Relationships on the path

  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts
  • disastermouse

    Relationships on the path

    Hey all,

    Something really strange has happened to me lately regarding my last relationship and my BPD. It seems like a dramatic evolution has occurred, and the emptiness, loneliness, and emotional fragility that I've felt for so long is just.....gone.

    And I amount of zazen could or would have made this happen. I think about what my experience would be if I'd become a celibate monk, and I seriously doubt that I ever would have surmounted this obstacle.

    It seems like a very difficult relationship, navigated as consciously as possible with the help of therapy, would have been the only thing that could have helped me surmount this obstacle. I'm sure the zazen (10-20min/day, usually) that I've been stepping up the last month or so has helped, but I really feel like the mirror of the relationship and the consciousness in the face of the pain brought about by the therapy has made the biggest difference. I don't think this sort of progress could ever have been had by just sitting in solitude.

    So...are romantic relationships a valid aspect of the Buddhist path? I know the traditional view of relationships has emphasized monasticism - but I seriously wonder if there isn't a very important aspect of relationships (consciously witnessed) that is indispensable on the Buddhist path.

    Any thoughts?

  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39456

    Re: Relationships on the path

    Originally posted by disastermouse

    So...are romantic relationships a valid aspect of the Buddhist path? I know the traditional view of relationships has emphasized monasticism - but I seriously wonder if there isn't a very important aspect of relationships (consciously witnessed) that is indispensable on the Buddhist path.
    Hi Chet,

    I am very glad that things are swimming along so smoothly.

    I apologize, but I have to give some dull and tedious historical context to your very beautiful question.

    The whole theme of Treeleaf, and really almost all "Western Zen Buddhism", has been a great emphasis on bringing the teachings out of the monastery, into "lay life", relationships, family, work, the streets ... daily life. As it says in the upper corner of this page "life is our temple". Yes, relationships can be the platform for our "realization", as can all the twists and turns of life. Yes, relationships are a key part of the Buddhist path, a very big Koan.

    [Side Note]Please, ask me about the "Lotus Posture", "the universe" and all of "Reality". That I understand, piece of cake! Just don't ask me about marriage or boyfriends/girlfriends, about which I have not a clue. After 18 years of marriage, it is still a mystery."[/i] :wink: :wink: ]

    In truth, relationships, marriage, work and "lay life" have always been part of Buddhism, since the beginning. Sure, the founder of our enterprise, the Big Guy Shakyamuni, was a bit down (to say the least) on romantic relationships for his followers, and felt that the right thing to do on the spiritual path was leave one's wife and child (of course, the Shakya family had the financial resources, and his son and wife ended up joining up with the Buddha later ... but many of his early followers just walked right out the door). Buddha felt that emotional ties were "fetters". He felt that lay practice is a harder road and home leaving is a piece of cake ... for example ...

    ‘Household life is crowded and dusty; life gone forth is wide open. It is not easy, while living in a home, to lead the holy life utterly perfect and pure as a polished shell. Suppose I shave off my hair and beard, put on the yellow robe, and go forth from home life into homelessness.’
    So too, Aggivessana, as to those recluses and brahmins who live bodily and mentally withdrawn from sensual pleasures, but whose sensual desire, affection, infatuation, thirst, and fever for sensual pleasures has not been fully abandoned and suppressed internally ... they are incapable of knowledge and vision and supreme enlightenment.

    (Mahasaccaka Sutta)

    HOWEVER, However, he never rejected lay practice ... or the benefits of practice to lay folks in sexual relationships (okay, no jokes about "lay" folks ops: )

    “There are not only one hundred... or five hundred, but far more lay followers, my disciples, clothed in white enjoying sensual pleasures, who carry out my instruction, respond to my advice, have gone beyond doubt, become free from perplexity, gained intrepidity, and become independent of others in the Teacher’s Dispensation. ... If only Master Gotama, bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, ... but no lay followers clothed in white enjoying sensual pleasures were accomplished, then this holy life would be deficient in that respect ...

    Just as the river Ganges inclines towards the sea, slopes towards the sea, flows towards the sea, and merges with the sea, so too Master Gotama’s assembly with its homeless ones and its householders inclines towards Nibbana, slopes towards Nibbana, flows towards Nibbana, and merges with Nibbana.”
    (Mahavacchagotta Sutta)

    In later centuries, the same pattern pretty much continued. Lay followers, being busy as they were, were usually expected to spend their time working and making money, some of which they would donate to the monasteries to earn "merit". However, Zazen practice was never closed to those lay folks who had the time and inclination.

    And, now , as Buddhism comes to the west, and to more open societies, with better educational and social opportunities for lay folks ... lay life is perhaps more "wide open" than monastic life.

    So, Chet, ...are romantic relationships a valid aspect of the Buddhist path? The short answer to your question is .... YES!

    Gassho, Jundo


    • disastermouse

      Re: Relationships on the path

      Thanks, Jundo...

      But aren't you the same guy who said, "Don't look to the Buddha for advice - he advocated celibacy!" ?


      (Yes, I actually put two 't's' in my own name.)


      • lora
        • Jun 2008
        • 122

        Re: Relationships on the path


        Came across this in my daily readings and thought it might be appropriate for this topic:

        Flesh and Spirit

        The Buddhist challenge to conventional Western notions of spirituality illuminates the way we set flesh and spirit at war with each other. In Buddhism there is no original sin. Although noticing how we express our sexuality can certainly lead to an awareness of right conduct, the flesh is not regarded as representing a corruption or punishment of any kind, nor as an obstacle to the attainment of enlightenment. The root of human suffering is not sin, but our confusion about ego. We suffer because we believe in the existence of an individual self. This belief splits the world into "I" and "other."

        --Stephen Butterfield, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. I, #4

        Many blessings,