Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Sex, Drugs, and Buddhism

 by Bennett Gordon


Tags: Spirituality, Buddhism, sex, drugs, Dalai Lama, Tricycle,

It’s often easy to agree with spiritual ideals in theory but struggle to achieve them in practice, especially when it comes to sex and drugs. In an essay for the Buddhist magazine Tricycle, Hannah Tennant-Moore writes about her difficulties following the five precepts of the Dhammika Sutta: “do not injure others, lie, steal, consume intoxicants, or ‘go with another man’s wife’ (nowadays understood to mean ‘engage in sexual misconduct’).” When confined to a Buddhist monastery, Tennant-Moore writes that she was able to achieve all five ideals. Once faced with the temptations of the outside world, however, she found herself unable to avoid “sexual misconduct.” 

The Buddhist faith actually has a complex relationship with sex. Tennant-Moore writes that it can sometimes help and sometimes distract from achieving awareness. The Dalai Lama once said that sex between a guru and a student is sometimes (though rarely) acceptable, according to Tennant-Moore. She quotes Zen teacher Ezra Bayda who wrote: “The difference between experiencing our sexuality as heaven or hell is rooted in one thing only, and this is the clarity of our awareness.”