Sexual misconduct according to Nikayas

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

Sexual misconduct according to Nikayas

Postby LXNDR » Mon Jun 30, 2014 10:39 am

A post of one of the members where he mentions positions of his holiness Dalai Lama and Ven. Brahmavamso on homosexuality as antithetical where the first deems it a misconduct, while the other doesn't, got me interested what Nikayas have to say on the subject

Dalai Lama point of view is summed up in the following:

In his 1996 book Beyond Dogma, he described a traditional Buddhist definition of an appropriate sexual act as follows: “A sexual act is deemed proper when the couples use the organs intended for sexual intercourse and nothing else… Homosexuality, whether it is between men or between women, is not improper in itself. What is improper is the use of organs already defined as inappropriate for sexual contact.”

He elaborated in 1997, explaining that the basis of that teaching was unknown to him and acknowledging that “some of the teachings may be specific to a particular cultural and historic context,” while clarifying the historical Buddhist position (in contrast with his personal opinion) by saying, “Buddhist sexual proscriptions ban homosexual activity and heterosexual sex through orifices other than the vagina, including masturbation or other sexual activity with the hand… From a Buddhist point of view, lesbian and gay sex is generally considered sexual misconduct”.

The next morning in his diplomatic suite in the Fairmount, I asked him, "If the Buddha is our teacher, where and when did he teach that homosexual partners are inappropriate, that homosexual behavior is sexual misconduct?" The Dalai Lama candidly responded, "I don't know."

His Holiness was invited to participate in a private meeting between with seven gay and lesbian leaders in San Francisco in 1997. He agreed and clarified his remarks there by saying:
"We have to make a distinction between believers and unbelievers. From a Buddhist point of view, men-to-men and women-to-women is generally considered sexual misconduct…Even with your wife, using one’s mouth or the other hole is sexual misconduct. Using one’s hand, that is sexual misconduct."

In preparation for the meeting [with gay activists in San Francisco in 1997] the Dalai Lama had traced the sexual misconduct teachings back to the Indian Buddhist scholar Ashvaghosha, and said they may reflect the moral codes of India at the time, “which stress moral purity.” He was open to the possibility of Buddhist tradition changing eventually in response to science, modern social history, and discussion within the various Buddhist sanghas.


http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/05/ ... n-gay-sex/
http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?o ... ew&id=1977
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dannyfishe ... -comments/

in the Nikayas we find the following:

Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta (AN 10.176) wrote: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.


Saleyyaka sutta (MN 41) wrote:He engages in sensual misconduct. He gets sexually involved with those who are [1] protected by their mothers, [2] their fathers, [3] their brothers, [4] their sisters, [5] their relatives, or [6] their Dhamma; [7] those with husbands, [8] those who entail punishments, or even [9] those crowned with flowers by another man.


first thing apparent in the definition of objects for sensual misconduct is that it is always (save for [5], [6] and [8]) implied to be necessarily a female, with the subject being 'HE' (gahapati - a housholder in Pali text)

so sexual activity is considered misconduct for a MAN if it involves

A. minors and incompetent individuals both male and female
B. those who willfully maintain abstinence or belong to a different varna/caste both male and female
C. criminals both male a female
D. engaged women

Walshe's rendering of the passage (sutta source is unknown) is more decisive

Buddhism and sex wrote:He avoids unlawful sexual intercourse, abstains from it. He has no intercourse with girls who are still under the protection of father or mother, brother, sister, or relative; nor with married women, nor female convicts; nor lastly with betrothed girls.


according to this rendering only females are implied as objects and so possible cases of misconduct can be understood as purely heterosexual

-----------------------------------------------

at least in this stock passage there's no confirmation of Dalai Lama's point of view on 'unnatural' way of an intercourse

so as far as homosexual behavior is concerned, regarding MALEs a few possible conclusions can be drawn

EITHER
A. adult male homosexual relationship by default is not misconduct and thus not even considered
OR
B. adult male homosexual relationship by default is misconduct and thus not even considered
OR
C. since both discourses are response to layMEN inquiries, Buddha simply saw discussing homosexual relationships with them (most likely heterosexual) as inappropriate
OR
D. Homosexuality was outlawed and Buddha couldn't openly speak favorably of it

with regard to the status of female sexual misconduct even heterosexual, inference cannot be even attempted due to use of the 'HE' pronoun in the passage
possible explanations can again be multifarious but invariably speculative, one of which, applicable to male homosexuality as well, is that the decision on appropriateness of cases not covered in the list the Buddha would relegate to social customs and legislation, without taking stance on them personally
Last edited by LXNDR on Mon Jun 30, 2014 12:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Sexual misconduct according to Nikayas

Postby Coyote » Mon Jun 30, 2014 11:25 am

LXNDR,

This is an interesting subject. I don't think the suttas provide much detail.

A while ago I made a thread, as I wanted to find out what a particular commentary says in regard to sexual misconduct. Unfortunately there was no one who was able to provide a translation in English.

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=42&t=16360

Majjimanikaya Atthakatha, Vol. I, p. 202 (Burmese ed.) is the text in question, if anyone is able to provide a translation or summarise. I know it is not sutta, but you (and others) might find it helpful.
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Re: Sexual misconduct according to Nikayas

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Jun 30, 2014 12:18 pm

This is the Pāli text of the quoted Commentary, p202 of the Myanmar Pitaka, Majjhimanikāya, Vol i.

Kāmesumicchācāroti ettha pana kāmesūti methunasamācāresu. Micchācāroti ekantanindito lāmakācāro. Lakkhaṇato pana asaddhammādhippāyena kāyadvārappavattā agamanīyaṭṭhānavītikkamacetanā kāmesumicchācāro.

Tattha agamanīyaṭṭhānaṃ nāma purisānaṃ tāva māturakkhitā, piturakkhitā, mātāpiturakkhitā, bhāturakkhitā, bhaginirakkhitā, ñātirakkhitā, gottarakkhitā, dhammarakkhitā, sārakkhā, saparidaṇḍāti māturakkhitādayo dasa; dhanakkītā, chandavāsinī, bhogavāsinī, paṭavāsinī, odapattakinī, obhaṭacumbaṭā, dāsī ca bhariyā ca, kammakārī ca bhariyā ca, dhajāhatā, muhuttikāti etā ca dhanakkītādayo dasāti vīsati itthiyo. Itthīsu pana dvinnaṃ sārakkhāsaparidaṇḍānaṃ, dasannañca dhanakkītādīnanti dvādasannaṃ itthīnaṃ aññe purisā, idaṃ agamanīyaṭṭhānaṃ nāma. So panesa micchācāro sīlādiguṇarahite agamanīyaṭṭhāne appasāvajjo, sīlādiguṇasampanne mahāsāvajjo. Tassa cattāro sambhārā agamanīyavatthu, tasmiṃ sevanacittaṃ, sevanapayogo, maggenamaggappaṭipatti adhivāsananti. Eko payogo sāhatthiko eva.

This seems to be about sexual relations by a man with a woman who is protected by her parents, by relatives or clans, by Dhamma (nuns), by the law, etc.

I disagree that inference cannot be attempted. The Four Great References tell us to do this where necessary.

If it is sexual misconduct for a man to have sexual relations with a married woman, then it is also sexual misconduct for a woman (married or not) to have sexual relations with a married man, or one betrothed, or one under age, mentally incompetent, etc.

Likewise, homosexuals and lesbians should infer the same rules of conduct. Thus it would be sexual misconduct to have sexual relations with a married person, or one in a civil partnership or a long-term relationship with another, or one under age, a monastic or anāgārika, etc.

A key word is infidelity = lack of truthfulness. Wherever deceit and lies are involved about sexual activity, then there's probably some sexual misconduct involved, though not always.

These days, it is common for unmarried people to have sexual relations. Depending on the law of the land, that may be legal at about 16, but from what the texts say, it is still sexual misconduct if the teenager or young man/woman is living with his/her parents. If the parents have not consented to their son/daughter entering into the relationship, then it is sexual misconduct.

Marriage is not a prerequisite of lawful sexual relations, as common-law marriage or cohabitation of adults by mutual consent is still an ethically based relationship if both partners are old enough and free to give their consent.
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Re: Sexual misconduct according to Nikayas

Postby LXNDR » Wed Jul 02, 2014 9:43 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:I disagree that inference cannot be attempted. The Four Great References tell us to do this where necessary.


thank you for this reference, so we can try and go legalistic here following suit of proponents of Theravada bhikkhuni ordination revival

Mahaparinibbana sutta wrote:"In such a case, bhikkhus, the declaration of such a bhikkhu is neither to be received with approval nor with scorn. Without approval and without scorn, but carefully studying the sentences word by word, one should trace them in the Discourses and verify them by the Discipline. If they are neither traceable in the Discourses nor verifiable by the Discipline, one must conclude thus: 'Certainly, this is not the Blessed One's utterance; this has been misunderstood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.' In that way, bhikkhus, you should reject it. But if the sentences concerned are traceable in the Discourses and verifiable by the Discipline, then one must conclude thus: 'Certainly, this is the Blessed One's utterance; this has been well understood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.' And in that way, bhikkhus, you may accept it on the first, second, third, or fourth reference. These, bhikkhus, are the four great references for you to preserve."


in Vinaya there's mahapadesa, four great guidelines

(1) “If something has not been rejected by me with the words ‘This is not allowed,’ if it accords with what has not been allowed and excludes what has been allowed, that is not allowed to you.
(2) “If something has not been rejected by me with the words ‘This is not allowed,’ if it accords with what has been allowed and excludes what has not been allowed, that is allowed to you.
(3) “If something has not been authorized by me with the words ‘This is allowed,’ if it accords with what has not been allowed and excludes what has been allowed, that is not allowed to you.
(4) “If something has not been authorized by me with the words ‘This is allowed,’ if it accords with what has been allowed and excludes what has not been allowed, that is allowed to you.”


not sure whether these are applicable outside Vinaya, but they probably can be used to extrapolate from heterosexual male oriented cases of misconduct to other types if we accept the point of view that gender and sexual identity inequality wasn't conceded by the Buddha

still, as was pointed out by Ajahn Brahmali in his Dhamma talk referenced in the thread Coyote gave a link to, the list Buddha gave excludes a case of adultery, so while a person on the other end of the relationship, having an affair with an engaged individual, would misconduct, the infidel him/herself would not, and unless the infidel lies to his/her partner about the affair, there's no violation of precepts
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Re: Sexual misconduct according to Nikayas

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Jul 02, 2014 10:08 am

LXNDR wrote:in Vinaya there's mahapadesa, four great guidelines

not sure whether these are applicable outside Vinaya, but they probably can be used to extrapolate from heterosexual male oriented cases of misconduct to other types if we accept the point of view that gender and sexual identity inequality wasn't conceded by the Buddha

The Vinaya reference is even more apposite here, as we're talking about morality.
LXNDR wrote:istill, as was pointed out by Ajahn Brahmali in his Dhamma talk referenced in the thread Coyote gave a link to, the list Buddha gave excludes a case of adultery, so while a person on the other end of the relationship, having an affair with an engaged individual, would misconduct, the infidel him/herself would not, and unless the infidel lies to his/her partner about the affair, there's no violation of precepts

I disagree. If an engaged individual has sexual relations with anyone, they are equally guilty of sexual misconduct.
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Re: Sexual misconduct according to Nikayas

Postby LXNDR » Wed Jul 02, 2014 10:34 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:I disagree. If an engaged individual has sexual relations with anyone, they are equally guilty of sexual misconduct.


what i agree with is that it is immoral towards the partner, but my view is culturally conditioned, so far i don't see evidence even by inference that act of infidelity committed with an adult competent free person should be classed as misconduct, provided it's not covered up with lies afterwards
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Re: Sexual misconduct according to Nikayas

Postby Sokehi » Wed Jul 02, 2014 10:41 am

I've heard of so called "open relationships" where both partners agreed that having sex with someone else is okay. That's fine. But quite often known people of me and even friends suffered anyways. They pretended not to be hurt, but they were hurt. Some of these relationships suffered afterwards from the lack of trust and sadness of not being sexy enough any more and so on and so forth.

So I can understand why it is still misconduct, even if the truth is spoken about it.
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