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Third precept

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  • Third precept

    Dear Bhante,

    I would like to ask a question regarding third precept.
    There are lists of "prohibited women" that one should not engage sexual relationship with. One of them is those who are "protected by law".
    For example, if the local law prohibits sexual relationship outside marriage, I think that woman will fall under the "protected by law" category.

    The purpose of precept is to prevent harm. If the woman consents to the sexual activity and she is a single, mature and independent woman, that means everybody is agreed to the sexual relationship and nobody is harmed. The determining factor I think is the greed, hatred and delusion in the sexual activity, not what the law says.

    Breaking a law doesn't make the sexual activity per se more unwholesome. In the same way, obeying the law doesn't make the sexual activity per se more wholesome. If nobody is hurt, law is just law, nothing else. I think it's more about breaking a law rather than a precept. Can you share your thought, Bhante? Thank you very much.
    Last edited by Steve Tanu; 26th-April-2018, 04:39 PM.

  • #2
    Dear Steve,

    Good question. I have thought about this myself many times, particularly as in the Vinaya (the rules we keep as monastics) there are are some rules that are considered transgressed even when there was no greed hatred or delusion involved.

    The fact is, that on an average day, one is unlikely to have such a pure mind as to say that one did not act out of greed, hatred or delusion - that is, unless one emerged from jhana that morning, or are an anagami! This is why precepts are a great help. They are like a traffic light when you're zooming around life - saying 'hold it - dangerous zone about to be crossed'.

    Breaking the five precepts in particular the Buddha referred to as 'the doorways to hell'. And he put the third precept in there because he must have seen how innate sexual pleasure is to us human beings and yet how much enormous suffering it could cause - it might not manifest in this life, but it could unfold in future lives. I'm not sure if you're familiar with the story of Isidasi (see Therigata 403, 412-37) - it's terribly scary and I remember it because it is!

    But say, all that aside, you were acting purely - not out of greed, hatred or delusion. But I would say there are laws for many reasons. Even though one might act purely, it might not be an appropriate action for the harmony of all involved, or as an example to others. The Buddha also asked us to consider the suitability and benefit of our actions. In our Vinaya for example, there is nothing unwholesome about eating after noon, yet we don't do it, as there are other benefits - such as not having to bother with eating in the evenings too! In the case of the third precept, there may be children to consider (not that I'm saying that's your case - just an example).

    So I wouldn't just ignore the law and go by my 'good intention' so easily. I've just learnt this from experience - many times I was so adamant I was right - later to find there were curve-balls I just didn't see.

    Hope this helps and I haven't been too preachy! I just don't want you to land up in some trouble!

    With metta,
    Ven Upekkha



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