Even within this one sect of this one tradition of Buddhism, it is impossible to state a universal position on homosexual sexual activity. One rule applies to the Buddhist sangha -- Buddhist monks and nuns; another applies to the Gelug laity, other rules apply to Buddhists who are not in the Gelug sect, another rule is for the vast majority of persons who are non-Buddhists.
The Dalai Lama, speaking for his sect of Tibetan Buddhism, made a number of statements about homosexuality in the mid to late 1990s:
* 1994: During an interview, he was quoted in OUT magazine as stating:
"If someone comes to me and asks whether homosexuality is okay or not, I will ask 'What is your companion's opinion?' If you both agree, then I think I would say 'if two males or two females voluntarily agree to have mutual satisfaction without further implication of harming others, then it is okay'." 1,2
* 1996: In his book "Beyond Dogma," he wrote that:
"... homosexuality, whether it is between men or between women, is not improper in itself. What is improper is the use of organs already defined as inappropriate for sexual contact." 3
That is, Tibetan Buddhism prohibits oral, manual and anal sex for everyone - heterosexuals, bisexuals, and homosexuals.
* 1997: During at a press conference on JUN-10, he commented:
"From a Buddhist point of view [lesbian and gay sexual activity]...is generally considered sexual misconduct." 4
* 1998: In a meeting with gays and lesbians in San Francisco, the Dalai Lama said that:
"From a Buddhist point of view, men-to-men and women-to-women is generally considered sexual misconduct. From society's point of view, mutually agreeable homosexual relations can be of mutual benefit, enjoyable and harmless." 5
James Shaheen, editor and publisher of the Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, said that some people were shocked and perplexed by the Dalai Lama's position. Shaheen wrote:
"This view was based on restrictions found in Tibetan Texts that he could not and would not change. He did, however, advise gay Buddhist leaders to investigate further, discuss the issue, and suggested that change might come through some sort of theological consensus."
"Does this mean Buddhism condemns same-sex relationships? Not at all. Contrary to popular perception, the Dalai Lama does not speak for all Buddhists. As the leader of the dominant Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism, he speaks for one slice of the world's Buddhist population. The vast majority of Buddhists do not practice in his tradition -- however much they respect and admire him -- and the Tibetan texts the Dalai Lama refers to were written centuries after the Buddha had come and gone."
"Buddhism is perhaps even more diverse than Christianity. In fact, the differences among schools can be so vast that some scholars consider them different religions. Indeed, according to Thanissaro Bhikkhu, abbot of the Metta Forest Monastery in southern California, the Buddha never forbade gay sex for lay people as far as we know. 'When he drew the line between licit and illicit sex, it had nothing to do with sexual tastes or preferences,' he says, citing early texts. 'He seemed more concerned with not violating the legitimate claims that other people might have on your sexual partner'."
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