The Buddhist Approach to Sex

Sexual conduct is seen as a sensitive matter without much openness in most religion. Buddhism has rigid rules about sexual matter. In Buddhist tradition, the Third Precept teaches “Avoid indulging in sexual misconduct”.

The Monastic Life
In the Theravada tradition, sexual continence is labeled as a feature of the monastic life. As a result, the intercourse of sexual conduct is a Parajika offense and will result in spiritual suspension and expiation. Monks and nuns should voluntarily refrain from sexual misconduct, so as to conduct in the right way to attain enlightenment. If they feel that they may knowingly infringe the sexual continence, they can choose to free from the Precept and irrevocably expell themselves from the Order.

Complete sexual continence also applies to the Mahayana tradition. The Buddha’s outlook on sex is: He refrains from sexual intercourse with girls who are still protected by their parents, brothers, sisters and relatives; nor with married women or female criminals.

The Lay Buddhist
For the lay Buddhist, the Third Precept is not that rigid. That’s to say, the Buddha didn’t offer any commandment of sexual activities to lay people, but encouraged them not to perform wrong-doings in respect of sexuality. It is just an individual undertaking. Lay Buddhist can use logical reasoning power to judge sexual restraint. If they consider it as a good thing, they are free to go for it; if not, they should not undertake it. In short, the Third Precept, like the other precepts, is a rule of training.

However, lay Buddhists should control sexual indulgence, since sexual pleasure is a matter of desire and attachment which lead to suffering in Buddhist religion.

Buddhist Attitude Towards Marriage
Marriage is not an essential part of life. For lay Buddhist, it is just a choice of lifestyle; for monks and nuns, marriage is not allowed. Divorce is a civil matter, but not a part of the Buddhist teachings. If a married couple decide to split up, it is just their own business. As regards the extra-marital sexual relationship, Buddhist religion has no specific and clear expression, but considers it as a great burden to follow the path of the Buddha.

Nowadays, people can talk about sex with great openness. Buddhist views on sex seem to be not matched with modern conditions. Sex is a powerful force in each human beings, so there is no need to set any elaborate rules to refrain people from it.

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