23 Aug 2011

Buddhists share their thoughts about homosexuality at forum in Kuala Lumpur

Venerable Miao Jan, the coordinator of Prajna Meditation Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor: Gay people should face their own sexual orientation honestly and openly, come out bravely and not live in the closet.

The Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia (YBAM) and Buddhist Research Society of Malaysia (BRSM) held a seminar titled "Homosexuality: The Controversy in the Midst of Morality and Social Value" on Aug 19 in Kuala Lumpur.

Established in 1970, the Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia (YBAM) coordinates 270 member organisations through 13 State Liaison Committees across Malaysia.

The Sin Chew Daily on August 19 reported that about 200 people attended the open forum which had three panelists: Venerable Miao Jan, the coordinator of Prajna Meditation Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor; Datuk Ang Choo Hong, the president of the Buddhist Research Society of Malaysia; and Yap Hock Heng, a registered and licensed counsellor. The forum was emceed by YBAM secretary general See Chan Wing.

The following is a translation (by Fridae member Felix Liew) of a report published by Chinese language Sin Chew Daily on August 20:

The news of the traditional Chinese wedding of Malaysia’s first lesbian couple and the upcoming same-sex marriage of Rev. Ouyang Wen Feng to be celebrated in Malaysia has caused a stir in Malaysian society, drawing criticisms particularly from Christian groups. However, the coordinator of Prajna Meditation Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, the Venerable Miao Jan, encouraged gay people to face their own sexual orientation honestly and openly, urging them to come out bravely and not live in the closet [literally dark corners]. 

Ven. Miao Jan pointed out that she was not promoting the gay culture. But in her opinion, if gay people did not live honestly with their sexuality, they would fall in love with the wrong person someday, which would lead to pain not only for themselves, but also for their loved one(s). 

“Let gay people talk about their love life. We could only respect them and learn how to get along with them.” “I have a lot of gay friends too. Don’t treat them as though they are horrible people. They are also fun to be with and they are such lovable people. Besides, how does this present a problem to non-gay people?” 

When asked whether gay people adopting children would create social problem, she did not answer the question squarely, but turned the question around and asked: “How much happiness can straight families today guarantee their children? The divorce rate is high these days, and this should give us room for thought."

Datuk Ang Choo Hong said he treats gay people as normal. Gay people have long existed since the time of Buddha. He said if people could not bless Rev. Ouyang’s marriage, then they should keep quiet.

Yap Hock Heng was more concerned with the attitude that people have towards a gay person. Are they friendly? Are they willing to be in a gay person’s company? Are they willing to listen to their story and guide them? 

He said that the fact that the media reported heavily on same-sex marriage would not encourage the gay culture [turn more people gay]. Rather, it would cause people who are already gay to come out of the closet.

The Chinese language Nanyang Daily report published a report on August 20. The following is a translation of the report by Fridae’s Chinese editor:

Ven. Miao Jan blesses Oyoung Wenfeng; we need not fear our homosexual friends

Ven. Miao Jan (Coordinator of Persatuan Meditasi Prajna KL and Selangor) says she has several homosexual friends around her and she does not regard them as fearsome; afterall, what has that got to do with the non-homosexuals?

With regards to Oyoung's marriage, she pointed out that so long as he abides by the law, it is fine. It does not matter whether non-homosexuals with be happy or unhappy about it. She says as long as he will carry the responsibility of a marriage, his marital affairs is his own business; we do not have a say. 

She feels that many people in society create too many assumptions about homosexuals/homosexuality, speculating that if everyone is homosexual, human kind will become extinct. She retorts: Do you think everyone will want to become a monk/nun/ordained (出家)? Once homosexuality becomes recognised/accepted, will everyone become homosexual? 

When asked about whether social problems will arise when homosexuals begin to bear/raise children, she rebuts by asking: How much do heterosexual marriages ensure the happiness and well-being (幸福) of their children? 

She also cited the Lotus Sutra chapter/scripture (《法华经》Sad-dharma Puṇḍárīka Sūtra) where it is taught that monk/nun/ordained persons should avoid contact with five types of people:

1. those born without sexual organs

2. those who lost their sexual organs due to surgery or injury

3. those with a mental state that is neither male nor female (homosexuals)

4. those who dresses like neither male nor female and

5. bisexuals

Datuk Ang Choo Hong (President of Buddhist Research Society of Malaysia): If you can't bless Oyoung, then just keep quiet

He mentioned two tales from early Buddhism: Soreyya, who is sometimes male, sometimes female; and Vakhali who is homosexual. Both did not attain enlightenment through spiritual means eventually. 

The commandments/doctrine of Buddhism are applicable for ordained persons (monks/nuns), specifying that the third gender cannot be ordained. For Buddhists who are not ordained, they are not allowed to have sexual contact with 20 categories of people, including parents, siblings, married persons and prisoners.

Brahmajala Suttam scriptures (梵网经 / Brahmajala Suttam) of the later period also states that same-sex intercourse, anal sex and oral sex are not allowed. The earlier scriptures however have no mention. What shall we do?

Mr Yap Hock Heng (Registered & Licensed Counsellor): Homosexuality cannot be suppressed

Homosexuals refer to people who are unable to suppress a sustained fantasy of intimacy with someone of the same sex, and who are repulsed by the opposite sex. 

We should extend our kindness to them, rather than over-reacting to them.

He also points out that some teenagers and young people may have special feelings towards a specific friend, but that cannot be categorised as homosexuality. It is common for those aged four to six, and those in their adolescence to experience confusion about gender and sexuality.

There are many factors leading to homosexuality. For those who wish to change through therapy, it is possible to succeed.

If you were present at the forum, please share your observations and/or below.