The vajra: cutting through to the truth

3 Sangharakshita’s Teachings in Theory and Practice

III Theory and Practice

b | Sex and Lifestyle

Sex and Spiritual Life

In considering the appropriate Buddhist attitude to sex, Sangharakshita takes the wholly traditional position that the aim for one following the Buddhist path is brahmacarya, the state of transcending sexual desire which finds expression in a cessation of sexual activity. [ 121 ] He comments that there is probably an irreducible element of craving in sex, which makes it, in the final analysis, inherently unskillful. In addition, Sangharakshita has examined with considerable psychological acuity the process that enables people in our culture to reach such a state of freedom from sexual craving. For some the immediate adoption of celibacy may be best. But for most the transition can be — perhaps must be — more gradual. The question Sangharakshita poses is how one becomes more content, and overcomes craving and attachment. And this is surely the central issue of the Buddhist path.

An important consideration stressed by Sangharakshita is the need for emotional independence. Thus he speaks of developing the quality of “individuality”. This implies freedom from neurotic dependence on any external source — whether it be a spiritual teacher, a religious group, or anything else. However it has a particular bearing on sexual relationships, because:

When one comes into close physical or emotional contact with another person in the context of a sexual relationship, usually all sorts of psychological projections take place. [ 122 ]

While not enjoining celibacy on his students before they feel ready, Sangharakshita none the less asks them to address the emotional issues that underlie their attitudes to sex. It is important that they find a lifestyle that enables them to develop increasing emotional freedom. For those who remain sexually active this means minimizing the degree of emotional dependence upon one’s sexual partner, and seeing one’s sexual activities within the much broader context of the spiritual life as a whole:

It is possible for a human being to develop spiritually while engaging in a certain amount of sexual activity. But that is provided that not too much importance is attached to that activity ... [and] there is a strong spiritual ideal situated right at the centre of our lives. [ 123 ]

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121 ]
The Ten Pillars, op. cit., pp.63-67.
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122 ]
“Buddhism, Sex and Spiritual Life”, interview in Golden Drum 6, cit., p.8.
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123 ]
Golden Drum 6, p.10.
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