permission from her husband or the parents to do so (Pacittiya rule 65 and 80). However in the case of a unmarried woman she is not permitted to enter the Order until 20 yrs (Pacittiya rule 71). These rules seem to be giving sufficient time for a unmarried woman to make a decision about entering in to wedlock and in the case of married women this also serves to protect the Institution of marriage. Hence it can be concluded that despite the heavy emphasis on celibacythere is no sacrosanct value attached to celibacy within the Buddhist philosophy except that these rules have been enacted both for molding a mind conducive for treading the Path and for safeguarding and supporting the Community of monks and nuns.
19) Mohan Wijeratne, Buddhist Nuns, 116.
III. The role of celibacy in the practice of lay female
Buddhist disciples who have attained fruits of the Path Once a lay disciple, Migasala questioned Ven. Ananda as to how to understand the dhamma thought by the Tathagata, as it seems that both, one who lives brahmacari life (celibate life) and one who doesn¡¯t, after death takes a similar birth.
The Buddhist Path to Nibbana, its ultimate goal is marked by four land marks , the four fruits of the Path. They are (a) Fruit of Stream- entry (Sotapatti-Phala) (b) Once Returner (Sakadagami-phala) (c) Non Returner (Anagami-Phala) and (d) Arahatta-Phala (Nibbana). These are progressive stages of development of the mind. This sutta highlights that celibacy by
I) It is said of Visakha (the chief female lay disciple of the Buddha) who attained sotappatti phala at the age of seven years Visakha got married at the age of fifteen or sixteen years ⋯�⋯In the course of time she gave birth to ten sons and ten daughters and all of them had the same number of descendants down to the fourth generation. Visakha herself lived up to the remarkable age of 120⋯�⋯ She was strong as a elephant and worked untiringly throughout the day looking after her large family. She found time to feed the monks every day, to visit monasteries, and to ensure that non of the monks lacked food, clothing, shelter, bedding and medicine.
Accordingly having attained the first fruit of the Path as a seven year old she entered marriage and continued to have ten children and enjoy sensual pleasures. She was obviously not leading a celibate life. With the first fruit of the Path one is assured of completing the Path to Nibbana, at the latest within seven more lives and is assured of not falling back from the Path . He or she is said to have firmly entered the¡® Stream¡¯to Nibbana. Further from this point onwards he or she is said to continue to progress towards the final goal and only the time taken to reach the final goal differs from one another depending on each one¡¯s commitment to the Practice. Hence Visakha having attained first fruit of the Path and whilst continuing towards her final goal and associating the Buddha so closely as his chief lay female disciple, yet celibacy had no real role in her practice.
ii) Nakulapita and Nakulamata (Father Nakula and Mother Nakula) arementioned by the Buddha amongst his foremost lay disciples, and their unfaltering faithfulness to each other has been highlighted in the Text. The Pali Canon depicts their relationship with each other as exemplary and a
Once when Nakulapita, the husband fell gravely ill and Nakulamata addressed him was as follows;
Do not harbor distress at the thought of my being left behind. To die like that is agonizing, so our Master has advised against it. ⋯�⋯I am skilled in spinning and so shall be able to support the children, after having lived the home life chastely with you for sixteen years I shall never consider taking another husband; I shall never cease seeing the Master and his bhikkhus, but rather visit them even more frequently than before; I am firmly established in virtue and have attained to peace of mind; and lastly I have found firm footing in the Dhamma and I am bound for final deliverance.23)
22) - do-, 375.
This gives us an indication that though very much in love and attached to each other to the extent of wanting to meet in the future births, the spiritual attainment of the couple had lead them to a celibate life.
iii) Khema was the beautiful chief consort of king Bimbisara who was himself a Stream-enterer. Though the King was a great benefactor of the Buddha and she had heard so much about the Buddha from the King, she never wanted to visit the Buddha as she had heard that the Buddha preaches about the vanity of beauty and sensual pleasures. However once the King managed to get her to visit the monastery where the Buddha was residing and she went with her royal splendor with silk and sandalwood and gradually got drawn in to the hall where the Buddha was preaching.
The above account shows that at the time of this incident, both the King who himself was a Stream-enterer and Khema who was his chief consort were very much enjoying sense pleasures. At the time of attaining Arahanthood she was not leading a celibate life as a part of her practice to Enlightenment. However upon full Enlightenment naturally she renounces lay life. Hence in this case celibacy had no real role in her Practice towards Enlightenment.
IV. Findings of field research
In the recent field research done by the writer addressing certain controversies surrounding¡® Enlightenment¡¯in the Theravada Tradition i.e.
- A 54yrs monk who is 27yrs in robes, the chief preceptor of a well established forest hermitage in Sri Lanka related the impact of his first significant religious experience on this Path as an irreversible change in his morality. He who was ridiculing virtue (sila) and laughing at those abiding in sila realized the power of sila, became virtuous, began to worship the virtuous, preach to others about the power of sila.
⋯I first realized the power of sila. That is, the sila that I ridiculed all this time or that I considered as being restricted to a jail, became the sole purpose of my life .
⋯I who was poking fun at or ridiculing sila began to worship the virtuous and also to preach to others about the importance of sila. That is, there occurred an irreversible change in morality ⋯�⋯Later for years I examined myself, can I kill, can I steal, can I engage in sexual misconduct etc and shame, fear, disgust arise towards these⋯�⋯ Before this experience I had the desire to investigate in to lust, therefore I had distorted ideas about it, that I need to experience everything about it. Similarly with hatred , to chop a creature alive knowing well that its alive and struggling, to steal from the most heavily guarded place, to taste all the possible intoxicating drugs in the world , in cheating, to cheat even my mother and father etc. Having done all this I have been fairly successful. But there has been nothing achieved. Then when I came on to this side the opposite happened. I wanted to stay away from even thinking of lust and hatred. ⋯
He began to feel enormously indebted to the Buddha and to Buddha Sasana, in return wanted to serve unreservedly for Dhamma, felt a need for a teacher and entered monkhood.26) This is the impact of his first fruit of the Path, Stream-entry. Here is a case where Enlightenment has lead to celibacy to say the least.
In the above recent field research out of the three married female disciples interviewed by the writer on their significant religious experiences on the Path, it was found that at the time of their first fruit of the Path, two were leading a normal lay life with their spouse and family and were abiding in the five precepts which is the minimum level of sila
Case study -1
A 66yr old married lady , a house wife, with two children had her first significant religious experience (Fruit of Stream-entry) 30yrs ago during a meditation retreat at a meditation Center. During the time of this experience she was observing the eight precepts as she was on a formal meditation retreat. However during this time she was leading a perfectly normal married life fulfilling the responsibilities of a mother and of a wife and was observing the five precepts as her regular sila. Though she continued to fulfill her responsibilities as a mother and as a wife in all other aspects, after a period of¡® four to five¡¯years from this experience she started leading a celibate life, observing a¡® higher sila¡¯. Although she was not observing all eight precepts (i.e. abstaining from perfumes, juwellery etc and abstaining from solid foods after the noon meal hich are included in the eight precepts) she was inclined to abstain from sexual relations. Though initially her relationship with the husband was strained due to this reason, with time it was accepted by him. As of today she continues to lead a harmonious married life whilst striving for higher fruits of the Path.
Case Study -2
A 56yr old married lady, a mother of two children, who is a teacher by profession had her first significant religious experience 19yrs ago. She had her first religious experience (which she describes as the Fruit of Streamentry) at home. During this time she was managing a home and was discharging her duties as a mother and as a wife, however was observing a¡® higher sila than the five precepts¡¯. Today several years after this experience though she is leading a normal lay life in all other aspects, she is observing the eight precepts abstaining from not only sexual relations but from many other sensual pleasures including not having solid foods after the noon meal. At the time of this experience her relationship with her husband was already strained and with time it became worse and ended up with separation. However as of today she maintains a harmonious relationship with her husband though not¡® living together¡¯ but living under the same roof.
Case Study -3
- A married lady in her early forties, who is a senior executive in the mercantile sector, had her first significant religious experience (Fruit of Stream-entry) 11yrs ago. She had her experience at home whilst observing the five precepts and leading a perfectly normal lay life. However around 4yrs from this experience she found herself naturally inclining towards abstaining from sexual relations with her husband and today she is leading a celibate life though not observing all eight precepts. The celibate life has not affected the harmonious relationship between her and her husband who is appreciative of the Dhamma. She continues to lead a perfectly normal lay life in all other aspects including perusing her career as she continues her quest for Nibbana.
In all above cases it is noteworthy that the practioners concerned have opted for a celibate life whilst being young enough to be sexually active. In the case of males interviewed by the writer who attained the fruits of the Path as lay disciples, few years after their first experience, both males ended up entering the Order of monks leading a completely celibate life.
Having examined the lives of disciples above it is difficult to conclude that celibacy is a pre-condition for Enlightenment. Nor can we determine the extent of the contribution of a celibate life towards one¡¯s Enlightenment. However given the extreme sexual taboos enforced on the Community of monks and nuns in the form of disciplinary rules, the role of celibacy on the path to Enlightenment can not be under-estimated.
a) Well-being of the Sangha
Hence Disciplinary rules are not merely for Enlightenment. It is also meant to serve multiple purposes vital for the sustenance of the Community of Sangha as an Institution.
27) Jothiya Dheerasekara, Buddhist Monastic Discipline, 51.