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Re: 18+

Postby Judy Roitman on Fri Nov 27, 2015 12:20 am

Dear Anirukta,

You ask: "What are the instructions, guidelines, or general advice, or special practices --- directed at regulation, or possibly transformation, or any other sort of inner work with, say, the "unreleased" sexual energy --- either accumulated by itself, or due to the lack of one"s abilities to "transform" it from gross to sublime form?"

You would have to ask someone celibate. I'm sure different monastic traditions have different things to say about it. In fact I'm sure different monks and nuns in the same tradition would have different things to say about it.

What interests me is that you have notions about gross/sublime forms, sexual/non-sexual energies, energetic states and their qualities... Why do that? Forms constantly shift. Gross and sublime are just our opinion. Energies --- well, to be honest, I'm not sure what "energy" or "energetic state" means, the longer you look at those words the more any fixed meaning disappears.

The monks and nuns I know are very down to earth and practical. I have no idea what they would tell you, but I don't think it would be about transforming a gross energetic state to a sublime one. But that is of course because they are in the Zen tradition, which prides itself on being down to earth and practical ("What is Buddha?" "Dry shit-stick!").

I encourage you to not worry about transforming one energy state to another but instead to pay attention to what is actually happening, what our actual reality is. Eventually you will touch something more fundamental than our ideas, opinions, desires, etc. And it will manifest in your life.

Good luck,

Judy Roitman (Zen Master Bon Hae), Kansas Zen Center, Kwan Um School of Zen
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Re: 18+

Postby Guo Gu on Sat Nov 28, 2015 7:09 am

Anirukta wrote:There has been quite a number of celibate Buddhist monks --- for centuries.

What are the instructions, guidelines, or general advice, or special practices --- directed at regulation, or possibly transformation, or any other sort of inner work with, say, the "unreleased" sexual energy --- either accumulated by itself, or due to the lack of one"s abilities to "transform" it from gross to sublime form?

Not to say about those intentionally practicing inner cultivation, even generally --- the level, or "qualities", of one"s energetic state tend to change as one"s practice progresses. This includes sexual energy (being the "core", as many believe, of one"s energetic system).

What is allowed to say publicly regarding this matter, speaking of Japanese Zen, Chinese Ch"an, or Western monastic settings, please say this.


great question. sex is way overrated in modern times and so it's important to get some perspectives on this topic--even if one is not practicing celibacy. so i have two comments. the first point: it's important not to reify "sexual energy" as something distinct and real apart from vexations/delusions. even the abhidharmic analysts, with all of their categorizations of dharma theory, didn't see that as a distinct category. this says something.

the emergence of such discourse of sexual energy in buddhism is a relatively late influx from non-buddhist tantric traditions (post 8th century phenomenon?). i'm not saying that pre-8th century buddhists or ppl didn't experience sexual drives; sexual drive, along with other vexations, is part of the karma condition of all beings living in the desire realm of samsara. in this sense, it is naturally something to be reckoned with for practitioners in this realm. yet, i only wanted to point out that in our modern infatuation with sex, such as the discourse on sexual energy and winds and bindu and chakras can become something real, reified, that require special kind of practices to channel it or release it. are these practices necessary? not from the perspectives of buddhadharma and chan/son/zen.

buddhadharma just deals with vexations. desire as a general category in buddhism covers both sexual and asexual vexations. the reason sexual desire is not separated out categorically from other desires is because there's no need. when one engages in "practice," and as the mind refines and clarifies, vexations of all sort diminish in their own accord. as you've said, they transform from "the gross to the subtle" until the sense of self, around which all vexations hinge, is dropped thoroughly. thus, there is no need (at least from the perspective of basic buddhadharma and chan/son/zen) to cultivate special techniques to deal with the "branches" of the root problem by alter, transform, subdue sexual desire. just uproot the main cause--attachment to self. this requires genuine steadfast practice and awakening (again and again to uproot).

second point: despite what has been said in point one above, as i see it, there are certain "practices" for monastics that form part of the monastic culture, if you will, that deal with the issue of desire. they are not necessarily different practices than lay practices but are an intensification thereof. buddhadharma is like a toolbox--there are numerous methods and practices. in fact the whole tool box is designed for eradicating vexations. but the specific practices i refer to are:

1. physically distancing oneself from the bodies of those that one is attracted to through observing the precept (of celibacy or no sexual misconduct) and cultivating methods (such as contemplating the body as impure).
2. reciting precepts collectively as a sangha on a monthly basis reinforces a community of awareness and support from like-minded practitioners (hence, creating a monastic culture).
3. these actually (or at least should) lead to a sense of humility and contrition fueled by vows that are ever present (the benefits of this practice are too many to count).
4. doing manual labor, especially for young novices and monastics, to sustain the monastic institution and diminish agitated, undisciplined energy.
5. for my dharma drum lineage, hundreds of prostrations a day as well (the benefits of this practice are also too many to count).
6. for young monks, sleeping a certain way to prevent nocturnal erection--not necessarily a result of sexual dreams but more as a biological hormonal reaction in young ppl. the posture basically involves legs curled up, both knees toward chest, lying on one's right side. this posture induces mindfulness and by extension physical stability.
7. cultivating particular perception to transform emotions: for monks perceiving women as "sisters"; for nuns perceiving men as "brothers"--whether older or younger--to transform desire to family love or friendship. there are other perceptions to cultivate (e.g., emptiness, noself, nonduality, etc.), but most remain abstract and conceptual for young monastics. however, perceiving others as sisters and brothers (and older ppl as mothers and fathers) works on a concrete level until one has personal experience in emptiness.

these are some of the physical, perceptual, and emotional methods that i can think of now.

be well,
guo gu
Founder and teacher of Tallahassee Chan Center of the Dharma Drum Lineage of Chan Buddhism
Received inka from Master Sheng Yen (1930-2009) in 1995
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