Filed in Relationships

Accusing the Tiger

Sexual Ethics and Buddhist TeachersStephen Butterfield

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At Tintern Abbey, a medieval Cistercian monastery located on the border between England and Wales, a young monk was caught having an affair with a village girl. The abbot had the girl strangled, and the monk buried up to his chin in the river mud, where the tides rose over him and he drowned.

Punishments of maiming and death for sexual misconduct are prescribed in both the Old Testament and the Koran. Buddhists call this approach to morality "theistic" and "dualistic," meaning that it defines right conduct by an external reference point, such as divine law, and splits the world into good and evil. The guardian of morals imposes the law with particular harshness against the sexual offenses of spiritual practitioners, because flesh and spirit are thought to be enemies. What comes from the flesh is evil, and must be chastised.

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