Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pandaka: Sex Addiction and Perversion

Sexual Addiction and Perversion
Wisdom Quarterly (ANALYSIS)
The Abhidharma [the "Higher Teaching," an important collection of texts in the threefold division of the Buddha's message] states that a pandaka cannot achieve enlightenment in that lifetime, but must wait for rebirth as a normal man or woman or deva. The question that often goes sufficiently explored is, What exactly is a paṇḍaka? Misunderstanding this terms leads to a great deal of grief, judgment, and confusion.
Ananda -- the Buddha's cousin, attendant, and chief memorizer of sutras -- was said to be a paṇḍaka in one of his many previous lives. What often goes unsaid is how many past lives we have led. The same was said of the Buddhist nun Isidāsī (from the "Pslams of the Sisters" or Therigatha, inspired verses of enlightened Buddhist nuns).
In both cases birth as a was a result of unprofitable karma. The idea that being a pandaka stems from unskillful behavior in a previous life is common in Buddhist literature.
  • Pandaka is variously and unsatisfactorily translated as eunuch, homosexual, or hermaphrodite. The best translation might be "pervert," compulsive sex maniac, transgendered compulsive permiscuous sex maniac, rake, rogue, or wanton libertine often bi or pansexual.
  • How many past lives? There is no counting the number of many past lives living beings have endured in this dismal and abysmal "continued wandering on" that is samsara, the Cycle of Birth and Death. If one were to gather up all the bones from past births in physical form on Earth, the pile would be larger than the highest mountain. The amount of blood shed as beings reborn in dense form only to be beheaded as animals and criminals exceeds the amount of water in the great oceans. The Buddha gives many similes hinting at the incomprehensible number of rebirths already endured.
"Perverts" whose compulsion is to act out with many partners and/or creatures are obsessed with sexual acting out. That obsession may very well not be the result of their own deeds in that life.

For example, they may have been molested, traumatized, or otherwise abused setting them on a perilous trajectory of sexual misconduct, prostitution, disease, child molesting, bestiality, sexual addiction, treachery, drug abuse, and so on.

In ancient India, where the term pandaka originates, "pervert" has been used to refer to varying degrees of "perversion." As time changes, what is considered aberrant or non-normative changes.

There was certainly a time when homosexuality was unthinkable. However, what is neglected in most discussions, is that what is "homosexual" changes. Our modern American definition does not have an equivalent. The Western world does not agree what this term means even now. This country does not agree on what it means from location to location, and our definition changes over time.

While this may be hard for many readers to fathom, because after all we are talking about modern America, others may be sympathetic to the fact that behavior in prison, jail, same sex schools, slumber parties, during prepubescent experimentation, early developmental phases, or drunken episodes follows different rules.

Most Americans probably do not think simple same sex attraction is "perverted." But that is only a recent development. Male homosexuality is often treated as worse or more offensive than equivalent female behavior. Various reasons are given for this, but all of these are social constructs not "natural" categories.

We applaud girl-on-girl kissing; does that mean it is not homosexual (lesbian) or not "perverted." It used to be.

With males, the case is more ludicrous. In prison, in various cities, and in the minds of many Americans, "homosexuality" is not as much about states (behavior) so much as traits (character). So one could engage in gay activities and not consider oneself gay.

For example, the one on top is "straight" and "masculine" and "virile," whereas the bottom (recipient) is "bent" and "effeminate" and "weak." The absurdity -- our hypocrisy -- is that attributions flip depending on the act, in this case going from intercourse to oral sex.

Pandaka is most frequently translated as "eunuch." But eunuch in India, even today, does not mean what eunuch means to European and North American ears.

Basically, an aberrant gender-bending individual -- lesbian, bisexual, gay, or questioning -- is regarded as a "pervert" (pandaka). A pervert may be perverted, by the standards of his or her day. In ancient India and particularly in Biblical times, cross-dressing or transgender behavior was a crime punishable by death.

Transgender identification, malformed or incompletely formed genitalia, hormonal issues, fetishes, sexual addiction (rapacious appetite, masturbation, or compulsive acting out), child molestation, raping (outside of one's family, caste, or social station), or "flaming" behavior might well earn one the socially-constructed label.

The karma behind it, according to Sayalay Susila, seems to be obsessing. If a man wishes to be a female in the future and has the good karma to power that wish, he may become a female. If a man wishes to NOT become a female and he has the bad karma to power it, his very obsession may result in rebirth as a female. Mind is the forerunner. As the mind (thought, consciousness) goes, so goes intention. From intention follows "action" (mental, verbal, or physical karma). The result of karma is resultants and fruits.

Harming others, humiliating others, insulting others, molesting others, cheating, adultery, dividing others -- all of these may become sexual misconduct with tragic consequences as Isidasi found.

Misunderstanding the definition of pandaka leads to the exclusion or condemnation of gays when Buddhism does not mean a medical hermaphrodite, eunuch, or person with a gay impulse all of which stem from karma, whether developed in this life or previous ones.

Any person has the right to develop welcome and profitable karma every chance one gets, and human life is that chance. Indeed, all are welcome in Buddhism.

Pandaka Festivals are annual events in India. It is a time of debauchery, cross dressing, homosexual revelry, alcohol and drug abuse, adultery, sodomy, and all manner of societally-condemned behavior. The event is certainly not limited to the reviled modern pandaka (an widely feared amalgam of pervert, criminal, heartless male prostitute, bully, and panderer).