Theravada Buddhism Versus Engaged Buddhism and Their Beliefs on Homosexuality

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All religions have had to face changing social norms since their early stages, and Buddhism has been no exception to this challenge. Acceptance of homosexuality is just one of the many social issues that has emerged since Buddhism began that has rattled traditional ideas and views amongst its members. Homosexuality itself has been around since the beginning of human existence, but more recent occurrences like the gay rights movement that came about because of the sexual revolution of the 1960’s and the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s have brought the issue to the forefront of the current human rights debate. As a result, changing social norms have caused two popular forms of Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism and Engaged Buddhism, to have different views on homosexuality.
Theravada Buddhism
Theravada means the “Doctrine of Elders.” This sect of Buddhism follows what scholars believe to be the oldest record of the Buddha’s teachings in the Pali Canon, or Tipitaka (Bullitt). Theravada Buddhism includes two main ways of life: that of the monk and of the layperson. As a result of its traditional background, Theravada Buddhism is considered to be relatively conservative (Homosexuality).
For Theravada Buddhism, there are Five Vows that any Buddhist, lay or monastic, is expected to abide by: absence from (1) directly or indirectly killing any conscious being, (2) directly or indirectly stealing, (3) sexual misconduct, (4) false or hateful speech, and (5) consuming any intoxicants (Jones 372). Questions arise about Buddhist beliefs on homosexuality because sexual misconduct is such a broad term. Right and wrong behavior is generally determined after four considerations: the universality principle, the consequences, the utilitarian principle,...

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“Engaged Buddhism.” Religion Facts. Last modified August 02, 2013.

“Homosexuality and Buddhism.” Religion Facts. Last modified March 30, 2013.

Jackson, Peter Anthony. “Thai Buddhist Accounts of Male Homosexuality and AIDS in the 1980s.” The Australian Journal of Anthropology 6, no. 3 (1995): 140-153.

Jones, Richard H. “Theravada Buddhism and Morality.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 47, no. 3 (1979): 371-387.

Numrich, Paul David. “The Problem with Sex According to Buddhism.” Dialog: A Journal of Theology 48, no. 1 (2009): 62-73.

Shaheen, James. “Gay Marriage: What Would Buddha Do?” Huffington Post. Last modified July 13, 2009.

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