The Guardian’s Article on the FWBO
IV | Sex and Spiritual Friendship
The article’s contention that homosexuality is prioritised leads on to a concern that this legitimises potentially “abusive” homosexual interest, which may even be sanctified as spiritual friendship. In this regard the reader is presented with a quote from Subhuti, and the examples of Sangharakshita and events in Croydon.
Sexual interest on the part of a male Order member for a male mitra (novice) can create a connection which may allow kalyana mitrata (spiritual friendship) to develop.
This quote comes from an internal discussion paper presented in 1986. In the context of the full paper it is clear that Subhuti is not in fact advocating this but expressing the idea solely in the interests of considering it. The conclusion of this discussion was that this practice is not a good idea and is best avoided. While in some cases it seemed that sex could help friendship, in other cases it clearly lead to confusion — and even harm. The consensus among Order members is that sex is not to be regarded as an aspect or support to spiritual friendship.
As a result of these and many other explorations it has been possible to bring increasing clarity to the relationship between sex and the spiritual life in the FWBO. The practice of celibacy is upheld within the Order as something one works towards by becoming increasingly contented and self-aware. A number of Order members have taken vows of chastity, and around 10 percent of the Order have gone further in taking vows of indefinite chastity in becoming anagarikas.
While these lessons have been drawn and are commonly understood in the Order there are no rules telling people what they should or should not do. There is no body in the FWBO which legislates on people’s lives. However the ethical principle of not causing harm through sexual activity and of cultivating contentment is common to everyone in the FWBO. Some centres and many individuals come to agreements that sexual relationships should not have a place in the local sangha. However there are many people who are happily married or engaged in a sexual relationship, with all due sensitivity to the ethical issues involved.