Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Responsible Sexual Behavior and Marriage -Thich Nhat Hanh

Already having formal education in both the Anglican and Catholic faiths, this summer I'm doing independent reading on Buddhism in an effort to study how Christianity and Buddhism relate. 

Thich Nhat Hanh - a Vietnamese Buddhist monk - examine sexual behavior and marriage in 
his book "Living Buddha, Living Christ": 
         Precepts in Buddhism and commandments in Judaism and Christianity are important jewels that we need to study and practice. They provide guidelines that can help us transform our suffering. Looking deeply at these precepts and commandments, we can learn the art of living in beauty. The Five Wonderful Precepts of Buddhism - reverence for life, generosity, responsible sexual behavior, speaking and listening deeply, and ingesting only wholesome substances- can contribute greatly to the happiness of the family and society. I have recently rephrased them to address the problems of our times:

The Oneness of Body and Mind

3. Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to protect couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. 

So many individuals, children, couples, and families have been destroyed by sexual misconduct. To practice the Third Precept is to heal ourselves and heal our society. This is mindful living.
          The feeling of loneliness is universal. We believe in a naïve way that having a sexual relationship will make us feel less lonely. But without communication on the level of the heart and spirit, a sexual relationship will only widen the gap and harm us both. We know that violating this precept causes severe problems, but we still do not practice it seriously. Couples engage in infidelity; and jealously, anger, and despair are the result. When the children grow up, they repeat the same mistakes, yet the violation of this precept continues to be encouraged in magazines, TV shows, films, books, and so on. We constantly encounter themes that arouse sexual desire, often coupled with themes of violence. […]
          In the Buddhist tradition, we speak of the oneness of the body and mind. Whatever happens to the body also happens to the mind. The sanity of the body is the sanity of the mind; the violation of the body is the violation of the mind. A sexual relationship is an act of communion between the body and spirit. This is a very important encounter, not to be done in a casual manner. In our soul there are certain areas- memories, pain, secrets - that are private, that we would share only with the person we love and trust the most. We do not open our heart and show it to just anyone.

My Copy of "Living Buddha, Living Christ"
Photo by Donna Welles (06/13/2012)

          The same is true of our body. Our bodies have areas that we do not want anyone to touch or approach unless he or she is the one we respect, trust, and love the most. When we are approached casually or carelessly, with an attitude that is less than tender, we feel insulted in our body and soul. Someone who approaches us with respect, tenderness, and utmost care is offering us deep communication, deep communion. It is only in that case that we will not feel hurt, misused, or abused, even a little. This cannot be attained unless there is true love and commitment. Casual sex cannot be described as love. Love is deep, beautiful, and whole, integrating body and spirit. […]
          The phrase "long-term commitment" does not express the depth of love we feel for our partner, but we have to say something so people understand. A long-term commitment is only a beginning. We also need the support of friends and other people. That is why we have a wedding ceremony. Two families join together with other friends to witness the fact that the couple has come together to live. The priest and the marriage license are just symbols. What is important is that the commitment is witnessed by friends of both of the families. "Responsibility" is the key word. The Third precept should be practiced by everyone.

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