Thursday, May 16, 2013

sex in spiritual life ... just noodling

I know it has more holes than Swiss cheese and I know I will be taken out behind the woodshed and reminded how naughty or inept I have been, but the following occurred to me in the wake of receiving the latest web site relating to the trial and incarceration of Joshu Sasaki Roshi (the translations of news articles are at the bottom) back in the 1950's. Recent accusations against Sasaki dovetail with allegations against various other Zen teachers, most notably, perhaps, Eido Tai Shimano.

In each instance, the harm done seems to be inextricably woven with sexual events and subsequent uproar that have spilled over into the spiritual centers that cared to consider them. In the wake of so much confusion, anger, anguish and whatever all else, new ethical guidelines have been proposed and adopted at Zen centers. My thought was that a cards-on-the-table approach to sex -- as for example an evening talk or a sheet of paper passed to all newly-minted members ... well, hell, I just made this up.

The topic for this evening is ...

Ready ... set...


Just to set the stage a bit, I will ask all of you if anyone here lacks a sex. Is anyone here neither male nor female? If so, raise your hand.

Very good.

Everyone here is either male or female. No surprises there.

And with sex goes sexuality. Maybe we can agree to define that in simple and less than solemn terms as the urge to merge. Most people, because they are human, feel sexual yearnings ... for members of the opposite sex, for members of the same sex, for both, for neither ... for dogs or cats or whatever all else. In simple and less than solemn terms, people get horny to one degree or another.

So far so good? Is any of this surprising? Is anyone out there in a state of shock or awe? Is there anything you don't agree with? Raise your hand.

If none of this is somehow news to anyone, then I will assume were are more or less on the same page.

Now we get to the sticky wickets of  sexual yearning.

When someone gets horny, that horniness does not come in one flavor. It has more flavors than Ben & Jerry have ice creams. Horny can be mixed with love. It can be mixed with violence. It can be mixed with submission. It can be mixed with power or manipulation or exultation or self-gratification or frustration or humility or spirituality or confusion or joy or ... any or all of the above a more besides. You get the drift.

Like anything else, things intersect and overlap and infuse what in simple terms is called horny. An orgasm can be as pure as the driven snow, but what leads up to that orgasm is often a potpourri of interconnecting hopes and fears and smiles and whatever all else.

Perhaps at this point we should stop and review.

We are all human beings, male and female ... remember that part?

We are all one sex or another ... remember that part?

We are all imbued with sexuality that accompanies that sex. Remember that part?

OK. I hope we are pretty much on the same page about this.

The reason that the topic this evening is SEX is that in the past there have been a number of instances in spiritual communities where the role of sex -- or at least the most titillating aspect of a situation was sex -- has caused hurt and harm. And anguish is no fucking joke! 

I won't go into the ambivalent-but-frequently-prurient outlook of American culture when it comes to sex, but since we are all members of what might be called a spiritual community, I think it is in our best interests to put our sexual cards on the table. Hiding sex in a spiritual community has the same result that it does in a wider society ... corruption and sometimes hurt and harm. Spiritual communities, when they are asked, love to tell you that they are emphatically not into hurt and harm ... but in the past, hurt and harm is sometimes what they have produced.

But let's keep things grounded here. I can get my rocks off thinking about you and you can get your rocks off thinking about me. Maybe it will come to some fruition, maybe not. But boys will be boys and girls will be girls and I think all of us in a spiritual community are here in part to be honest in our lives. Sex and sexuality are pretty honest things, don't you think? Good, bad or indifferent ... they are true. No big mystery. Penises and vaginas and occasionally some additional paraphernalia.

I am not trying to diminish the roller-coaster ride that sex and sexuality can provide -- the mistakes and sorrows and resounding joys that can evolve. I am trying to make the obvious obvious. Boys, girls, men, women ... in a spiritual setting as in any other. True, some spiritual settings proscribe honest connections of this sort, but we do not, so let's leave the proscriptions to the proscribers.

In our practice, honesty counts. So ... let's keep our honesty on the front burner.

In our practice, everyone does what they can to minimize the hurt and harm they may spread around. Easy to say and not always easy to do, but we try, fail, acknowledge our failures and try anew. We try to keep in focus what is as plain as the nose on our faces. And one plainly plain thing is SEX.

When it comes to sexual contact between any members of a spiritual community, I think at least one simple rule applies: "No means no." Of course "no" does not always mean no as the overlays of a human life infuse a sexual situation. And those with apparent power can indeed manipulate for their own purposes. It can be damnably confusing. But I think that when, as this evening, SEX is put on the table and openly acknowledged as a part of the spiritual mix ... well, perhaps the load is lightened.

Yup, there's sex in the spiritual community. What did you expect? Hurt and harm are both inevitable and unacceptable: They deserve to be called out ... but hurt and harm are only as corrupting as the unwillingness to acknowledge them.

Let's put our cards on the table.

Keep it honest.

Do no harm.

And now we will all chant THE INCOMPARABLE SEX DHARANI:

Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex,
Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex,
Sex, sex, sex,
Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex,
Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex,
Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex,
Sex, sex, sex,
Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex,
Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex ...

OK, I'm spent.

Anyone got a cigarette?

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