Vows, commitments and modern life:  Masturbation and losing your drops

It is worth saying a few words about masturbation.  In the last vow, we were advised to not lose our drops.  In many religious traditions, it is considered a “sin.”  After reading this vow, one could think the same is true in Buddhism and then we wind up imputing all sorts of Western guilt onto the act.  We construct it as this awful thing we must not do, but eventually the strength of our attachment gets the better of us, we do it, then afterwards we proceed to beat ourselves up about what an idiot we are, etc.  We become, in effect, sexual bulimics.  We repress our sexual desires until we can repress them no more, then we binge on them.  Afterwards, we feel guilty, beat ourselves up and feel like we are worthless and spiritually incapable.  All of this is unnecessary.

Does this mean we should have free reign to masturbate all of the time?  Of course not, that would be going to the other extreme. We should proceed naturally and gradually over a long period of time.  If we push beyond our capacity with this, we will quickly become discouraged with one failure after another.  Instead, we should focus our attention on identifying within our own mind the trade-off between losing our drops and our spiritual vitality, especially in meditation.  We should focus our attention on increasing the power of our spiritual wishes and aspirations through our practice of Lamrim.  Then we can proceed from wanting to do it all of the time to wanting to do it less and less.  We are not repressing our desire to do it, we are changing our desires to not wanting to do it.  If we want to do it, but through force of will stop ourselves, we will most likely just repress the desire.  If we change our desires to not wanting to do it, then we are not repressing at all.  Eventually we start to willingly make promises to increase the number of days between doing so more and more.  We keep training in this way until we are only losing our drops with our partner and in our dreams.  When we lose our drops in our dreams, the build up of tension is less and it becomes easier to not masturbate at all in between dreams.  Later, once we gain control over our behavior even in our dreams, we can repeat the process and gradually abandon losing our drops even in our dreams.

Yes, this is a long training.  Work naturally and gradually over a long period of time to change what you desire and you will eventually get there.  Don’t repress the urge, outgrow it.


3 thoughts on “Vows, commitments and modern life:  Masturbation and losing your drops

  1. Hi Ryan, can you please write another blog post on this? Specifically relating to pornography would help as well. Thank you fellow Kadampa brother.

    • The reality is this, in today’s world pornography is everywhere and easily accessible. In and of itself, porn isn’t necessarily bad (not inherently so, at least), but it functions in our mind no differently than a drug. Sexual attachment is one of our strongest forms of attachment and porn is like a drug which seeks to feed that attachment. It is extremely EASY to become addicted to porn. There are two ways to address any addiction: realize the disadvantages of the object of our attachment and realize the disadvantages of the delusion of attachment/addiction itself. In terms of the disadvantages of the object itself, smoking is easy because it gives us cancer. Porn is harder since there are no obvious negative effects on us. We can consider how the people who get sucked into the porn industry are exploited and our consumption of porn is contributing to their subjugation and exploitation. We can also consider how attachment to porn transforms our attitudes towards sex into less healthy ones, and sometimes even sick ones.

      But the main work has to be on the disadvantages of the attachment itself. First, like all addictions, the effects of the object wear off and we need to go to further and further extremes to get the same effect. Second, sexual attachment is likely the biggest chain keeping us bound to samsara, and every time we indulge in porn we strengthen the chain which will just make it harder and harder to escape. Indulging in porn is pretty much opposite moving in the direction of liberation. Our mind is agitated, becomes more familiar with deluded patterns of mind and at a minimum we completely waste our precious human life feeding the beast which will eventually devour us. Obviously there is the issue of the loss of spiritual vitality every time we lose our drops (see the blog post).

      How do we overcome our addiction to porn? The same way we overcome any addiction: we realize the disadvantages and we make (and keep) promises to refrain. We can begin by limiting the type of porn we watch to things that are on the healthier end of the porn spectrum. We can then start limiting how often we consume it. If right now we are doing so every day, we can go to every two days, then every three days, then once a week, once every two weeks, etc. We can also try establish limits like saying we will only watch it with our partner or something like that. We should keep a picture of Geshe-la and Dorje picture next to our computer so that we can remember they are right there with us. Would we watch porn if Geshe-la was in the room with us? Well, he is.

      It is important that we understand the faults of delusion and addiction, but we don’t fall into the extreme of guilt and beating ourselves up. Porn is a real tough one. It will take time and persistent effort. We are not a horrible person if we watch porn, we are a person who suffers from delusions which take over our mind. We work gradually, we work persistently, we request blessings, we will eventually get there.

  2. “We work gradually, we work persistently, we request blessings, we will eventually get there.” Thank you for this beautiful sharing and sentence.

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