Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Buddha?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Buddha?

Postby Shaswata_Panja » Fri Jun 20, 2014 11:00 am

What would Buddha say about consensual polyamory ? Where either the husband or the wife or both take up other lovers and both are okay with it? Is there any Sutta to support or oppose it?
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Fri Jun 20, 2014 11:14 am

It's not a question of them both being OK with it.

It's a question of all and every single participant being completely ok with it, all the time.

What the H and W decide to do is up to them; and if they are happy, then fine.
The breaking of the 3rd precept comes when emotions are high and 'noses put out of joint' by jealousy, resentment and a difficulty in accepting any diversion from the previously accepted situation, either with them, or other participants.
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby waterchan » Fri Jun 20, 2014 11:19 am

Shaswata_Panja wrote:What would Buddha say about consensual polyamory ? Where either the husband or the wife or both take up other lovers and both are okay with it? Is there any Sutta to support or oppose it?


In the Buddha's day, wasn't it the norm for kings and people of wealth and power to have mistresses? I don't recall the Buddha singling it out as a particularly weighty kamma.
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby Shaswata_Panja » Fri Jun 20, 2014 11:27 am

The NoBSBuddhist...yeah I also meant that given that the other lovers are also okay with it


Waterchan thanks for pointing it out...but didnot the situation surrounding Amrapali cause a lot of grief among a lot of people?
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Fri Jun 20, 2014 11:28 am

That's an entirely different discussion altogether.

Ancient India.
Wealthy Kings.
Mistresses.

Doesn't address the commoner husband and wife couple wishing to engage in a Polyamorous relationship, in the 21st century.
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Fri Jun 20, 2014 11:30 am

Shaswata_Panja wrote:The NoBSBuddhist...yeah I also meant that given that the other lovers are also okay with it


Let me tell you this without any fear whatsoever of being contradicted: At one point or another, someone in this arrangement, somewhere, will most definitely NOT be 'ok with it'.

Human emotion does not allow for the complete prevention and suppression of jealousy, resentment and emotional detachment, all the way along the line.

It can't be done.
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby Shaswata_Panja » Fri Jun 20, 2014 12:08 pm

I think Buddha tacitly supported monogamy....He had some very poignant thinks to say to the much married King Pasenadi when he was a bit estranged from his primary wife Queen Mallika. (Of course he could afford to as he had another wife to give him company): Here from this

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#mallika

But later on a new tension arose between the couple. Again the King would not look at the Queen and pretended she did not exist. When the Buddha became aware of this, he asked about her. Pasenadi said that her good fortune had gone to her head. Immediately the Awakened One told an incident from a former life:

Both were then heavenly beings, a deva couple, who loved each other dearly. One night they were separated from each other because of the flooding of a stream. They both regretted this irretrievable night, which could never be replaced during their life-span of a thousand years. And during the rest of their lives they never let go of each other's company and always remembered to use this separation as a warning so that their happiness would endure during that whole existence. The King was moved by this story, and became reconciled to the Queen. Mallika then spoke this verse to the Buddha:

With joy I heard your varied words,
Which spoken were for my well-being;
With your talk you took away my sorrow
Verily, you are the joy-bringer amongst the ascetics
May you live long!
— J504


A third time the Buddha told of an occurrence during one of the former lives of the royal couple. At that time Pasenadi was a crown-prince and Mallika his wife. When the crown-prince became afflicted with leprosy and could not become King because of that, he resolved to withdraw into the forest by himself, so as not to become a burden to anyone. But his wife did not desert him, and looked after him with touching attention. She resisted the temptation to lead a care-free life in pomp and splendor and remained faithful to her ugly and ill-smelling husband. Through the power of her virtue she was able to effect his recovery. When he ascended to the throne and she became his Queen, he promptly forgot her and enjoyed himself with various dancing girls. It is almost as difficult to find a grateful person, the Buddha said, as it is difficult to find a Holy One. (A III, 122)

Only when the King was reminded of the good deeds of his Queen, did he change his ways, asked her forgiveness and lived together with her in harmony and virtue. (J 519)

Queen Mallika committed only one deed in this life which had evil results and which led her to the worst rebirth. Immediately after her death, she was reborn in hell, though this lasted only a few days.
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Fri Jun 20, 2014 12:29 pm

Queen Mallika committed only one deed in this life which had evil results and which led her to the worst rebirth. Immediately after her death, she was reborn in hell, though this lasted only a few days.


How is this known?

And what did she do to merit such a re-birth, albeit a brief one?

Presumably the king was also born in a hell-realm for his misdeeds against his kindly and devoted wife.
Is this reported anywhere?
How long was he there for? I would think for far longer, given the amount of time he mistreated her for....

These are, I would add, genuine questions. I am curious as to the outcome/responses.
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby Shaswata_Panja » Fri Jun 20, 2014 12:43 pm

TheNoBSBuddhist wrote:
Queen Mallika committed only one deed in this life which had evil results and which led her to the worst rebirth. Immediately after her death, she was reborn in hell, though this lasted only a few days.


How is this known?

And what did she do to merit such a re-birth, albeit a brief one?

Presumably the king was also born in a hell-realm for his misdeeds against his kindly and devoted wife.
Is this reported anywhere?
How long was he there for? I would think for far longer, given the amount of time he mistreated her for....

These are, I would add, genuine questions. I am curious as to the outcome/responses.



Buddha told this when the grieving King went to Buddha to know about the whereabouts of his recently deceased wife
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby santa100 » Fri Jun 20, 2014 1:21 pm

Shaswata_Panja wrote:What would Buddha say about consensual polyamory ? Where either the husband or the wife or both take up other lovers and both are okay with it? Is there any Sutta to support or oppose it?

Just by engaging in a relationship with a single partner already takes up so much time and committment that doesn't leave much space left for Dhamma practice. Imagine getting involved in multiple relationships at the same time? The Dhamma is deep and difficult. There are folks who spend a big chunk of their time and effort to cultivate and still have a hard time making progress, what'd be the odds for consensual polyamory folks? So, at at minimal, the pratice will significantly cut short one's time and energy for cultivating the Dhamma. At most, if will further proliferate one's own sensual indulgence which is a HUGE hindrance to Dhamma practice.
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Fri Jun 20, 2014 1:32 pm

I think the question needs to be evaluated on the basis of the culture in which it is practiced. In U.S. and many European cultures polyamory is against the law, but only if you marry more than one person (bigamy). No matter what the culture, if a law is violated, then the precepts of "causing harm" and "taking what has not been freely given", and "giving false testimony"....if you are lying to your spouse about your extra-curricular activities, you may be doing all of these. :juggling:

Also, as others have already pointed out to you, it is difficult enough to care faithfully for one spouse, but "several" is very strenuous. A man can only relocate so many pieces of furniture in one day! :juggling: :tongue:
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Fri Jun 20, 2014 4:58 pm

Shaswata_Panja wrote:
TheNoBSBuddhist wrote:
Queen Mallika committed only one deed in this life which had evil results and which led her to the worst rebirth. Immediately after her death, she was reborn in hell, though this lasted only a few days.


How is this known?

And what did she do to merit such a re-birth, albeit a brief one?

Presumably the king was also born in a hell-realm for his misdeeds against his kindly and devoted wife.
Is this reported anywhere?
How long was he there for? I would think for far longer, given the amount of time he mistreated her for....

These are, I would add, genuine questions. I am curious as to the outcome/responses.



Buddha told this when the grieving King went to Buddha to know about the whereabouts of his recently deceased wife


Thank you for the additional information, but that doesn't actually answer my questions.... But I doubt such accounts were documented....
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Fri Jun 20, 2014 5:03 pm

Ron-The-Elder wrote:I think the question needs to be evaluated on the basis of the culture in which it is practiced. In U.S. and many European cultures polyamory is against the law, but only if you marry more than one person (bigamy). No matter what the culture, if a law is violated, then the precepts of "causing harm" and "taking what has not been freely given", and "giving false testimony"....if you are lying to your spouse about your extra-curricular activities, you may be doing all of these. :juggling:

Also, as others have already pointed out to you, it is difficult enough to care faithfully for one spouse, but "several" is very strenuous. A man can only relocate so many pieces of furniture in one day! :juggling: :tongue:


Well, Polyamory doesn't actually necessitate marriage; it merely means having more than one partner with the full knowledge and consent of others involved. So the question of the legality of the circumstance is a non sequitur.
In most western/European countries, there would be no Law violations.

As for your second point - :toast: It has been said that Bigamy is having one spouse too many. But then again, so is monogamy!! :jumping:
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby culaavuso » Fri Jun 20, 2014 6:36 pm

Shaswata_Panja wrote:What would Buddha say about consensual polyamory ? Where either the husband or the wife or both take up other lovers and both are okay with it? Is there any Sutta to support or oppose it?


AN 8.21 discusses a householder named Ugga who attained noble status while still married to four young wives and was praised by the Buddha. Ugga is described as a non-returner that had undertaken the practice of celibacy after attaining noble status.

AN 8.21: Vesālika-ugga Sutta wrote:Then the householder Ugga of Vesālī approached that bhikkhu, paid homage to him, and sat down to one side. The bhikkhu then said to him:
“Householder, the Blessed One declared that you possess eight astounding and amazing qualities. What are they?”
...
“With a confident mind, I attended on the Blessed One. The Blessed One then gave me a progressive discourse, that is, a talk on giving, virtuous behavior, and heaven; he revealed the danger, degradation, and defilement of sensual pleasures and the benefit of renunciation. When the Blessed One knew that my mind was pliant, softened, rid of hindrances, uplifted, and confident, he revealed that Dhamma teaching special to the Buddhas: suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path. Then, just as a clean cloth rid of dark spots would readily absorb dye, so too, while I sat in that same seat, the dust-free, stainless Dhamma-eye arose in me: ‘Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation.’ I saw the Dhamma, attained the Dhamma, understood the Dhamma, fathomed the Dhamma, crossed over doubt, got rid of bewilderment, attained self-confidence, and became independent of others in the teaching of the Teacher. Right there I went for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha, and undertook the training rules with celibacy as the fifth. This is the second astounding and amazing quality found in me.

“I had four young wives. I then went to them and said: ‘Sisters, I have undertaken the training rules with celibacy as the fifth. If you want, you can enjoy wealth right here and do merits, or go back to your own family circle, or inform me if you want me to give you over to another man.’ My eldest wife then said to me: ‘Young sir, give me to such and such a man.’ I sent for that man, and with my left hand I took my wife, with my right hand I took the ceremonial vase, and I gave her to that man. But even while giving away my young wife, I don’t recall that any alteration took place in my mind. This is the third astounding and amazing quality found in me.
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby Mkoll » Fri Jun 20, 2014 11:42 pm

culaavuso wrote:
Shaswata_Panja wrote:What would Buddha say about consensual polyamory ? Where either the husband or the wife or both take up other lovers and both are okay with it? Is there any Sutta to support or oppose it?


AN 8.21 discusses a householder named Ugga who attained noble status while still married to four young wives and was praised by the Buddha. Ugga is described as a non-returner that had undertaken the practice of celibacy after attaining noble status.

AN 8.21: Vesālika-ugga Sutta wrote:Then the householder Ugga of Vesālī approached that bhikkhu, paid homage to him, and sat down to one side. The bhikkhu then said to him:
“Householder, the Blessed One declared that you possess eight astounding and amazing qualities. What are they?”
...
“With a confident mind, I attended on the Blessed One. The Blessed One then gave me a progressive discourse, that is, a talk on giving, virtuous behavior, and heaven; he revealed the danger, degradation, and defilement of sensual pleasures and the benefit of renunciation. When the Blessed One knew that my mind was pliant, softened, rid of hindrances, uplifted, and confident, he revealed that Dhamma teaching special to the Buddhas: suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path. Then, just as a clean cloth rid of dark spots would readily absorb dye, so too, while I sat in that same seat, the dust-free, stainless Dhamma-eye arose in me: ‘Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation.’ I saw the Dhamma, attained the Dhamma, understood the Dhamma, fathomed the Dhamma, crossed over doubt, got rid of bewilderment, attained self-confidence, and became independent of others in the teaching of the Teacher. Right there I went for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha, and undertook the training rules with celibacy as the fifth. This is the second astounding and amazing quality found in me.

“I had four young wives. I then went to them and said: ‘Sisters, I have undertaken the training rules with celibacy as the fifth. If you want, you can enjoy wealth right here and do merits, or go back to your own family circle, or inform me if you want me to give you over to another man.’ My eldest wife then said to me: ‘Young sir, give me to such and such a man.’ I sent for that man, and with my left hand I took my wife, with my right hand I took the ceremonial vase, and I gave her to that man. But even while giving away my young wife, I don’t recall that any alteration took place in my mind. This is the third astounding and amazing quality found in me.
From what I gather, the following is the order of events.

He became celibate "right there" after attaining stream-entry, given that the phrase used to describe him is the stock stream-entry phrase. The passage doesn't say anything about the timing, but I would guess that right after he declared celibacy and went back to his wives, he asked them if they wanted to leave and they did. Finally, he attained non-returning, again after an unspecified length of time.
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby Shaswata_Panja » Fri Jun 20, 2014 11:51 pm

culaavuso wrote:
Shaswata_Panja wrote:What would Buddha say about consensual polyamory ? Where either the husband or the wife or both take up other lovers and both are okay with it? Is there any Sutta to support or oppose it?


AN 8.21 discusses a householder named Ugga who attained noble status while still married to four young wives and was praised by the Buddha. Ugga is described as a non-returner that had undertaken the practice of celibacy after attaining noble status.

AN 8.21: Vesālika-ugga Sutta wrote:Then the householder Ugga of Vesālī approached that bhikkhu, paid homage to him, and sat down to one side. The bhikkhu then said to him:
“Householder, the Blessed One declared that you possess eight astounding and amazing qualities. What are they?”
...
“With a confident mind, I attended on the Blessed One. The Blessed One then gave me a progressive discourse, that is, a talk on giving, virtuous behavior, and heaven; he revealed the danger, degradation, and defilement of sensual pleasures and the benefit of renunciation. When the Blessed One knew that my mind was pliant, softened, rid of hindrances, uplifted, and confident, he revealed that Dhamma teaching special to the Buddhas: suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path. Then, just as a clean cloth rid of dark spots would readily absorb dye, so too, while I sat in that same seat, the dust-free, stainless Dhamma-eye arose in me: ‘Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation.’ I saw the Dhamma, attained the Dhamma, understood the Dhamma, fathomed the Dhamma, crossed over doubt, got rid of bewilderment, attained self-confidence, and became independent of others in the teaching of the Teacher. Right there I went for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha, and undertook the training rules with celibacy as the fifth. This is the second astounding and amazing quality found in me.

“I had four young wives. I then went to them and said: ‘Sisters, I have undertaken the training rules with celibacy as the fifth. If you want, you can enjoy wealth right here and do merits, or go back to your own family circle, or inform me if you want me to give you over to another man.’ My eldest wife then said to me: ‘Young sir, give me to such and such a man.’ I sent for that man, and with my left hand I took my wife, with my right hand I took the ceremonial vase, and I gave her to that man. But even while giving away my young wife, I don’t recall that any alteration took place in my mind. This is the third astounding and amazing quality found in me.


As always I am grateful for your valuable references...So a person can become from a rampant-sexing type to sottapanna, sakadagami , anagami, arhant without trying to be celibate/(getting rid of sexual desire)?
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Jun 21, 2014 12:02 am

Shaswata_Panja wrote:So a person can become from a rampant-sexing type to sottapanna, sakadagami , anagami, arhant without trying to be celibate/(getting rid of sexual desire)?


Sotapanna = probably yes
Sakadagami = probably no since they have reduced sense cravings
Anagami, Arahant = no, since they have eradicated all sense cravings
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby culaavuso » Sat Jun 21, 2014 12:25 am

Shaswata_Panja wrote:So a person can become from a rampant-sexing type to sottapanna, sakadagami , anagami, arhant without trying to be celibate/(getting rid of sexual desire)?


The virtue of a sotāpanna is described as including abstinence from sexual misconduct, and having become independent of the teacher seems to imply that the dangers of sensual desire would be comprehended. Destroying the fetter of sensual desire is part of the description of an anāgāmi. Refraining from the sexual act is part of the description of an arahant. Even a serial murderer has the capacity to become an arahant but the unskillful behavior will be abandoned along the way.

AN 5.179: Gihī Sutta wrote:Sariputta, when you know of a householder clothed in white, that he is restrained in terms of the five training rules and that he obtains at will, without difficulty, without hardship, four pleasant mental abidings in the here & now, then if he wants he may state about himself: 'Hell is ended; animal wombs are ended; the state of the hungry shades is ended; states of deprivation, destitution, the bad bourns are ended! I am a stream-winner, steadfast, never again destined for states of woe, headed for self-awakening!'

Now, in terms of which five training rules is he restrained?

There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones abstains from taking life, abstains from taking what is not given, abstains from illicit sex, abstains from lying, abstains from distilled & fermented drinks that cause heedlessness.


AN 10.176: Cunda Sutta wrote:He gets 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. This is how one is made impure in three ways by bodily action.


AN 9.1: Sambodhipakkhiya Sutta wrote:He trains himself, having undertaken the training rules, seeing danger in the slightest faults. This is the second prerequisite for the development of the wings to self-awakening.


SN 55.24: Sarakāni Sutta wrote:Take the case of another man. He is endowed with unwavering devotion to the Buddha... the Dhamma... the Sangha... he is joyous and swift in wisdom but has not gained release. Having destroyed the five lower fetters, he is reborn spontaneously where he will attain Nibbana without returning from that world. That man is entirely released from the hell-state, from rebirth as an animal, he is free from the realm of hungry ghosts, fully freed from the downfall, the evil way, from states of woe.


AN 10.13: Saṃyojana Sutta wrote:There are these ten fetters. Which ten? Five lower fetters & five higher fetters. And which are the five lower fetters? Self-identity views, uncertainty, grasping at precepts & practices, sensual desire, & ill will. These are the five lower fetters. And which are the five higher fetters? Passion for form, passion for what is formless, conceit, restlessness, & ignorance. These are the five higher fetters. And these are the ten fetters.


AN 3.70: Uposatha Sutta wrote:As long as they live, the arahants — abandoning uncelibacy — live a celibate life, aloof, refraining from the sexual act that is the villager's way.


MN 86: Aṅgulimāla Sutta wrote:I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Savatthi at Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's monastery. And at that time in King Pasenadi's realm there was a bandit named Angulimala: brutal, bloody-handed, devoted to killing & slaying, showing no mercy to living beings. He turned villages into non-villages, towns into non-towns, settled countryside into unsettled countryside. Having repeatedly killed human beings, he wore a garland (mala) made of fingers (anguli).
...
Then the bandit paid homage
to the feet of the One Well-gone,
and right there requested the Going-forth.
...
Then Ven. Angulimala, dwelling alone, secluded, heedful, ardent, & resolute, in no long time reached & remained in the supreme goal of the holy life for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing & realizing it for himself in the here & now. He knew: "Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for the sake of this world." And thus Ven. Angulimala became another one of the arahants.
...
Who once was heedless,
but later is not,
brightens the world
like the moon set free from a cloud.

His evil-done deed
is replaced with skillfulness:
he brightens the world
like the moon set free from a cloud.
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby m0rl0ck » Sat Jun 21, 2014 12:42 am

I think a good test of sexual behavior is:

Do you have to violate any of the other four precepts to initiate or maintain it?

If so, then it is certainly sexual misconduct.
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"And you'll be able to gain release from suffering only when you know the one mind."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Is polyamory against sexual morality precepts of the Bud

Postby ihrjordan » Sat Jun 21, 2014 3:52 am

Thank you for the additional information, but that doesn't actually answer my questions.... But I doubt such accounts were documented....

The reason Mallika went to hell for a week was because she lied to king Passentiti about having "relations" with a dog....I kid you not. :shrug:
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