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jts-khorat

3rd Precept And Mia Noi

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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?

Yes, if everybody is happy then there is no problem with someone having multiple wives, girlfriends, or boyfriends, but how often can that be done in such a way that everyone is happy? and if someone was trying to walk the path of the Buddha what purpose would it serve?

Yes, my choice of terminology probably reveals some pre-conditioning.

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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.

Avoiding harm/pain for others is indeed a big reason behind this precept but i think not the only one.

It is also aimed at helping people to progress on a spiritual path. Sensual desire is a hindrance to achieving calm and balanced mind, and behavior that fans the flames of desire is counter-productive. Absitnence is not required of lay people because it would deter many from the path altogether, and because people in early stages of practice are usually not able to be abstinent without generating a lot of repressed tension, which would also be counter productive. hence the Buddha prescribed a "middle way" wherein sexual relations are permitted but limited to committed, socially sanctioned relationships.

The bonds of commitment and caring tend to offset the otherwise intrinsically selfish nature of lust, and, as everyone knows, sex between long-term partners does not usually generate the same degree of sensual intoxication that sex with a new partner does (although it may be very satisfying in other ways). While that is often a reason for straying, from a Buddhist perspective it is a plus, because a serious Buddhist practioner does not want to be intoxicated with lust or any other sensual craving.

I think it is important to understand the very different emphasis between these teachings and the Christian moralizing that many westerners are more familiar with. It is not "don't do that, it's sinful and you'll go to hel_l!" but "doing that will harm you in the long run, it is not conducive to your progress on the path"

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Avoiding harm/pain for others is indeed a big reason behind this precept but i think not the only one.

It is also aimed at helping people to progress on a spiritual path. Sensual desire is a hindrance to achieving calm and balanced mind, and behavior that fans the flames of desire is counter-productive. Absitnence is not required of lay people because it would deter many from the path altogether, and because people in early stages of practice are usually not able to be abstinent without generating a lot of repressed tension, which would also be counter productive. hence the Buddha prescribed a "middle way" wherein sexual relations are permitted but limited to committed, socially sanctioned relationships.

The bonds of commitment and caring tend to offset the otherwise intrinsically selfish nature of lust, and, as everyone knows, sex between long-term partners does not usually generate the same degree of sensual intoxication that sex with a new partner does (although it may be very satisfying in other ways). While that is often a reason for straying, from a Buddhist perspective it is a plus, because a serious Buddhist practioner does not want to be intoxicated with lust or any other sensual craving.

I think it is important to understand the very different emphasis between these teachings and the Christian moralizing that many westerners are more familiar with. It is not "don't do that, it's sinful and you'll go to hel_l!" but "doing that will harm you in the long run, it is not conducive to your progress on the path"

Great post.

This is a most excellent synopsis of the situation especially regarding mindset and moralizing. The rationale behind the prescribed path which is in turn the middle-way is also really clear and concise. The first reason given for not-straying is typical, but the undesirability of that form of intoxication is an interesting spin on the matter.

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Avoiding harm/pain for others is indeed a big reason behind this precept but i think not the only one.

It is also aimed at helping people to progress on a spiritual path. Sensual desire is a hindrance to achieving calm and balanced mind, and behavior that fans the flames of desire is counter-productive. Absitnence is not required of lay people because it would deter many from the path altogether, and because people in early stages of practice are usually not able to be abstinent without generating a lot of repressed tension, which would also be counter productive. hence the Buddha prescribed a "middle way" wherein sexual relations are permitted but limited to committed, socially sanctioned relationships.

The bonds of commitment and caring tend to offset the otherwise intrinsically selfish nature of lust, and, as everyone knows, sex between long-term partners does not usually generate the same degree of sensual intoxication that sex with a new partner does (although it may be very satisfying in other ways). While that is often a reason for straying, from a Buddhist perspective it is a plus, because a serious Buddhist practioner does not want to be intoxicated with lust or any other sensual craving.

I think it is important to understand the very different emphasis between these teachings and the Christian moralizing that many westerners are more familiar with. It is not "don't do that, it's sinful and you'll go to hel_l!" but "doing that will harm you in the long run, it is not conducive to your progress on the path"

Very comprehensive and worthy of being added to the Canon if that was possible.

You mentioned "socially sanctioned relationships".

How does that fit in with internationally differing views of what "socially sanctioned relationships" are?

These views may differ due to level of education, background, and multi cultural exposure?

Edited by rockyysdt

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How does that fit in with internationally differing views of what "socially sanctioned relationships" are?

These views may differ due to level of education, background, and multi cultural exposure?

So far there seems to be the conclusion that most posters here think multiple wifes acceptable as long as they are a social norm in the society, as was the society of the Buddha -- who might have even had a harem in youth -- or in the Devaraja-tradition of the current Thai nobility. I read posters here to mean that as soon as having multiple wifes becomes stigmatized (as in western society), due to the additional hurt that lower-privileged women in those relationships might incur, will mean that the precept is broken.

The stance of some arguing that having a second wife automatically breaks the precept, whatever the circumstances of society, with the argument that the second wife might be hurt can not hold true: as scuh having any wife at all would break the precept. The position of the first wife would only be special if it would be for founding a family, something which the Buddha did not mention as necessity for relationships (the other side of this coin would mean that homosexuality automatically breaks the precept).

Unanswered so far seems to be how it can be that something as basic as the precepts are deemed to follow moral fashions which can come and go -- and especially if the fashion superceding the precept is of a non-buddhist society.

Edited by jts-khorat

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Unanswered so far seems to be how it can be that something as basic as the precepts are deemed to follow moral fashions which can come and go -- and especially if the fashion superceding the precept is of a non-buddhist society.

Also the so called "level of hurt" can vary depending on ones growth.

Through mindfulness we observe our reactions to external influences.

Wouldn't changing our behavior for fear of disapproval "socially sanctioned behavior", even when wrong for us, shackles our growth.

There are many things in life (some may call them moral fashions), often quite bazaar, which are "socially sanctioned".

Edited by rockyysdt

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Unanswered so far seems to be how it can be that something as basic as the precepts are deemed to follow moral fashions which can come and go -- and especially if the fashion superceding the precept is of a non-buddhist society.

I don't think the precept follows moral fashions so much as its intent is that no one gets hurt. If you have a situation with two wives and truly neither is hurt by this, it wouldn't be unskillful. But, frankly, I doubt that is ever 100% true. The more wives one has, the greater the potential for rivalry, jealousy and other problems.

IMO, the precepts are just a kind of benchmark for those who aren't sure of the teachings. Once you look further into the teachings, you are not going to set yourself up with two major attachments (wives) instead of one.

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