FAST AND LOOSE WITH THE CANON?
In his recent column (“What’s the Opposite of Jealousy?” Summer 2006), Jorge Ferrer indicated that unwholesome states such as jealousy and anger in someone opposing a partner’s promiscuity show a lack of Buddhist principles. Truly, according to the Buddha, even if someone is brutally murdering you, you should dwell in lovingkindness toward him (Majjhima Nikaya 21). However, that doesn’t make his actions acceptable. One may lovingly tell the philandering partner, “I love you deeply and I feel happy for you as you enjoy pleasures with others. But I seek monogamy, and therefore, goodbye.”
To refute the professor’s bold statement that the Buddha never set down guidelines for marriage, please see the conditions for marital harmony that he gave in the popular Sigalaka discourse (Digha Nikaya 31), which includes being faithful to one’s spouse. Also in that talk, he called adultery one of the “six things [that] destroy a man,” and “a lower, baser course.” Another time, the Buddha told men to be satisfied with one spouse.
The most basic moral standard expected of all Buddhist lay disciples, the Five Precepts, includes the pledge against “sexual misconduct.” The bottom line is: Don’t harm others in your expression of sexuality! If you, or your liaison, have a partner at home who wishes for monogamy, yet you fail to respect that wish, then your selfish actions cause harm to another. How cruel it would be to breach a partner’s trust and then suggest that his or her normal emotional responses indicate spiritual immaturity!
Even if no one else gets hurt, why make efforts to increase the sexual heat in your life? The Buddha deemed pursuit of sensual desires the cause of all quarrels, conflicts, and wars (Majjhima Nikaya 13). In the very core of his teaching, the Four Noble Truths, he named desire as the source of each person’s inner pain. On attaining enlightenment, he hesitated to try to teach because the dhamma—“subtle, deep, difficult to see”—cannot be seen “by passion’s slaves” (Mahavagga 1).
A disciple who, like Professor Ferrer, advocated sensuality, triggered the Buddha’s fiercest scolding: “Misguided man, to whom have you ever known me to teach the dhamma in that way? . . . I have stated how sensual pleasures provide little gratification, much suffering, and much despair, and how great is the danger in them . . . . But you, misguided man, have misrepresented us by your wrong grasp and injured yourself and stored up much demerit; for this will lead to your harm and suffering for a long time” (Majjhima Nikaya 22).
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