Is this an example of homoeroticism in the EBTs? (or Was the Buddha gay in a past life?)

So I am rereading MN (and DN) in preparation for a post about the principle philosophical narrative suttas and I came across MN81 .

Would love to hear from people if we think that Ghaṭīkāra and Jotipāla are lovers, or at least, if they are platonic due to religious praxis, if they nevertheless constitute an example of a “queer” relationship in the EBT’s?

The imagery, of grabbing belts, and undoing belts and wet hair and all that is pretty striking (and hawt).

Would love to here the opinion of LGBT folk on here and if anyone haas seen scholarship on this sutta before, or if anyone can think of any other examples of thia sort of imagery in the early canon.



There is no any example in any Buddhist texts that the Buddha was a gay in a past life.

I have the same opinion as @thomaslaw

The part that I couldn’t understand was the part where the monks came and took the grass off the workshop roof. Is it an allowable act for monks :interrobang:

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Then why did he undo his belt?

It looks to me like he undid his belt because Ghaṭīkāra had just seized him by the belt to try to pull him toward where the Buddha Kassapa was, and, since Jotipāla didn’t want to go visit the Buddha Kassapa, he let loose his belt to get free. And that’s why Ghaṭīkāra then grabbed hold of Jotipāla’s hair instead.


This bit right here doesn’t leave much room for that interpretation, imo:

Then Jotipāla thought, ‘It’s incredible, it’s amazing, how this potter Ghaṭīkāra, though born in a lower caste, should presume to grab me by the hair of my freshly-washed head! This must be no ordinary matter.’ He said to Ghaṭīkāra, ‘You’d even milk it to this extent, dear Ghaṭīkāra?’

But of course, if you prefer to read the sutta as having gay undertones then that’s valid regardless. Straight people read heterosexual romance into things involving men and women all the time, often without explicit reason.


Well later on in the sutta the Buddha Kassap says that Ghatikāra is a non-returner and celibate, and considering he was already a disciple of him and had full confidence that he was a Buddha beforehand, it’s very likely he was at least already an 8 preceptor. Also Jotipāla went forth rather easily, no real reluctance or debate between them.

That said, the only undertones I find potentially gay about the sutta is that two men are so close that they pester each other to do things together, bathe together, etc. You could interpret them as lovers rather than mere friends, but this is really just like @turntables said IMO.



I bet the Buddha has had a gay thought or a hundred more or so at least in His life. After all we’re all trying to picture Him as a human being. It’s okay to be a Gay Buddha. Namaste.

Fun question, I hadn’t seen it like that. It depicts a caring and loving friendship, surely that’s the main thing.

Worth bearing in mind, the ebts tend to think in terms of acts rather than identity. So in the Vinaya it might talk about two men having sex, but doesn’t attach a label to them. Where labels are used they are often orthogonal to modern ones.

It’s still common today that male friendship in Asia is quite tender and affectionate. When I visited sri Lanka, it’s not at all uncommon that a monk will hold my hand as we walk along. The whole thing of men being scared of seeming gay is very unnatural.


Indeed. I recall when in Bali, the 1st stop on my original Asian overland, a small Javanese (muslim) man who invited me to dinner, held my hand (a big Westerner) when crossing the road to visit a night market. He needed an excuse to eat Balinese Sucking Pig (forbidden for Muslims). I first thought it was strange to hold my hand but then remembered the cultural practice (despite being a new tourist). In Asia, whether in Muslim Indonesia or Buddhist Thailand, it is the cultural norm for the same sex to be physically affectionate in public but (historically) culturally taboo for the opposite sex (even husband & wife) to show physical affection in public. :slightly_smiling_face:


It’s easy to project the norms of one’s own culture onto other cultures. Interesting that Western cultures have sexualised handholding between adults, it really doesn’t have much to do with the sexual act. When I was living in India the young women I shared with would hold my hand in the street. Of course I held my kids’ hands as they were growing up in Australia, but once when my daughter had reached or passed my height we were walking hand in hand in the Sydney CBD and a passing driver threw a homophobic taunt at us.


Hand holding, i dont sexualise, belt holding, followed by belt undoing, followed by grabbing of wet hair, well, I guess it’s just me…

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To me, this text passage means as if they were choosing between sex and listening to the Dhamma and ultimately chose to listen to the Dhamma.

The Buddha would have experienced most if not all variations of sexuality, gender identity, etc. having wandered samsara before awakening. Same for all of us :slight_smile: