Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: “Maybe it is all about cocks…”

Now we come to a number of verses under the outline in Meaningful to Behold, “How to abandon the wild disturbances that pervert the mind.”

(8.38) Having given up all other desires
And being motivated solely by bodhichitta,
I will strive to attain single-pointed concentration
And control my mind by recollecting the meaning of emptiness.

(8.39) Deluded desires give rise to misfortune
In both this and future lives.
In this life they cause injury, incarceration, and death,
And in the next the sufferings of the lower realms.

We are such desirous beings, constantly hankering, as it says in Meaningful to Behold, hankering after the pleasures of samsara.  One of our main jobs is to reduce at least our ordinary desires so that we can actually concentrate on the path to liberation. Otherwise, it is impossible to make spiritual progress. 

But Shantideva knows us.  One of our strongest desires is sexual desire.  In many ways, sexual desire drives all of our other desires.  For Game of Thrones fans, there is a famous scene where Sir Jamie and Bronn are discussing the meaning of life as they prepare for the fateful battle with an army of “unsullied (eunuchs).”  When you look at the history of humanity, there is a certain amount of truth to their exchange.

Knowing how fundamental sexual attachment is to the structure of delusions within our mind, Shantideva spends the next thirty verses or so dismantling this delusion.  Before we dive in, please note, Shantideva is not saying there is anything wrong with sexual activity – the problem is sexual attachment.  Sexual attachment is a delusion that mistakenly thinks our happiness can be found in sexual activity – we think it is a cause of our happiness and that we can’t be happy without it.  Indeed, there is an entire community of incels, or involuntary celibates, that has grown out of this delusion believing they can’t be happy without sexual activity and all women are cruel who fail to give them what they need.  They have emerged as a misogynistic sub-culture that in some cases has even turned to terrorism.   

Shantideva explains all of this to reduce our sexual attachment.  All delusions exaggerate, and his analysis directly counters that exaggeration.  The goal is not to turn us all into ordained monks and nuns, but rather to significantly reduce this deluded poison in our mind and view things objectively.  Some people find Shantideva extreme in his descriptions, but in truth, he is being perfectly objective about what is going on.  It is we who are on an extreme of total exaggeration when it comes to sexual issues – he is just bringing us down to reality so we have a more balanced mind.

According to Tantra, there are methods for transforming sexual activity into the path, but we can only do these if we have first significantly reduced our sexual attachment to manageable levels.  There are countless courses available these days on “tantric sex,” but from a Kadampa perspective, all of these courses should spend the first several weeks teaching Shantideva.  The fact that they couldn’t and still have any students shows the true nature of such courses.

(8.40) For the sake of acquiring a sexual partner,
People send messages through go-betweens
And, disregarding any harm to their reputation,
Commit all manner of non-virtue.

We do not need go-betweens these days, we just send text messages, don’t we?  We long for a physical relationship with someone, and we wish to give and to receive physical affection. We wish to express our love for someone in a physical way and feel close to someone in this way, to be intimate with someone.   Of course, there is some sexual attachment in our mind. Urging us, urging us to make approaches.  Often it begins with a few text messages. So perhaps we flirt a little with someone, maybe even somebody we shouldn’t, maybe that person flirts back with us a little, which also is very nice, very appealing, and then we go a little bit further, don’t we, we begin to take one or two risks.  Our mind starts becoming increasingly agitated and obsessed.  We plan what we will say and try to manage the other person so that they think good things about us. 

We know that we are falling under the influence of attachment, but we do not care.  It feels so good.  We would be willing to throw away our practice for the sake of making it work.  Look at how many great leaders – in politics, business, or religion – who have been brought down by their sexual attachment.  Scandal after scandal – people lose it all.  How do they get to the point where they are willing to risk and lose everything for the sake of sexual intrigue?  Such is the power of sexual attachment.  Even in our own spiritual tradition, there have been many, many unfortunate stories of truly amazing holy beings who have been laid low by their sexual attachment.  Gen Thubten.  Gen-la Samden.  Gen Lodro.  The list goes on.  All these people who have been brought down by their sexual attachment are not stupid.  They knew what they were risking.  We perhaps do the same in subtle ways.  We know we’re stepping over the line, even endangering our position, our reputation – not to mention lower rebirth.  Sexual misconduct is just one step away. All for the sake of acquiring a sexual partner.

3 thoughts on “Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: “Maybe it is all about cocks…”

  1. Thank you , this is so close to home & a great reminder to recognise our delusions arising…only the other day I saw the scene you described 😀 this is so me at the moment, signed up to online dating! Thank you 🙏

  2. Have people earned the title “holy beings”, if they have been “brought down by their sexual attachment” ?
    What is the definition of a holy being?

    P.S I understand fully that they have many wonderful qualities!

    • It’s a good question. I don’t know if there is a point at which somebody is considered a holy being from their own side. Relatively speaking, though, the people who were laid low by being duped by their sexual attachment were definitely “holier” than me. They were my teachers and I learned a ton about the Dharma from them. I also learned a ton about the Dharma from their fall as well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s