A WEEK OF VESAK THINKING
Bhikkhu Professor Dhammavihari
A Thought for the Day 4
By the benevolence of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, may all beings be well and happy. We talk today about the third precept kàmesu-micchàcàrà of the pa¤ca-sãla. This pertains to the sex life of the human community. Whatever the Pundits in Sri Lanka, monk or layman say, there is no mistaking that this refers to sex life, inspite of the word kàma here used in the plural which puts them off. It does not definitely refer to sensual pleasures in general. This is far too big a blunder to be taken up here. Verse no. 246 of the Dhammapada correctly identifies the breach of this precept primarily as adulterous behaviour or paradàra¤ ca gacchati. Commentaries always explain this as sex life or methuna-samàcàra, i.e. pre-marital or extra-marital.
Buddhism's concern with this is because, to say the least, decent and healthy continuance and growth of human life in the world is grounded on sex, i.e. honourable combination of the sexes, as man and woman complimemtary to each other. Can men take it over from the women, even if they choose to? It would also be correct to say that in Buddhist thinking love, marriage and sex are closely associated and integrated. Let this be known and taught in this country adequately.
To begin with, this is the social or societal aspect of propriety in sex behaviour. Even in proper behaviour, restraints and reservations are envisaged. In terms of Buddhist thinking, this relates to chastity or chaste behaviour. Monastic life in serious pursuit of the goal of Nibbana, on the other hand, essentially requires complete celibacy.
In the code of the pa¤ca-sãla which is prescribed for the regular dat to day observance of the lay community, this precept, on the one hand, leaves no room for premarital sex, and extra-marital on the other. This virtue of chastity or restraint from premarital sex is referred to as komàra-brahmacariya. In marriage, no extra-marital relations are permitted, not even with the consent or connivance of erring parties or partners, however enticing it may be. This situation is referred to as sahasà sampiyena và and its breach is condemned as being vulgar or vasala in the Vasala Sutta.
The restriction on premarital sex in Buddhism is not that difficult understand. The situation does not appear to be any different from what it realistically is in the world today, twenty-five centuries later. Unmarried mothers and unwanted children on the one hand, bringing along with them the appended crime of everybody involved slipping out of the situation, with the abortion of the unwanted and unexpected child. This is viewed in Buddhism as repugnantly equal to murder as quite many saner men and women from the ranks of doctors and philosophers in many parts of the world hold today. The errant behaviour of slip-out males create the situation of fatherless homes which even America does not view with approval, as Bill Clinton himself made known, after one year of his election as President the first time.
Alongside this disapproval of what is considered erratic and irresponsible social behaviour, there came up in the U.S.A. in 1996 a massive joint protest against premarital sex from teenage girls of all nationalities. At that time, there were as many as ten thousand of them. This is what they said. We are teenagers. We do not want sex. They pledged to wear in public badges with the words Sex is worth waiting for. This is what education in the real sense can do in any country, in addition to training the young for jobs. Perhaps we might need the services of two ministries for this in our country. We need a special one for value inculcation, with specially trained personnel to handle it.
While admitting the vital role of education in every area of social correction, let us honestly ask ourselves When and where does education begin ? World authorities on the subject are known to say that it does begin at zero. That is in the home, on one's mother's lap. We would even be more correct if we said that it is while one is still in the mother's womb. But that sacredness of the mother's womb as a place where glory of life has its first beginnings, is now virtually in the garbage bin.
We feel that in Sri Lanka, if sex relations are to acquire a healthy and wholesome pattern, education must play a more serious and sensible role. Not merely provide safeguards for promiscuous sex behaviour. This education must necessarily begin in the home, with parents playing a more exemplary and accountable role. Defaulting parents cannot play the role of guides. Caught up in the trendy run of things, and infected with crazy ideas of social elitism, parents are known to aid and abet the young in these areas of questionable sex behaviour.
It is not a day too early in Sri Lanka for parents of all ethnic groups and religious denominations to join hands and come forward for a retrieval of lost values in this country. If humanity survives, then seeds of religion and culture will definitely sprout on such rich soil once again.
May all beings be well and happy. May there be peace on earth and goodwill among men.