Buddhist Healing Beyond the Modern: Circulation, Authenticity, and the Contested Territories of the Body-Mind
2: Erotic Mindfulness in American Buddhism: Dynamics of Authenticity and Harm
Friday, March 25, 2022
3:30pm – 5:00pm EST
Location: Conv. Center, Room 313C
Eckerd College, United States
Sexual healing, sexual trauma, and erotic mindfulness occupy a significant place in contemporary American Buddhist landscapes, one that bears more careful attention by scholars. This paper takes Amdo-born physician Nida Chenagtsang’s anglophone teachings on Vajrayāna sexual yoga as a case study. As a point of comparison, it also examines OneTaste founder Nicole Daedone’s Buddhist-adjacent practice of Orgasmic Meditation (OM). Nida and Daedone both teach that orgasm experienced during “mindful sex” is a blissful consciousness that is nonconceptual, conducive to interpersonal connectedness, and linked to sustained feelings of well-being. Both lean on an accessible but unelaborated language of “mindfulness” to communicate their systems of practice to a contemporary anglophone audience. These systems differ, however, in their ethical and doctrinal containers. Daedone's OM practice relies for safety on a strict protocol and rigid time limit for each session, but includes very little in the way of formal ethical framing. In contrast, Nida’s anglophone presentation of sexual yoga, which he hopes will help prevent sexual abuse at the hands of unscrupulous Buddhist teachers, is rooted in the ethical norms associated with non-celibate Vajrayāna practitioners and Tibetan medicine. This presentation explores what the emergence of two practices centered on orgasmic consciousness in North American Buddhist spaces can tell us about dynamics surrounding claims to authenticity and sexual harm. In particular, it examines the ethical problematics of Nida and Daedone’s strategic use of ‘mindfulness’ as a sort of lingua franca to communicate what are significantly different approaches to sexual practice to a North American audience.