Table of Contents
Also on this website:
Toby Johnson's books:
GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe
THE FOURTH QUILL, a
novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The
Dimensional Structure of
Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"
The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the "Statement of Spirituality"
You're Not A Wave
What is Enlightenment?
What is reincarnation?
How many lifetimes in an ego?
Emptiness & Religious Ideas
Experiencing experiencing experiencing
Going into the Light
Meditations for a Funeral
The way to get to heaven
Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal
The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika
Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva
John Boswell was Immanuel Kant
The Two Loves
Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook
Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer
The Way Out by Christopher L Nutter
The Gay Disciple by John Henson
Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry
Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr
Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois
Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson
Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low
Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman
The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman
Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor
Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine
The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada
The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook
The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther
The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel
Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak
Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez
Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr
Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman
Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano
The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo
The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar
Occam’s Razor by David Duncan
Grace and Demion by Mel White
Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso
The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery
The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass
In my first year as a "gay activist," 1971, I volunteered at the San Francisco Gay Counseling Center hotline and later lived in the collective household that had the hotline phone in our living room. In that capacity, I somehow got asked to be on a radio panel show about gay lib. I was a 26 y.o. long-haired hippie who'd joined the gay cause because it seemed like the personally applicable thread of the anti-war movement, countercultural, new age revolution that would overthrow the past and bring happiness, freedom, justice to all. Gay liberation was born out of that youthful idealism of the early babyboomers. Also on the panel were two men from S.I.R., the Society for Individual Rights which was the homophile organization in S.F. at whose building, down South of Market, the gay lib groups met. But which we felt politically divided from. The two men from S.I.R. were middle-aged, bald men with horn-rim glasses; they looked like accountants. They used the word homophile. I used the word gay. I have a vivid memory of not liking them, and thinking my youth generation would be so much better at this; they were old-school, we were new-school; they were reactionaries, we were revolutionaries.
Looking back, I understand I didn't "like" them because I wasn't physically attracted to them, and it must have troubled me to see that gay men would get old. A lot of the "generational divide" within gay/queer/sexually liberated cultures, I suspect, is about sex and sexual attractiveness. Older men are more attracted to younger men than younger are to older (with certain exceptions, of course). The progression of terminology from homophile to gay to queer to post-gay (?) and what's next is a sign of evolution in consciousness--and homosexuals seem to have always been involved in such evolution. It's also all tied in to what is bemoaned in gay liberation cultural criticism as "ageism." Remember, the discovery of aging--"ageism"--was one of the signs to the Buddha to seek enlightenment.
I learned the story of the Buddha from Joseph Campbell. As he tells it in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, when the young price, Siddhartha Gautama, was born it was prophecied he would become either a world-emperor ot a world-savior. His mother, Queen Maya, had died seven days after his birth and his father, King Suddhodana, was inconsolate. He wanted to protect his son from the pain of the world, and, naturally, to encourage him to be the emperor he was born to be. So the young boy was raised to see only wealth and happiness and frivolity, nothing serious or tragic was allowed in his presence. In modern lingo, he was spoiled rotten. He married and had a son.
Then one day, when he was twenty-nine, his driver, Channa, took him out beyond the palace grounds. And Gautama noticed a sick man by the roadside. He'd never seen anyone sick before, and so was puzzled and asked Channa what this was, and so the chariot driver explained sickness. The next day they are out again and Gautama noticed an old man. He'd never seen anyone old before. So the chariot driver explained aging. The next day, Gautama saw a dead body, and so he learned about death. And on the fourth day he saw a monk begging by the roadside. When Channa explained that some people renounce the pleasures of life, Gautama realized that if all life really is doomed to fall ill and die, maybe it would be better to renounce the world and become an ascetic. So he fled his father's palace and became a forest-dwelling monk/yogi. He fasted and disciplined his body nearly to the poitn of death. For seven years, he pursued the path of the ascetic.
His enlightenment was that asceticism and renunciation doesn't bring happiness and fulfillment anymore than riches and pleasure. He had been satisfied by neither.
Buddha is said to have discovered the middle way--"All things in moderation."
Reclining Buddha by Bill Biggers
What I garner from the Buddhist myths--both of the historical Gautama and of the later, and more mythical, Avalokiteshvara--being a "world-savior" means being easy with life, detached, undramatic, accepting what's happening, going with the flow.
Nirvana, of course, can be described as a very high consciousness state that only adept meditators achieve through dint of hard work and discipline. Nirvana is samadhi. Though technically it means something even more empty than the mind in trance; it means non-existence. That may be a goal for some people, but for most of us, what nirvana--as a taste of Buddhist heaven on earth--really means is being happy and living simply with no resistance to life.
The Mahayana Buddhist virtues, exemplified in the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, are compassion, loving kindness, joy in the joy of others and equanimity. (These correlate with the four upper chakras, by the way, heart, throat, third eye, and thousand-petaled lotus soul.) My favorite of these is the third: joy in the joy of others. Isn't this the basis of the Sexual Revolution and modern liberation? And we experience joy in the joy of others when we see with the inner eye, the eye of wisdom, the "third eye," that the "me" in me is the same "me" that is in other people.
So in an odd way, Buddha's father was right to raise him with happiness and pleasure because that's the kind of world we'd all live in if we all lived the virtues of the Bodhisattva.
Nirvana should be "heaven on earth." That's what all spirituality is about. We save the world by loving the world and seeing ourselves--our deeper "Selves," if you like--in everyone in our world.
King Suddhodana was right. This world should be paradise.
I started with my story of being a gay activist and feeling alienated from the earlier generation of activists. And now, as an older "activist," I experience being sort of alienated from the next generation who call themselves queers and think of themselves as post-gay.
This is the passage of time. I think the Buddha's answer is to go with the flow.
It is interesting to note that the Buddhistic vision of the world as nirvana is expressed in two identical but opposite images:
The Three Foolish Monkeys
The Three Wise Monkeys
The way to be happy is to transcend "evil" by seeing good everywhere.
Right Views, Right Mindfulness, Right Speech
Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.
Johnson's Lammy Award winning book
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of
Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated
PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are
available now from Lethe
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