Sex, Gender and True Shin Buddhism

by Paul Roberts

I'd like to talk about what happened at the Supreme Court here in the USA where I live.

As I'm sure most of you know, the Supreme Court approved the right of non-heterosexual people to be legally married.  It is a huge moment in the unfolding of human history - not just in the USA, but around the world, because of the influence our country has on all sorts of cultural and political issues.

Now, I'm not going to get into a political discussion.  That's really not what we do here.  But what I do want to do is talk about THIS particular Sangha, and how we view this issue from a Dharmic point of view.  I want to dispel false ideas that even well meaning Buddhists might have and express - whether here, or in a discussion on social media, or whereever, and help ground everyone in RIGHT view when it comes to this issue.

So here's what I preach and practice and teach around here:  We don't care - we don't give a ripped flip - what your gender is, or your gender preference.  We don't care even a little bit about the personal and private details of your own sex life and love life.  We don't care if you're married, co-habitating, single and sexually active, or totally celibate.

There is not a single word - not one - zero, zip, nada - in any of the writings of Master Shinran and Master Rennyo that I am aware of that speaks to any of these questions or issues around sex, love, gender, sexual activities and preferences.

What we do care about - and what we preach and practice and teach around here - is not to mess with anyone else in a selfish way.  Don't deliberately hurt someone else by lying or cheating or defrauding them - not in business, not in life, and not in relationships either.

That's it!  That's the whole deal, right there.  Anything else, any other morality or ethics around sex and sexuality that anyone would try to impose upon you is NOT part of the True Teaching of the Pure Land Way. If it's their own personal conviction - like abstaining from meat eating - I don't care.  Their convictions are not my business and not my concern.  

But if they put Shakyamuni's name, or Shinran's name, on their own personal opinions, and put on a teacher's hat and say, "Thus have I heard...", they're talking THROUGH their hat, is what they're doing, and they should be ignored.  Personally, I wouldn't even bother getting into a debate with them.  As Master Shinran put it, "LET THERE BE NO SCHOLARLY DEBATES".

Now the reason that SOME Dharma teachers do that sort of teaching - and this is actually a bad mistake that the Dalai Lama made a number of years ago and then repented of - is because they're looking at the fine print on the Path of the Sages.  They're looking at the requirements that Shakyamuni laid out for those people who wanted to abandon normal life, and put on the yellow robe, and take up the beggar's bowl as part of the monastic assembly.

There was all kinds of fine print in the commitment contract for those monks.  No sex - and definitely no homosexual sex - and no masturbating, either!  Oh...and no women allowed (although Shakyamuni changed His mind on that one, after further reflection and the entreaty of his former wife, who wanted to start an order of nuns).  And no alcohol, ever...not even a beer or a glass of wine.

But none of these restrictions have ANYTHING to do with us.  So no one should seek to teach and preach - particularly in the Shin Sangha - as if they do.

So...the corollary of all this is that the USA decided that gay and lesbian folks aren't second class citizens anymore.  We're slow learners here in the USA.  It took a long time, and a million dead, to decide that black people shouldn't be slaves - and a longer time to decide that they should be able to vote - and an even longer time to decide that women should be able to vote, too.  

So even though we've got this wonderful document called the Constitution, which is the model for the entire world, even the writer of it, Thomas Jefferson, remained a slave owner and didn't understand the implication of the words even as he wrote them down.

I don't want that to happen here in the Sangha - not now, not ever.

We don't have ANY second class citizens here.  Anyone, and EVERYONE, can become a person of Shinjin SONO MAMA - just as you are.  No self-improvement, no gay reparative therapy (what a harmful idea that was!), no twisting yourself into a pretzel, required.

Everybody here is a first class citizen in the Kingdom of Amida Buddha.  Everybody is on the same level.  Amida accepts us, each and all, just the way we are.  There is no call, no cause, and no reason for any of us to change.

Are there any injunctions against certain acts and behaviors in Shin Buddhism?  Of course.

- Don't hurt anybody.  
- Don't deliberately mess with anybody.  
- Don't rape, pillage or plunder.  
- Don't hurt yourself by abusing drugs or alcohol.  
- If you're living in a bad way, just stop. And if you can't stop by yourself, get the help you need so you can stop.

But apart from that there are no injunctions, no admonitions, no moral codes for you to live up to, or live under.  You do you.  That's all you need to do, and all you should ever need to do.

- You can become a person of SHINJIN, just the way you are.
- You can become an amazing teacher of Shin Buddhism if Amida calls you to it, just the way you are.
- And you can lead countless other people to Shinjin, so they can become Buddhas too, just the way you are.

Anything else that anybody ever says to the contrary is a DIVERGENCE BASED ON PERSONAL VIEWS.  And, as I have said probably 1000 times, that's the one thing that there should NEVER be in the Shin Sangha.  In the words of Yuien-Bo, in the TANNISHO, the authoritative document on the subject of divergences, he says it best:  "Let there not be the SLIGHTEST divergence based on personal views".

We have (and have had) ALL kinds of people here:  heterosexual, homosexual, transsexual.  We receive each one as a brother or a sister, unconditionally accepting them just as they are, just as we ourselves are accepted, just as we are.

And if some foolish and judgmental person would ever want to point the finger and say (as the Dalai Lama actually did) that such and such kind of sexual behavior is wrong, or evil, or whatever - my reply would be, 'That's why they belong here...with the rest of us in the Shin Sangha.  Because Shin Buddhism - TRUE Shin Buddhism - is for the evil person FIRST, and then also for the good person'.

This is where all those illiterate peasants who made their meager living as hunters and fishermen finally found a Sangha home, after being called outcasts - ICCHANTIKA - people without the seed of Buddhahood - by leaders in the other schools and sects of the larger Buddha-sangha.

When I think about the all embracing, all encompassing love that Amida has for us all, my heart just opens wide.  I rejoice inside, and I am so grateful that I stumbled into this Sangha and found this Dharma in this life.  And I share this Dharma, freely, with anyone else who wants to hear it, so that they too can share in the inexpressible joy I have knowing the TRUTH that sets us all free, at long last.