Tuesday, September 15, 2020

When the first celibate monk had sex

Academic researcher Achim Bayer, Dongguk University, Seoul (buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg.de/pdf); Dhr. Seven, Ananda (DBM), Ashley Wells (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

The Sudinna Tale in the Pāli Vinaya and Its Interpretation
Restraint of the eyes is good.
[Then the Buddhist monk Ven. Sudinna had sex with his ex-wife and was the first to commit such an offense which was not yet a specific violation of the Vinaya or Monastic Disciplinary Code.]

Filled with remorse (kukkucca), Sudinna returned to his fellow monks and confessed his deed. They scolded him harshly, and "then these monks, having rebuked Venerable Sudinna in various ways, told this matter to the Buddha."

The Buddha, after questioning Sudinna, again rebukes him in a similar way as the monks had done. Mocking Sudinna as a "foolish person" (moghapurisa), he tells him that what he has done is unfit (ananucchaviyam), disorderly (ananulomikam), unseemly (appanirūpam), not samana [wandering ascetic]-like (assāmanakam), unsuitable (akappiyam), and not to be done (akaranīyam).

"Why are you...unable to exert the supremely complete full ascetic behavior for as long as you live?" [9].

"Has not the Dhamma [Dharma] been taught by me in manifold ways in order to be free from passion (virāgāya), and not in order to have passion (sarāgāya)?" [10]. "How can you, O foolish person, when the Dhamma is taught by me in order to be free from passion, be intent on (cetessasi) having passion?" [11].

"The Dhamma has been taught for the sake of being without fetters (visamyogāya), being without attachment (anupādānāya)," and still, the Buddha says, Sudinna is intent on doing the opposite.

"The Dhamma has been taught to subdue haughtiness (madanimmadanāya) [12] and so on, for cessation (nirodhāya), and for nirvana. The abandoning of the sensual pleasures has been taught, and the calming of the fever of [craving for] sensual pleasures (kāmaparilāhāna), too.

It would be better if Sudinna (or any "foolish person") were to put (pakkhitta) his "specific organ [or limb]"  (angajāta) into the mouth of a venomous snake or a fire-pit rather than into the "specific organ" of womenfolk (mātugāmassa angajāte).

Why is that so? It is because with the former he will die or experience agony (maramamatta, vā dukkham, lit. "suffering as if dying"), but he will not go to hell [niraya, naraka, purgatory, perdition], to a lower realm [13]. But with the latter (i.e. sexual intercourse), he will go to hell, to the lower realms (niraya).

Through that karmic deed, Sudinna will enter (samāpajjissasi) upon the untrue dhamma (asaddhama), "village dhamma" (gāmadhamma), vile dhamma (vasaladhamma), badness (dutthulla), "what ends with ablution" (odakantika), secrecy (rahassa), "coming together of the two" (dvayamdvayasamāpatti) [14] ― Sudinna has just done the first of many unwholesome things [15].

Finally, the Buddha states ten reasons why sexual intercourse is forbidden for monastics, such as:
  1. for the excellence of the Sangha (sanghasutthutāya),
  2. for the comfort of the Sangha (sanghaphāsutāya),
  3. for the suppression of badly confused persons (dumma puggalāna, niggahāya),
  4. so that the well-behaved monastics may live with ease (pesalāna, bhikkhūna, phāsuvihārāya),
  5. for restraining the inflows/defilements (āsavāna, samvarāya),
  6. for the piety of those who are not pious (appasannāna, pasādāya),
  7. so that those who are pious may increase (pasannāna, bhiyyobhāvāya),
  8. so that the true Dhamma may be stable (saddhammatthitiyā),
  9. for assistance in the vinaya (vinayānuggahāya) [16].

Thus the Buddha proclaims the prohibition of sexual intercourse for monastics, the transgression of which makes one liable to the state of asamvāsa, a loss of "fellowship or communion" with other members of his monastic community [17].

Interpretation of the Story
Hmm, what dos this story tell us?
THE PROHIBITION What, then, do the single elements of the narrative tell the reader? Ven. Sudinna himself is shown as not actively interested in sexual pleasure.

There is also no real danger that he would break away from the community: The agreement with his mother was clear, and for his part, Ven. Sudinna was ready to remain in the community as before [18].

From the point of view of lay ethics, there were no objections of caste, and the act happened with the
consent of his wife's superior in the family hierarchy, Ven. Sudinna's mother, who accepted the fact that Ven. Sudinna had neglected his duties as a husband and was intent on doing so in the future.

Therefore, I think the message of the story is as follows: Even if the conditions are highly favorable, even if there is apparently no harm to a third party, sexual intercourse is forbidden. That is to say, under no circumstances should any monastic have sexual intercourse or contact [19].

Soteriology: The liberation of the individual
Ven. Sudinna is accused of not having inferred the prohibition of sex from the fundamental precept of the Dhamma: moving away from sensual craving towards the cessation of sensual desire. That is, of course, a soteriological goal [20].

And indeed, celibacy fits in well with the general ascetic lifestyle, which consists of restraint of the senses for goals such as overcoming craving (tanhā, lit. "thirst") or the attainment of peace [21].

That being true, how does expulsion from the ascetic community fit in here? Does Ven. Sudinna's single transgression really endanger his ascetic lifestyle to such an extent that there is no hope for his return to his formerly exemplary monastic discipline? Is it really justified to truncate the career of a wandering ascetic such as Ven. Sudinna, giving him up as a hopeless case? More

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