Dear Still Water Friends,
This Thursday evening, after our meditation, we will recite the Five Mindfulness Trainings and focus our attention and Dharma sharing on the newly updated Third Mindfulness Training, on True Love (changes are in bold):
Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without mutual consent, true love, and a deep, long-term commitment. I resolve to find spiritual support for the integrity of my relationship from family members, friends, and sangha with whom there is support and trust. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are interrelated, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and to cultivating the four basic elements of true love – loving kindness, compassion, joy, and inclusiveness – for the greater happiness of myself and others. Recognizing the diversity of human experience, I am committed not to discriminate against any form of gender identity or sexual orientation. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.
The revision came about in response to a formal request made in 2021 by a group of international lay practitioners who wanted the third training to be more inclusive of members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Appreciating the spirit and intent of the request, a monastic Third Mindfulness Training Revision Committee was created which developed specific proposals and presented them to the International Plum Village Dharma Teachers Council for review and approval. I perceived that coming to agreement in a large, geographically dispersed, and culturally diverse community was not entirely smooth or easy. The announcement noted:
Not all inputs and suggestions could be incorporated, and consensus was reached through expressed support and silent non-objection. (Italics in the original)
However, there was also in the announcement from the monastic community, a certain joy that they had managed to move ahead:
We recognize that these and future revisions are never perfect. Thay has encouraged us to be open to adapt in order to respond to evolving cultural sensitivities and needs. Thanks to this spirit, our community has the conditions to adapt and grow. We are especially inspired by the younger generations who lead the way towards a more open, inclusive awareness that is more and more supportive of marginalized and vulnerable members of our community. This is a happy moment!
The revision included three significant changes. In the previous version the affirmation was:
I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends.
This wording was problematic for many in the LGBTQIA+ community. In some cases there was lack of trust or outright hostility in the family of origin, in the workplace, or even among friends that inhibited making certain committed loving relationships publicly known. In countries where non-heterosexual relationships are prohibited by law and severely punished, personal safety often requires limiting knowledge of the relationship to a trusted few. The wording of the new training is:
I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without mutual consent, true love, and a deep, long-term commitment. I resolve to find spiritual support for the integrity of my relationship from family members, friends, and sangha with whom there is support and trust.
The second change added the phrase “mutual consent” to the above new affirmation. At first I wondered why one even had to say that. If it was “true love” of course there would be “mutual consent.” Then I was reminded of a conversation I had with Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) years ago about the list of toxic activities included in the Fifth Mindfulness Training:
I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations.
I maintained that the trainings were getting too specific. In the context of the Fifth Training, practitioners could recognize for themselves what was healthy and what was not. Thay smiled at me and said, “No. We need to be specific. People are suffering from these toxins.”
For me, the third change added a new dimension and a new practice to the training:
Recognizing the diversity of human experience, I am committed not to discriminate against any form of gender identity or sexual orientation.
The training now encourages greater openness and tolerance, especially in those who have grown accustomed to a worldview in which heterosexuality is promoted as the normal or preferred sexual orientation. Non-discrimination leads us to see that true love is true love, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. [GLAAD (an LGBT advocacy group) defines gender identity as “your own, internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or as someone outside of that gender binary),” and sexual orientation as describing “a person’s enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person (for example: straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual).”]
As Thay emphasizes in Interbeing, letting go of narrow-mindedness is a liberating practice:
Openness and tolerance are not merely ways to deal with people in daily life; they are truly gateways for the realization of the Way. According to Buddhism, if we do not continue to expand the boundaries of our understanding, we will be imprisoned by our views and unable to realize the Way.
You are invited to join us this Thursday evening. We will begin our Dharma sharing with the question: Is there something in the the Third Training, especially in the revisions, that particularly touched you, inspired you, or motivated you to live and practice in a new way?
Updated versions of the Five Mindfulness Trainings and our Five Mindfulness Trainings Recitation Ceremony are now available on our website.
On Saturday, January 7, 2023, 9:00 am – noon (Eastern time), the Still Water Mindfulness Practice Center will join with the Mindfulness Practice Center of Fairfax to offer a Five Mindfulness Trainings Transmission Ceremony. Practitioners who are interested in receiving the Five Mindfulness Trainings during the transmission ceremony are invited to participate in five preparatory classes, each exploring one of the Five Mindfulness Trainings. More information is on the Still Water website.