Brad Warner: A reader wrote me this week to ask:
Why are you writing for Suicide Girls? Seriously, why? I think there are real repercussions to a respected Zen teacher writing for a soft-porn website. Please give us an explanation, is it your idea of skillful means or what? Someone is getting rich by pandering to base desires, and you seem to be endorsing it through Zen. I don't understand how you came to this. Who cares how many tattoos or piercings they have, it is still internet porn, they just do a better job than most sites of making people feel OK about it. Your presence on the site, I'm sure, will help to justify many a lonely night in front of the computer screen. If I may be so presumptuous as to offer a blog title for you... "Get your hand off your cock and touch your thumb tips lightly!"
Warner: I expected a lot of this kind of reaction when I started writing here. As for SG getting rich pandering to base desires, lots of people get rich pandering to base desires. And lots of us wouldn’t have jobs at all if it weren’t for them. When something sells, it indicates a need for human beings to explore that particular aspect of their collective consciousness. I have a lot more problems with some of the base desires I see being pandered to in Buddhist publications than the ones pandered to here. When I see ads for instant enlightenment seminars and meditation machines, I wonder if everything I say about Buddhism will be taken as an endorsement of that kind of garbage. At least here I can be reasonably certain most readers don’t think I’m pushing naked boobies — not that I have any problem with naked boobies. It’s just that there’s no instant association with the rest of what SG sells the way there is with any of the scams that choose to call themselves “Buddhism.” (Which is not to say that all or even most of what goes by the name Buddhism is a scam. But scams do exist.) Am I “endorsing Internet porn through Zen” or “justifying many a lonely night in front of a computer screen?” Seriously, I have no idea what that even means. If anyone is waiting for justification from me in order to masturbate, I just don’t get that at all. I asked my teacher what he thought of my writing for SG and he said, “I think that it is very good decision for you to accept such a job. I do not find any kind of moral problem in them (the pictures on SG), however, I found only whether they are beautiful, or not. I think that we are usually influenced by old-fashioned religious criteria, but on the basis of Buddhism, there seems to exist a kind of criterion that what is moral is always beautiful, and what is beautiful is usually moral. Even though my idea is not so affirmative to me yet, I think that there are some kind of criteria to identify morals and beauty in Buddhism.” Depictions of naked women have been a part of human artistic expression — including Buddhist art — as long as humans have been expressing themselves artistically. Deal with it, already. American society is still strongly influenced by Puritan ideas of morality. When Buddhism was first introduced to this country, it was interpreted through these ideas. A long-standing misunderstanding of Buddhism has it that Buddha’s formula for achieving peace of mind was through the destruction of all desire. For people raised in a Christian society the worst of all desires is the desire to get one’s rocks off. When you examine it clearly, though, the idea that you should destroy all desire is absurd. You can’t even survive without the desire for food, water and air. The human race wouldn’t exist at all without the desire for sex. But this hasn’t stopped lots of people from engaging in a futile struggle to produce some magically altered mental state in which they want for nothing. It ain’t gonna happen. The real trick is to see all of your thoughts — desire just being one type of thought — for what they really are. How about your desire for a Buddhist teacher that doesn’t write articles for soft porn websites? Where does that come from? I’ve long felt that the reason Buddhism has been relegated to the junk heap of hippy philosophies that didn’t work in the Sixties so why bother with them now is because it’s been presented so exceedingly poorly, mainly by people who don’t have a clue what it is anyway. It’s not about some kind of mystical serenity available only to those rare beings among us who have freed themselves from their base desires. Buddhism is for everyone. It’s for what you are and who you are right now, warts and tattoos and naked pictures saved on your hard drive for those lonely nights and all.
James: Now call me a "rebel Buddhist" or whatever but I thought this was timely for our modern culture and well written with some great points. Why do some of us fear sexuality so much?? I think sexual expression of the human body has it's time and place and to deny ourselves such pleasure is too be miserable, pent-up people. Just like all pursuits of pleasure (eating, watching t.v./movies, music, sports, etc.) it comes down to balance and mindfulness. I think there can be such a thing as mindful sexuality/sexual expression.
O.k. now go ahead and stone me as a Buddhist heretic but before you do remember that the Buddha rejected both worshiping the body as well as denying the body. I believe that pleasure in and of itself isn't bad at all but it's the attachment (or addiction might be a better word) to pleasure over everything else that is the problem.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Brad Warner: A reader wrote me this week to ask: