The Dalai Lama – revered by many as a highly-enlightened being, a paragon of virtue, someone for us all to emulate.
But is he really so enlightened, or is his vision of humankind prejudiced? In his ironically-entitled 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." His form of Tibetan Buddhism, though not all forms of Buddhism, prohibits oral, anal and manual sex for heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. It has decided which of our body parts are acceptable for giving and receiving pleasure, and which aren’t. According to its… dogma, there will be a karmic debt to pay if we disobey.
The fact that I can find no reference that the Buddha himself ever addressed the issues of homosexuality, anal or oral sex is apparently immaterial; In yet another example of the supreme arrogance that only religion and politics can engender, some Tibetan ancient decided to define what the Buddha really meant by what he’d termed 'sexual misconduct'.
The Dalai Lama is a fundamentalist, not some new-age modernist, and fundamentalists are consummate dogmatists. Fundamentalist Christians are just as illogical: as far as I can see, the bible never states that lesbianism is a sin, yet they call it one, vociferously.
I believe that if there is a god he, she, it, or they created our bodies to be magnificently sensitive to pleasure. In my book, and I don’t think I’m alone here; sex is too joyous and profound to be reserved for procreation alone. Sex can be dangerous, of course. I am acutely aware of this as my own brother died of AIDS. But so can almost any human endeavor, from rock climbing to the consumption of ice cream sundaes.
William Butler Yeats said that love has pitched his tent in the place of excrement – meaning that humanity’s deranged hang-ups about sex arise from the fact that our primary sexual organs are also organs of elimination. This long-standing neurosis is quite evident in most religions – Eastern and Western alike..
The Dalai Lama is revered by new-agey folks the world over as enlightened and tolerant, yet he continues to parrot the backward, medieval prejudices of a religion that is in dire need of a Reformation. His books and photos adorn seemingly everyone’s home, but we pick and choose from his message, indulging in the parts that make us feel good, and delicately averting our gaze from the parts that make us uncomfortable.
Unlike Paganism and Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism are manifestly human-centric religions. All of their cosmologies involve the earth being just about the first thing to arise from the cosmos after the cosmos itself. Yet we now know from astronomy that our young planet is two thirds of the way out on the spiral arm of an ordinary galaxy that is one of at least 100 billion. We aren’t the center of anything.
Though these religions are obviously wrong in their most basic assumptions about the origin of the universe and the primacy of humanity, billions still follow their other, equally outmoded notions – except when it proves inconvenient – witness the millions of Catholics who practice birth control and get divorced. .
And if the religion in question represents some new and exotic import, we merely partake of its sweet, feel-good exterior, and politely ignore the integral parts that require disciplined work or make us uneasy. We are cultural dilettantes, essentially strip-mining every philosophy for its easy ore of ‘spirituality’.
The West is so thirsty for spirituality that we often assume that the ancients were wise and compassionate. I beg to differ. I believe that most religious texts, from the Bible and Quran to the Bhagavad Gita enshrine some aspects of the bloodthirsty, cruel, or bigoted failings of humankind. I do love parts of these books – as lyrically-written allegory. But I don’t rely on them to tell me right from wrong, or how to use my own body.
Nor do I rely on the Dalai Lama, who may be a decent, peace-loving man, but whose consciousness, from what I can see, is still somewhat limited by ancient prejudices.