‘Homosexuality and Buddhism’ (1993)

Written by Rob Hogendoorn

1 minute

In 1993, José Cabezón published his essay ‘Homosexuality and Buddhism.’ About the Tibetan dop dop or ‘punk monks,’ Cabezón writes:

“In Tibet the practice of homosexuality seems to have been confined almost exclusively to the ‘working monks’ of the larger monasteries. The lDab ldob, as they were called, were a fraternity of young monks (predominantly under the age of forty) who prided themselves on their abilities as fighters and athletes, participating regularly in inter- as well as intramural competitions. Either unwilling or unable to devote themselves to the rigorous academic curriculum of the monasteries, they took upon themselves the burden of the day-to-day tasks that kept the monastery functioning: ‘[We lDab ldobs] are the outer wall, [the other monks] the inner treasure.’ Goldstein has written of the homosexual practices of the lDab ldob, which apparently included not only the seduction, but, if he is right, even the abduction of boys (and even, in rare cases, of adults) from the community for sexual purposes. Because the monastic discipline defines the type of sexual intercourse that brings expulsion (pārājika) as penetration of the mouth or anus (of either sex) or of the vagina, it seems that the lDab ldob lived up to the letter, if not the spirit, of the law by engaging in a form of intercourse in which stimulation was achieved by insertion of the penis between the legs of the partner from behind. It should be stated, however, that Goldstein’s research was based on information gathered from only five informants, most of them lay persons. Although the fact of homosexual activity among the lDab ldob can hardly be denied, the details, especially concerning the abduction of youths, have been challenged. [Footnote 50: ‘My own sources, who would not deny that homosexual activity existed, not only among the lDab ldob but among other monks as well, stated that they were unaware of the abduction scenarios described by Goldstein and his informants.’] In any case, it is clear that despite the Tibetan perception that the lDab ldob had a proclivity for same sex partners, the lDab ldobs as a whole were held in very high esteem both by the lay and monastic population. Hence, if the lDab ldobs’ homosexuality was considered ‘sinful,’ as Goldstein suggests, it must have been perceived as only marginally so, for it was something that was overshadowed by other qualities that in the end tipped public opinion in their favor.” (p. 95, links added).

Cabezón - Homosexuality and Buddhism (1993) REDUX-BW

About the author

Rob Hogendoorn

Investigative reporter and academic researcher Rob Hogendoorn (b. 1964) began researching the reception of Buddhism in Western society and culture in the early 1990s. His modus operandi remained the same ever since: independent, inquisitive and provocative.