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The Third Precept (Sexual Misconduct)

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  • #16
    My original understanding of this precept was that it discouraged intercourse with people who were married, engaged or under the protection of a parent. The first 2 I can readily understand and agree to but the 3rd one is more problematic, especially in this day and age. Does this restrict the possibility of intercourse to married couples? This may have been the case in ancient India and with good reason. There were no contraceptives in those days (as far as I know) and sexual intercourse would often mean pregnancy, which could cause great humiliation and suffering to both the woman and her family. Also if a woman were known to have sex before she was married it could bring her and her family into disrepute. These days however contraception is available and thus the possibility of pregnancy is greatly reduced if they are used correctly. Also in the west and other more modernised countries the idea of a woman losing her virginity before marriage is more acceptable and will not necessarily bring her or her family into direpute. Anyway I hope sex before marriage is not terribly bad kamma. I guess that comes down to intention.


    • #17
      Originally posted by Osamu Morozumi View Post
      I guess that comes down to intention.
      +1 Osamu, the following is quote is from a recent article by Richard Gombrich

      That the Buddha replaced ritual action by ethical intention is the very foundation, the very bedrock, of his teaching as a system of ideas. It is no less the foundation of Buddhism’s historical success. Since intention is the same in all human beings, Buddhist ethics apply in an identical way in all societies. For example, the third precept, not to engage in sexual misconduct, is universal, but its application varies, because the customs of societies differ: for instance, some societies admit polygamy, some polyandry, and some neither. Differences in local custom were thus no obstacle to the spread of Buddhism. As I have written: “Since Buddhism was attached neither to community nor to locality, neither to shrine nor to hearth, but resided in the hearts of its adherents, it was readily transportable.” So Buddhism could go wherever men went, and take root wherever they resided. But what can spread is the Buddhism, the Buddha’s Buddhism, which cares only for moral good and evil and measures that by intention. The Buddhism which measures action by ritual and custom can never spread anywhere: it is just like the brahminism which the Buddha set out to criticise


      • #18
        Lovely quote to share with us, thanks Bo.

        How many of us are wise enough to fully clearly understand our intentions? We make it sound so easy. It isn't in my experience anyway.

        When I was studying the Feldenkrais method there was a lot of emphasis on our becoming mindful of what was termed "crossed motivations", i.e. there was more than a single intention in an action. I learnt just how complex it is to fully peel back the layers of my intentions, and whilst I may articulate an obvious one I could find there would be other ones underneath it that were less apparent but often more truthful.

        I pay a lot of attention still to peeling back the layers on my intentions (especially good intentions!) and I don't think it is easy to truly really deeply access them all. Delusion is far easier.


        • #19
          I think in my heart I know what this precept means for me. Sometimes I will fool myself that is okay to have sexual fantasies, but this is why I'm here right now, I don't want to fool myself anymore, I need to stay on the path no matter what. When I'm not in the mood for practice, like right now, I at least don't want to forget & get distracted by the world. And in my heart I also know that great sex with my husband is fine, so long as it doesn't involve delusions/fantasy.


          • #20
            I feel that most people especially westerners dont comprehend the value of the precepts.They do meditation then go home and watch some soft porn TV show or read some soft porn magazines such as cosmo,cleo etc.Then they wonder why they are not advancing on the path and getting good meditation.I think normal sexual relations are OK,however we need to work on these others.We also need to remember that the path for most of us is a gradual one.


            • #21
              I guess you are right Martin. We (the westerners), being so focused on quick results, would rather ask ourselves what should we do to improve our meditation then our sila. And probably most of us tend to ignore that sila is the foundation of meditation. One might think that keeping precepts is only for the beginners, and a really determined buddhist should concerns himself more with meditation, or that being a buddhist, doing devotional practice or studying is not even necessary as long as one is doing vipassana


              • #22
                Last night I was listening to Venerable Munindo from Aruno in England who is putting together a volume of Ajhan Chahs talks.He said that most of the talks he had to choose from would be considered boring as they deal with sila and keeping the precepts. I think that says it all.


                • #23
                  Hi Martin, Thanks for letting us know.

                  I am curious do you find it boring keeping the precepts or do you think others don't keep them because they find it boring? Do you think Ajahn Munindo was reflecting others thoughts and feelings or his own? I find keeping the precepts quite exciting! Seldom does a day go by without my reflecting on my behaviour or my life or finding greater freedom in my mind because of them.

                  I also find the emotion of "boredom" quite fascinating (I work as an emotional intelligence coach so please forgive me!). What do we mean by boring? Is the implication that if something is boring then we shouldn't do it, that we must stop trying? Or is it just that we can't be bothered because it takes grit and determination? When I first started practising meditation I found it incredibly boring, it was only by learning to sit with and tolerate the feeling of boredom that I was able to come out on the other side and learn one of the most beneficial things I have done in my life.

                  Is boring an excuse not to do something - we quit even when it can be good for us? If so this means we are making an emotional decision and letting our feelings dictate our behaviour.

                  I look forward to Ajahn Munindo's volumes of talks - I get a huge amount out of reading Ajhan Chahs talks - he is so down-to earth - and at times very humourous in his anecdotes.


                  • #24
                    Hi Rachael,

                    What is boredom but a craving for sensation? Like you pointed out

                    When I first started practising meditation I found it incredibly boring, it was only by learning to sit with and tolerate the feeling of boredom that I was able to come out on the other side and learn one of the most beneficial things I have done in my life.
                    It is the emotional door way to unbinding.




                    • #25
                      Of course it is actually possible that a lot of the talks are just quite boring... I was watching on of Ajahn Brahm's videos recently - I can't remember which - in which he said Ajahn Chah's talks were often rather boring, and long, and that versions you read are usually condensed to the best nuggets of wisdom. I guess he was just being honest, as I am sure he had boundless admiration for Ajahn Chah really, but still thinks that objectively speaking, his talks were often not very exciting! But as Rachel says, the implication that we should abandon something because it seems boring is probably not very constructive. Maybe our tendency to want a lot of entertainment and variety is not always skillful.


                      • #26
                        Boredom is not different to anger, greed, frustration in it insidious ability to cloud the mind. Nothing is really boring in itself, we just like having people appeal to our senses, sooth our discomfort. Even if that is our sense of humour!

                        Are we saying that someone talking to us is painful? In reality yes! We actually experience discomfort when bored! But I think boredom is the suffering we engage in when we don't observe the pain mindfully. Ask yourself (like I do these days) This pain, what is it on a scale to 10? Were is it located? Will it cause further harm? I take emotions to be the thoughts we attach to various pains in our bodies we don't observe in this way.

                        just another 5c!



                        • #27
                          I too think that the Buddha was not talking about total abstinence. However, I live a celebate life since the beginning of 1994 and I don't have a problem with it.


                          • #28
                            hallo friends in the dhamma,
                            i am new here so please forgive if i repeat what might have been discussed already.
                            sexuality was very much on the agenda in the u.s. and most of the european countries 50 years ago. rooted in the findings of sigmund freud and its most outspoken disciple in that field wilhelm reich (the sexual revolution) it has changed societies bottom up.
                            for those of the younger generation not familiar with the topic. both above mentioned gentlemen considered sexuality extremely important in human life. while both agreed that repressed sexuality - as it was rampant in the western world until the hippy (flower power) and student revolution - was responsible for a whole range of psychic disorders and as a result immense social problems, the latter - wilhelm reich - went one step further and tried to prove that supressed sexual activity even leads to cancer. i am not in a position to judge reichs findings but - just recently i read that prostate cancer might be connected to a lack of sexual activity. why? because the prostate gland is not enough oxigenized.
                            of course as a yoga practicioner for most of my life i know what posture can do that instead but - not everybody is aware of or can practice that.
                            now comes my question: should one not think that in light of these findings (that includes the freeing of western societies from the curse of surpressed sexuality) the precept in question is not against sexuality per se (including masturbation) but only when harm is involved?
                            I think to answer that question once and for all is very important as the personal and social consequences are too serious if doubt - and/or guilt - by practicing sexuality creeps in through the backdoor.
                            as far as i understand ajahn brahms teaching: a lower pleasure is given up naturally when encountering a higher pleasure (Janas). until one has not tasted that higher pleasure which "is better than sex" to deny the bodymind a pleasure which it seems to need to function properly would be counterproductive.


                            • #29

                              I can tell you that in my experience, the cravings for sexual pleasure have certainly decreased with time and my practice. This is something I never thought would happen. So I would agree with Ajahn Brahm via experience that 'lower' pleasures do get replaced by more beneficial things after a time. Not to say I am celibate. I still enjoy sex with my girlfriend, yet I don't have near the libido I've had most of my life. Given personal knowledge of my own practice and such I really don't believe it's anything to do with andropause and the like either.

                              The precept is one of a moral nature. Basically not committing rapes, molesting children sexually and engaging in sexual relationships with people involved in other relationships thereby avoiding lots of problems out there in society (ie. fighting with jealous lovers, etc.). I've lost a friend of 20 years this way, so I can see where the Buddha was coming from, or so I think. I think moderating sexual activity lies more with the Noble Eigthfold Path than the Five Precepts (right action) as there are more beneficial things to do with one's time than to spend as much time as possible having sex and pursuing sense pleasure. Just think of all the time one would spend working in order to support the so many eventual children. No time left for much else. Doesn't sound to me to be the makings of a happy life. Just my two cents.

                              Jerrod : )


                              • #30
                                I'm new also and coming quite late to this forum.

                                I find this precept fascinating. In my own mind it makes perfect sense: I've never strayed, nor felt the need to stray. However, I do acknowledge that I am female and am not burdened with lashings of testosterone. I've had many conversations with male friends, and have been lucky enough to have them be honest and frank with me, with regard to male sexual behaviour (or at least their own male sexual behaviour!). What I found most liberating for me, was the difference (in my male friends' eyes) between the sexual act and love: and how these can be separated. As a woman (and I don't mean to stereotype here, I know I'm skating on thin ice!!) I believe our gender tend to lump sex and love in together, and often confuse the two. It's no wonder we all get ourselves into trouble! (and no wonder this precept came into existence).

                                From my own experience, removing the need/desire for sex has made my own life a whole lot less complicated. Not that I'm some crazy man hating rampant feminist either!! By committing to this precept I've been able to focus on my own internal happiness and acknowledge that I don't need to have a relationship with someone to obtain that happiness. I've also been able to focus on having strong and healthy platonic relationships.

                                What I find incredibly ironic is that the "Lama Dramas" of late have, on the whole, involved the shredding of this precept with a pile of deception thrown in for good measure (there goes right speech!!).



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