Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly

Buddhism and Sexuality: It’s Complicated

Wisdom Publications, 2017, 632 pages; $39.95

ecades in the making, José Ignacio Cabezón’s is a massive, ambitious, and important project. Given its in-depth investigation of the subject, and Cabezón’s status as one of the world’s premier Buddhologists, any practitioner or scholar concerned about Buddhism’s relationship to sex and sexuality would do well to wrestle with this book. For many, though, this will prove a challenge. The world of classical Indian and Tibetan Buddhism Cabezón introduces will be unfamiliar, even weird, to many contemporary Buddhist readers, despite the fact that their own practices and lineages are directly descended from it. Modern Buddhists, especially those who have only been exposed to the minimal and highly selective Buddhist sutric and commentarial literature available in English, may be bewildered by the views of revered masters of the past, who debated endlessly over such subjects as imaginary worms living in women’s vaginas, what sexual positions are forbidden, which level of hell one goes to for having engaged in oral sex, and whether or not the Buddha had a real penis.

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