Sex Scandals and a Buddhist Nun

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Some would argue that the purpose of religion and philosophy is to curb man’s baser instincts. So do they have anything useful to say about today’s ongoing sex abuse scandals? My friend the groupie who became a Buddhist nun provides a useful insight.

The world’s religious and spiritual traditions acknowledge the powerful, sometimes overwhelming, biological drives for food, for territory, for status and power, and for sex. We see these same instincts at work throughout the animal kingdom.

Spiritual traditions recognise these biological drives and suggest strategies to manage and contain them.

Monks, nuns and priests of all religions take vows of celibacy.

More extreme, in Christianity there are flagellants who whip their own bodies. There are some Shiite Muslims who also self-flagellate. And Hinduism too has yogis who perform various weird acts of bizarre self-harm.

All of these dramatic strategies are attempts to contain the instincts of the flesh.

Samuel Johnson, our great eighteenth century essayist and also a committed Christian, realistically commented on all this:

‘Mortification is not virtuous in itself, nor has any other use, but that it disengages us from the allurements of sense.’ [The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia]

But it is not realistic, is it, to envision the Houses of Parliament or Hollywood studios as places inhabited by nuns and monks, who authentically practice, abstinence, self-restraint and mortification of the flesh? (Is this what Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey are pretending to do when they go for residential therapy?)


Many years ago I had a good friend who was a 1960s Swinging London groupie into sex, drugs and rock and roll. She then disappeared out of my life for a few years. When she reappeared a decade later she had transformed and become a Buddhist nun. By the time I met her she had kept to her vows, including celibacy, for seven years. She was authentic.

Obviously there was a question that I was dying to ask her.

What – I asked her have you done with your libido, with your animal instincts?

She smiled and responded that she had followed the counsel of her Abbess who gave her very simple advice:

Notice the arousal, but do not wallow in it.

Notice the instinct, but give it no energy.

Notice and move swiftly on.

This is useful advice for all of us, isn’t it, when we are aroused and might behave in a dishonourable, inappropriate or bullying way.

Notice the arousal.

Give it no energy.

And move swiftly on.

By | 2017-11-20T13:54:09+00:00 November 20th, 2017|Articles, Opinion - Activism|9 Comments


  1. Andra Sparks November 20, 2017 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    Thank you William. Excellent and practical advice… as usual. Love and light. Andra x

  2. Claire Winchester November 20, 2017 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    Thankyou William, I’m sure this post will be very helpful to many.
    Another method to employ, is to remember that to ‘notice’ is to be aware of.
    If you focus your consciousness on the subject, be aware that consciousness is a catalyst for change, without itself being changed.
    Then be aware that your real Self is consciousness……….
    This technique is called RESEC – reflexive self consciousness.

  3. Benita November 20, 2017 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    Love the …arousal …notice .and move on

  4. Christina Laurikainen November 20, 2017 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    This sounds entirely unnatural and I imagine would twist a person up into something unhuman. I pray the souls who have denied their natural instincts via mind power – unpollute their thoughts against nature to recognise it’s beauty.

  5. Christopher Mathews November 21, 2017 at 9:53 am - Reply

    Love it ! Christopher Mathews

  6. Elizabeth Lines November 22, 2017 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    Well Well. This is exactly how well behaved people conduct themselves. Never failed me over the past 75years!

  7. Pierre Garreaud November 22, 2017 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    Hi William, I was expecting a deeper article and story about the Buddhist nun. The article doesn’t reflect what the title implies.Good luck.

  8. Josef DellaGrotte November 24, 2017 at 1:02 am - Reply

    This is the old Theravadin attempt to “curb the instincts”, and it has failed as have most of the others.Biological programming cannot be overcome with any kind of ‘cerebral’ manipulations. This is western ego at work: “I think therefore I can”. The only one that holds out a transformational, reprogramming process harkens back to such practices as ‘Tantra’, or mahayana, namely to work with the energy and transform it into body-awarenss based intimate connection. But this requires skill and intimate connection both body-mind within oneself.Yes, we can use all the tools we may have learned from these traditions, but the intention and the ‘somatic’ practice required is very different.
    Josef DellaGrotte (author of forthcoming: “Sex, Eros and Tantra”

  9. Graham Giles March 14, 2018 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    Hi William,

    Tantric teachers like the late Barry Long rejected celibacy as a lifestyle choice, saying that we were meant to make love.

    I agree with what Ram Dass said in “Grist for the Mill” (page 111 in my edition);

    “You don’t discard your balls or your vagina in order to go to God. It’s part of the dance. And just like ultimately you can eat whatever you want, ultimately you can do whatever you want. This isn’t a moral issue at all.

    So that if you can hear and be honest with yourself, you’ll know when you are done and when you are not done and when one desire system is stronger than another.

    Just be straight with yourself. Don’t make believe. Phoniness is the worst part of spiritual life.
    People trying to be something.

    Just as there are some people I encourage to be Brahmacharya there are others I advise to have sex. There are many horny celibates who aren’t going anywhere except to psychiatrists. And there are people balling who wish they weren’t anymore, but can’t stop because they think they ought to be.

    They’ve already entered into planes of consciousness where it’s irrelevant. Trust yourself, allow your desires to be shed where it’s appropriate.

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