as kalyana mitrata ('spiritual friendship')
Below is a fuller
extract from Subhuti’s paper to ‘The Conference on the Ordination Process
for Men’, published in the Order magazine Shabda in September 1986, in
which Subhuti states: 'Sexual interest on the part of a male Order member
for a male mitra [novice] can create a connection which may allow kalyana
mitrata [spiritual friendship] to develop.'
This was cited in
The FWBO Files at note
52, and has been highlighted in bold in the text below for
ease of reference.
[extract starts mid-page 124 of Shabda Sept. 1986]
The Order consists
essentially in the quality of communication known as kalyana mitrata.
Though his communication with an order member a mitra is gradually led
to share in that communication. At that point he is ready to be ordained.
The need is clear
and the theory well known. Mitras have, by virtue of becoming mitras
and, more especially, by asking far ordination, made it clear that they
want contact with order members and want kalyana mitrata. There are
plenty of them who are 'open and receptive'. There are plenty of order
members. So why is there such a poverty of close personal communication
between Order members and mitras?
There are two main
reasons why order members do riot give as much attention to Mitras as
they need: they are too busy and they are not sufficiently interested
to do so. I am not trying to make moral judgements here but to recognise
the plain facts of the situation. I by no means exclude myself from
the deficiencies I am going to discuss.
Many of the most
capable and inspiring order members are tied up with organisational
work, and many others too have very busy schedules. Although this need
not, and does not always, preclude such Order members from taking time
for mitras, it is a cause for concern that so few order members are
in a position to do more than snatch time to spend with mitras.
not however be used as an excuse, for people usually find time to do
what they want to do. A major factor must be that few order members
are really motivated to spend a great deal of time with mitras. This
is, I think, a basic fact of life which we must look at in some depth
and decide how best to tackle. We must first ask what does motivate
order members to spend time with mitras? There are three basic factors:
genuine sympathy, personal interest, and duty.
- or metta and karuna - is of course what one would hope was the primary
motivation behind an order member's friendships with mitras. Although
there is probably usually some element of this, or at least the possibility
of some element of this, in most of our cases there is simply not enough
to act as a primary motivating factor. Few of us are Bodhisattvas who
will be impelled to go out to people simply because we feel their need
in a direct, specific and personal way.
Usually we are
motivated in our relationships by personal interest: there is
something in it for us. Whatever that personal interest might be it
can make a strong connection between the order member and the mitra
which gives the possibility of kalyana mitrata arising. An order member
living and working on his own, for instance, might feel the need of
friendship himself and therefore be 'forced' into cultivating a mitra.
Or else an order member might share an interest with a mitra - whether
in playing squash or singing folk songs. Again the fact that a mitra
is working in a project for which an order member is responsible might
necessitate that he is well looked after - otherwise the project will
founder. Perhaps the strongest factor which might bind an order member
to a mitra is sex. It does seem that many of the most successful
Kalyana Mitras have an erotic interest in their mitras. It might
be fruitful to look further at this point.
It has been observed
that many order members who do not have enough time to spend with mitras
do find time to spend with girlfriends - spending several nights a week
away from their communities and even going away on holidays with them.
Clearly here the sexual interest is enough to motivate an order member
to spend time with another person. The likelihood is however that there
is not much kalyana mitrata present in such relationships. No doubt
in some cases there may be but it is observably rare. The element of
self-interest is usually too strong as can be seen from the very intense
jealousies and bad feeling that so often arises in this connection.
The element of self-interest neutralises the element of idealism.
It seems that,
within the context of the spiritual community at least (I am told
that 'gay' circles are fraught with jealousies!), sexual interest
on the part of a male order member for a male mitra can create a connection
which may allow kalyana mitrata to develop. Some, of course, are predisposed
to this attraction, others have deliberately chosen to change their
sexual preferences in order to use sex as a medium of kalyana mitrata
- and to stay clear of the dangers of male-female relationships without
giving up sex. Many people do not feel able to do this - whether as
a result of taboo or reluctance to give up a conditioned predisposition.
This means that a great deal of the Order's combined emotional energy
goes into male-female relationships which are probably not particularly
spiritually productive. If one is sexually satisfied and is getting
affection and personal attention from one's girlfriend one will be less
likely to seek strong emotional connections with men mitras. Besides,
what time one does have will be taken up with her!
The third factor
which motivates order members is duty; After all Bhante is constantly
urging us to spend time with mitras - two hours a day, for instance!
Most of us have, at least, a theoretical appreciation of the needs of
mitras and are willing to make some effort even if we do not have a
very strong personal motivation. In certain situations, on retreats
and in Tuscany, Order members are quite highly organised to spend time
with Mitras. They will be asigned to keep contact with one or two of
them and will regularly report in on their progress. There is of course
then leisure to do it - and no female alternatives! But many Order members
find this a very enjoyable and rewarding activity - at least for the
duration of the retreat.
steps then can we take to improve the contact of order members with
Mitras? A number of proposals suggest themselves:
1. Clearly the greatest
need is for order members to intensify their spiritual practice so that
they are filled with the genuine altruism which will lead them to spontaneously
want to befriend mitras. The situation of mitras in our movement is
an objective reflection of our own individual stage of development and
we cannot allow ourselves to rest until they are properly cared for.
2. Chapters should
take up this issue and work intensively on it. Perhaps each Order member
could be asked to report to his fellows honestly about his own feelings
and motivations in this respect. No doubt the issue of sex could also
be discussed. It might even be profitable to have reports sent to Bhante
so that he has a clearer idea of the general situation.
3. The ordination
process needs to be tied in more closely with the Mitra Convenors' system
and with the chapters. I would suggest that either the General Mitra
Convenor becomes more directly responsible for the 'Tuscany' system
or that the 'Tuscany' leader attends the Mitra convenors' meeting. The
Mitra Convenors' meeting should be responsible for the Tuscany process
otherwise there are two systems (plus the chapters system) which are
not really integrated. A system could be evolved, through the Mitra
Convenors, whereby each chapter is more directly responsible for preparing
the mitras for ordination. It does seem that a system with regular reporting-in
etc. helps order members to overcome their lack of immediate motivation.
The General Mitra Convenor/'Tuscany' leader could visit chapters regularly
to stir them up and to help them to carry out this responsibility What
chapters would mainly have to do would be to make sure that each ordination
candidate was in regular contact with one or more Order member and that
the relationship was progressing well. … etc.
extract ends at bottom of page 126 •
FWBO attempts to deny promoting homosexuality as a medium of spiritual
‘The Conference on
the Ordination Process for Men’ was held at Padmaloka on 9th - 10th July
1986. The purpose of the conference was to discuss how to make the ordination
process more efficient and effective. Devamitra, Padmaraja, Vessantara,
Kamalashila and Vajraketu attended the conference, while Subhuti and Suvajra
presented their papers in absentia.
All seven papers
were published in the Order magazine Shabda in September 1986, together
with a list of 37 proposals and recommendations arrived at as a result
of the discussions between the seven order members participating in the
The FWBO claim in
their Response to the FWBO Files that:
'The Files makes
much of Subhuti's statement in Shabda that: 'Sexual interest on the
part of a male Order member for a male mitra [novice] can create a connection
which may allow kalyana mitrata [spiritual friendship] to develop. '
(note 146 in Response)
'As the Files acknowledges,
this quote (p.23) comes from an internal discussion paper presented
in 1986 which did not, in fact, advocate the combination of sex and
kalyana mitrata, but expressed the idea in the interests of considering
it. However the Files fails to mention that the conclusion of this discussion
was that this practice is not a good idea and is best avoided. While
in some cases it seemed that sex could help friendship, in other cases
it clearly led to confusion - and even harm.'
It is true that in
his paper Subhuti does not actively advocate the combination of sex and
kalyana mitrata, but merely reports his observation that many of the most
successful kalyana mitras combine sex and kalyana mitra, and that sexual
interest is one of the reasons that male order members may have for spending
time with male mitras. He does not discuss whether this combination of
sex and kalyana mitrata is skillful or unskillful, or whether it should
be encouraged or discouraged.
In fact, there appears
to be no record anywhere in the seven conference papers or in the final
list of 37 proposals and recommendations, of any discussion about the
appropriateness or otherwise of the practice of combining sex and kalyana
mitra, or any suggestion or conclusion that such a practice might not
be a good idea or be best avoided. All the discussions relate to how to
improve the ordination process, how to encourage order members to spend
more time with mitras, etc.
So the statement in
the FWBO's Response that the Files failed 'to mention that the conclusion
of this discussion was that this practice is not a good idea and is best
avoided.', is either disingenuous or downright dishonest, because there
appears to be no record of any such conclusion having been arrived at
by the conference participants. The FWBO does not seem able to provide
any cites or evidence for such a conclusion.
Indeed, the evidence
provided elsewhere on this site, particularly:
Shabda short extracts
Shabda selection 1
Shabda selection 2
Shabda Article March 2003
suggests that the practice of combining homosexuality and kalyana mitrata
has been quite widespread within the FWBO for several decades, and continues
to be advocated by a significant number of order members.
Of course, promoting homosexuality, or any other form of sexuality, as
a medium of spiritual friendship between teacher and student, is against
common morality, and certainly contrary to Buddhist teaching.
For example, Rev. Daishin Morgan, of Throssel Hole Priory in Northumberland,
speaking on BBC East's 'Going for Refuge' TV programme (part of the 'Matter
of Fact' series), broadcast on 12 Nov 1992, made the following comment
on Subhuti's statement in Shabda:
'To me this is totally contrary to the Buddhist precepts, its totally
contrary to the Buddhist scriptures, and its absolutely contrary to
any sort of good practice. It to me is a form of manipulation.'