Have you ever tried to point out to a monk that he just might be full of shit? It’s not an easy thing to do, because let me tell you, some monks are very adept at turning the tables and making you out to be the problem, that it’s your delusion operating here, not theirs.
I stumbled into such a debate after seeing a post on the Heartland Singapore Facebook page. It was referring to a post at buddhavacana.net, which appears to be a message board. There are other, blog-like pages on this site, but it doesn’t appear to be very active. Anyway, you can read my heresy by following the link I provided.
The gist of this began with a question emailed to the monk administering the page: “Can a gay person be ordained as a monk/nun?”
Bhante Shi Chuanguan replied with this: “Heterosexual men and women have to transcend their heterosexual desires if they are going to be ordained. Similarly, gay person can be ordained as a monk/nun, as long as this person can transcend this inclination.”
Me thinks I detect a double standard here.
As an aside, the Venerable Ashin Sopaka had a very pithy comment on the Heartland Facebook page, to which I will return later. But my response on the forum was to say I thought the answer provided, as well as an answer provided by another presumed monastic, was drawing a distinction between straight people seeking ordination and gays seeking ordination, that each was to be treated differently.
The Bhante said that straights had to “transcend their heterosexual desires,” while a gay person had to “transcend this inclination.”
This inclination? So the straight person need only renounce his or her sexual desires, while the gay has to renounce being gay? In other words, renounce his or her sexuality. What’s up with that?
You can read my entire reply on the message board, as I waxed very eloquent and pontificated like a true queen in heat. Perhaps that was a bit rash, because Bhante replied and suggested that, “Your inference that there is such a prejudicial idea is what is prejudicial.”
Moi? OK, OK, you can read my reply to that bit of obfuscation, because clearly this Bhante wanted to paint me the ignorant dualistic thinking bitter fag and a poor victim of all that nasty hate in the world, which, I would point out, often begins with narrow-minded and atavistic interpretations of religious doctrine by Paleolithic thinkers such as him. But I digress.
What I want to do is now return to Ashin Sopaka’s comment on the Heartland Facebook page. Ashin Sopaka succinctly points out that apparently the requirement to enter the monastery and seek ordination is to already be an enlightened being. Doesn’t the requirement that a gay first “transcend this inclination” mean that one must have renounced all notion of self, which can only be achieved upon enlightenment?
Seems to me that all the monastic code requires is that the monk or nun abstains from any form of sexual activity. That living in a monastery is the venue through which a monk or nun practices the doctrine to eventually transcend all fabricated notions of identity, whether they are sexual or otherwise. What “inclinations” remain in the unenlightened mind is irrelevant to anyone else in the monastery, as it is the duty of the monk or nun to peel back the layers of delusion and clinging within his or her own mind to ultimately attain freedom.
I’m sure Bhante Shi Chuanguan is a very wise man and knows his Dhamma pretty well. But his understanding of gay people, in my opinion, is no better than your average homophobe.
Update: I am pleased to say that Shi Chuanguan replied to my comments in a manner suggesting that we are coming together to a closer understanding.
I'm a content director for a television company, guiding content on Web sites. I'm an avid listener of Frank Zappa and a practicing Buddhist who follows the Theravada vehicle. I'm an insatiable traveler who calls Chicago home.