Author Topic: What is sexual misconduct and is there a finite line or are there grey areas?  (Read 21205 times)

Positive Change

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This subject may seem taboo but when on a spiritual part one takes to heart a lot of what would seem mundane or 'normal' in a samsaric context. I am often torn between the fine lines (if any) on the above matter.

Is sexual misconduct the actual act itself? The thought? The combination of both? Or a culmination of thought, action and rejoicing in both. For me if it is merely thought, then is flirting actually considered a misconduct? For example, flirting with no ill intent but merely in a teasing sort of way. All words and no action so to speak. Does one actually break one's vow of no sexual misconduct? If so, what is the difference with someone who actually acts upon the thoughts? Surely there is and should be a difference.

Or then again, is it based purely on the thought whether or not one acts upon it? If so, I would be the first the admit having broken my vow of sexual misconduct. Perhaps, one might suggest that I am merely trying to fish for a justification or a reason to flirt! Maybe... but I am trying to build on my spiritual path and these are questions in my mind that often plague me. And if one has broken their vow of no sexual misconduct, as ignorant as it may sound, how does one mend the vow? Help?

Helena

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I am not sure if what I am about to write is the correct answer. But I personally would say that any misconduct begins with a thought. The mere thought of it is likened to planting the seed. Everything arises from a thought, then we seal the deed with the act and motivation.

However, the degree of infraction on the vows may differ. Meaning - a thought may not be as heavy as an actual act done. Hence, there might be different degrees of severity on the broken vows of the misconduct. I hope someone can clarify this.

I have heard from my Lama advising the whole room that the best purification for any sexual misconduct or bad karma related to sex is cleaning the spiritual place, center or temple. Yes, actually scrubbing, sweeping, cleaning and washing of any spiritual place, building, center or temple. This is what I have heard.

If anyone has more information, that will be greatly appreciated. More information brings greater learning and understanding.

Helena

triesa

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Sexual misconduct is one of the refuge vows.

To constitute the breaking of a vow, one must have completed the following 4 stages:

1) To have the  thought or idea
2) To carry out the act
3) To complete the act
4) To rejoice in the completion of the act and wanting to do it again and again.

And if you really have done the above 4 steps, the way to make amend is to apply the 4 opponent powers as below:

1) To regret
2) To promise not to do it again
3) To apply antidode to purify -  such as engaging in 35 confession buddha or vajrasattva
4) To do dharma practice

Positive Change, if you just have the thought and never carry out the action, it is not considered breaking the vow.... but I think it is better not to even start with the  non vituous thought ... becasue that may lead you up to the final stage.....


Positive Change

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Thank you Triesa...

As it is I find it hard to even look myself in the mirror from just the mere thoughts let alone the other 3 components that you have clearly listed out that constitute breaking a vow. I understand how these all play an important role in the actual breaking of the vow. It makes a lot of sense.

Where can I read up more about this? Do you have some reading material I can get my hands on? There is not much where I live but perhaps I can get it off Amazon or somewhere like that. Thank you again for the clarification.

dsiluvu

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I am not sure if what I am about to write is the correct answer. But I personally would say that any misconduct begins with a thought. The mere thought of it is likened to planting the seed. Everything arises from a thought, then we seal the deed with the act and motivation.

However, the degree of infraction on the vows may differ. Meaning - a thought may not be as heavy as an actual act done. Hence, there might be different degrees of severity on the broken vows of the misconduct. I hope someone can clarify this.

I have heard from my Lama advising the whole room that the best purification for any sexual misconduct or bad karma related to sex is cleaning the spiritual place, center or temple. Yes, actually scrubbing, sweeping, cleaning and washing of any spiritual place, building, center or temple. This is what I have heard.

If anyone has more information, that will be greatly appreciated. More information brings greater learning and understanding.


Yes, what Helena said above is correct as I this has been cleared by my Lama before. Every part of the act from the thought to the actual action has karma but the severity of it is different. However, if we continue to do it no matter how small the severity is, the negative karma actually accumulates, when not purified, and one day it can and will be as heavy as the doing the whole act it self.

That is the scary part!

Here is a small simple example given; a person out of pure ignorance, without knowing, disrespectfully leans his hand on a Buddha statue's head, does the person collect negative karma. Answer: YES.

The person will still collect some negative karma, not a severe as doing the complete process. This is an act that has no thought or even intent to begin with, but he/she still collected the negative karma even though he/she did not know. Hence it would also be the same for the person with the thought but without the actual action...

So follow the 4 opponent powers of purifications... this one I got from Thubten Chodron's Luminous Wisdom blog
http://www.buddhism-blog.com/2006/06/purifying_karma.html

Power of Regret
Power of Reliance/Repairing the Relationship
Power of Determination not to Repeat the Action
Power of Remedial Action

And as said by Helena if you can engage in acts like cleaning your Lama's house, temple, Buddha statues, that is extremely good to purify one's karma especially in relation to attachment/desire .

Other purification methods are preliminary practices like:

1. Prostration
2. 35 Confessional/Long Vajrasattva
3. Water Offerings (which also creates the causes to collect merits > water = resources)

Others:
1. Making Buddha images:
print / tsa tsa / statue (these days people usually sponsor) so it is excellent if one can say sponsor Buddha statues to monks/nun :)

2. Sponsor Dharma Books

The goal is usually 100,000min but you can start 10k at a time so as not to break your retreat commitment.

Hope it helps :)

Positive Change

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Quote
Yes, what Helena said above is correct as I this has been cleared by my Lama before. Every part of the act from the thought to the actual action has karma but the severity of it is different. However, if we continue to do it no matter how small the severity is, the negative karma actually accumulates, when not purified, and one day it can and will be as heavy as the doing the whole act it self.

That is the scary part!

Here is a small simple example given; a person out of pure ignorance, without knowing, disrespectfully leans his hand on a Buddha statue's head, does the person collect negative karma. Answer: YES.

The person will still collect some negative karma, not a severe as doing the complete process. This is an act that has no thought or even intent to begin with, but he/she still collected the negative karma even though he/she did not know. Hence it would also be the same for the person with the thought but without the actual action...

So follow the 4 opponent powers of purifications... this one I got from Thubten Chodron's Luminous Wisdom blog
http://www.buddhism-blog.com/2006/06/purifying_karma.html


Thank you dsiluvu,

Your post has been an eye opener... The information given is very clear and exacting.Of course there is negative karma created with every bad thought... it makes a lot of sense. One has to be accountable for every thought and action one makes!

With my catholic upbringing it has always been so 'easy' during Confession and reciting the Act of Contrition that one thinks one is 'forgiven' and the slate is clean. At least so I thought. Looking at it from a Buddhist angle now, it is a lot clearer that the Act of Contrition is very similar to the 4 opponent powers of purification in that we have to go through the following:

Power of Regret
Power of Reliance/Repairing the Relationship
Power of Determination not to Repeat the Action
Power of Remedial Action

Without these key elements, sorry is really just a word.

hope rainbow

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As it is I find it hard to even look myself in the mirror from just the mere thoughts let alone the other 3 components that you have clearly listed out that constitute breaking a vow. I understand how these all play an important role in the actual breaking of the vow. It makes a lot of sense.
Where can I read up more about this?
Do you have some reading material I can get my hands on?
There is not much where I live but perhaps I can get it off Amazon or somewhere like that.
Thank you again for the clarification.

PC, I would advise for you to read the chapter on karma relevant to the initial scope in the lamrim.
It will give you some insight into what makes karma.
Each of the ten non-virtuous actions is literally dissected exposing a train of thought and an action leading to the creation of black karma.
The heaviness of the karma depends upon the completion of this train of thoughts together with a resulting action that starts and that gets completed.
This sequence is the same for every non-virtuous action.
For sexual misconduct it goes as follows:

1. THE BASIS
the basis for lay people is any improper partner, improper place or improper time.
improper partner is someone else than your partner, or someone else's partner, a sexually immature person (a child), someone not mentally capable to understand the nature of a sexual intercourse (retarded person), mother-father-sibling or an animal.
Without this basis, the sexual misconduct cannot take place.
QUESTION: if the basis is imaginary, is it misconduct?
Improper place is in front of one's parents or in front of one's guru.
Improper time is, for example, during one day's vows, Wesak day for example. It could also if the woman has her period.

2. THE INTENTION (3 parts)

2a) RECOGNITION
One understand what sexual misconduct is and has no doubt that the act coming to mind is sexual misconduct.
I am married and I see a beautiful girl, I know that what comes to my mind is nothing less than sexual misconduct.

2b) MOTIVE
One entertains the thought of engaging in the act of sexual misconduct (clearly recognized), one wants to engage in it.
I have the desire to engage in this act with the beautiful girl, I entertain that desire, "I want", I do nothing to stop my mind.

2c) DELUSION
any of the three poisons.
example: Hatred- I am a soldier invading a country and I rape out of hatred. Or, I seduce the wife of my enemy because I want to hurt him.
example: Desire- I really think that by engaging in a sexual intercourse with this girl even though I am committed to my wife is going to make me happier.
example: Ignorance- works with both the above, in every case I think ignorantly that it will make me happier.

3. THE DEED
I carry out the action. Sexual organs come in contact.

4. THE FINAL STEP
The final step is when I experience orgasm.

There are also factors that make the karma heavy or not, refer to the lamrim for that.
But regardless of the heaviness, once the act is complete, the vows are broken.

After the act is completed, then we make it worse or we start a process of fixing it.
Making it worse = I do it again.
Fixing it = I apply the 4 opponent powers



vajraD

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Thank you dsiluvu for the explanation and hope rainbow for much info and also reference and reading material to refer too.

Few years ago I have a friend whom came and visit me in my house and he shared the 4 stages of breaking vow

1)   Thoughts
2)   Action
3)   Completion of the act
4)   Rejoicing the completion of the act

To purify them one have to apply the 4 opponent powers.

Tammy

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Is sexual misconduct the actual act itself? The thought? The combination of both? Or a culmination of thought, action and rejoicing in both. For me if it is merely thought, then is flirting actually considered a misconduct? For example, flirting with no ill intent but merely in a teasing sort of way. All words and no action so to speak. Does one actually break one's vow of no sexual misconduct? If so, what is the difference with someone who actually acts upon the thoughts? Surely there is and should be a difference.

Or then again, is it based purely on the thought whether or not one acts upon it? If so, I would be the first the admit having broken my vow of sexual misconduct. Perhaps, one might suggest that I am merely trying to fish for a justification or a reason to flirt! Maybe... but I am trying to build on my spiritual path and these are questions in my mind that often plague me. And if one has broken their vow of no sexual misconduct, as ignorant as it may sound, how does one mend the vow? Help?

PC,

I am glad you brought up this subject, I would like to share my thoughts :

"our mind controls our body" - hence in a very simple way, what we think will lead to action.

Other people had shared indept knowledge on karma in response to your post, but I would like to point out that, karma aside, we must control our minds, when we repeatedly think of doing something, this will eventually lead to our body taking cue from our thoughts and carry out the actual act. Hence we should not even entertain evil thoughts. As it will definitely lead to sinful acts which create negative karma.


Down with the BAN!!!

Tammy

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That is the scary part!

Here is a small simple example given; a person out of pure ignorance, without knowing, disrespectfully leans his hand on a Buddha statue's head, does the person collect negative karma. Answer: YES.

Seriously !! This really freaks me out !

Can dsiluvu share where is the source for this info? I really like to know more on this.

Thanks
Down with the BAN!!!

lightning

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Treat samaya and vows as teachers; vows arises from karma:

If anyone knows about how painfully bad karma can be, then they will guard their vows with vigilantly and with less painlessly to maintain vows.

To know that every actions we do incur karma and we will start to know what to do and not to do for knowing the consequences of incurring negative karma.

Even Nagajurna cannot escape the death of beheading, but He transcend above world emotions by understanding how karma works.

Knowing that there are things that are subjected to impermanence, the suffering of clinging to unhappiness of change and not getting what we want, finally understanding to the true nature of No-self which leads to liberation of suffering.

Buddhism has powerful antidote to overcome negativity of mind such as greed, anger and ignorance.
There is a case of someone in the prison for so long and came out to seek vengeance and committed murder as soon as He is being released. The anguish was so strong that He could control himself but to seek vengeance. later He regretted and donated his organs to those in need and did not plead for mercy from death sentence.

If we could understand how karma works and the nature of mind, it will help us better to navigate away from negativity.

Hopefully, everyone understand that vows arises from karma and to prevent negative karma is to guard our vows and to monitor our mind. We should be lead by the working of karma by nose, if our troubled delusional mind arise. We must pinpoint it by saying to ourselves, my delusional mind has arises and monitor it such that it will soon disappear rather than to follow it and get more delusional by greed, anger and ignorance.

ratanasutra

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Quote
Yes, what Helena said above is correct as I this has been cleared by my Lama before. Every part of the act from the thought to the actual action has karma but the severity of it is different. However, if we continue to do it no matter how small the severity is, the negative karma actually accumulates, when not purified, and one day it can and will be as heavy as the doing the whole act it self.

That is the scary part!

Here is a small simple example given; a person out of pure ignorance, without knowing, disrespectfully leans his hand on a Buddha statue's head, does the person collect negative karma. Answer: YES.

The person will still collect some negative karma, not a severe as doing the complete process. This is an act that has no thought or even intent to begin with, but he/she still collected the negative karma even though he/she did not know. Hence it would also be the same for the person with the thought but without the actual action...

So follow the 4 opponent powers of purifications... this one I got from Thubten Chodron's Luminous Wisdom blog
http://www.buddhism-blog.com/2006/06/purifying_karma.html

Power of Regret
Power of Reliance/Repairing the Relationship
Power of Determination not to Repeat the Action
Power of Remedial Action

And as said by Helena if you can engage in acts like cleaning your Lama's house, temple, Buddha statues, that is extremely good to purify one's karma especially in relation to attachment/desire .

Other purification methods are preliminary practices like:

1. Prostration
2. 35 Confessional/Long Vajrasattva
3. Water Offerings (which also creates the causes to collect merits > water = resources)

Others:
1. Making Buddha images:
print / tsa tsa / statue (these days people usually sponsor) so it is excellent if one can say sponsor Buddha statues to monks/nun

2. Sponsor Dharma Books

The goal is usually 100,000min but you can start 10k at a time so as not to break your retreat commitment.

Hope it helps 



Thank you dsiluvu and HR, I learn a lot from your posts, and i know it can be applied if i break my vows.
Just to add one thing apart from what has been mentioned that we also can do to purify our negative karma either from sexual misconduct or other, which is build or contribute to the building of stupa as it extremely benefit from doing that.


Lama Zopa Rinpoche said

Regarding what practices to do for purification of sexual misconduct, doing 500,000 prostrations to the 35 Buddhas is a very powerful purification practice that purifies many eons of negative karma, not just karma created in one day, or in this life. The benefits of reciting just one name of the 35 Buddhas is incredible.

Also, for purification, it would be very good if you read the section on renunciation in the lam-rim. I think here the essential idea is to understand how negative imprints are left on the mind and how this harms future lives. Understanding this is very helpful, to stop the pattern in future lives. By stopping this now it will make a difference in your future lives, so that you can live purely in morality, abstaining from breaking the vows. If you don’t live in morality then it makes other practices difficult; it makes it hard to have realizations because morality is the basis for those.




Rihanna

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If we use trickery, emotional blackmail or force or compel someone to have sex with us, then any of those methods constitute sexual misconduct. Adultery is also a form of sexual misconduct because when we marry, we promise our spouse that we will be loyal to them (till death do us part). When we commit adultery, we break that promise and betray their trust. Sex should be an expression of love and intimacy between two married couple, and when that happens, it contributes to our mental and emotional well-being.

But if a married woman is raped, does that constitute sexual misconduct? Definitely not. In order for a vow to be broken, the 4 components (intent, action, completion of the act and rejoicing) must be present as clearly explained by Hope Rainbow.
 

Ensapa

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Sexual misconduct is a very wide term and it can  be defined from Vashubandu's point of view, which most of it has been presented in this thread, or that it can be explained in more canonical terms as per the Theravardan tradition. Here's the Theravardan view of this topic, which will provide some contrast to the topic as opposed to just having one dimension.

Quote
Buddhism's "Sexual Misconduct" Defined
WQ editors


What is "sexual misconduct" (kamesu micchacara)? Here are two definitions in the Buddha's own words.

"One conducts oneself wrongly in matters of sex; one has intercourse with those under the protection of father, mother, brother, sister, relatives or clan, or of their religious community; or with those promised to someone else, protected by law, and even with those betrothed with a garland" (Book of Tens, Anguttara Nikaya, X, 206).

"Abandoning sexual misconduct, one abstains from sexual misconduct; he does not have intercourse with women who are protected by their mother, father, mother and father, brother, sister, or relatives, who have a husband, who are protected by law, or with those already engaged" (See Bhikkhu Bodhi translation, In the Buddha's Words, p. 159, based on MN41; Saleyyaka Sutra; I 286-90).

Sexual misconduct or "wrong sensual indulgence" is karmically harmful behavior. On account of karma it will result in suffering and unsatisfactoriness now and/or in the future.


Kama [not to be confused with karma] denotes pleasure associated with the senses, particularly sexual pleasure -- as in the legendary Sanskrit classic, the Kama Sutra. Sensual misconduct is wrongdoing for the sake of satisfying sensual desire. This harm may be to oneself or others. For example, there can be harm by overindulgence, such as gluttony/obesity or alcoholic intoxication. This is because craving arises, and one habitually tries to satisfy it in an ultimately unsatisfactory manner.

Any excessive or addictive sensual (kamesu) indulgence can constitute "misconduct" (miccachara). Strictly speaking, however, the term "sensual misconduct" is defined only in sexual terms, as the Buddha made clear by his definition.



Right Speech Example
This limited definition makes sense when sex is viewed as representative of sensuality in general – much in the way as the ordinary Buddhist thinks that Right Speech (samma vaca), the third factor of the Noble Eightfold Path, means only abstaining from lying. But lying is simply the grossest form of verbal misconduct. In fact, Right Speech refers to "speech that is timely, true, gentle, purposeful, and uttered kind-heartedly" (Anguttara Nikaya, Book of the Fives, 198).

Right Speech is abstaining from speaking unseasonably (at the wrong moment), falsely, harshly, idly, or maliciously. After all, the honest truth -- or the situation as one sees it and claims it to be -- may be more harmful when spoken in any of these other ways than even a fib or silence.

The problem with thinking that kamesu micchacara only refers to sex is that one soon becomes accustomed to the shorthand and neglects to consider that kamesu really refers to all five senses.

Fornication
Moreover, "sexual misconduct" has been hastily defined by early English, German, and French scholars based on Judeo-Christian thinking as "fornication and adultery." But the Buddha did not teach that householders should abstain from sex, nor did he proclaim that they should engage in sex only in the context of marriage as many Christian sects teach.

It is mistaken and off-putting to confuse the Puritanical teachings of other religions with the ethical universals taught by the Buddha.

Consenting individuals not under the protection of others are free to engage in and enjoy sex without being admonished. What is important is that in so doing they are neither being harmed nor causing harm to others.

Explanation
Therefore, definitively speaking "sexual misconduct" means engaging in sex with a non-consenting individual (as in rape, coercion, or fraud) or consensual sex with anyone under protection. This means any dependent supported by parents, guardians, the community, state, or a spouse or fiancee.

The state (or monarch) may decree someone as "off limits," such as the common early English translation of a "female convict." This meant someone who was not free under a mandate, for example, a court edict or royal decree.

It would be clearly be harmful to engage in sexual intercourse with someone under duress. That would be harmful to all three parties -- oneself, another, and both (which means the community). In the same way, to a lesser degree, harm is being done when one has sex with someone promised [by parents or guardians] to another, betrothed, formally engaged, or married.

In brief, one avoids doing harm by abstaining, not from sex, but from "misconduct." To over extend or distort the meaning of misconduct leads to hypocrisy and even guilt for those trying to live as Buddhists.

Celibacy
Complete abstinence (brahmacariya) is said to be the supreme-life. It is only incumbent on those who willingly adopt such a stringent rule. That usually refers to Buddhist monastics, but it also refers to laypeople who choose to keep more than Five Precepts for a limited period of time, for example, during a meditation retreat.

Celibacy is not imposed on independent adults. It is sometimes voluntarily adopted as a form of training and self-discipline to bring craving under control.

Final Word
But the fact of the matter is that one best advised to follow the customs and sensibilities of one’s era and culture -- not because these are right but because one avoids reproach, hurt feelings, and many unnecessary troubles by doing so. This is in fact what many monks advise. Keep in mind what the Buddha taught; in addition, be mindful of what your society teaches.

Dondrup Shugden

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Sexual misconduct is one of the refuge vows.

To constitute the breaking of a vow, one must have completed the following 4 stages:

1) To have the  thought or idea
2) To carry out the act
3) To complete the act
4) To rejoice in the completion of the act and wanting to do it again and again.

And if you really have done the above 4 steps, the way to make amend is to apply the 4 opponent powers as below:

1) To regret
2) To promise not to do it again
3) To apply antidode to purify -  such as engaging in 35 confession buddha or vajrasattva
4) To do dharma practice

Positive Change, if you just have the thought and never carry out the action, it is not considered breaking the vow.... but I think it is better not to even start with the  non vituous thought ... becasue that may lead you up to the final stage.....

In this age of much freedom, another important factor which will constitute sexual misconduct is when some one is taken advantage of for this copulation. Or some one who betrays another, like in the case of adultery.

Another very grave scenario would be a resulting pregnancy which neither party takes responsibility which result in abortion and that is really a great felony.