What’s your religious views about? The person was referring to my Facebook profile which has my religious views as “informed by Christianity and Buddhism.” If I had to go sectarian, it would be “informed by the Episcopal Church and Zen Buddhism.” Call me a Buddhiscopalian.
How does my being gay square with both? Snugly I’d say. There is no conflict within me, and neither the Episcopal Church nor Buddhism has a singular doctrine or overarching dogma about homosexuality. This is not to say that either gives wholehearted blessing to what is still considered an aberration and abomination by many people. The Anglican Communion to which the Episcopal Church belongs has been riven by greater acceptance of gay people within the Western churches. The Dalai Lama had to soften his official homophobic stance after realizing how this alienated his greatest fans and allies, North American and European Buddhists.
However, the Episcopal Church is courageous enough to challenge a prejudice born of another time and culture, and ossified by tradition. It has been honest enough to acknowledge lesbians and gays among its ranks. Most of all, it has been Christian enough to welcome everyone to its table.
Buddhism to a lesser degree has its own version of Northern and Southern hemispheral conflict. ReligiousTolerance.org notes: “In the West, there appears to be a growing acceptance of same-sex sexual activity as moral; in Asia, cultural influences result in same-sex behavior being considered sexual misconduct.” The tension is less than that of Anglicans partly because there is no “communion” of Buddhists or an equivalent of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Moreover, as with many issues, Siddharta Gautama was not explicit about homosexuality (or the afterlife for that matter). Rather, the historic Buddha extolled gaining enlightenment through one’s self, by examining ideas critically and by meditating regularly. As such the saying, “If you meet the Buddha on the road kill him.” Stop looking outside for salvation, look for the buddha within. His dying words to his followers were “be a lamp onto yourself.”
With its emphasis on psychology and cause and effect, Buddhism judges acts, including sexual acts, primarily by the intention (cetana) behind them and the effect they have.
A sexual act motivated by love, mutuality and the desire to give and share would be judged positive no matter what the gender of the two persons involved. Therefore, homosexuality as such is not considered immoral in Buddhism or against the third precept*, although this is not always understood in traditional Buddhist countries.
If a homosexual avoids the sensuality and licence of the so-called ‘gay scene’ and enters into a loving relationship with another person, there is no reason why he or she cannot be a sincere practising Buddhist and enjoy all the blessings of the Buddhist life.
Thus I embrace Buddha and Christ.
*The third precept encourages Buddhists to refrain from sexual misconduct
What would Buddha Do?