Kicking A Lion

…hear us roar

Trampling on a Religion’s Rights

The first amendment of the US Constitution lies the foundation of the idea of separation of church and state.  As the face of the US has changed over the years, this has become a principle with more importance.  The US is made up of many religions, and should preserve all of the beliefs of the varied faiths.

The Christians are stating that we are going against their religious beliefs by allowing gay marriage.  Their biggest objection being that Homosexuality is a sin, according to the Bible.  But what about other religions?  How do they view same-sex marriage?

In Pennsylvania, which is considering an amendment to ban same-sex marriage, Zen Buddhist priest Kyoki Roberts, had a letter published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, stating that the amendment “is in direct violation of my religious beliefs as a Zen Buddhist priest”.  He continued with “code of ethics guides my actions toward kindness, compassion and generosity and not toward anger, hatred and bigotry. … It is time we take down (not put up) the signs saying ‘No gays allowed’.”

And in January 1996, at a Zen Buddhist conference held in Hawaii:

A ZEN BUDDHIST PERSPECTIVE
ON SAME-GENDER MARRIAGE

On October 11, 1995, some religious leaders gave testimony
to the Commission on Sexual Orientation and the Law in support of same-
gender marriage.  It was one of the most moving meetings of the Commission.
Of the approximately 9 speakers, three submitted written testimony
(two Buddhist and one Lutheran).  I have retrieved their testimony from the
archives and will post each on to the internet.  The first is appended below.

Robert Aitken served much of World War II as a prisoner of war of
the Japanese; one of his captors introduced Robert Aitken to Zen Buddhism.
Today Robert Aitken heads the western region of the United States.

Aloha!

Tom Ramsey
Co-Coordinator, HERMP

Robert Aitken’s Written Testimony
           To the Commission on Sexual Orientation
  and the Law, October 11, 1995

I am Robert Aitken, co-founder and teacher of the Honolulu
Diamond Sangha, a Zen Buddhist society established in 1959, with centers
in Manoa and Palolo [macrons are over first a’s in each word].
Our organization has evolved into a network of Diamond Sangha groups
on Neighbor Islands and in North and South America, Australia and New
Zealand.  I am also co-founder of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and a
member of its International Board of Advisors.  This is an
association whose members are concerned about social issues from a
Buddhist perspective.  It has it headquarters in Berkeley, California,
and has chapters across the country, including one here on O’ahu, as well
as chapters overseas.  I am also a member of the Hawai’i Association of
International Buddhists.

I speak to you today as an individual in response to the Chair’s
request to present Buddhist views, particularly Zen Buddhist views, on
the subject of of marriage between people of the same sex.

The religion we now call Zen Buddhism arose in China in the sixth
century as a part of the Mahayana, which is the tradition of Buddhism
found in China, Korea, Japan and to some extent in Vietnam.  Pure Land
schools, including the Nishi and Higashi Hongwanji, as well as Shingon
and Nichiren, are other sects within the Mahayana.

The word Zen means “exacting meditation,” descriptive of the formal
practice which is central for the Zen Buddhist.  It is a demanding practice,
from which certain realizations emerge that can then be applied in daily
life.  these are realizations that each of us is a boundless container, a
hologram, so to speak, that includes all other beings.  The application of
this kind of ultimate intimacy can be framed in the classic Buddhist
teaching of the Four Noble Abodes:  loving kindness, compassion, joy in
the attainment of others, and equanimity.

Applying these Four Noble Abodes to the issue of same-sex marriage,
I find it clear that encouragement should be my way of counseling.  Over a
twenty-year career of teaching, I have had students who were gay, lesbian,
trans-sexual and bisexual, as well as heterosexual.  These orientations have
seemed to me to be as specific as those which lead people to varied careers.
Some people are drawn to accounting.  I myself am not expecially drawn to
accounting.  Some people are drawn to literature.  I place myself in that
lot.  In the same way, some people are attracted to members of their own
sex.  I am not particularly attracted in this way.  But we are all human,
and within my own container, I can discern homosexual tendencies.  I keep
my checkbook balanced too.  So I find compassion—not just for—but with
[with is underlined] the gay or lesbian couple who wish to confirm their
love in a legal marriage
.

I perform marriages among members of my own community.  Occasionally,
for one reason or another, these are ceremonies that celebrate commitment
to a life together, but are not legally binding.  I have not been asked
to perform a ceremony for a gay or lesbian couple, but would have no
hesitation in doing so, if our ordinary guidelines were met.  If same-sex
marriages were legalized, my policy would be the same.
  I don’t visualize
leading such ceremonies indiscriminately for hire, but would perform them
within our own Buddhist community.

Back in the early 1980s I had occasion to speak to the gay and
lesbian caucus of the San Francisco Zen Center.  It was in the course of
this meeting that the seed of what is now the Hartford Street Zen Center
was planted.  This is a center that serves the gay and lesbian population
of San Francisco, giving them a place for Zen Buddhist practice where they
can feel comfortable.  A number of heterosexual women also practice there,
as a place where they will not have to deal with sexual advances from men
who misuse other centers as hunting grounds for sexual conquests.

The Hartford Street Zen Center flourishes today as a fully accepted
sanctuary within the large family of Zen Buddhist temples in the Americas
and Europe.  It sponsors the hospice called Maitri, a Sanskrit term meaning
“loving kindness,” that looks after people suffering from AIDS.  Maitri is
one of the significant care-giving institutions in San Francisco, and is
marked by a culture of volunteers who serve as nurses, doctors, counselors,
and community organizers in a large support system.

Historically, Zen Buddhism has been a monastic tradition.  There have
been prominent lay adherents, but they have been the exceptions.  In the
context of young men or young women confined within monastery walls for periods
of years, one might expect rules and teachings relating to homosexuality,
but they don’t appear.  Bernard Faure, in his cultural critique of Zen
Buddhism titled The Rhetoric of Immediacy [underlined] remarks that
homosexuality seems to be overlooked in Zen teachings, and indeed in classical
Buddhist texts.  My impression from my own monastic experience suggests
that homosexuality has not been taken as an aberration, and so did not receive
comment.

There is, of course, a precept about sex which Zen Buddhists inherit
from earlier classical Buddhists teachings.  It is one of the sixteen precepts
accepted by all Zen Buddhist monks, nuns and seriously committed lay people.
In our own Diamond Sangha rendering, we word this precept, “I take up the
way of not misusing sex.”  I understand this to mean that self-centered
sexual conduct is inappropriate, and I vow to avoid it.  Self-centered sex
is exploitive sex, non-consensual sex, sex that harms others.  It is
unwholesome and destructive in a heterosexual as well as in a homosexual
context.

All societies have from earliest times across the world formalized
sexual love in marriage ceremonies that give the new couple standing and
rights in the community.  The Legislative Reference Bureau, at the
request of this Commission, has compiled a formidable list of rights that
are extended to married couples in Hawai’i, but which are denied to couples
who are gay and lesbian, though many of them have been together for decades.
These unions would be settled even more if they were acknowledged with
basic married rights.  A long-standing injustice would be corrected, and
the entire gay and lesbian community would feel more accepted.
  This would
stabilize a significant segment of our society, and we would all of us be
better able to acknowledge our diversity.  I urge you to advise the Legislature
and the people of Hawai’i that legalizing gay and lesbian marriages will
be humane and in keeping with perenniel principles of decency and mutual
encouragement [mutual underlined].

Advertisements

Written by kickingalion

November 23, 2008 at 4:31 pm

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Just a comment on separation of church and state. So many in the religious community, even in light of The Constitution, want to hide from separation of Church and State.Shall I say, ignore?
    But wasn’t it none other than Jesus Himself who first addressed the issue FOR the separation when He said; RENDER UNTO CAESAR THAT WHICH IS CAESAR’S; AND UNTO GOD THE THINGS THAT ARE GOD’S.
    Goodness, what is that if not THE SEPARATION OF…
    Respectfully, Lonnie R. Fowler, UNTANGLING GOD, lrf1951 at wordpress—and brand new here.Please drop by.

    lrf1951

    November 23, 2008 at 10:44 pm


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: