Answered by Acharya Zhiguang:
Eminent Buddhist masters like Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche consider that homosexuality is nothing but one of the many afflictions of human beings. In fact, just like homosexuality, heterosexuality itself is also a kind of affliction. Both are afflictions after all.
However, even though they are both afflictions, their severity still varies. The issue of homosexuality is specifically addressed in some Buddhist scriptures.
\1. The faults of homosexuality
(a) Causing a man to be reborn as an intersex person
The Buddha said in the Mahayana Sutra on the Merits of Image-making, “Maitreya! There are four kinds of acts that can cause a man to be reborn as an intersex person, who is deemed as the lowest among people. What are the four? The first is doing filthy, defiling things at holy sites or solemn places; the second is man having sex with man; the third is performing acts of lewdness on oneself ; the fourth is making a living by prostitution. Those beings who have committed any of these acts, if they deeply reproach themselves, repent such sinful acts, generate pure faith in the Three Jewels and make Buddha images, will always be free of rebirths as intersex people up until they attain Buddhahood.”
The Buddha told Bodhisattva Maitreya that there are four kinds of acts that can make a man be reborn as an intersex person with both male and female characteristics. A person born with such complete abnormality will be considered very strange by others and be treated as the lowest of all people.
Why does that happen? There are four causes: first, doing some filthy or defiling things at a sacred place; second, man having sex with man; third, committing acts of lewdness on oneself such as masturbation; fourth, working in the pornographic industry, soliciting pornographic business for others.
We can see from this teaching that karma of homosexuality or similar acts can cause a man to be reborn as an abnormal person with both male and female reproductive organs and/or genita.
“Those beings who have committed any of these acts, if they deeply reproach themselves, repent such sinful acts, generate pure faith in the Three Jewels and make Buddha images, will always be free of rebirths as intersex people up until they attain Buddhahood.”Two methods to avoid karmic retribution caused by the four kinds of sinful acts are also mentioned in the sutra: first, “deeply reproach themselves and repent such sinful acts:” one must repent the four kinds of sinful acts they have done before; second, “generate pure faith in the Three Jewels and make Buddha images:” this kind of negative karma can be eliminated through making Buddha images.
In October 2018, we initiated the group practice for Dharma friends around the world to make 100,000 Yidam images each year. This group practice generates tremendous and supreme merits, one of which is that participants can exempt themselves from the karmic retribution of being reborn as intersex people caused by homosexuality. If you have a homosexual tendency, you can eliminate the negative karma by repenting all the relevant faults in the past through active engagement in this group practice to make Buddha images.
(b) Homosexuality is a sexual misconduct
The faults of homosexuality are specifically illustrated in the Sutra on the Right Dharma Stations of Mindfulness (Saddharma-smrty-upasthana Sutra): “You see that there are people who kill, steal, commit lewd acts and take pleasure in doing so repeatedly. These people will fall into Saṃghata (the Crushing Hell) where they will suffer enormous and excruciating pains. The definitions and karmic results of killing and stealing are as what I have just taught; yet what does the term of ‘lewd acts’ mean? It refers to man having sex with man.”
It is mentioned in the sutra that those who kill, steal, commit lewd acts and take pleasure in doing so repeatedly will fall into Saṃghata (the Crushing Hell) where they will suffer enormous and excruciating pains. What does “lewd acts” mean here? “It refers to man having sex with man.” This shows that homosexual sex is considered a sexual misconduct.
It is stated in the Upasaka Five Precepts Sutra that “If an Upasaka engages in sexual activities using any of the three orifices with a female human, female celestial or spirit, or female animal, he is guilty of the sin of sexual misconduct that cannot be purified through repentance; if he engages in sexual activities using either of the two orifices with a male human, male celestial or spirit, male animal, eunuch or hermaphrodite (an intersex person with both male and female genitals), he is guilty of the sin of sexual misconduct that cannot be purified through repentance.”
We can learn from this sutra about the Buddhist view on homosexuality: homosexual sex is not a justified behavior but a sexual misconduct, and to those who have undertaken the precepts, homosexual sex is considered one of the sinful acts that count as a breach of precept.
\2. The causes of homosexuality
The causes of homosexuality are also stated in the Mahayana Sutra on the Merits of Image-making: “Maitreya! There are also four kinds of conditions that can cause men to be obsessed with the sexual desire of women and enjoy having sex in the female role with men. What are the four? The first is despising, mocking or defaming others; the second is taking pleasure in dressing like women; the third is performing lustful acts on women that are kin; the fourth is accepting undeserved homage for high virtues one does not really possess. These four kinds of conditions will cause men to suffer such peculiar afflictions as homosexuality.”
What are the four reasons why a man becomes homosexual? The first is mocking, slandering, accusing or badmouthing others behind their back; the second is enjoying dressing or acting like women; the third is having sex with or harassing a woman that is kin; the fourth is accepting undeserved homage for virtues or merits one does not really possess. Such acts are what cause one to suffer the peculiar affliction of homosexuality.
Although Samsara is full of various afflictions, some are more severe than others. According to Buddhist scriptures, homosexuality is a kind of very bad and strange affliction.
\3. Causes of men being reborn with a female body
The Mahayana Sutra on the Merits of Image-making also mentions that four kinds of conditions will cause men to be reborn with a female body.
“Maitreya! There are four kinds of conditions that will cause men to take on a woman’s body. What are the four? The first is mimicking the voice of women to scornfully call the names of enlightened beings such as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; the second is slandering a person who observes the precepts perfectly by making rumors about him/her violating the precepts; the third is being fond of deceiving and deluding others; the fourth is feeling jealous when being outperformed by others. If men are subject to these four kinds of acts, they will inevitably be reborn with a female body after their deaths and endure immeasurable sufferings of the evil paths. If they generate deep faith in the Three Jewels, repent the faulty acts and make Buddha images, the sins they have committed will be purified completely and they surely will not suffer the karmic retribution of taking on a woman’s body.”
Men who have committed the four kinds of evil acts mentioned above “will inevitably be reborn with a female body after their deaths and endure immeasurable sufferings of evil paths.
Nowadays, many men even try to be transformed into women through gender reassignment surgery. I think this may be attributed partly to them having committed such evil acts in their former existences.
However, if they generate full faith in the Three Jewels, repent the evil acts they have committed, and then make Buddha images, they will eliminate the negative karma and will not suffer the karmic retribution of taking on a woman’s body.
Instead of trying to avoid taking on a woman’s body, many people tend to believe that being a woman is actually quite good and being a man is rather distressing. For me, I do not think it is wrong to be a woman, but the point is that you should generate Bodhicitta like Tara and save all beings as a female Bodhisattva after you attain Buddhahood, otherwise I believe that being a woman does have a lot of painful side-effects.
\4. What if one has a homosexual tendency?
I hope you will learn the Buddha’s teachings about homosexuality. If a person does have a homosexual tendency, I hope you will also bear in mind the following key points:
First, he/she must deeply repent all the evil acts he/she has ever committed that will result in homosexual tendencies, by reciting the hundred syllable mantra or the mantra of Vajrasattva, and vow not to engage in such evil acts ever again.
Second, try to make as many Buddha images as possible.
Third, chant Mahayana sutras such as the Lotus Sutra and the Diamond Sutra.
Many people say that sexual orientation is something that people are born with. I agree that it surely is something that people are born with; however, whatever people are born with is in fact the karmic results from their previous lives. Homosexual tendency is nothing but the force resulting from one’s bad habits or evil acts in his/her former existences, and it certainly is not unchangeable. There is this case posted online about how a man who was gay freed himself from the karmic influence of homosexuality by chanting the Diamond Sutra every day. Therefore, the power of karma or habits can be changed for sure, and homosexual tendencies will be dispelled if one works hard to chant sutras, make Buddha images or perform other Dharma practices.