Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sex is not Sin: Buddhism

What does an elderly celibate monk know about sex? Plenty, if the monk is Thich Nhat Hanh. His famous book Teachings on Love, and this new one, Fidelity, offer guidance about love and sex that could revolutionize relationships. 

Hahn, and  most Buddhist teachers, don't  fuss much about masturbation or pre-marital sex or gay sex or contraception. Instead worry about excess and selfishness and the consequences of unwanted pregnancies and abuse.  Every sex act has meaning and consequences, and that's were the focus needs to be.

Out of a profound respect for life and for persons, Buddhist teaching has created beautiful ethical guidelines rather than a set of rigid do's and don'ts.  

Hahn says sex without understanding and love is empty and can only increase loneliness.  He invites us to see sex in the context of daily acts of love and commitment.  For him, healthy sex is never exploitive. It builds happiness for self and others. It protects children and all vulnerable people from abuse.

Here's his version of the Third Precept:

"Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I undertake to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long- term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct."