‘What Are Improper Sexual Attitudes?’ (1993)

Written by Rob Hogendoorn

1 minute

During his visit to France from October 24th to November 16th, 1993, shortly after his meeting with Western Buddhist teachers in Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama by and large repeated his stated view on sexual misconduct as it first appeared in The Opening of the Wisdom-Eye in 1968.

Because it had been on the record for at least 35 years, the Dalai Lama’s reiteration of his personal view on homosexuality in 1993 primarily serves to demonstrate the highly resilient nature of his fundamental beliefs.

However, by the time the book Beyond Dogma: Dialogues & Discourses was published in 1996, his judgement that it’s proper to be a homosexual, but improper to use sexual organs the way many homosexuals do, became highly controversial. The full book is available here.

On his visit to France in 1993, the Dalai Lama answered the question ‘What are improper sexual attitudes? What do you think of homosexuality, for example?’ thus:

“Something may be considered improper in terms of organs, time, and place—when sexual relations involve inappropriate parts of the body, or when they occur at an unsuitable time or place. These are the terms Buddhists use to describe sexual misconduct. The inappropriate parts of the body are the mouth and the anus, and sexual intercourse involving those parts of the body, whether with a man or a woman, is considered sexual misconduct. Masturbation as well.

As for when sexual intercourse takes place, if it is during the day it is also held to bea form of misconduct, asis having intercourse with a partner who professes to certain principles such as sexual abstinence or celibacy, even if those vows are only temporary. To force someone to have intercourse also comes under the category of improper time.

Inappropriate locations include temples, places of devotion, or positions where one of the partners is uncomfortable. A sexual act is deemed proper when the couple uses the organs created for sexual intercourse and nothing else. To have sexual relations with a prostitute paid by you and not by a third person does not, on the other hand, constitute improper behavior. All these examples define what is and what is not proper sexual behavior according to Buddhist morality.

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. Is this clear?” (pp. 46-47)

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.