About Renunciation

I recently read an article about renunciation (Renunciation is the engine for most of Buddhism | Vividness) and I was wondering if what it claims are true

For example, it says:

  • Renunciation means giving up all sensory enjoyments and ending all non-religious connections and responsibilities.

  • For Sutrayana, there is no such thing as a sensible, safe, or acceptable quantity or type of sensory pleasure. All sensory pleasure results in craving, and is incompatible with the path.

  • To enjoy a bright blue sky, the sound of a gurgling brook, the flavor of tea or scent of wet leaves, the sensation of bare feet on carpet—however slight such pleasures may seem, these are hindrances that must be destroyed.

  • The point is that sex is inherently bad, because it causes desire for more sex, even if you initially do it for a reason other than desire.

It also says to make any progress a lay person must give up sex, singing, and dancing.

Are these things true?


Welcome to the forum. To begin to answer your questions from a Theravada perspective first that of the Vividness site should be understood in order to properly frame them:

" On this site, I write about the recent history, fluid present, and possible futures of Buddhism.

I suggest that a window has opened for innovative Buddhisms that can address new cultural, social, and personal problems. The past couple of decades have been dominated by a “Consensus Buddhism,” whose time has passed. I am cheerleading for emerging alternatives.

Currently I am concentrating on the possibility of reinventing Buddhist tantra for the 21st century global culture."—Vividness

The thrust of the questions is to mount an argument for tantra, which is a form of mainly Tibetan Buddhism. If a practitioner makes a choice to follow that, then they should investigate that form. Tantra exists currently in several Buddhist traditions. Tantra - Wikipedia

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Welcome to the forum!

lots of provocative statements in your dot points.

Renunciation may mean this but it is certainly not required to make great progress in the Buddhism described in the early Buddhist texts, there are plenty of lay followers, even ones who are sexually active, that upon dying are described as destined to be reborn in a heavenly realm and achieve full awakening from there.

This is false on multiple levels, but most importantly in the “all sensory pleasure” part. This is simply not true of the early Buddhist texts, for when a person has ended the defilements then pleasures do not result in craving, and pains do not result in aversion and neutral feelings do not result in confusion and ignorance.

Secondly, though I don’t wish to kick of the old jhana wars again here, the meditative states that the early texts describe are described as blissful, pleasurable, and implied at least to be better than sex (not just btter than sex but better than sex with a kingdom’s worth of harem people at your disposal)

This is rubbish, the early texts are full of poetic descriptions of the loveliness of wilderness, and the hindrances are a quite specific set of mental obstacles having almost nothing to do with gurgling brooks etc.

Apart from calling it a “village practice” and insisting that renunciates give it up, the early texts waste surprisingly little time on worrying about sex, focusing instead on the aformentioned “better than sex” jhanas. There is certainly no suggestion that sex, or anything else for that matter, is “inherently” bad, this being precisely the essentialism that would make escape from samsara impossible if it where true.

Yet again this appears to be taking a rule for monks and using it to imply that progress for anyone but monks is said to be impossible in the early texts, this is simply false, lay followers are often described as making great progress, being able to achieve jhana, being destined for heavenly realms etc/

The article you qoute from appears to be creating a “straw man” i.e a false representation of mainstream Buddhism, in order to appeal by way of a false comparison to their own, “new and improved” Buddhism.

Honestly I would be quite wary of anyone that used lies and deception about the earnest beliefs of millions of people in order to promote acceptance of their own ideas. Seems like an action in bad faith to me.



The Teachings refer to “sensual” rather than “sensory” pleasures because the goal of the Path is to cultivate “non-sensual” pleasure (which is also “sensory”).

But, yes, what you quoted is the Noble Path for monks & nuns and other renunciates. It is not the path for the average layperson.

Again, it is called “sensual” pleasure rather than sensory pleasure.

Since the Suttas have various teachings for monks/nuns and laypeople, there is no such thing as a single teaching called “Sutrayana”.

The above is an extreme view and gives the impression of a megalomania seeking to intellectually bully others.

In reality, the sensual pleasures listed above are very subtle & cannot be regarded as “hindrances” because they don’t hinder the development of the Path. It is only when the Path is very highly developed that such delights will naturally fade away as they are consumed by a higher more peaceful pleasure.

But for an individual attempting to enter the Noble Path, generally it is more coarse sensual pleasures they must renounce, particularly sex.

The Noble Path of the renunciate is certainly one of celibacy. However, this Path is not for everyone and only for a small minority of people.

A layperson is a “layperson” primarily because they have not given up sexual &/or filial attachments &/or obligations. To say a “layperson” must give up sex to make “progress” sounds like an oxymoron. :slightly_smiling_face:


Thank you for this article. I also believe that it is impossible to achieve development without abandoning sensuality. The contradictions in the suttas indicate that one should not treat everyone the same as an authority. Logic demands it. I reject the suttas that say that drunks and those who indulge in sex can attain nibbana.

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