Buddhist Views on Sex and Celibacy
Are Buddhists required to be celibate?
No, abstaining from sex is absolutely not a requirement for practicing Buddhism.
For us regular, lay Buddhists, sex is permissible. Additionally, as we discussed in our article Buddhist Views on Marriage and Divorce, the Buddhist religion takes a very liberal position on marriage and sex.
As such, there is no requirement that you be married in order to engage in consensual sex.
However, Buddha taught that there are two caveats if you do choose to engage in sexual activity.
First, you should avoid sexual misconduct as it is one of the five main Buddhist Code of Ethics. This means that sex is permissible so long as there is no exploitation, dishonesty or deceit involved.
Secondly, if you choose to be sexual active, then you should do so in accordance with the Buddhist principle of the Middle Way. This means that your activity should be done in moderation and in a balanced and healthy manner.
Before we go into the details of these two caveats, keep in mind that complete celibacy or even shorter periods of celibacy is recommended for those who which to developer their spirituality to a very high level. While sex is permissible within the Buddhist religions, is it certainly not a requirement.
Avoiding Sexual Misconduct
Buddha advocated that we should avoid sexual misconduct for several reasons. First and most importantly, having good morals teaches us to be good.
This good morality then serves as a foundation for which we can build lasting inner peace.
Avoiding sexual misconduct is also important for maintaining our own self-respect. It helps us build and maintain the trust of our loved ones and is essential for making our society a better place to live in.
In other words, no one engaged in the sexual acts and no third parties should in any way suffer as a result of the sexual activity.
Taken a step further, the sexual activity should not only avoid harm, but should be positive and beneficial to both participants.
Sex and the Middle Way
The Middle Way is a central theme in Buddhism. As such, sex should be given it’s due place in normal human life.
Sex should balanced, healthy and exercised in moderation. Sexual activity should not be unhealthily repressed nor should you engage in promiscuous behavior. In other words, we should not over-indulge in sex nor become slaves to sex.
We must remain mindful that there is a strong, internal urge for sex in most of us.
Therefore, there is need for even lay Buddhists to exercise self-control over their sexual desires so that our sexual activity or sexual fantasies do not become extreme or out of control.
As in all aspects of life, practicing the Middle Way requires self-control. Unfortunately, exercising sexual moderation in today’s world is more difficult than ever.
Today’s modern society is inundated with sexual exploitation as compared to the moral conservative social norms of the past. This makes having self-control more difficult today than in the past but also even more important.
How to Control our Sexual Desires
As we all know, controlling or moderating our sexual desires can be very challenging. In order to succeed, we must understand how lasting self-control is obtained.
First, self-control requires that we voluntarily exercise restraint. This take determination and effort. But more importantly, we must exercise this restraint with an understanding of why there is a need to do so.
The why is simply – reasonable restraint over our sexual desires helps lead us towards lasting inner peace.
This restraint with understanding is in contrast to blindly suppressing our sexual urges. Mere suppression means to pretend that the urge does not exist or to believe that the urges aren’t normal.
But this is like sweeping dirt under a rug and is ineffective. It may produce results in the near term but will not be beneficial in the long-run.