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jts-khorat

3rd Precept And Mia Noi

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I have a question about the 5 precepts, especially the third. As this situation can be seen often here in Thailand it would be interesting to understand which of the below cases actually breaks the third precept (my interest is theoretical, I am not in this actual situation myself).

A man has a girlfriend or wife and cheats secretly on her with another woman; lets just assume his mia noi is actually satisfied and happy in her role. Still, clearly he breaks the 4. precept (false speech and lying). But does he break the third precept?

Now lets assume he does not cheat on his wife but tells her the truth; he might assume that his wife is emotionally hurt, even though she does not say so. Now he is not even breaking the 4. precept.

I am aware that the Buddha warns against this behavior as immoral in the Sutta Nitaka ("Not to be contented with one's own wife, and to be seen with harlots and the wives of others — this is a cause of one's downfall."), but none of the precepts seems to be broken.

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A man has a girlfriend or wife and cheats secretly on her with another woman; lets just assume his mia noi is actually satisfied and happy in her role. Still, clearly he breaks the 4. precept (false speech and lying). But does he break the third precept?

The third precept is broken. This is clearly adultery. It has nothing to do with whether or not you admit it.

Now lets assume he does not cheat on his wife but tells her the truth; he might assume that his wife is emotionally hurt, even though she does not say so. Now he is not even breaking the 4. precept.

If he does not cheat on his wife, what is there to tell the truth about? I'm not sure what you meant by this one.

Edited by SeerObserver

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This is Thailand, and all precepts are guidelines but not something exactly written in stone. So just do what you like.

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So just do what you like.

That ain't what the Buddha said!

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The important thing is not so much the wording of the precepts but the moral principles behind them. As A.L. De Silva says:

Having questioned the conventional basis of morality, the Buddha suggests three criteria for making moral judgments. The first is what might be called the universalisability principle - to act towards others the way we would like them to act towards us. In the Samyutta Nikaya he uses this principle to advise against adultery. He says: "What sort of Dhamma practice leads to great good for oneself?... A noble disciple should reflect like this: 'If someone were to have sexual intercourse with my spouse I would not like it. Likewise, if I were to have sexual intercourse with another's spouse they would not like that. For what is unpleasant to me must be unpleasant to another, and how could I burden someone with that?' As a result of such reflection one abstains from wrong sexual desire, encourages others to abstain from it, and speaks in praise of such abstinence."

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This is Thailand, and all precepts are guidelines but not something exactly written in stone. So just do what you like.

You sound like a lawyer looking for the loophole.

There isn't one. Buddhism is a philosophy and moral code. If you don't follow the core values, then you are clearly not practicing Buddhism.

It has nothing to do with "this is Thailand". The state government does not own the philosophy and morality of Buddhism, though it may exert a great deal of influence over Thailand's Buddhist power structure. That is an entirely different matter.

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The important thing is not so much the wording of the precepts but the moral principles behind them. As A.L. De Silva says:

Having questioned the conventional basis of morality, the Buddha suggests three criteria for making moral judgments. The first is what might be called the universalisability principle - to act towards others the way we would like them to act towards us. In the Samyutta Nikaya he uses this principle to advise against adultery. He says: "What sort of Dhamma practice leads to great good for oneself?... A noble disciple should reflect like this: 'If someone were to have sexual intercourse with my spouse I would not like it. Likewise, if I were to have sexual intercourse with another's spouse they would not like that. For what is unpleasant to me must be unpleasant to another, and how could I burden someone with that?' As a result of such reflection one abstains from wrong sexual desire, encourages others to abstain from it, and speaks in praise of such abstinence."

To repeat this again, I am not trying to find a loophole, I am looking to understand the precepts as they were originally intended by the Buddha, with a theoretical example often seen around me that actually is not reflected in my personal life. I do not have a mia noi nor am I unfaithful to my current girlfriend (or plan to do so). I do definitely not believe the precepts are just meant as a guideline that could be totally ignored at whim as TheWalkingMan implies.

My current understanding of the 3rd precept is that sexual relations must be between consenting adults and not use some sort of trickery, blackmail or physical force.

As such I do understand the moral implications of having relations with the partners of others or prostitutes (the Buddha is pretty clear in the Sutta Nitaka as quoted in my OP), but also here having multiple wifes seems to be surprisingly left out. Your quote goes in the same direction, but again seems to cover an area actually not reflected in the precepts.

In the Kunda Camaraputta Sutta upon this is expanded as follows:

"Abandoning sensual misconduct, he abstains from sensual misconduct. He does not get sexually involved with those who are protected by their mothers, their fathers, their brothers, their sisters, their relatives, or their Dhamma; those with husbands, those who entail punishments, or even those crowned with flowers by another man."

The actual emotional state of the first wife seems to be not covered in this at all, as is having multiple partners. I do not think this is because it was outside of the life experience of the Buddha (as modern chemical drugs must have been with regard to the 5. precept).

Exactly this situation must have been commonly in front of the Buddha as he grew up and later in life as we was already teaching the Dhamma (harems and concubines were usual in the palaces of early Indian rulers; none of the later Thai Buddhist kings and nobility thought it abnormal to have multiple wifes).

Are we confusing western morality here with what is actually meant in this precept -- or am I still overlooking something?

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Not really on topic, but genuine persons don't cheat on their wives because of the natural repulsion and anxiety reflex most humans have to doing it (evolutionary speaking) AND because you don't want to hurt her feelings or risk the relationship. ...not cheating because you're following some arcane moral precept is, in my opinion, much less moral than doing it naturally (because you're artificially forcing it upon yourself).

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genuine persons don't cheat on their wives because of the natural repulsion and anxiety reflex most humans have to doing it (evolutionary speaking)

Just questioning a topic which potentially concerns many.

Is it "natural & evolutionary" or could it be a conditioned state?

What one might find repulsive can often be due to conditioning.

Is it a concern for those in relationships who are conditioned to be open, honest, & secure with each other?

The Buddha did say that he would not like it:

A noble disciple should reflect like this: 'If someone were to have sexual intercourse with my spouse I would not like it. Likewise, if I were to have sexual intercourse with another's spouse they would not like that. For what is unpleasant to me must be unpleasant to another, and how could I burden someone with that?'

But was that just his conditioning?

Evolutionary speaking, the strongest male in a "hunter gatherer" group had sexual access to all the females. This ensured survival of the fittest as their genes were passed on to offpsring. Some diversification occurred when females congressed with injured males who stayed behind when hunting parties went out in search of game, often for weeks at a time.

Edited by rockyysdt

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It is simple really........ if somebody learns of the Dhamma...and then is serious about trying to reach Nirvana in as short a time as possible....they will refrain from unskillful actions...

Those who are half-hearted and unsure if they accept all the Buddha's teaching, they will carry on, choosing which precepts to follow and which to be less serious about, according to their desires and own interpretations...... and consequently miss the chance to attain liberation...until they alter their wrong views.

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The precept is about not using sexuality is such a way as to hurt yourself, your partner, or a third party.

So your wife/partner would have to be happy for you to be fooling around, plus the person you are fooling around with would have to not be hurt by expectations of more to the relationship, plus you'd have to be sure it wasn't having a negative affect on your sense of wellbeing, then it's perfectly ok.

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genuine persons don't cheat on their wives because of the natural repulsion and anxiety reflex most humans have to doing it (evolutionary speaking)

Just questioning a topic which potentially concerns many.

Is it "natural & evolutionary" or could it be a conditioned state?

What one might find repulsive can often be due to conditioning.

Is it a concern for those in relationships who are conditioned to be open, honest, & secure with each other?

The Buddha did say that he would not like it:

A noble disciple should reflect like this: 'If someone were to have sexual intercourse with my spouse I would not like it. Likewise, if I were to have sexual intercourse with another's spouse they would not like that. For what is unpleasant to me must be unpleasant to another, and how could I burden someone with that?'

But was that just his conditioning?

Evolutionary speaking, the strongest male in a "hunter gatherer" group had sexual access to all the females. This ensured survival of the fittest as their genes were passed on to offpsring. Some diversification occurred when females congressed with injured males who stayed behind when hunting parties went out in search of game, often for weeks at a time.

It's not that simple- mating alone isn't the only activity that promotes survival of genes. Males who stick around and raise the offspring create stronger healthier children with more secure lives- the male who just runs around mating and abandoning creates children with no fathers that will thus likely die. Thus we have dual instincts to mate and to raise... the mating instinct being more primitive.

Cheating isn't repulsive as you say because it's conditioned- the repulsion we feel isn't some social more of shame we inflict on ourselves- it's a real, instinctual tension that arises automatically in the nervous system... because we humans have been living in social hunter-gatherer groups for thousands of generations.

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The precept is about not using sexuality is such a way as to hurt yourself, your partner, or a third party.

So your wife/partner would have to be happy for you to be fooling around, plus the person you are fooling around with would have to not be hurt by expectations of more to the relationship, plus you'd have to be sure it wasn't having a negative affect on your sense of wellbeing, then it's perfectly ok.

Am I correct in reading your statement that the 3rd precept does allow having several wives if and where it is socially acceptable or even the norm as in the culture of the Buddha; while the 3rd precept forbids 'fooling around' (note your own pre-conditioning as shown by your semantic) in contemporary western society?

As such the question still stands why the Buddha specifically prohibits relations between a man and other women only if the other woman is married or under the protection of their parents (eg not of suitable age, in itself a can of worms as the Buddha married at 17).

In the quotes so far mentioned the Buddha seems to go a great way of making this distinction and I have not read any instance whereby the Buddha criticizes this practice, even though directly confronted by it again and again when staying at noble houses or the places of rich merchants.

A translation here of the Parabhava Sutta by Piyadassi Thera goes even so far that he implicitly talks about having several wives: "Not satisfied with one's own wives, he is seen among the whores and the wives of others -- this is the cause of his downfall." An alternative translation talks about only one wife, so it might be of interest of somebody being knowledgeable to read Pali to have a closer look.

Does that make the precepts changeable with the social norms of society or are they not a vehicle of moral conduct that should transcend moral fashions, time and geographical location?

This is an especially interesting question as fabianfred holds us to follow the word of the Buddha as exact as possible, thereby seemingly contradicting his point.

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The 3rd precept is "to abstain from sexual misconduct."

The term misconduct is as vague as it gets.

Some may even argue sex is a normal conduct.

I think the term most Thais see it is that it is a misconduct for a man to have relations with a woman that already has a husband. But it is ok for an unmarried woman to have realtions with an already married man. Because throughout history of Thailand including Rama II and V a man is allowed to have many wives.

the 4th precept is false speech. I think the term is not literally to be taken by ith word but its actual meaning is blasphemy.

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To repeat this again, I am not trying to find a loophole, I am looking to understand the precepts as they were originally intended by the Buddha,

I think the precepts (which differ in wording in several places in the Canon and originally didn't include the 5th) were deliberately stated simply by the Buddha because they were intended as a kind of benchmark for lay people so that they didn't fall into a hel_l realm. That's why they aren't very detailed - because they were aimed at people who couldn't understand the deeper teachings. The end result is that (now - perhaps not in the Buddha's time) they are open to interpretation and may seem ambiguous.

The actual emotional state of the first wife seems to be not covered in this at all,

So, it seems. But maybe this is because "unfaithfulness" to the wife would so obviously hurt her feelings and lead to problems that there was no need to mention it. And the same would apply if the guy had more than one legal wife. To me, it's a no-brainer that going outside a committed relationship (of one or more legal wives) for casual sex is unskillful because of the problems it can cause to the wife/wives, regardless of the wording of the precept.

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