Creative Responsibility

Creative Responsibility

Discussion date: Thu, Mar 08, 2007 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

This Thursday evening, after our sitting meditation, we will recite together the five mindfulness trainings and focus our discussion on the third trainings, which begins:

Aware of the suffering caused byunmindful sexual behavior, I am committed to cultivating sexual

As I reflect on this trainings, I am aware of how my attitudes haveevolved over the decades. When I was young, “sexualresponsibility” seemed to be another way of saying“don’t have fun.” I saw sexual responsibility, or anyother type of responsibility, as an effort by authority figures tocontrol me, to force me into a soul-destroying, circumscribed,fearful life. Freedom, liberation, meant breaking loose from mentalstraight-jackets, freeing oneself from structures of domination. Istill believe, there was (and is) some truth in this perspective.“Proper behavior” can be used as a self-serving mechanismof control by those in power.

But I believe these is another truth, as well. Many of us who were”anti-responsibility” in our youth years later began talking abouttreating the planet with responsibility and respect. We encouragedothers to study what the planet needed, and to learn ways to nourishand heal the planet, rather than to insult it and harm it. Weunderstood that a healthy planet could create the conditions for deepjoy and happiness, and a sick planet could create much suffering.

I believe it is this second type of responsibility that the thirdmindfulness training is pointing us toward, a responsbility that isself-directed and creative, rather than imposed and reactive.

We will begin our discussion this Thursday with the question of whatsexual responsibility and respect means to us, and whetherresponsibility and respect is incompatible with fun?

You are invited to join us. A related reading from Thay is below.

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher


Thich Nhat Hanh, from  For a Future to Be Possible:

“Responsibility” is the key word in the Third Precept. Ina community of practice, if there is no sexual misconduct, if thecommunity practices this precept well, there will be stability andpeace. This precept should be practiced by everyone. You respect,support, and protect each other as Dharma brothers and sisters. If youdon’t practice this precept, you may become irresponsible and createtrouble in the community and in the community at large. We have allseen this. If a teacher cannot refrain from sleeping with one of his orher students, he or she will destroy everything, possibly for severalgenerations. We need mindfulness in order to have that sense ofresponsibility. We refrain from sexual misconduct because we areresponsible for the well-being of so many people. If we areirresponsible, we can destroy everything. By practicing this precept,we keep the Sangha beautiful.

In sexual relationships, people can get wounded. Practicing thisprecept is to prevent ourselves and others from being wounded. Often wethink it is the woman who receives the wounds, but men also get deeplywounded. We have to be very careful, especially in short-termcommitments. The practice of the Third Precept is a very strong way ofrestoring stability and  peace in ourselves, our family, and oursociety. We should take time to discuss problems relating to thepractice of this precept, like loneliness, advertising, even the sexindustry.

The feeling of loneliness is universal in our society. There is nocommunication between ourselves and other people, even in the family,and our feeling of loneliness pushes us into having sexualrelationships. We believe in a naive way that having a sexualrelationship will make us feel less lonely, but it isn’t true. Whenthere is not enough communication with another person on the level ofthe heart and spirit, a sexual relationship will only widen the gap anddestroy us both. Our relationship will be stormy, and we will make eachother suffer. The belief that having a sexual relationship will help usfeel less lonely is a kind of superstition. We should not be fooled byit. In fact, we will feel more lonely afterwards.

The union of the two bodies can only be positive when there isunderstanding and communion on the level of the heart and the spirit.Even between husband and wife, if the communion on the level of heartand spirit does not exist, the coming together of the two bodies willonly separate you further.

Discussion Date: Thu, Mar 08, 2007


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