Buddhism and Sexual Orientation - Japanese Buddhism

Japanese Buddhism

Several writers have noted the strong historical tradition of open bisexuality and homosexuality among male Buddhist institutions in Japan. When the Tendai priest Genshin denounced monks "...who have accosted another's acolyte and wickedly violated him" in a text printed in 985 AD, the main offence seems to have been that the acolyte wasn't one's own. Chigo Monogatari, "acolyte stories" of love between monks and their chigo were popular, and such relationships appear to have been commonplace, alongside sex with women. In the 15th century, maverick Zen monk Ikkyu Sojun (1394–1481) wrote, "follow the rule of celibacy and you are no more than an ass." Later, "exhausted with homosexual pleasures", he took a wife.

Western Christian travellers to Japan from the 16th century have noted (with distaste) the prevalence and acceptance of forms of homosexuality among Japanese Buddhists—Jesuit priest Francis Cabral wrote in 1596 that "abominations of the flesh" and "vicious habits" were "regarded in Japan as quite honourable; men of standing entrust their sons to the bonzes to be instructed in such things, and at the same time to serve their lust".

A 17th century Japanese Buddhist scholar, Kitamura Kigin, wrote that Buddha advocated homosexuality over heterosexuality for priests:

It has been the nature of men's hearts to take pleasure in a beautiful woman since the age of male and female gods, but to become intoxicated by the blossom of a handsome youth ... would seem to be both wrong and unusual. Nevertheless, the Buddha preached that Imose was a place to be avoided and the priests of the law entered this Way as an outlet for their feelings, since their hearts were, after all, made of neither stone nor wood. Like water that plunges from the peak of Tsukubane to form the deep pools of the Minano River, this love has surpassed in depth the love between women and men in these latter days. It plagues the heart not only of courtier and aristocrat but also of brave warriors. Even the mountain dwellers who cut brush for fuel have learned to take pleasure in the shade of young saplings." —Wild Azaleas (1676)

Popular Japanese legend attributed the introduction of homosexuality to Japan to Shingon founder Kukai, although scholars now dismiss the veracity of this assertion. Nonetheless, the legend served to "affirm same sex relation between men and boys in seventeenth century Japan."

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