Dharmaguptaka Vinaya and ordination of gay people

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Nice, thanks. If the suttas present them as such, that would seem to be a good indication that they may indeed be. Also do we have a sense of whether they are in the earliest Buddhist texts, or only appear in some later layer?

To me they seem entirely absurd and alien to the Buddha’s teachings according to every sense I have gained about the Buddha through studying the EBTs.

Yes well I think that we can surely conclude that the monastic institution does not successfully eradicate lust! I would much rather scandals of monks having gay sex with each other, than of monastic teachers having sex with their students and nuns, which is what we have to deal with today.

I think some injection of wisdom from the Western fields of psychotherapy might be the suitable remedy for a lot of these issues, and perhaps some institutional adjustments in accordance with that.

Is there any specific effort in this going on? I would think this should be a wonderful project for academics to get together on, and then have some active side of the project in petitioning homophobic monasteries/nunneries all around the world to renounce their wrong views. In fact, are there any traditional protocols for a challenge? Such as formal debate or something liek that? What is the protocol for challenging views or false doctrines and practices? I think in Tibet at least there has been a tradition of resolving doctrinal issues by public debate I think. And Nalanda seems to have been famous for debate back in India.


Wow that sounds interesting! So is jhāna the main practice there? And do they offer jhāna retreats? Couldn’t notice anything about that browsing their site.


There is a monk called Shine Waradhammo in Thailand who tries to open up things there. But he does not have a website.
There is some debate also on the Woody Talkshow: YouTube
Then there are monasteries who just accept it as normal that LGBTIQ+ can ordain. I don’t think there is anything about it that would prevent that in the Early Buddhist texts.


Perhaps people can spread the word and get more debate going on this thread if there’s no other place where people can easily come together to add more findings and arguments, and also access what arguments get accumulated here.

Maybe also if someone knows that monk, could send him the findings that come to light here, to help him build his case too.


I know that monk :slight_smile:


Not all gay men are like this, but speaking personally, I have never experienced even a single lustful thought toward women. I would not dare to ask for it, but I would find practice among an all-female sangha to be an exquisite liberation. I can only envy the purely heterosexual folks out there who have the option. I see the life that they can have, and I know it can’t possibly be mine in this life.


I believe the consensus among those committed to this sort of approach to the Canon is that the 32 marks are a late addition (albeit one that found its way into four of the five Nikāyas)

I don’t doubt that this view will meet with a favourable reception from most members of this forum. :grinning:

For me, however, it seems to go too far. The thirty-two marks material, far from being alien to everything predicated of the Buddha elsewhere in the EBTs seems consonant with quite a number of things; e.g., the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta’s account of the Buddha’s alteration of appearance when he enters the eight kinds of assembly.


I’m more inclined to think it’s a psychically created body as he shows it psychically.


I’m not familiar with that one, could you tell the details?

I feel that it’s quite clear that the Buddha was not significantly different in appearance than his monks. From an essay I wrote:

The early discourses present the Buddha, even after his enlightenment, as a human being not unlike many of his disciples. Physically he looked much like the monks who ordained under him. Like them, he shaved off his hair when he left his family 31 , and remained shaven-headed as we can tell since he is referred to as having a shaven head 32 in various parts of the canon through his career. 33 His ordinary appearance is nicely illustrated by the following story:

There was a renunciate named Pukkusāti who stayed the night in a potter’s shed. Though a follower of the Buddha’s teachings, he had never met the Buddha. The Buddha happened to stop by at the same house asking for a place to stay the night, and so they shared the shed and meditated together through the night. Realising he did not recognise him, the Buddha asked, "Have you ever seen that Blessed One before? On seeing him, would you recognize him?” Pukkusāti replied, “No, my friend, I have never seen the Blessed One before, nor on seeing him would I recognize him.” 34

Similarly when King Ajātasattu first visited the Buddha, he could not distinguish him from the gathering of monks in Jivaka’s mango grove, and had to have him pointed out. 35


  • 31 Maha-Saccaka Sutta at MN i 237
  • 32 By the term ‘muṇḍaka’
  • 33 E.g. by various brahmin, in Vasala Sutta at Sn 21; Ambaṭṭha Sutta at DN i 90; Sundarika Sutta at SN i 167
  • 34 Dhātuvibhaṅga at MN iii 237; parallels in Tibetan and Chinese at T 511 and MĀ 31
  • 35 Samaññaphala Sutta at DN i 47

And the two sets of marks that he’s meant to have would make him look entirely peculiar. That’s why I cannot imagine the Buddha claiming that he looked so peculiar as these fanciful lists would claim.


Indeed. I don’t think that a literal reading of the 32 marks is profitable for us in the present day… and it may never have been profitable to anyone. It’s possibly a set of entirely symbolic attributes, with each one referring to some “higher” spiritual or moral trait. Only the language of this symbolism has mostly been lost.

Yet the meanings of a few of these symbols are still recognizable as such: even today, we don’t hesitate to declare that someone carries himself like a lion, or that his posture is straight and erect. These are physical traits, but they also have moral connotations to them.

I think it’s likely that the rest of them were at one time read profitably, and in similarly symbolic ways, but these ways have been lost to us.


This is the version in the Parisā Sutta, AN 8:69


“Bhikkhus, there are these eight assemblies. What eight? An assembly of khattiyas, an assembly of brahmins, an assembly of householders, an assembly of ascetics, an assembly of the devas [ruled by] the four great kings, an assembly of the Tāvatiṃsa devas, an assembly of Māra, an assembly of Brahmā.

“Now I recall, bhikkhus, approaching an assembly consisting of many hundreds of khattiyas. I previously sat there, conversed, and held discussions. I appeared just like them, and my voice became like their voice. I instructed, encouraged, inspired, and gladdened them with a Dhamma talk, and while I was speaking they did not recognize me but thought: ‘Who is it that is speaking, a deva or a human being?’ Having instructed, encouraged, inspired, and gladdened them with a Dhamma talk, I disappeared, and when I had disappeared they did not recognize me but thought: ‘Who was it that has disappeared, a deva or a human being?’

“Then I recall, bhikkhus, approaching an assembly consisting of many hundreds of brahmins … an assembly consisting of many hundreds of householders … an assembly consisting of many hundreds of ascetics … an assembly consisting of many hundreds of the devas [ruled by] the four great kings … an assembly consisting of many hundreds of the Tāvatiṃsa devas … an assembly consisting of many hundreds under Māra … an assembly consisting of many hundreds under Brahmā. I previously sat there, conversed, and held discussions. I appeared just like them, and my voice became like their voice. I instructed, encouraged, inspired, and gladdened them with a Dhamma talk, and while I was speaking they did not recognize me but thought: ‘Who is it that is speaking, a deva or a human being?’ Having instructed, encouraged, inspired, and gladdened them with a Dhamma talk, I disappeared, and when I had disappeared they did not recognize me but thought: ‘Who was it that has disappeared, a deva or a human being?’

“These, bhikkhus, are the eight assemblies.”

Bhikkhu Bodhi’s endnote:

This passage, which shows the Buddha as a master of bodily transformations, seems to have proto-Mahāyānistic features. Mp comments: “Whether the others are white, black, or brown, the Teacher is golden-colored. But this is stated with reference to shape. And the shape alone is perceived by them. It is not the case that the Blessed One becomes like a foreigner or like one wearing pearl earrings; he sits there in the form of a Buddha. But they see him as having the same shape as themselves. Some speak with a broken voice, some with a cackling voice, some with the voice of a crow, but the Teacher always has the voice of Brahmā. This is stated with reference to the language. For if the Teacher is sitting in a king’s seat, they think, ‘The king speaks sweetly today.’ When the Blessed One departs after speaking, and they see the [real] king arrive, they wonder: ‘Who was that?’… Even though they investigate, they do not know. Then why does the Buddha teach the Dhamma to them if they do not know? To plant impressions (vāsanatthāya). For when the Dhamma is heard even in such a way, it becomes a condition for the future. Thus he teaches out of consideration for the future.”


The points you then list have been raised by many writers before — by the Indian Buddhist pandits as an interpretive problem to be solved, and by modern writers as a justification for simply dismissing the doctrine of the mahāpurisalakkhaṇas.

It seems to me that your points would amount to an objection only if the suttas were claiming that the mahāpurisa appearance is how a Buddha or a Cakkavattīrājā is perceived by all people all of the time; but they don’t claim this.


The idea that the Buddha appeared normal to lesser people and only highly attained people could see his real form of webbed hands and feet, a sheathed penis, a fleshy lump on his hear, long hair, and so on - this idea is not appealing to me. It seems to be the same reasoning and type of story as Christians use to defend their irrational doctrines, and even for the existence of the Spagetti Monster, in whom I think I have more faith.

However I have come across Western Buddhists with some level of intellignce who actually do believe that their masters and other masters look like that, but we just can’t see it because we are not high enough.

The same reasoning has been given for why we can see that the world is not flat and there’s no central Mount Meru - all because we are blinded by ignorance.

I may as well go the whole hog and believe that reciting the title of an inauthentic book will magically make me go to heaven where I’ll finally be able to acheive enlightenment easily!


Not at all, in fact it is the most likely reading of the evidence. Whether or not we believe the 32 marks are real, the important fact is they were taken to be real by the Buddhist tradition.


If you will forgive a point-counter-point, bhante, is it the most likely? I say this only because of the way the infertile and unmanned are treated in vinaya literature. Surely the 32 marks indicate something “unusual” about the genitals, but why would an intersexed or reproductively-challenged or Buddha produce the vinaya he did?


This depends on the way we relate to and, understand sexuality. Whatever the orientation the issue is not really about the fact that males and females exist in the world and, we find them interesting due to our sexuality.

“Where would there be leather enough to cover the entire world? With just the leather of my sandals, it is as if the whole world were covered. Likewise, I am unable to restrain external phenomena, but I shall restrain my own mind. What need is there to restrain anything else?” - Shantideva

To reverse the logic of your reasoning, if we lived in a straight-oriented monastery and, we had a gay orientation, our challenges may be greater and, therefore, if we meet the challenge and transcend craving, the results will be profound.

All the hetero-types may still be struggling with their natural urges - due to the absence of challenging circumstances that would help them to ‘clearly’ see the danger - while the gay practitioner has astonishing, liberating break-throughs.


I can see that there is a tension between how intersex people are treated in Vinaya and the idea that the Buddha was intersex. But we can’t read consistency into the texts. Reading the description of the Buddha’s privates, the textual reading seems strong that he was described in a way that appears to be intersex. Whether he was in fact intersex is a separate question, and what relation, if any, that has to the Vinaya is a further question.

The facts remain: the Buddha’s genitals are quite definitely described as being not normal, and the nature of that description points to something that we today would identify as intersex.


I hope you do not mind continuing this line of inquiry, bhante. I have considered this myself for a while, and I have come to wonder what the functional difference might be between the manhood of the 32 marks and the smaller, tinier, “passionless” penes of the Greeks, the tinier penis they preferred to put on statuary, etc., this smaller penis being a symbol of “tamed” manhood, or a reluctance to indulge in lower desires, the larger penis being associated with Persians (i.e. “barbarians in general” in an ancient Greek context), hot temperament, and willingness to indulge in sexual leisure activities.

The Buddha could have also had what we would now call a “micropenis,” by the description given, in my opinion at least that is another possibility.


Is this only in the context of this 32 list? If not, then is it possible that other mentions of his genitals were added later, to try to account for the strange penis in the 32 mark myth?

Also if sex is seen as bad by the Sangha, that might have an influence on later speculation of the founder’s genitals. Perhaps de-sexualizing him somehow to make him seem better?

Also he is supposed to have had a kid. So that would indicate something relatively normal going on.


He may have had a standard-issue penis before the great renunciation and something biological/hormonal could have happened later on - slowly or quickly?

Hens can turn into rooster-types in a chicken-sangha if there are no males.

Could celibate practice and/or austerities lead to changes in genitalia? Particularly, any male practitioner with AIS - see below.

Anything that causes major hormonal changes including, diet and disease, can lead to changes in genitalia.

Sex change:

"Several medical conditions can result in an apparent sex change in humans, where the appearance at birth is somewhat, mostly, or completely of one sex, but changes over the course of a lifetime to being somewhat, mostly or completely of the other sex…

Genetic females: (with two X chromosomes) with [congenital adrenal hyperplasia] lack an enzyme needed by the adrenal gland to make the hormones [cortisol]. Without these hormones, the body produces more (androgen)…

Genetic males (with one X and one Y chromosome) with androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) are resistant to androgens. As a result, the person has (some) or all of the physical characteristics of a female, despite having the genetic makeup of a male. The degree of sexual ambiguity (varies widely) in persons with incomplete AIS…" - Wiki