If sitting on a nudist-friendly beach with three nuns at sunset, while a long dark-haired man stands with his hands on his hips and his pornographic penis just inches away from your face isn’t enough to make you question reality, then I don’t really know what is.
And that was just a casual Monday night.
Three Nuns & a Pornstar
On the way back from our excursion to Cala Tirant, I was sat in the back of a banged out red fiesta heading home to Monkville when one of the nuns turned and said to me “Celibacy is really quite difficult you know”.
I can only assume these thoughts had been triggered by the thirty-eight pairs of nipples and phallic footlong we’d just seen, but regardless I wasn’t really prepared to respond to this statement.
She brushed over my silence with more voluntary outbursts, explaining that “It’s difficult to abstain from sex but we Buddhists channel that external energy inwards into our spiritual practices”.
Again, I was still quite lost for words, which is pretty unusual for me. All I could do was bow my head with acknowledgement, slowly bat my eyelids with sympathy, turn the sides of my lips up into the falsest smile and look away.
As we chugged passed the tall pine trees lining the roller coaster winding roads, I pulled an exaggerated face of bemusement to myself, paused for a subtle frown, then shed some sort of internal tear for every nun that’s ever lived.
Thou Shalt not Bang
Celibacy is the voluntary act of refraining from engaging in any sort of romantic relationship and sexual activity. From what I understand, in Buddhism, sex is seen as an obstacle to achieving enlightenment; it’s something that stands in the way of spiritual practice
“Worthless man, it would be better that your penis be stuck into the mouth of a poisonous snake than into a woman’s vagina”.
Unless you’ve had a little bit of an introduction to Buddhism, I don’t even know where to start on explaining this quote, and I don’t think I want to. But Buddhism isn’t the only religion that puts sex in the naughty corner. Hinduism is another major religion shouting out that celibacy is a virtue of moral purity and meditative prowess, and Catholicism only sanctifies sex within the legal boundaries of marriage.
The Mind & Body in Love
I’m two thirds of the way through reading How to Transform your Life, an introductory guide to spiritual awakening written by the founder of Kadampa Buddhism and once that’s been devoured front to back I’ll be opening up something quite the opposite; Sapiens, A Brief History of Human Kind.
My thoughts on life, death, the meaning of our existence and everything in between are forever moulding themselves into fluid forms of opinion, but the notion of celibacy has never really taken up much of mental capacity until now. So all I can say on this subject in this moment, is what I know….or at least think I know.
It’s human nature. We’re physically and mentally designed to reproduce and we have the goods to do so. The sex drive governs a lot of what we do, it impacts a lot of our behaviours and decision-making in adulthood that aren’t even directly linked to sex.
We have an innate urge to form pair-bonds.
You can have sex with someone you don’t love; you can be madly in love with someone you will never bed; and you can feel a deep sense of attachment to someone for whom you feel neither lust nor romantic passion. It’s lust, love and attachment and you can have them all sequentially with one person or feel them all simultaneously with many.
I’ve spent sixteen years of my life in three long-term relationships so I’ve had my own experiences and I witness it all around me every day, but these thoughts so far only cover off what I feel to be true from the perspective of mind and body. When the soul gets involved, things get a little bit more complicated.
The Soul & Seduction
Our scientific, medicinal and psychological investigations in the West are newborns in comparison to the ancient scriptures and studies of the East where the focus has always been the soul.
The Buddhist view is that the soul, or spirit, is a beginningless and endless continuum that inhabits the body of a living being for its life time. They say that alhough the mind, body and soul are intrinsically linked, they are separate entities; and again, through experience, I do think I’ve felt to be true.
Buddhist teachings are often around detaching ourselves from our ego, letting go of the attachments we give to things, people and feelings and we can achieve a true state of inner peace. It’s actually really logical if you think about it.
Take away your nagging girlfriend, your non-committal boyfriend, your conniving boss. Take away your pursuit of happiness through material things that make you feel good for a moment before you want more. Take away the drama of a relationship or the drama of hoping to find one, issues in the bedroom with the one you love or dissatisfaction with the ones you barely know. Take away the anger you feel when somebody gets that car park space before you do and you’re late for a meeting, that jealousy you feel when somebody gets the promotion you wanted, that heartache you feel after a break-up.
And what have you got? A pure, simple and stress-free life – an abundance of inner peace.
Breaking the Habit
Unless you’re absolutely convinced that the renunciation of these earthly pleasures in this life we’re in now are going to pay off big time in your forever-and-ever existence, then it’s unlikely you’re going to go down the route of taking a vow of celibacy.
And that’s where I’m at – a part-time believer, understanding the benefits of part-time abandonment but not committed enough to make it a lifelong devotion. Plus, despite the fact I’ve always wanted a skinhead, I’m not sure I could deal with only having one yellow and ochre robe in my wardrobe.
Derek Rowe 8 September 2018
I started Sapiens but gave up about one third through. It is interesting but read too much like a text book for my taste. I hope that you have better luck with it.
allmyheroesareweirdos 8 September 2018
That will be a refreshing change for me after Transform Your Life which is very much transcribed straight from the utterings of the Tibetan monk who created it… it’ll be good to Have the two as a big contrast! Will report back once I’m into Sapiens!
masercot 12 September 2018
I’ve been a Buddhist for about forty years and I think a lot of people get confused between living as a Buddhist and living as a Buddhist monk (or nun). I personally feel that, if you don’t have sex immoderately, it’s fine. But, I probably won’t be reaching enlightenment any time soon…