Does Buddhism Accept Same-Sex Behavior?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Roger Corliss, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Religion at Duke University, wrote the following in the Aug.-Sep. 2002 newsletter of the Gay Buddhist Fellowship:

"Practically all the traditional Buddhist teaching on sex is found in the Vinaya (the monastic regulations)... Sexuality is reduced to the physical activity of the genitals fueled by the passionate desire (raga) for sensual pleasure which can never be sated and so is addictive. In the Five Grave Precepts, which may be taken by a layperson, the third, to abstain from sexual misconduct, is generally taken to mean merely abstention from adultery...

Queer consciousness is not really about sex, although sex is a part of it. It is about relationships. When it is allowed to show itself, it removes our attention from sex as a genital interaction and the mechanics of reproduction, and transforms addictive lust into the pure abidings. It creates an environment in which Buddhism can re-visit sexual relationships and see them as noble."

Aug.-Sep. 2002 - Roger Corliss, PhD 

Kerry Trembath, former Secretary of the Buddhist Council of New South Wales, in his article "Homosexuality and Buddhism" on the Religious Facts website (accessed Sep. 29, 2008) wrote:

"Lay Buddhists (those who live outside the monastery) are expected to adhere to Five Precepts, the third of which is a vow 'not to engage in sexual misconduct.' But what is sexual misconduct? Right and wrong behavior in Buddhism is generally determined by considerations such as the following:
  • Universalibility principle - 'How would I like it if someone did this to me?'
  • Consequences - Does the act causes harm and regret (in oneself or others) or benefit and joy?
  • Utilitarian principle - Will the act help or harm the attainment of goals (ultimately spiritual liberation)?
  • Intention - Is the act motivated by love, generosity and understanding?
'Sexual misconduct' has thus traditionally been interpreted to include actions like coercive sex, sexual harassment, child molestation and adultery. As Homosexuality is not explicitly mentioned in any of the Buddha's sayings recorded in the Pali Canon (Tripitaka), most interpreters have taken this to mean that homosexuality should be evaluated in the same way as heterosexuality, in accordance with the above principles."

Sep. 29, 2008 - Kerry Trembath 



PRO (yes)

The Dalai Lama, stated in an interview published in the Feb.-Mar. 1994 OUT magazine:

"If someone comes to me and asks whether [homosexuality] is okay or not, I will ask... 'What is your companion's opinion?' If you both agree, then I think I would say, if two males or two females voluntarily agree to have mutual satisfaction without further implication of harming others, then it is okay."

Feb.-Mar. 1994 - Dalai Lama 



A.L. De Silva, a Buddhist monk, wrote in his article "Homosexuality and Theravada Buddhism," available online at the BuddhaNet website (accessed Mar. 17, 2006):

"As homosexuality is not explicitly mentioned in any of the Buddha's discourses, we can only assume that it is meant to be evaluated in the same way that heterosexuality is... In the case of the lay man and woman where there is mutual consent, where adultery is not involved and where the sexual act is an expression of love, respect, loyalty and warmth, it would not be [immoral]. And it is the same when two people are of the same gender.

In Buddhism we could say that it is not the object of one's sexual desire that determines whether a sexual act is [inappropriate] or not, but rather the quality of the emotions and intentions involved."

Mar. 17, 2006 - A.L. De Silva 



Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, wrote in the article "The Buddhist Religion and Homosexuality" on its website (accessed on Mar. 17, 2006):

"From the Theravada Buddhist standpoint, all relationships: gay, lesbian or straight, are often considered personal matters of mutual consent. If a relationship promotes the happiness and well-being of both parties, then it is positive and acceptable. Many Buddhists believe the sexual orientation is beyond a person's control, as are race and gender. They feel that gays and lesbians should have the same civil rights and benefits as do all other persons...

The Zen tradition deals with sexuality within the broader category of sensual indulgence... Zen Buddhism does not make a distinction between heterosexual and homosexual sex. It encourages sexual relationships that are mutually loving and supportive."

Mar. 17, 2006 - Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 



Shravasti Dhammika, Spiritual Advisor to the Buddha Dhamma Mandala Society, in his Aug. 21, 2008 article "Buddhism and Homosexuality" published on The Buddhist Channel website, wrote:

"According to the ancient Indian understanding, homosexuals were thought of simply as being 'the third nature' (tritiya prakti), rather than as perverted, deviant or sick.

With its emphasis on psychology and cause and effect, Buddhism judges acts, including sexual acts, primarily by the intention (cetana) behind them and the effect they have.

A sexual act motivated by love, mutuality and the desire to give and share would be judged positive no matter what the gender of the two persons involved. Therefore, homosexuality as such is not considered immoral in Buddhism or against the third precept, although this is not always understood in traditional Buddhist countries.

If a homosexual avoids the sensuality and licence of the so-called 'gay scene' and enters into a loving relationship with another person, there is no reason why he or she cannot be a sincere practising Buddhist and enjoy all the blessings of the Buddhist life."

Aug. 21, 2008 - Shravasti Dhammika 



CON (no)

The Dalai Lama stated in his 1996 book Beyond Dogma: Dialogues and Discourses:

"A sexual act is deemed proper when the couples use the organs intended for sexual intercourse [penis and vagina] and nothing else... Homosexuality, whether it is between men or between women, is not improper in itself. What is improper is the use of organs already defined as inappropriate [mouth, hand, anus] for sexual contact."

1996 - Dalai Lama 



Dennis Conkin, former journalist at Bay Area Reporter, wrote in his 1997 article "Dalai Lama Urges 'Respect, Compassion, and Full Human Rights for All,' Including Gays":

"Buddhist sexual proscriptions ban homosexual activity and heterosexual sex through orifices other than the vagina, including masturbation or other sexual activity with the hand... From a Buddhist point of view, lesbian and gay sex is generally considered sexual misconduct."

1997 - Dennis Conkin 



Leonard Zwilling, PhD, Editor of Peacock in the Poison Grove: Two Buddhist Texts on Training the Mind, in his chapter "Homosexuality as Seen in Indian Buddhist Texts" in the 1992 book Buddhism, Sexuality and Gender wrote:

"Sexual misconduct (kâmamithyâcarâ; kamesu micchacara) is supposed to be avoided by the pious laity as well as the clergy. Buddhist tradition essentially conceives of sexual misconduct in terms of sexual relations with various types of prohibited women (agamyâ) and the performance of nonprocreative sexual acts. Among the commentators only Buddhaghosa and the anonymous author of the commentary to the Abhidharmasamucaya include men among forbidden sexual objects. The Vinaya punishes all intentional sexual conduct by monks or nuns, providing a hierarchy of penalties depending upon the nature of the offense. Penetration with emission results in expulsion from the order, regardless of the gender or species of the partner or the orifice penetrated. Other types of sexual contact, such as masturbation of one monk by another, although still a serious offense, does not require expulsion, and nonorgasmic contact such as touching another's genitals is a relatively minor offense. As a rule, offenses committed with a pa??aka require less severe punishment than those involving a woman, although more than if they were committed with a socially normative man. Mutual masturbation among nuns is also reckoned with, but is considered a relatively minor offense...

As to the ordination of the sexually nonconformist male, it will certainly be no surprise to find ordination denied to such individuals and that such denial has solid canonical authority."

1992 - Leonard Zwilling, PhD 



Mission to America, a Christian evangelical internet mission, stated in an article titled "Buddhism and Homosexuality," published on its website (accessed Oct. 1, 2008) that:

"Does Buddhism allow homosexuality?

The answer is, no it does not...

The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path:...

Nowhere in Buddah's teachings or sayings does he fully define what an 'unlawful sexual act' is. So all we can get from this is that there are some sexual acts that are unlawful--and thus should not be engaged in. The question is then, are homosexual acts unlawful?...

The Second Step on the Eightfold Path is Right Resolve: 'You must renounce the pleasures of the senses; you must harbor no ill will toward anyone and harm no living creature.'

Homosexual behavior violates two of the three things listed here, thus homosexual behavior must be a unlawful sexual act.

Homosexual behavior is a pleasure of the senses. This is demonstrated by the typical behavior (as documented in scientific studies) of homosexuals showing that even homosexuals in committed relationships have numerous 'one night stands' on a regular basis...

But the biggest problem is that homosexual acts harm (seriously harm) other people--this is directly in opposition to Buddhism. There is a huge list of health problems associated with homosexual acts, both physical and mental. Just a few are: Human Papillomavirus (HPV); Hepatitis; rectal and throat Gonorrhea; Gay Bowel Syndrome (GBS); HIV/AIDS; Anal Cancer; and more...

The evidence is overwhelming. Homosexual acts are the cause of serious physical and mental health problems. Thus they violate the Buddhist teaching to harm no living creature."

Oct. 1, 2008 - Mission to America