Buddhism & Sensuality

Ajahn Brahm discussion on “Gay Marriage [http://goo.gl/l1uYK]”compliments his talk on “Buddhism and Sensuality.

His discusses how a behaviour can become an addiction over the time. He quotes -  “Sometimes desires captivate us. We become a prisoner of our sensuality. “ But then he explains that there are alternatives ; that “there is always another way out” , “Sensuality can be restrained. “ Sensuality can be restrained by mindfulness.

Denial of the senses, labelling them evil or even completely prohibiting sense indulgence is not the Buddhist way. Meditation and mindfulness allow practitioners to deal with sensuality wisely, particularly if it is destructive to one's self or others.
And, according to Ajahn Brahm, those who *really* want to be deviant and head towards nibbana (enlightenment): "Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side..." - and try celibacy.

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Because we get some pleasure back in the first and then to actually get some more pleasure we have to do it again but even more intense, and then more intense next time, until the only way can get that
pleasure is taking bigger and bigger doses of the drug, until we're really, really ingreat debt. It's a very profound description of actually what addiction is and how it happens. So the understanding that please don't that deep into any addiction that you get caught into such a debt trap. But there's also understanding that there are other pleasures in this world. Not just the sensory pleasures. And it's true, the pleasures of just your family, friendship, romantic love rather than sexual love. Those other pleasures should also be recognized and should be emphasized, because the other pleasures can be used as a substitute for the instant gratification of some sensuality.


Discussion Transcribed

This evening's talk is going to be on the Buddhist attitude towards sensuality. Now, We live in a sensual world, and sometimes some religions, they have a very eccentric response to sensuality which is around them. We see that with people enforcing their womenfolk to wear burkas, or even, say, in the Amish community, asking people to wear loose fitting, unsensual clothes. And you look at the monks and nuns in front of you, and this is our idea of a burka, or is it? What is it, and what is the Buddhist attitude towards sensuality in this world? Certainly that that's an important question, because some people's ideas about the problems of sensuality, and the joys of sensuality have a huge impact on the way that they live their lives, and the way they act upon other people. So, this is why I wanted to talk about this and Buddhism. Certainly, you see from the people here that we don't ask people to come and wear non-sensual clothes. Sometimes there are some of you here who think, oh, we have some very young monks here. We don't want to lose those monks. And it has happened in the past, that maybe a skimpily clad young girl comes in, and they're ushered outside. Please don't do that. Simply because that's going to offend somebody, and you should have more confidence in your monks. And you wouldn't do that if a hunky man came in here when Sister Ajahn Vayama was giving a talk. [Laughs]. So that point is, here, you see in Buddhism, we don't have anything like veils, and there's a good reason for this. Certainly, that sensuality is there and sensuality can cause problems in the world. Now, we do have problems with paedophiles. We do have problems with sexual predators. We do have problems with, even, rapists. We do have problems with other addictions, not just sexual addictions, such as overeating or people who are addicted to pornography or people who eat too much, or gamble too much. There are many addictions in this world which are concerning sensuality. There is a problem there, but sometimes there's a problem if we try and suppress it just too vigorously, because that impinges upon our freedoms and our wishes to enjoy the world in which we are born into. And so, what is the Buddhist attitude toward these problems, so that we can live and enjoy our life, at the same time try and avoid, as best as we can, some of the extremes of sensuality? I think just the way I've defined this talk tonight, I think you've already got the clue that the Buddha was always talking about a middle way, not to go to extremes. And it's the extreme parts of this which have caused the problem. But, with sensuality, we can actually understand, just when we watch our mind, especially, that it's not so much what's out there, but the way we respond to what's out there, which is the biggest problem in life. And one of the key stories which I grew up with, was coming from my own teacher Ajahn Chah, who being a monk, obviously you have a different value system when it comes to sensuality. Now, monks and nuns are celibate, and to live a celibate life you-know in the world, obviously the monks and the nuns cannot really escape from the sensual objects out there, whether it's food, or whether it's sex, or whether it's movies or whatever. So, you actually had you deal with this, and one of Ajahn Chah's stories was that when he was a young, lusty novice, you-know, years of age, with all the hormones running through him, he wanted to become a monk, but, obviously, he saw young Thai girls, and he would have lust towards them. And so for three months, during a period of what we call Rains Retreat, the time when I don't come here, Sister Vayama doesn't come here. Those of you who have been coming here for a long time know for three months we always go back into our monasteries. He was staying in a town monastery, so for three months, he decided he would not look at any girl at all. He would keep his eyes down, and not even look at anybody, thinking that that type of restraint would overcome his lust. So for three months, he refused to even look at a girl. And he said what happened, for those three months he was fine, but after his resolution was completed, the first girl he looked at he went crazy with lust.[Laughter]. And this is one of the problems, that just not looking, not facing up to the problem is actually not overcoming it. Actually, it makes it much worse. And that's why that asking people to cover up, so the monks or the nuns don't see anybody. They want you to cover up. It doesn't really help the situation, because as soon as the covers are taken off, people actually go crazy. It's actually almost suppressing something. If you suppress it and don't understand it, usually there's a bigger explosion later on. The simile which I've often given, if anyone here is meditating, if you feel like coughing, please cough straight away, because if you don't cough straight away, and you suppress it, when you do cough it's like a volcano going off, and you just disturb everybody. [Laughter]. Sometimes, that type of suppression is typical of some of the ways in which we deal with the problems in our world. And so that, since we live in such a world, we have to instead of trying to cover up the triggers with burkas, or with veils, or with people dressing up in sort-of loose fitting clothing, and not accentuating you-know your bodies, and not wearing scents and make-up and goodness knows what else. That won't solve the problem. The problem has to be solved actually in one's relationship with the sensory world. And that certainly is the Buddhist attitude. It's again, not just with sexuality, it's with food. Sometimes people come to our monasteries, both the Gidgegannup and to Bodhinyana monasteries at Serpentine, and think, "My goodness! Look at all the delicious food that you monks eat!" We had complaints in the first years when I was a monk because sometimes we had these Thai ladies married to Australians, and they'd come and bring food to the two monks who were there. This was before Sister Vayama came. And sometimes the Australian men, the husbands, would complain. They'd say, "My wife never cooks anything like that for me! This is unfair!" And the Thai women would say, "You should become a monk. Then I'll cook for you." [Laughter]. We got the most delicious food. And so sometimes people would complain to the monks, "You're supposed to be monks. Why are you eating such delicious food? You should just eat ordinary food, just like bread and water. That's probably the best for you. Then we'd respect you even more." But sometimes I tried that. My first year as a monk, for a practice, I put all the food together which was disgusting anyway, and I got the spoon and mixed it all up. I only had one meal a day. It was a sludge, it was a slop and if you saw it, you'd actually pour it out straight away. It wasn't even fit for pigs, let alone for monks. But the trouble was it was an interesting experiment which I did. Every food no matter what it was, the sweets, everything in one bowl and stirred it up so it was absolutely consistent. After a while, it actually started to taste nice. It was a weird thing but the way that sensuality works. After a while no matter what it is, you start to like it. It starts to become attractive, delicious and tasty. So what it made very clear to me - it was not the food which was the problem. No matter what food you have there, after a while it becomes delicious and you crave it. It doesn't matter what, if it's a man or a male monk what women you see, after a while, even if they are in burkas, after a while even the burkas start to appear sort-of attractive. Whatever it is, so the attraction is not on the object out there. You can like anything after a while. So it's quite clear that the reaction to the dangers of sensuality should never be concerned with the triggers of sensuality. Even in Singapore, they are just going to be opening up a couple of casinos. And obviously, that the sensuality, it is sensuality, of gambling, the thrill of it, the excitement of it is also problematical but we don't solve that problem by banning all the casinos because what happens when you ban the casinos then you have illegal casinos. It's not really the thing outside which is the problem. It's the way we react to them. It's our attitude towards these things and so, it's actually quite glad that I had... because I have a group in Singapore and they showed me some of these documents and they asked me my opinions about those casinos in Singapore. And I told them, and I'm very glad that the Singapore government was actually following, it didn't really follow advice really, I understood what they were going to do anyway, was actually not to stop these things but actually to contain the worst parts of gambling by having legislation in place which can stop the addictive gamblers. And for other people, who are addictive, to show some restraint. And that is actually what is going to be happening in Singapore. So that loan sharks, the money lenders, can't be on the casinos exploiting people's addictions. Now if a person is going to that casino too often their family or even themselves can voluntarily ask themselves to be banned if it's going to be causing financial trouble or social trouble, they can be put on the blacklist. Sometimes, they volunteer themselves. It's a way of actually dealing with worst parts of gambling because other than that... I remember as a kid that I would sort of have a bet on. In England, it was called the Derby or the Grand National, two races, horse races, you would bet on every year and it was only like two shillings or whatever. It was for fun and you never expected to win anything. If you did you just shared it with your friends. And that to me never seem to be like a problem but of course, sometimes, the addictive gambling is a problem. In the same way that sensuality which ordinary human beings have in the world. I'm not talking about monks now. I'm talking about lay communities. Now, having a partner in life, having relationships, having sex, the ordinary type of stuff is usually not problematical except if it gets too far or get addicted or get too far under the power of one's sensuality. And this is actually where we have to have ways of not dealing so much with a trigger out there because you can't really control that trigger out there but dealing with our attitudes towards these things. And so, as Buddhists, sometimes people will think we're so tolerant. You know in Buddhist countries like Thailand which have a lot of prostitutes and in Singapore like gambling or have like people wearing skimpy clothes or whatever. And anything goes sometimes, they said in Buddhism. I think that was Tina Turner when she became a Buddhist. Why become a Buddhist? I think she was quoted as saying because you can do anything you like in Buddhism. That's not quite true. I hope I didn't misquote her but, it's the triggers outside we are not so concerned with. So, the Buddhist response is actually just try to work to one's attitude towards these things in life. And in order to work on those attitudes, we have something we call mindfulness. We are aware of how these things affect us. And we also understand with some wisdom about the dangers in these things. So, like gambling, it can be fun but there's obviously a danger there. And we use our awareness, our mindfulness to actually know how far we can go, what the danger is. The same with the relationships and sex, of sensuality, of lust, we know what the advantage are. We know what the dangers are of it. And also, whatever else whether it's eating, whether it's watching movies, whether it's watching the Internet or whatever, we know the dangers which are there. And this is not stopping the things out there. It's actually stopping the way we relate to them when it gets too far. And obviously, like sexuality, we know there are dangers there. When we're talking about dangers, there was never ever in Buddhism, that's one of the reasons why I was inspired to Buddhism, there is never anything like evil or sin or you're bad boy because you had sex with a girl or something. That badness and evil, that ultimate bad thing was never there, instead it was always this almost like a precursor of utilitarianism because Buddha would say the basic ethics and I repeat this many, many times. It's not just anything goes in Buddhism but it's - what you are going to do or say or even think is it going to be harmful to others or harmful to yourself. If it is, it's called not bad, not evil - unskillful. It's a great word, unskillful, because it doesn't have any like moral judgment as if it comes from some absolute. This is bad and this is good. Because if it says this is bad this is good and you're told it by someone else, you don't have to think it out for yourself, you believe in. Because of those blind beliefs, we get into terrible troubles in this world. We don't even think it out for ourselves and so, because we believe that blowing ourselves up is going to send us to heaven, we do such stupid things. Or because we believe that say sex is bad, we get these puritans. But what we actually say is what is skillful in these circumstances? By skillful, I mean, is it going to be conducive to the goal we're searching for? Is it really going to be help? Is it going to be purposeful? What the consequence are going to be for ourselves and other people? That's what mindfulness has behind it. Just like what you think what's the consequences. Where is this going to lead? And so, if we say with sensuality, there always has to be some restraint. Whether a lay person or a monk, we have restraints so we are not going to have any partners or any sex. That's our restraint because we have a goal of developing very deep meditation. We might come up with that later on but as lay person in this world, your restraint has to be, I would hope, just with your partner. Because you should know that if you have... if you're already having a relationship and you have sex outside of that relationship that's really going to hurt someone. Now don't think you... I maybe wrong here but I don't think you can actually say, the other person would say "oh you go ahead, go and do that. Go and sleep with my best friend. I don't mind." I think that most people would mind. I could be wrong there but please tell me. But most people would mind if you cheat in that relationship. So that's obviously an example of like harming someone else. So, if our aim is not to harm another person certainly if that was like an underage child. We know that's going to harm that person. I mean these psychologists, sociologists, know that paedophilia, which is having sex with someone underage, is going to be harmful. In the same way that misusing your position of authority as a teacher, as a counsellor with your students there's just too much transference going on there, it's not a very clear relationship to complicate with any sexual or emotional, or other entanglements. So, that's usually a no-no as well. Why is it a no-no? Not because it's evil or because it says so in some sort of book it's an abomination. Simply because it's going to be harmful and against that on the opposite side when Buddhism talks about like homosexual relationships and sex, we ask what's the harm in that? And, of course, there is no harm in it. At least no harm which I can see, and therefore OK, off you go, enjoy your relationship together. So when we actually see that it's not evil, not bad, but it's not that you can do anything you like. We are wise about this. Is it going to harm another person? Is it going to harm ourselves? What's going to be the result of this? It's the same with like unprotected sex. If you're, obviously, wanting to have a baby, fine but if you don't want to have a baby, you know, have protection. So, the idea of like in some religions condoms being bad or any type of contraception being evil that's certainly not around in Buddhism, because it's not what you are doing so much but why you are doing it and what the effect is. You're not harming anybody, you are not harming yourself, it's for the greater good, fine that is called skillful. Just like a carpenter is skillful because they're making a piece of wood and they make it well. They make an effort and they make a beautiful furniture afterwards, that's skillful. Unskillful is if they don't know what they're doing, they take a piece of wood and make a big mess of it. So, not good, not bad but skillful and unskillful. So, with the way of sensuality, we always have to have some restraint because we know it's going to be harmful so first of all we should be wise to know what's harmful, what isn't harmful to us. And obviously, just underage sex or sex outside of your relationship, that probably would be harmful. So what happens? How can we have some strategies to actually stop that harm or limit that harm? And this is where the Buddhist idea of mindfulness comes in because with mindfulness, when you are aware of what's going on, you find you do have much more control in your life. It's just like the carpenter learns more about their tools so that when they are sawing, when they are planning, they are much more sensitive so they don't make so many mistakes and that sensitivity to your inner world, to your mind, to your lust, to your anger, to your desires, to what you want, is an important part of Buddhist practice. So, we don't just say no, don't do it. We don't say that's bad or that's unskillful. One of the nicest thing about Buddhist practice is we help you find out what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how to lessen the problems which is why that when we have these trainings of the mind in meditation to increase your mindfulness, awareness, you start to see your whole mental processes and what happens. Where does lust comes from anyway? What actually is happening there? One of the problems is, when a person does.., you might might be in a nice relationship. When you do see some other person, there will always be people who are attractive. Wow, she's nice. He's hot. Whatever it is, there will be an attraction and of course that's natural, you can't stop that. And just to think that I'm not going to look at another girl not when I am married, only you dear. I'm not going to look at anyone else for the rest of my life. That's a lie, isn't it? You can't do that. Or I'm not going to like anyone else. Well, that's a lie because you will have lust for other men and other women once you get married, once you have that relationship. So, be realistic and then say what are we going to do about this. And obviously, that mindfulness is very important because that mindfulness sees that whether it's lust, whether it's anger, whether it's any other addiction, there is a whole train of mental activity, a process. It's the mindfulness which can interrupt that process at anytime and it stop before it gets too bad. What mindfulness does is like trying to stop a train. When a train has left the station, it's going kilometers an hour down the track with so much weight behind it. If the train driver tries to stops and put on the breaks because there's an obstruction on the road or on the rails in front of it, sometimes you just can't do that. It's going too fast and the momentum is too strong. A train going that fast takes maybe half a kilometer to come to a halt which is why that sometimes there are these terrible crashes when a car crosses the railway line. The driver sees it but it's going too fast to stop. This is what happens when we try to catch our lust or whatever, our anger, when it's a bit too late. It's gone too fast, the momentum is too strong, we can't stop it straight away. Many of you know that when you're in the power of lust, you can't stop just straightaway. You just can't say no I'm going to stop now. It's like a train just trying to pull on the breaks and stop immediately, it just cannot be done. But the best time to stop the train is when it's first moving out of the station. It's maybe going at one kilometer an hour and then you can put on the break, it's easy to stop it. So one of the great things about mindfulness is actually you can see the whole process happening. You can stop it earlier if you think it's going to be unskillful, if it's not going to help you. So a man who's got a nice wife instead of just allowing the whole process to get so inflamed so that you are just under the power of lust and you can't stop it anymore, you try and stop it earlier. And that way, if you see this really, really nice girl and she is really amazing. You see that whole process happens, stop it now before it gets too late. It's called just simple restraint. To be able to stop that thing obviously, we have to want to stop it and that's where the wisdom comes up. Just don't be stupid and think you're in control of these things. Once you get too far, you are out of control which is why I've told many women who've had problems with their husbands that when a man gets lust they literally are crazy. It's not a joke but you are mad. One thing you think you'll never get caught. [Laughs]. You do get caught and your wife is no idiot. She knows what's going on. She knows the signs. It's amazing just how many men have an affair and they think, I am in complete control. It's only a bit of fun. My wife won't ever even find out. And then when she does find out, it comes to me to sort out all these problems and try to give him another chance. Or maybe no other chance and divorce and all the problems that comes from that, and custody battles. There is a danger there so don't let it go so far so you go crazy and you lose your common sense. You will get caught. So are you willing to have that problem in your relationship and do that to this other person that you live with and your kids? So this is actually our mindfulness and our wisdom don't allow us to go to such a point where we get crazy and we lose the sense of reality. Don't always think that you are in control of this stuff because you know sexuality is such a strong force. Most of you can't control it. When it gets so far that's it. Relationships keep going on and sometimes, you know it's going to hurt. You should have known earlier so please learn. It's not a guilt trip. We are not saying you're a bad boy and you terrible girl, you shouldn't have done that. And you're excommunicated from the Buddhist society for life. Guilt again has no part of this because if we have guilt and we are running through fear, we should never work through fear. We should always work through just the wisdom, understanding the consequences and being wise and being sharp. So in sensuality everybody has to have some sort of restraint. In other words, it's not just some free lunch so we can just eat at the table of sensuality as much as we want, and thinking nothing is going to go wrong. We have to balance our diet of sensuality. Not too much not too little. According to our means, and how we make that decision of how much and also the best way for your partner. Just for her or for him and keep it that way. And also understand the dangers there. And again, because I'm a monk, because we draw the line as monks having actually very little sensuality especially sexuality with the opposite sex. Because again, that was going to really help our deep mediation even much more. It's one of the great teachings of the Buddha. He said that when you lessen the sensuality your concern for the outer world especially even sexuality, food, and entertainment. Literally, your mind goes more inside. It doesn't get drawn outside so much and it makes it much easier to get into the deep meditations. That might interest some of you and might sort of confuse some of you but it's one of the reasons why when you go on these nine day meditation retreats we always ask people to keep eight precepts, which means no sexuality for those nine days in order that you can actually focus more on the inner world rather than the outer world. Because the sensuality we're talking about there draws you out. And for the time you meditate you want to go in. And actually you do get another type of happiness when you withdraw from that sensuality. So monks and nuns are usually non-sensual and because we're non-sensual sometimes people think all Buddhists should be like that and they start complaining, "What happen if everybody became a Buddhist? Then we will not have any more people in the world." That's a stupid comment. Because only some people will go to be monks and nuns. Ordinary Buddhists, they have families and they go to the casino. But if you go to the casino be careful. Don't go too far. Know your limits and if you get too far let the train stop before you know it's irreversible. It is the same with sensuality, sexuality. As monks, this is where we draw the line but we don't go too far. But as I said, the monks even they get into food as well. One of the things I noticed when I was a young monk as soon as I gave up sex I really got into food. Food was incredibly delicious. There's almost if you give up one thing you get up another thing. And I was very fascinated to see that actually when you go through puberty actually there comes a stage before sexuality when you really get into food also, as if I was going backwards in my development. As a young man you get really into the food and then you get into the girls and I was going backwards. Gave up the girls and going into food again. Before actually going back again to sort-of not being involved in that at all but even actually with food, it's delicious, it's nice but obviously you can't eat too much, you get stomach aches. So you actually have to restrain yourself. All the sensuality we have, you know, it's almost like it has to be a voluntary restraint when we see the problems and difficulties which it might give us. And the mindfulness actually gives us a sense of more control. So those people who have addiction problems in this world whether addicted to sex, addicted to pornography, addicted to gambling or addicted to having one partner after the other, if they realize it's a problem and they want to try and restrict it, then the mindfulness practices helps them enormously. Of course, once they have to realize it is a problem and then how do we solve it - the mindfulness, awareness of what's happening in your mind. And get different responses so we don't go through the same old habitual reactions. What mindfulness is, is just like you see these three exit doors of the front of this hall and two on the side. What mindfulness is if you see more than one doorway so you can go through other doorways. Because in life we're creatures of habit. We think we always have to do things exactly the same way. We literally go through the same doorway every time. It's habit, we don't even look to see if there's any alternative. So it's the same reaction - you see the beautiful girl - the same reaction over and over again. What mindfulness does, you actually see other ways you can deal with this problem. Or no, this may not be a problem, maybe some of you want to do it, but you've got more alternatives. An addict has got no alternatives at all. They're in a rut, a habit, which is so ingrained they just go there and they cannot stop themselves. There are other alternatives all the time. But we need the mindfulness trained to see that. So what mindfulness actually is, is when you come here on a Friday night never sitting in the same place. I'm excepted here because I have to sit in this place. That's where the microphone is. But why is it that people always try and sit in the same place or they park the car in the same way, always eat the same food? When they go to work in the morning, they always go the same way or they go back the same way, become creatures of habit. When you become creatures of habit that's called no mindfulness. It's a wonderful thing to be able to change. And I will challenge you tomorrow morning - one of my first examples of training in mindfulness is when you wake up tomorrow morning and you brush your teeth, which side of the mouth do you start brushing your teeth? The left or the right or in the middle, above or below? Tomorrow morning I challenge you - start somewhere else. Start a different part of the mouth every morning. Come on! Live on the wild side! [Laughter]. That's a very simple example, but it makes a point that we're habitual, we always start in the same place. There's no reason to start at that place, but because we start at the same place, it's a creature of habit. We don't need to even think about or be aware of what we're doing. It just goes and does it without any mindfulness, awareness at all. You literally are dulling your mind out and becoming a creature of habit. And it's the habits which causes the addictions whether it's with the gambling, with food, with sex, other sensuality, or say pornography. Why do people want to watch pornography on the Internet so much? After a while it does become an addiction. You get drawn in there and after while we can't stop ourselves. OK. You can stop yourself. There's other doorways you can go through, or maybe other windows on the net. So first of all you've got to know it's a problem and then do something to stop it. Obviously, one of the reasons why people get addicted is also there's a pleasure to it as well. I was very fascinated to see the way the Buddha looked at sensuality by saying yeah there's a pleasure there but there's also a payback afterwards. And the Buddha - this is centuries ago - he compared such sensuality like to borrowing money, taking out a loan. Which is actually very deep and profound because when say you are watching pornography or you know getting into some sort of sensuality there's a lot of joy there at the beginning. But often we have to pay it back afterwards. And sometimes like a loan the only way you can pay it back is by taking out another loan to the pay off the original debt and the loan gets bigger and bigger and bigger until one gets into such a great financial mess, there's no way you can actually pay back your loan. And that is actually just a beautiful description of addiction and actually how it happens. Because we get some pleasure back in the first and then to actually get some more pleasure we have to do it again but even more intense, and then more intense next time, until the only way can get that pleasure is taking bigger and bigger doses of the drug, until we're really, really in great debt. It's a very profound description of actually what addiction is and how it happens. So the understanding that please don't that deep into any addiction that you get caught into such a debt trap. But there's also understanding that there are other pleasures in this world. Not just the sensory pleasures. And it's true, the pleasures of just your family, friendship, romantic love rather than sexual love. Those other pleasures should also be recognized and should be emphasized, because the other pleasures can be used as a substitute for the instant gratification of some sensuality. So if you are addicted to some types of that sensuality, not just mindfulness, but give yourself another reward, another thing which is a bit more skillful than the one before. So that way that we can actually - we're not condemning sensuality, nor are we trying to prohibit sensuality by covering everybody up in a burkha or by saying it's evil. We're actually dealing with it in a wise way so we can find our middle way. We don't go to extremes so we have a means of stopping ourselves going to those extremes. We have gone to those extremes. We try to learn maybe a little bit of meditation so our mindfulness becomes more clear so we can actually stop ourselves before we get to that point. So for example, if someone is addicted to pornography on the web, the mindfulness actually tells you, "look, as soon as you press that button and enter that site, you're lost." Just like in AA, or people addicted to smoking, it's once you've picked up that first cigarette and it's in your mouth, that's too late already. You can't put it down then. You have to actually stop before you pick the cigarette up. And to be able to do that we have these wonderful techniques which we call programming mindfulness. By programming mindfulness, what you do when that trigger is not in front of you, when you feel comfortable, when you think it's actually no problem, that's when you put the suggestions into your mind. Say with cigarettes, "I will not pick up that first cigarette. I will not pick up that first cigarette. I will not pick up that first cigarette." Because as a meditator I know just how the mind works. It is conditioned. You are susceptible to suggestion. And if you keep saying that to yourself again and again and again in the quietness of, say, your bedroom when you think it's not a problem.You say it then, when it's not a problem. When it's not in front of you. When it's in front of you, it's too late. And after a while what happens, say with the cigarette smoker, normally they would actually, they're trying to give up but they see a cigarette and it's in their mouth before they even know it. Because it's habit. It's just like brushing your teeth, you don't even need to think about it you've done it so often. But what actually happens when they develop that degree of mindfulness, and they condition themselves, "I must not smoke that first cigarette. I must not smoke that... I must not pick it up, sorry. I must not pick it up. I must not pick it up." What happens just before they're about to pick it up? The mindfulness actually clicks in. It's like an antivirus. Not a Norton Antivirus, a Buddha Antivirus [laughter], which actually stops the habitual process. The thought comes up, "No I won't pick it up." That's a very, very effective way of actually stopping addictions. And because the mindfulness is actually pre-programmed in there to say, "Danger. You're going to pick up a cigarette." Or you know, "You're going to start another affair when you're married." Or, "I'm going to bet too much at the casino." Or whatever else it is you're doing. And that programming is very powerful, because that picks up the signal. It's like a little red light starts flashing in your mind, "Danger, danger, danger. You're maybe going too far." Then you have the opportunity to stop yourself. A lot of times you can't stop yourself because you don't know what you're doing. The mindfulness isn't there. It's habits. So that way we can actually stop ourselves. There's other ways of stopping yourself also. Remind yourself of the dangers, what happens when you've done that before. Some of you, you know, you have had affairs outside of marriage. Sometimes you may have even, had sex unknowingly with a say fifteen year old girl, or whatever it is. You didn't know she was that young, or whatever it is. Or you've been attracted to somebody at work who is, you know, you're their boss. All these sort of very, very dangerous areas of our life. Be careful. If you've made a mistake once, be careful. Pre-program yourself. Don't go and create that pain and problems for yourself and others again. So you program yourself, "Danger, danger, danger." Once you have programmed danger, danger, you have all other ways of dealing with this. Obviously that moving away from the stimulus if at all possible, move away from the cigarettes. Get out of the casino. Move out of that office, or whatever else there is, if there's somebody there who is attracting you too strongly. You have the choice to do that, so you're actually taking control of your sensuality if it's going to far. Again, throughout this talk you see that I'm not saying sensuality is bad. I'm just saying the extremes of sensuality. It's quite wonderful fine, you're having a wonderful relationship, enjoying sex with your partner, homosexual, whatever, whatever is creating that bond between the two of you. That's wonderful. That's fine, but be careful not to take it to the point where it harms yourself and harms another person. That sort of sensuality, which we even see on the TV or you see on the movies, that's not really the problem at all. Because it's a long time since I've seen the TV. People actually tell me what goes on on those TVs. But I remember like... I went to visit my mother in London about years ago, the first time I'd seen TV in about years. It was like a copper movie show. I forget what it was called - not Defenders, or something. Anyways, half an hour TV show, repeated every week. As I was watching it with my mother, for giving her company, I couldn't believe how many people died in about half an hour. I was actually counting them. I got to about a dozen or something got shot and killed. I couldn't believe this because before, when I was... before I became a monk, the TV was so tame. Because I had years I hadn't seen the actual progress of violence on TV, the contrast was so strong inside of me because the police show I remembered as a kid was a police show - anyone old enough might remember this - Dixon of Dock Green. Dixon of Dock Green was this London bobby in the days when they didn't have guns. If he caught a burglar, the burglar would say, "Ah, Sergeant Dixon, it's an honor to be caught by you, sir." [Laughter]. And apparently they don't do that anymore. [Laughter]. Things have changed. And no one got shot, and if they did go ever get hurt, if there was a bullet, they'd go, "Ooh, ooh, ooh." You wouldn't see any blood at all. And they'd just fall on the floor without any gore or anything. But apparently things have changed enormously since then. But of course, if you try and censor this, what happens? If you say, OK, no lewd speech on the TV, or no naked flesh, or no sex. What happens? It just goes underground. And of course when it goes underground, that makes it even more interesting. When it's an illegal video, or when it's something... That's not obviously the way to deal with sensuality, to prohibit it. Whether it's porn movies on the Internet, or whatever there always has to be some sort of restraint. That restraint is done from understanding, is it going to harm me or harm another person? That makes it sensible. You can understand why. That's the only real way of dealing with this, whether it's one's self, one's kids, one's partner, whatever, to appeal to their wisdom and encourage that wisdom to see the reason why these things are a problem. And actually give strategies to deal with addictions or with problems, but without the guilt trips because just the guilt makes things even worse. What happens with guilt you are saying that you're worthless, you're a mistake. And people who are made to feel guilty or are punished, they have low self esteem. Because of the low self esteem they actually look for harming themselves. Obviously that's a great generalization of a very complex process, but that explains it almost in a nutshell. You make a person feel guilty, they want to punish themselves, they don't want to be happy. So this idea of not harming themselves and not harming others. Why? They deserve to be harmed. So the addiction carries on. So the guilt trips are actually counter-productive to actually having some sensible happiness and good health in a world of sensuality. But also that people ask, "Now why are monks celibate and why are nuns celibate, anyway?Why do you actually reject sensuality?" And are we somehow weird, depraved? I sometimes have good fun as a monk. It was over a year ago that I was invited to the gay pride breakfast which was at Curtin University. About a year and half ago I think. And when asked to give a little talk, I just went up there and say, "I am more deviant than all of you, all you gay, lesbians and transgenders. Because I'm celibate." So, I'm the most deviated in the whole room. [Laughs]. I'm just making a little joke about that. Obviously I always respect people of all genders and all sexual...preferences. But the point was that my preference being celibate was even more threatening to many people. What are monks and nuns doing, giving up - are we afraid of sex? Is it a case we were hurt when we were young? [Laughter]. Many people think that way. Actually I mentioned this story a few weeks ago, but this is actually - there is a monk called...Ajahn Juin. He was one of the old Thai monks who lived in this beautiful monastery "~Phu ~Top". It's like a top hat mountain and some of the Thai people know him and I - I mean he was a very famous monk at that time - I went to visit him and this lady came from Bangkok and asked this monk, "Did you become a monk,because you had a failed love affair?" He said, "No, of course not." She said, "Ha, that makes sense, you ordained to forget and you have forgotten by now." [Laughter]. It's logically consistent what she said, but that's not why he ordained as a monk, and I never ordained a monk because I got jilted in my love affairs. The reason I became a monk is because I know I had sex and I knew what sex was like, but when I meditated once I got this incredible experience which is better than sexual orgasm and that was what just really shocked me. What's going on there? And so I decided to become a monk just for a couple for years to find out what meditation was really like. And being a monk, you have these rules of no sex. I didn't really understand what that was for at first, that was just what a monk does. But after a while when you understand the nature of the mind, you understand that sensuality does actually draw you out into the world, and meditation is going deeper inside. So actually the more you limit your sensuality, the easier it is to meditate. You don't get drawn out so much. So that when I became a monk for a couple of years, sure it was hard to restrain the mind looking out for the beautiful girls and the nice food, and the TVs and the movies and all these other sensual things we were missing in the world. Well, I also had some interesting experiences. I mentioned I going to visit my mother and seeing the TV after seven years. I also remember the first time that after seven years I flew on an aircraft. From Bangkok to London. I got a cheap fare on Philippine Airlines, an economy class. This is years ago. I couldn't believe just how sensuous and luxurious economy class on Philippine Airlines was. [Laughter]. It was my senses were, "Ah! Amazed!" Because I'd been in a forest monastery which was very, very austere. What I realized from that, that sensuality is also very relative. To other people cramped in the economy class of an aircraft years ago that was just so tough and it was such an ordeal. But for me, who had never sat on a chair for seven years, being served ripe fruit which was hot and which was Western which I could eat. I even got ice cream. I remember that ice cream. [Laughter]. But in the tub instead of in my bowl. That was just melting into my rice and curry. [Laughter]. And even the muzak, the muzak on the plane that was.. I mean, I hadn't heard music for seven years. That was amazing, that was just so sensuous, I couldn't get that out of my head afterwards. So you see that's obviously a joke for you because you go on an aircraft and the muzak on there is just yucky and the food, aircraft food people think is disgusting. An economy class you're so cramped up. But for me, because I'd been living a far more austere existence in these forest monasteries. That was amazing. In the aircraft there wasn't even any mosquitoes. First time in seven years I was free from mosquitoes for more than an hour or two. That was to me, was luxurious and sensual. So, you can see sensuality is also very relative and the sensuality which you are experiencing now, sort-of years ago that will blow people's minds. The houses you live in, the cars you drive, what you see on the TV. This is nature. So the point is, sensuality is going to get more intense in another years' time. We can't really stop it, we can't have some great saint or someone saying, "No we are not going to have, we are going to go back to Dixon of Dock Green. We are not going to have any violence. We are going to have the presenter of the six o'clock news wearing a burkha." I don't know who that is anyway, some floozy on the Channel or Channel , but you can't, you can't do that. The point is, that we live in a sensory world. If you want to get out of the sensory world, come in to a retreat center or monastery for few weeks to get some sort of idea of perspective. And if you want to do meditation, sometimes you just have to leave that sensory world outside and instead of being drawn outside, drawn inside. If you really want to get into deep meditation, it is an interesting thing to do because you actually do get incredibly... joy of actually not being caught up in that sensory world. What actually you do is say, "I can stop looking if I want to." One of the great things of being a monk for so many years you can actually look at a beautiful girl and an ugly girl and look at them exactly the same. Not many men can do that. Now one story. I should actually find out who this lady was, but she was some TV star. I think she was in Water Rats, or something. I don't know her name. Somebody told me, she is really really famous. If I told you her name now I think you would all know her. But I went to teach, it was just an afternoon meditation session in Sydney. This fellow had a little group in Darling Point, like a really top, affluent place of Sydney. So he's in this little group. There are about sort-of - people. I was talking about meditation. And this lady kept on looking at me and smiling. I didn't know, she was acting very strange. Not like an ordinary girl. [Laughter]. And, in the end, I just took it in my stride and taught the meditation etc., and afterwards I mentioned to the person organizing this and said, "That lady was acting really strange." And he told me that that was a famous TV actress. I figured out she was looking at me strangely because I didn't recognize her. What she was actually saying is, "See, it's me; I am the famous TV star." [laughter] Ajahn Brahm And I didn't know. [laughter] Ajahn Brahm It's a great experience when you're a monk and you don't know who's who. So because, because of that, she's obviously must be some very beautiful girl and sort-of an ugly girl...and what is beauty and ugly anyway? Why is that to attract us? When you're a monk and you mediate a lot, you don't see that anymore. I love that, being a monk, having that opportunity to see a beautiful girl sits here, an ugly girl sits here. You spend the same amount of time with both. You don't go to the ugly girl, "Go on, off, off, off." [laughter] Ajahn Brahm Because that's where sensuality starts to disappear - so it's great being able to, if you can, resist that sensuality. You can be more fair to other people. This is why we do it as a monk. We know we do lots of meditation. So it's great, actually, doing a little retreat, because you can understand sensuality much more and you can understand you can restrain it. So it up to you; you can take it or leave it. Sometimes people think they want to be free. And the free world is being able to enjoy our sensuality. We should have no limits, whatever we want to watch - whether it's violent movies, or the most sexual movies, the most deviant sex, or whatever - let's have a free world. Let's tell our people to do this. But the point is - people aren't free. Sometimes those sensory desires actually captivate us. We become a prisoner of our sensuality, which is why that we have to have that sex. We have to have that drug. We have to gamble. And sometimes people get to the point they have to have those relationships outside of their marriage. And they hurt and they realize they weren't in control after all. That wasn't freedom. So it's great thing actually to investigate. Is it the freedom of sensuality or has sensuality got its limits where you're in the prison of sensuality, you have to have it? So it's great following a little bit of mindfulness and restraint, because you find you can, almost like control your sensuality. You can go as far as you want. If the thing is going to harm another person, harm yourself, you can say, "No." You can stop it. And that's what we do with mindfulness, built of meditation, with wisdom - taking away the guilt, taking away the evil and the bad and putting in the word "skillful". And understand what that word "skillful" truly means, whether it's really going to be serving our purpose, serving our interest, what we really want to get out of our life. When we understand that, we understand the Buddhist approach to sensuality not to deny it, not to cover it up, but to deal with it. Deal with it with wisdom, with mindfulness, in a way, which can create the best happiness for ourselves and all other beings. So that's the talk on sensuality this evening. Thank you. I did no jokes this evening. I have to think one pretty quickly. But last week, I didn't have time for questions. So I tried to keep it little bit shorter this time, just under the hour, for some questions. Has anyone got any questions on the talk about sensuality tonight? Yeah? OK, I can see you with the lights. Yes? Man Is it wisdom, for us, for our society, to set limits on things like violence, on the premise that most people can't handle it - as what you were saying, that freedom of sensuality, or that violence on TV or overt sexuality? Is that, again, look you can't have this level of exposure or activity in our society because in the end, it's going to affect the whole society in some way, do you think...? Ajahn Brahm OK, you are asking me to say that a level of violence - or you might even say pornography, or even gambling, or whatever else - is such a degree that it's good for the powers that be to ban it, because people can't handle it? I think that history has shown the banning things never works. When you try and ban something, you have to enforce that ban. That's where we get "Tali-ban" from or "Telli-ban". [laughter] Ajahn Brahm And not only that, but in banning things, we get - where do we draw the line? And people are clever enough, you'll always get a way around the ban, somewhere, or whatever. So instead of actually banning things, instead of saying that people can't handle it, let's teach people to handle it. So I think the resources should be going in, instead of banning things, teaching people how to handle these things better, even actually to say no to them, to turn them off, rather than actually be, have a blanket ban on things. It's a difficult one, because obviously sometimes it's good to have some restraint, especially with kids who, again, haven't got the emotional maturity to exercise such self-restraint. It's a difficult question there, because who has such emotional maturity to exercise self-restraint? Should we give everyone a restraint class and an exam, and say, "OK, now you are free to be mature, make your own decisions where other people can't"? It's such a difficult decision with censorship. But what we have seen in history people always find a way around it, every ban... When the American government tried to ban alcohol in the prohibition years, all it did was fed a underground criminal element, and people drank anyway. When people try and stop pornographic movies, there's always a way that people, if you really want it, you can get it. So isn't it much better to try and encourage people to be more self-reliant, self-responsible? Otherwise, it isn't going to work. So in Buddhism, it's very much the responsibilities is on you. Karma, we're the owner of our deeds, so now we take responsibility for it. So there you are. You have all those things in the world. How much you want to go, what you don't want to do; it's up to you. All that Buddhism can teach is to be wise. Be discerning. Understand what is going to be of help and what is not going to be of help. What's going to harm, what's not going to harm? And also teaching strategies, so you can exercise it a little bit more wise control of your decision-making, with a bit more mindfulness - so, please, anyway, tomorrow morning, brush your teeth in a different part of your mouth. [laughter] So beginning in training in restraint. Thank you for that question. It's a great question. I'm not sure if I could answer it adequately. I don't know if anyone can answer it adequately. You have to answer it yourself. Any other questions you have? OK, I know that I've just (promised?) a joke to end up with. I know that the quote from Groucho Marx, who was one of my great heroes, when asked during sexual revolution, when the radio reporter asked him what he thought about sex, and he said, "I think it's here to stay." [laughter] And there's a lot of wisdom. Humor is good because there's wisdom behind it. You can't stop it, genie out of the bottle. So how are we going to deal with it? OK, that's Buddhism and sensuality.

Thank you for listening.

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