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To celebrate Dublin Pride 2018, and Buddhist Action Month (BAM), the Dublin Buddhist Centre hosted a special Pride celebration on the 25th June. Kasey Tobin, a GFR Mitra involved in the event gives us a flavour of the event.
“This event was facilitated by a number of us in the Dublin Sangha with LGBT+ experiences. As LGBT+ people we have seen a lot of progress in securing our human rights in the last few years in Ireland (for example the Marriage Equality Referendum, and Gender Recognition Legislation). However, many of us can still carry a sense of shame or guilt around who we are, and sometimes those roots of discrimination, or being treated differently, can run quite deeply both in society and our own psyches.
Open to those who are Buddhism Curious
The event was open to all those who were Buddhism curious! A lovely diverse mix of 27 people came. We had people of all colours of the LGBT+ rainbow, with diverse experiences of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and physiological sex. There were some who were new to the Dublin Buddhist Centre and some who were regulars. Along with this mix of people with LGBT+ perspectives, family members, loved ones and allies joined us as well.
During this evening, we had an introduction and a practice of the Metta Bhavana meditation, a great way of building on the positive mental states, true individuality and community that Pride celebrates. There was also discussions and break-out groups exploring the diverse range of experiences in the LGBT+ community, as well as a very important break for some non-alcoholic bubbly!
LGBT+ people can unfortunately still be excluded from many spiritual traditions, so it is to explicitly communicate that our Sangha is a place where everyone is welcome. This was one of the things we wanted to communicate this evening, to open up the Centre to people who might have felt hesitant about it, that it might not be for them.
LGBT+ Experiences in Triratna
We explored how for many of us, Triratna had been welcoming to us with our LGBT+ experiences. Triratna was founded in 1967, around the time of decriminalisation of homosexuality in England. A few of us talked about how we had felt accepted with our identities within the Dublin Sangha, and also by the wider Triratna community. It had not been a big deal, meaning we could just get on with practice, but also that we could talk about it and it wouldn’t be ignored. At the same time, we also tried to examine the ways in which there may be challenges or barriers of entry for some LGBT+ people engaging in the Sangha.
The Buddha’s Example
We looked at the Buddha’s life and how he began his spiritual quest by realising a dissatisfaction with life, his seeing the four sights of old age, sickness, death and then the holy man. For a lot of us with LGBT+ experiences, we can come up against this dissatisfaction at an early age, particularly if we don’t feel we can be who we truly are. We can be forced into asking pretty fundamental questions about our identities and our place in the world. Also we may not fit into many of the traditional patterns for living within society, and experience a sense of suffering or dukkha as a result. This can be even more so if we can’t be open about who we are, and also how the process of coming out, while liberating, can cause problems and difficulties. This can bring about a desire, or a sense of searching, to find an end to this suffering, to begin the quest to freedom, as some mentioned was their experience.
The Buddha then through his quest became completely awakened, gaining a freedom from all negative mental states. Through a deep solidarity and care for all that lives, he taught a path to this awakening, through ethics, meditation and wisdom.
Sexual Ethics and Gender Roles
The ethical principles in Buddhism are very different to other forms of authoritarian morality, which often are the basis or justifications used to suppress and harm those in the LGBT+ community. This is particularly true of ethics around sexuality. Members of our LGBT+ community have been outlawed, shamed, made illegal, simply because of who they love, and unfortunately this is still the case in many parts of the world today. Going outside tightly defined gender roles was, and sometimes still is, prohibited, which was a large contributing factor to the Stonewall riots, which proved a major catalyst for the LGBT+ human rights movement.
So it’s understandable that we might be a bit apprehensive about exploring sexual ethics. This is why it’s so important to emphasise that the Buddhist ethical precepts aren’t rules or commandments to be obeyed out of fear, but instead are guidelines based on love, helping us to develop a solidarity with other living beings. But it’s really important to say - and we stressed this at the evening - that Buddhist sexual ethics has nothing to do with the gender of the person, or persons, you’re having a relationship with, nor with your experience of your own gender. We emphasise this quite strongly in classes in the DBC. It’s more about refraining from causing harm to others, or ourselves, in our sexual relationships, coming as it does from that sense of solidarity and care for all beings that the enlightened state represents.
A few of us were quite nervous before this event, as it felt like something very significant and meaningful for us, and a way of quite visibly bringing a particular aspect of ourselves into our spiritual practice. But we were really delighted with the outcome. There was a great sense of community and mutual support between people at the evening, showing the power of Sangha and Metta to bring people together. This is the first time that we were holding a Pride celebration here at the DBC, and hopefully there will be other events like this in the future.”