Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Lay people need to overcome sexual attachment too

(8.69) Putting so much effort into beautifying it
Is just like polishing a sword that will be used to harm you.
It seems the whole world is pervaded by this madness
Because people believe beauty is only external.

(8.70) Having contemplated the piles of bones in the burial ground,
Once we turn our mind elsewhere
And see graveyard cities full of moving bones,
How can we find pleasure in them?

In Meaningful to Behold Venerable Geshe-la said that attachment to sexual pleasures is one of the most universal forms of desire. This attachment in our mind sows the seeds of the destruction of all our meaningful relationships.  So many people as a result of sexual attachment go off with other people or end their existing relationships. Then, they wonder why in the future none of their relationships are stable.

We want to find people attractive, and we can.  We just need to do it in the right way.  If we have attachment to people, we find them to be very attractive, but we view them in the context of what they can bring us.  Affectionate love naturally finds people attractive, but it is totally different because it does not seek anything for oneself – it just admires and appreciates the good qualities we see in the person we love.  Nothing is wrong with that.  We need to mentally make this distinction, because otherwise we will never abandon our attachment because we like finding others attractive.

If someone came to see us for some advice, and said to us that they suffer from strong sexual desire, what would be our advice? What would we say?  If we do not know, then it says something.  This is a big problem for people, so we need to internally realize some answers.  The reality is this is a huge problem for pretty much everybody, yet nobody talks about it.  We hide in shame with it or we even glorify it with poetry.  We all suffer from this attachment, but we are still all convinced it is our friend, and we react very negatively when somebody comes along and challenges our view.  Why?

It’s not just monks and nuns who need to work on sexual attachment, but lay people, too.  Thinking that this problem is one experienced only by the ordained is ridiculous, so naive, really if we feel this, so naive. Thinking, “I actually enjoy my sex life, I have a good sex life, I don’t have a problem with this. This is only a problem for the ordained.” Ridiculous.  If you want to see how much difficulty you have with sexual attachment, take a temporary vow of celibacy (3-6 months) and see how your mind does.  Just because lay people give in to their sexual attachment does not mean they don’t have a problem with it.

(8.71) Furthermore, we do not come to enjoy others’ bodies
Without acquiring material possessions.
We exhaust ourself in non-virtuous activities to gather these,
Only to experience suffering in this life and the lower realms in the next.

(8.72) When we are young, we do not have the resources to support a partner;
And later we are so busy that there is no time to enjoy ourself.
When at last we have accumulated the resources we need,
We are too old to indulge our desires!

(8.73) Some, under the influence of desire, work like slaves.
They tire themselves out working long days
And, when they return home in the evening,
Their exhausted bodies collapse like corpses.

(8.74) Some have to experience the disruptions of travel
Or suffer from being far from home.
Although they long to be close to their partners,
They do not see them for years at a time.

(8.75) Some, confused about how to earn what they desire,
Effectively sell themselves to others.
Even then they do not get what they want
But are driven without meaning by the needs of others.

(8.76) Then there are those who sell themselves into servitude
And work for others without any freedom.
They live in lonely, desolate places
Where their children are born with only trees for shelter.

We need to think about why we would give up our spiritual life to return to a worldly life.  People do.  They primarily do so because Dharma practice does not give them immediate rewards like worldly life can.  Their impatience for results kills their spiritual practice.  Very sad, actually.  They do so because they are not thinking about death.  We have to ask ourselves if it is enough to have a happy, comfortable life.  We have the opportunity to lead a fully spiritual life, become a spiritual guide, even.  This is the most meaningful existence a living being can have.  Why are we not interested?

2 thoughts on “Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Lay people need to overcome sexual attachment too

  1. Very nice article. Thank you. Do you think it is possible to have a full spiritual life and a sexual relationship without attachment?

    • Absolutely possible. Attachment is not an intrinsic part of our mind and sexual relationships are not objects of abandonment. Our goal is to work on our mind to be able to do precisely what you say. Not saying it is easy, but it is definitely possible.

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