Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sexual Misconduct or Adultery?

There's something strange about "sexual misconduct" (kamesu micchacara). In Buddhism and in Asia it means having sex with someone who is off limits. That is, the other person's state is what matters. Ten people are off limits.

But in Christianity and in America sexual misconduct is often translated as "adultery," which has the opposite meaning! There the perpetrator matters, not the accomplice. Whether one is involved in a committed relationship matters. In fact, we often think the accomplice is quite innocent (since it wasn't that person cheating on his or her partner).

For example, if Tiger Woods cheats on his spouse, we think it's "cheating" because he's married. We might also ask if the other woman, his accomplice, was off limits in a Buddhist sense.
  • Who is "off limits"? Anyone under the protection of mother, father, parents, spouse, family, guardians, religious community, law, or those betrothed, or promised for marriage.

The meaning seems to be anyone who is not independent. Nowhere does it say that the actor is any of these things. So Tiger's mistresses are engaging in sexual misconduct, which is a very heavy karma, because he is married. Surely he has done something as well?

The consequence is that by engaging in sex, others will be hurt and harmed -- usually the partner (the cuckold or cuckquean) but also families, children, and society. To have sex one should first ensure that one is independent and not involved in a relationship that precludes dating others.

What is the Consequence of Adultery?
The Workings of Kamma (Pa Auk Sayadaw)
Then there is the picture painted by Mahapaduma ("Great Lotus"), the pacceka (nonteaching) buddha-to-be. In the time of Kassapa Buddha’s dispensation, "Mahapaduma" was a monk. He had already developed the enlightenment-perfection (parami) for becoming a nonteaching-buddha over an unimaginably long period. And as a monk in Buddha Kassapa’s dispensation, he further developed this perfection.

One of his wholesome karmas (actions capable of bearing a result) functioned as productive karma to produce rebirth as the son of a treasurer in Varanasi, India. He also became a treasurer, and in that life he committed "adultery." [This is a Buddhist story more likely to mean unspecified "sexual misconduct" than "cheated on his wife"].

At death, an adultery-karma functioned as productive karma to produce rebirth in a hellish world. And when he eventually escaped from hell, an indefinitely-effective wholesome karma functioned as productive karma to produce rebirth: But now he was reborn as a treasurer’s daughter!

While "she" was in her mother’s womb, an adultery-karma functioned as an unwholesome frustrating karma so that she and her mother suffered many burning sensations. She always remembered this suffering. Furthermore, even though wholesome karma produced for her a beautiful appearance, it was frustrated by adultery-karma. So she met much hatred, even from her parents.

Later, when her hand was given in marriage, the adultery-karma again functioned as frustrating karma. Although she was beautiful, intelligent, and stoic, her husband also hated and did not care for her.

Therefore, always remember this story. For the sufferings she met reflect exactly the sufferings of those who are victims of adultery.

One day owing to his hatred for her, her husband went to the fair with another woman. In tears, she said to him: "Even if a woman were the daughter of a universal monarch (a ruler of the world), she would still live for her husband’s happiness. What you do breaks my heart! If you do not want to take care of me, please send me back to my parents. But if you love me, you should take care of me. You should not behave like this!"

She begged her husband to take her to the fair, and he told her to make preparations. She did, but on the day of the festival, she heard that her husband had already gone to the fair without her. So she followed him with her servants, bringing food and drink that she had prepared.

On the way, she met a nonteaching-buddha who had emerged from the cessation attainment (a meditative experience called nirodha samapatti). She descended from her carriage, took his bowl, filled it with food, and offered it to him. When her offering was accepted, she took hold of a bundle of lotuses, and painted a picture:
  1. Venerable Sir, in every future life, may I be reborn in a lotus!
  2. In every future life, may I be the color of a lotus!
  3. In every future life, may I become a man!
  4. May everyone who sees me love me as they love lotuses!
  5. May I know the Dharma that you know!

Why did she make these aspirations? She wanted to be reborn in a lotus because she had already undergone much suffering in her mother’s womb. She wanted to have the color of a lotus because she liked the color. Her life as a woman had caused her much misery, so she wanted to become a man. Nobody had loved her, not even her parents, so she wanted to be loved by everybody who saw her. Lastly, she had developed sufficient spiritual-perfection to become a nonteaching-buddha, so there was a strong desire to become one.

In this way, she painted the picture of a perfect man complete in all his features on the canvas of Samsara, the round of rebirth. The [massively] wholesome karma of her offering functioned as presently effective karma (ditthadhamma vedaniya kamma) that intercepted the frustrating adultery-karma and produced its own results. Her husband, who suddenly remembered her, sent for her. From then on not only he but everyone showed her much love.

The wholesome karma of her offering functioned also as subsequently-effective karma to give her rebirth as a male deva in a lotus in the deva world. There he was called Mahapaduma. He was reborn in the deva worlds over and over again, sometimes highborn, sometimes lowborn. In his last birth, at the suggestion of King Sakka, he was born in a lotus in a pond in the park of the King of Varanasi, whose queen was childless. She saw the lotus in the pond, picked it up, and found the child inside as if in a casket. She adopted him and brought him up in great luxury.

Everybody who saw him loved him very much. The king issued a proclamation that any harem which could feed the baby, Prince Mahapaduma, would receive 1,000 coins. For that reason there was much commotion in the palace as countless women entertained him.

Prince Mahapaduma’s rebirth into the royal family was again one of his offering-to-a-nonteaching-buddha karmas that functioned as productive karma. And all of these different types of happiness were identical karmas that functioned also as reinforcing karmas.

When the prince was about 13, he became disenchanted with the entertainment. His perfections (parami) for the attainment of the status of a nonteaching-buddha were now mature and ready to produce their results.

One day while playing outside the palace gate, he saw a nonteaching-buddha. He warned him not to enter the palace as anyone who entered would be forced to eat and drink. The nonteaching-buddha turned away. Afterwards, he was remorseful in case he had caused offense. So he went by elephant to see him and to ask for forgiveness. Approaching, he descended from his elephant and went the remainder of the way on foot. Closer to the nonteaching-buddha’s dwelling, he dismissed his attendants and went alone.

But he found the nonteaching-buddha’s hut empty. So he sat down, developed insight, and became one. All taints were destroyed. Permanent liberation of mind was achieved. Such are the workings of karma. So the Buddha reiterated:

"Therefore, monks, one should reflect repeatedly upon one’s own mind: ‘For a long time this mind has been defiled by lust, by hatred, and by delusion.’ By mental defilement, monks, beings are defiled. By mental purification, beings are purified" (Gaddula·Baddha Sutra).

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