I read this article about queer history some time ago and wrote up a reflection I wanted to share.
The original article: http://www.buddhanet.net/homosexu.htm
Generally, I find it very
hard to read about any religion without feeling anger; just idea that while
minorities are struggling every day to live authentically and with dignity, a
bunch of privileged people are sitting around discussing who gets to be the
final authority on morality.
Even in the distant past of
human history, it seems that sexually non-conforming people were reduced to
that one part of their identity—as though they were all about sex—with no other
dimensions to them.
The article “Homosexuality and Theravada Buddhism,” written
by A. L. De Silva, exposes some of the major inconsistencies in social
attitudes towards this subject from religion to religion.
religions like Christianity, Buddhism seems to take a far less intrusive approach to
morality, encouraging people to refrain from judging others based on their
actions, and to use reason instead of personal biases to determine whether or
not an action is harmful. De Silva writes, Buddhism is an “ethics based upon
reason and compassion rather than tradition, superstitions and taboo.”
Buddhism teaches that the knowledge we gain on earth (a combination of “revelation”, “tradition”,
“scriptures”, and even our life experience) cannot give us the authority to
decide what is right or wrong.
It offers an interesting perspective by respecting autonomy
while at the same time defining some basic guiding principles for ethics. There
is acknowledgement of the unknown so that no principle is inflexible, but most
importantly, it does not grant society license to punish an individual for not
conforming. This mode of thinking gives people the chance to choose their own
paths, explore themselves, and find empowerment as a minority. It embodies the
“Live and Let Live” spirit.
Buddhist values provide a strong basis on which to introduce the LGBTQ cause. The author
acknowledges this in his analysis of the core teachings:
“All the principles we would use
to evaluate a heterosexual relationship we would also use to evaluate a
homosexual one. In Buddhism we could say that it is not the object of one’s
sexual desire that determines whether a sexual act is unskillful or not, but
rather the quality of the emotions and intentions involved.”
Since Buddhism encourages
introspection into the self and meditation, I always wondered whether
meditation brought the Buddha some kind of advanced knowledge that other
religions lack, concerning the true diversity of human experience… if so, it would explain (from a spiritual standpoint) why Buddhist teachings are not as strict/limited in their definitions of “right” or “wrong” as other religions are.