Conversation with Master Buddha and TMichael: Gay Marriage
TM: I’ve been reading news accounts of the battle between those who favor gay marriage being sanctioned under law and those who oppose it. Some oppose it on religious grounds and some on biological grounds in that it doesn’t facilitate pro-creation naturally. What is your view on the religious grounds for or against gay marriage?
Master Buddha: If a man and a woman have sexual intercourse, there is a probability pregnancy will result, and a second probability that child birth will follow. This is commonly known and understood in modern society. That wasn’t always the case—many centuries ago it was a mystery how offspring were conceived by the vast majority of human population. There arose from the mystery many superstitions around conception and child birth. Conception and child birth require the engagement of male and female contributing each their part. This is a biologic fact. It doesn’t require a social bond to be successful. As a matter of modern fact, it doesn’t require that they ever physically engage in person (artificial insemination).
TM: Ok, I’m with you so far. Creating babies follows sex between a man and a woman, or by artificial means. A long time ago, and I hope a very long time ago, people didn’t quite make the connection and so developed superstitious beliefs around baby-making.
Master Buddha: So, by biologic fact a gay male marriage cannot produce offspring between the two partners, but can enlist a female outside the marriage to perform that role. The same of course then for two female partners. This means that gay couples are capable of producing offspring by proxy of a third partner if they so desire. This is the same for heterosexual couples who are unable to conceive a child. It merely accommodates the biologic fact.
TM: If it’s a biologic fact, then how does it become a religious issue or even a social concern?
Master Buddha: I’m pulling this apart for you, because it can get very tangled. At some point in human history there was a shift in social belief that the chief role of marriage between a man and woman was to create offspring. To ensure that their offspring would not just be running around in reckless abandon they also created social convention around the single-family household and the early beginnings of property rights. The child belonged to the parents and the household and was subject to their supervision and responsibility, and they together as a household subject to the larger society and community.
TM: You’re saying it was a social evolution, not a religious one. Is that correct?
Master Buddha: It is difficult to separate religion from social, because religion is a social enterprise. This is why this subject is so impossible for some people to intellectually grasp. I will continue now to explain.
Religion is a social enterprise, which means that humans have created religions and formed into social sects in order to propagate their religious beliefs and social tenets.
TM: Hold on a second, almost all religious people will say that religions were created by God, or Gods through prophets or enlightened intermediaries (present company included), and that they are followers of that particular religious teaching. God laid the foundation and they followed his word to build on it.
Master Buddha: Please refer to other conversations we’ve had on the subject of truth and how it is convoluted with faith and a state of not knowing everything. Humans will posit truth on a great many things, but that doesn’t make it true. It is merely their belief in what is true. Let’s assume for a moment that religions were founded on direct expression of truth from God or Gods. Humans, as you suggest, interpret that and build on it to make it a social belief system. The filter applied is still of human origin, and therefore subject to the ignorance of humanity.
TM: I don’t mean to stray from our topic, but this seems important to clear up, because so much of what follows is dependent upon this point. You’re saying that religions are social institutions and are birthed and propagated as social tenets, not the word of God.
Master Buddha: I don’t wish to belabor the point of origin of religious beliefs, and so for our discussion I said we could assume that religions spring from the word of God or Gods. Humans the take that word and add to it their interpretations and filter it into social conventions by which they live. That means that religions become social entities imbued with human constructs of socialized behavior. May we continue?
TM: Yes, but maybe we have to come back to this at some point.
Master Buddha: The great problem for humanity in building laws that govern society is that they cannot separate social convention from religious teachings. Gay marriage as it relates to law must pass through the filters of social convention, which is conditioned by religious beliefs. So you can easily see the conundrum. And this provokes a challenge to the truths held by those who believe that the word of God prohibits such human relations.
For them the syllogism flows like this:
God has said that the purpose of a man|woman relationship is to create babies and form single-family households and rear their offspring.
Gay couples cannot create babies directly.
Therefore, gay marriage is not sanctioned by God, and must be excluded from human options.
For religious believers, denying this logic is tantamount to denying the word of God. It will then undermine a society based upon the word of God and eventually lead to the ruin of society. How it reconciles with many other words of God in which it produces conflict and contradiction is inconvenient, but doesn’t cause their belief to waver. They must default to the only intellectual escape possible, which is that God is mysterious and knows more than humankind, and so it isn’t the place of humanity to question this contradiction. It is for humanity to follow the things that are clear as well as the things that aren’t without fail. God will sort it out later.
TM: Yes, I believe you’ve stated that correctly according to what they believe. But is that correct?
Master Buddha: The question is presented incorrectly. Let me re-frame it. What is the role of religion for humanity and what is the role of social convention in creating laws that govern human behavior?
TM: So, you won’t just come right out with an answer to settle the question will you?
Master Buddha: I’m taking an approach that will help you understand the issue and formulate an answer. As we have stated previously in these conversations, the role of religion is to represent spiritual theories for individuals to ponder in an effort to expand their imaginations and range of possibilities for living a better life. Religions form from spiritual ideas and concepts, that in the pure state apply to an individual. Religions become social institutions because they are comprised of like-minded individuals. The purpose of which is to share and discuss the spiritual idea and concepts.
Humans have taken religions in this social form and expanded them into governance entities. Therein lies the problem. It sets up massive conflicts between different religions and between members of society who subscribe to those different religious beliefs. The only way for a system of religious-dominant laws to work without constant and violent conflict is too segregate inhabitants by religion and assign each to their own geographic place. Since that isn’t practical today, you must have a different way. Democratic societies have created a separation of religion and government. Ideally, this should work in a pluralistic religious society. But, it doesn’t work as perfectly as intended, because those who are aligned with religious beliefs that have been interpreted to guide their daily lives in an integrated society, immediately come in conflict with behaviors they find inconsistent with their beliefs. The resulting dissonance cries for resolution. They seek to alter laws to remove the dissonance.
TM: I can see why you’re not so popular with Christians and Muslims. From what I observe both religious groups would love for everyone to line up with them to rule the world according to their beliefs. In that scenario they could outlaw all the behaviors inconsistent with their beliefs and presumably find the harmony in governance.
Master Buddha: Well, secretly all religious groups wish for that scenario, but some are more vocal than others.
TM: Years ago when I visited Nepal and spent some time in Kathmandu, I noticed the incredible non-hostile melding of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians. But back to our topic. How do we bring this conversation to a conclusion?
Master Buddha: Gay marriage could only be subject to religious scrutiny within a purely religious context. Religious context is confined to individuals and their peers for introspection. Social institutions that are erected for governance must take into consideration that there are many types of life styles and it is the responsibility of government to create laws that promote harmony among the differences while removing violence. The fact that gays must seek legal sanction within your laws informs us that the separation between government and religion is not yet a reality.
TM: Will it ever be?
Master Buddha: It’s possible of course, but only when people representing religions surrender to living peacefully with others with different beliefs and abstain from their agendas of hegemony in thought and behavior.
Conversation with Jesus and TMichael on Sexuality in Western Society (Part 2)
TM: We left off in the first conversation talking about infidelity, divorce, and the role of guilt, shame and judgment within a heterosexual marriage (also monogamous relationship). What would you like to add to that part before we move on?
Master Jesus: What do you wish to know?
TM: Is there anything that husbands and wives, lovers, mates can do to better understand the contemporary shifts occurring around sexuality within their relationships that would help them provide more joy for themselves and their families?
Master Jesus: First of all, they can stop and recognize that there are many changes going on in Western culture and that as much as each one is a part of the shift each one is also affected by the shift. This requires compassion for all, even when one feels more affected and less the one producing the effects. This wouldn’t be so difficult if there weren’t so many changes occurring simultaneously in your society. The compounding of so much cultural shift is devastating to sensitive ones and challenging to everyone. There was a time when most people knew their place in society and knew the code of behavior that went with it. This has been disintegrating for some time now and it is blurry for most people.
This is why you see a severe clinging to groups and organizations that emphasize the ways of the past. It’s an effort to put the brakes on rapid changes. So, for those of you who feel changes are not happening quickly enough to satisfy your desires, have compassion for those who feel it is happening too quickly and they want relief from the compression of fear.
I can tell you the number of prayers that are uttered each day to slow down society’s speed of change and to return to better days. Also, I can tell you the number of ones that wish for it to speed up to get to the point of new awakening and joy. The goals are the same; both types want peace and joy in their lives. They have different tolerances and notions of how to get there. Have compassion for each other.
TM: So, what is the most significant change with sexuality between marriage/life mate partners?
Master Jesus: The most significant change will be equality between the genders. The imbalance of male dominance as the authority will give way to equality. This is not easy, as has been evidenced over the past one hundred years and more specifically in the past fifty years. Some men are reluctant to give up this power and some women are all too anxious to take it from them abruptly. It will work out steadily over time. There are a great number of people of both genders who embrace this and make it work in their daily lives even though they don’t see it routinely supported in society at large. That will change as more and more people shift into this mode and more examples and reinforcement are evident.
TM: What kind of time frame are you suggesting?
Master Jesus: I’m not suggesting a time frame, but pointing out the process. Time is shifting according to the acts and acceptance of all those beings in the process. Understand the process and where it is going and do what you can to support and encourage it with love and compassion for how difficult it is for everyone.
TM: To continue with heterosexual relations, is sexuality between men and women more about social adjustment right now rather than sex acts (physically speaking)?
Master Jesus: It always has been, it’s just more exaggerated now given the major shift we just discussed. There are the basic physical acts between partners and those are important in conveying intimacy, tenderness, comfort, passion, intensity, joy and an array of emotions that spring from each person and from togetherness. But sexuality is not confined to those acts and represents attraction on all levels. Whether or not this is registered, depends on the conscious awareness of the partners. In other words, there are energetic exchanges occurring on many levels and some people are aware and others are not.
You’ll witness the current interest in tantric sexual practices, which is an effort to connect to the many levels of consciousness available. The emotional level most people experience, but many still are blocked in this way. Others are primarily attracted to the mental level. These are represented by fantasy exploration and imaginative experimentation. The spiritual level is rarely if ever experienced by humans. Those who do experience it have a difficult time describing it to others because it is beyond your normal sensual range.
TM: Is the spiritual level more related to the emotional level?
Master Jesus: Yes, in that it is a hyper-feeling sensation. Yet it is beyond the one-to-one experience of the physical sex act; meaning that what many mystics reported in their experience of rapture, a feeling oneness with all, is closer to the reference.
Conversation with Jesus and TMichael: Sexuality in Western Society (Part 1)
TM: I realize that we may not be able to cover this topic in one conversation, but at least we can start. Please talk about the role of sex in Western society. Specifically, what do you observe as the general state of sexual health among our population?
Master Jesus: This is sure to provoke more than a few people who stand in judgment of sexuality when it deviates from their spectrum of acceptable behavior. Likewise, those who feel that anything goes will likely rise in defense of their personal honor if Master Buddha or I speak disapprovingly of their behavior. You’re right in that it will require several conversations in order to present a full picture of the state of sexuality in Western society. It is not our intent to approve or disapprove of human sexual behavior, but we can speak to what we observe from a perspective of what is serving humankind positively and what isn’t.
TM: Okay, that’s fair enough. I didn’t expect either of you speak from a judgmental perspective, but certainly some folks hope that you will. So, back to my question, do you want to begin with an overview?
Master Jesus: Ask a more specific question and let it lead us into what you really want to know.
TM: It seems that over the past century we’ve come through some dynamic changes from a moralistic and conservative view of sexuality to a liberal, more open view. Even though I know that doesn’t represent everyone, I’m referring to the norm. Has that shift been beneficial to our society?
Master Jesus: Yes, Western society has made a dramatic turn, more so than you are implying in your question. Observing from our perspective it is quite astounding. Most people will agree that there have been some benefits as a result of the shift, while others believe it has planted the seeds of ruination for your society. As with most subjects, there is a little bit of truth found in all points of view. But let’s see if we can shed some light on the various parts to indicate what has been beneficial and what needs to be adjusted to provide future benefits.
First of all, it’s difficult to speak about human sexuality without carefully painting a context for each part. For this part, let us talk about heterosexual conditions within the institution of marriage and romantic relationships in which there isn’t a marriage.
It’s clear from our perspective that many benefits have accrued to married and unmarried men and women from the shift in attitudes about sex over the past fifty years. However, with the relaxing of judgment and guilt around sexual behavior there has sprung up a great deal of confusion. This confusion has contributed to a lot of stress and tension between men and women over their respective roles. Over time this will work out and the major benefit will be a sense of equality. This was missing before the shift and has been slowly coming after a sudden lunge forward. The natural reaction has been two-fold. One is an opening of the floodgates to celebrate the release of age-old restrictions and the second is a recoiling of restriction to maintain the old ways. There is a growing middle that represents the balance between the two extremes.
TM: I agree with your observation. But there still seems to be a guilt-shame axis running through sexuality.
Master Jesus: Yes, this is true. But keep in mind that it is less than it was only fifty years ago. And fifty years from now you will observe even greater erosion in the role shame, judgment and guilt play in the enforcement of restrictions in sexual relations.
TM: But there are some folks who will argue that shame, judgment and guilt are sturdy enforcers and that we shouldn’t allow them to erode. If anything, we should reinforce their power to keep good people in line and get bad ones back in line.
Master Jesus: Shame, judgment and guilt have been the faithful servants of a philosophy that people are inherently bad and need the threat of punishment in order to deter them from wrongdoing. The problem in that philosophy arises in that it forces a belief contrary to the true nature of humankind, which then conditions you to perceive yourselves in constant need of redemption. The fatigue that comes from such an exercise is understandable. But the greatest harm is that it stunts your growth because you are constantly vigilant for wrongdoing and judging one another in an effort to correct or prevent wrongdoing. Add to that you have identified things as wrong that are social conventions created out of ignorance in some cases, and then perpetuated through superstition.
TM: But some things that have become social conventions regarding marriage have served to build families and then community, haven’t they?
Master Jesus: Shall we keep the context to sexuality so that what I am saying does not get confused with statements about marriage in and of itself?
TM:Yes, that’s what I meant.
Master Jesus: Let’s take the social convention of sexual monogamy, or partner exclusivity within a relationship. This is for the purpose of forming a family unit comprised of a husband and wife with one or more offspring. It provides a tight unity and strength to weather challenges on many fronts, economic, health, etc. It does that while at the same time connecting to families once removed from the immediate family. This forms a larger family unit that again provides reinforcement to the core family unit. Containment of sexual partners to the husband and wife ensure this family unity by restricting the likelihood of offspring from various sexual relations.
What protects this arrangement is fidelity to one sexual partner during the lifetime of the family. What has disrupted this pattern is a loosening of the shame grip on divorce and the subsequent remarriage and combining of families from more than a single pair of parents. In some cases this new family unit shares the connection with as much grace as a family unit from single parentage. In other cases, this is not true. Infidelity is the chief cause of hostility between marriage partners and can last a lifetime. Fidelity is considered a sacred trust and when one partner betrays that trust, the sense of betrayal is felt by the extended family and in some instances by the community at large.
TM: I think wounded pride, loss of self-esteem, shame, embarrassment and ego also play a part in this.
Master Jesus: Without question this is true. However, those personal components are activated because of the larger context of social convention that defines what causes shame for an individual or disgrace upon the family.
TM: So, you’re saying what some folks argue is that shame of getting a divorce kept the family together through tough times and in turn preserved the family values of unity and strength.
Master Jesus: You keep leaping over the sexual issues and grasp for the marriage issues beyond sexuality. We can have that conversation if you like.
TM: Thanks for keeping me on topic. Let’s stay focused on sexuality because it’s expansive enough as it is. So, you were saying that infidelity, that is, marriage or romantic partners who don’t honor sexually monogamous agreements, create discord within their relationship and the family and is likely the eventual cause for divorce. Most people would agree. What’s the point?
Master Jesus: The point is that if you take the social convention of sexual monogamy as a sacred trust and then violate it, you begin the breakdown of that institution. If it becomes widespread, then more rapidly does it breakdown. Once shame is removed as a barrier to divorce the offending mate, then you compound the acceleration of breakdown. Shame and guilt once prevented the infidelity, but in most societies males were often excused from this public humiliation. Although, this isn’t entirely the case. Witness the standard that your politicians must withstand in this regard. The general public still holds the sacred trust of fidelity as an accepted standard for your leaders, while lessening its application to your peers. And divorce is still considered a shameful failure in some circles.
To summarize, you began with the question of what is the health of your general population in regards to sexuality. We have taken a part of that in order to avoid generalizing across all relationships. Now we are only talking about heterosexual relations; specifically long-term monogamous relations. We are discussing the role of fidelity to a monogamous agreement and the results of infidelity. Are you ready to continue?
TM: As usual I want to know where this is going.
Master Jesus: I ask for your patience. In order to have some understanding you must go through the exercise of discovering what your beliefs are around sexuality in marriage. There must be some context in order to gain that understanding and to draw out your beliefs.
Conversation with Buddha and TMichael: Fear of Death and Life
TM: How does one accept death and the will to live at the same time?
Master Buddha: That’s not so easy to explain or understand. The reason is because of attachment to living and then attachment to accepting death in order to be free from fear. There is, in between the actual truth of acceptance of death and the first step, a period of elation at no longer sensing any fear around dying. When the fear of dying has so long ruled the physical life it is quite a relief to no longer walk in fear of it. However, there will come a test. And that test will present an option to die or an option to live and that is when you’ll discover how attached you are to the notion of dying versus the notion of living and which one actually carries the most fear. There are two parts to the fear aspect of living in the flesh. The first is fear of dying and that preoccupies all your thoughts, emotions and energy to avoid its actuality. Then there comes the fear of living, which exposes all the painful self-inadequacies. That’s enough to make one embrace death, now no longer feared, as an escape from the fear of living.
Just as one has to face the fear of death, one has to face the fear of living. The fear of living is the more difficult of the two because it is more difficult to imagine. Death is universally the same, except perhaps in the actual method or circumstances of death. Living on the other hand can be a slow form of death or a joyous expression of all that is. You can choose which it is. Again, just because one has the power to choose doesn’t make it easier. You must understand what it is that you are choosing and have the skills to choose according to your individual nature.
TM: So, my question assumed there was no fear of living, only fear of dying. How does the will to live then resolve with the fear of living?
Master Buddha: The will to live requires no effort because it is your innate spiritual will, which in the flesh is instinctual. The fear of living is concerned with those matters of quality and choice. How shall one live? What occupation shall one choose to provide the essentials of living? Shall one create a family, a marriage? What will engage my thoughts and my energy? Those are the questions of living that determine the quality of one’s life.
TM: Where do the self-inadequacies come in?
Master Buddha: That is the lifetime struggle for most humans. It depends greatly upon the wisdom of one’s parents and the living environment that one is exposed to during one’s formative years. But even under the best of circumstances it is unavoidable to deal with self-inadequacy to some degree. In the middle, that which is normal, one sees that before a child reaches school age already the seeds of self-inadequacy are planted and many more shall also be planted during the years of attending school. This is a tremendous challenge to change because parents are still struggling with their own self-inadequacies while trying to raise children, schools are populated with adults who are struggling with their own self-inadequacies and of course the children are in the thick of it as well.
TM: So, if I understand what you’re saying, it is self-inadequacy that is the root of our fear of living, not fear of dying.
Master Buddha: Fear of death is first, but it’s a mask for fear of living based upon self-inadequacies. One must first confront fear of death and then begin the process of awareness of self-inadequacies and correction in order to reach the joy of living instead of the fear of living.
TM: What similarity is there between self-confidence and self-adequacy? In Western culture anyway, adequate is mediocre and not good enough if one is to get ahead in life. So where does this reconcile?
Master Buddha: Well, adequacy is a relative term in this case. If the standard in Western society is excellence then that is what is meant by adequate, that is one must be excellent to be self-adequate.
Self-confidence can be genuine or a rationalization that one has created to cover for self-inadequacy. There are only a handful of truly self-confident people, those who have mastered the fear of death and the fear of living. Most people are spread along the spectrum of self-confident, yet still self-inadequate underneath, to self-inadequate as a constant in their daily lives. The meaning of self-confident is to be truthful with one’s self. So, in that case, there can be a conscious level of self-confidence and fears around self-inadequacy at the same time. What I mean, is that you can be aware of your perception of self-inadequacy and still be self-confident in an honest way. That is the point of transition that many people find themselves now. They are exploring self-awareness, which leads to coming face to face with their self-inadequacies, which is giving them a genuine self-confidence that they are progressing toward joy in living. It’s not always perfect and there is still illusion, but it is in the right direction.
TM: Can any of us really be inadequate?
Master Buddha: That’s for each person to determine.
TM: Yes, but we’ve determined for the most part that we are inadequate and you’re saying that’s a problem. So, clearly we’re incapable of making this judgment.
Master Buddha: And by what standards have you determined that you are inadequate?
TM: We set the standard by looking around us and seeing the ones among us who are adequate and then compare ourselves to them.
Master Buddha: And how do you know what makes someone adequate?
TM: We’ve determined through our social consensus the traits that are desirable and those are the ones that form the foundation of our adequacy. Then there are individual traits that one can have that deviate from the social norm that enhance our adequacy.
Master Buddha: So, under your system the guidelines are derived by social consensus and then measured by each of you as you see it in others in contrast to yourself. Do you see others who are less adequate than you are?
TM: Of course we do. There are others who are more and some who are less.
Master Buddha: Have you ever heard someone say really flattering things about you and you felt those things weren’t true?
TM: At first it feels good to hear those things, but there have been times then when I doubt those things are entirely true, maybe a little.
Master Buddha: Do you tell yourself about your qualities that make you adequate?
TM: Not often, but sometimes.
Master Buddha: Do you tell yourself about the times you are inadequate?
TM: Probably more so than the other way.
Master Buddha: Why is that?
TM: Because I’m inadequate more often than not?
Master Buddha: Well, you were a good sport to fall into my trap on this one. Although I know that a part of you believes there is much truth in what you said. It’s hard in this world to counter the many messages of self-inadequacy. And that’s what everyone wants the most, to feel adequate and have others recognize them for this. It’s understandable that if you are telling yourself than you are inadequate that you would turn to others to get the feedback that you are adequate. What happens though when they confirm your belief that you are inadequate?
TM: That’s the worse when it all coincides to tell you that. That’s the worse kind of depression and despair I think; to feel worthless and incapable of living a good life.
Master Buddha: You have a fairly simple prayer that you recite to accept yourself as you are and know you are loved. Because ultimately adequacy has to do with being lovable, don’t you think?
TM: Are you saying they are synonymous?
Master Buddha: I think so, even though adequacy has to do with a performance of talents that in total can make you lovable, what is someone if they are adequate but unlovable? Are they happy? What if they conform to all of the social standards of adequacy, yet they don’t feel others see them in that light and they don’t experience love in their lives?
TM: Well, that pretty much sucks. So you become bitter or you try harder and harder to prove your adequacy, and lovability I guess.
Master Buddha: What is the prayer that you recite?
TM: It’s Love in Abundance. There’s one line in particular that resonates with me in terms of self-acceptance and self-love. “I am that I am and thus receive the blessings of love in abundance.” If I’m feeling critical or judgmental of myself, I often recite that line with a substitution for “that I am”. It could be, “I am selfish and inconsiderate and thus receive the blessings of love in abundance.” It has the effect for me of embracing the worse things I could think about myself in love and then I just feel love and not the power of the criticism or judgment.