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I was reading about Buddhism in Wiki and I just am not able to make out if celibacy is a must for Buddhists?

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In practice, some schools seem to allow non-celibate monks and nuns. I've known a few soto-zen monk/nun couples... – Thiago Silva Jan 7 '15 at 5:18
What kind of Buddhism? As I have to keep reminding question askers, Buddhism isn't a monolithic single thing with a central body for deciding doctrine. Also, within a sort of Buddhism, do you mean lay or monastic? You used the tag five-precepts, which normally means lay Buddhist who in no tradition that I no of obliges lay Buddhists to be celibate. – MatthewMartin Jan 7 '15 at 16:16
up vote 9 down vote accepted

Is celibacy intrinsic to Buddhism?

The answer depends as follows:

  • As a householder, no, celibacy is not required. It is only required to abstain from improper sexual conduct. And what is improper sexual conduct?

    He gets sexually involved with those who are protected by their mothers, their fathers, their brothers, their sisters, their relatives, or their Dhamma; those with husbands, those who entail punishments, or even those crowned with flowers by another man.
    -AN 10.176, To Cunda the Silversmith (Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta)

  • As a monastic, yes, celibacy is required. You can get a better understanding of monastic celibacy by reading this discourse (AN 7.50, which is at the bottom of the linked page).

This distinction, however, is not "set in stone" or "black & white" since householders are encouraged to be celibate if they feel inclined to do so.

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If you choose a way of a monk - you have to keep your vows so celibacy is a must for you.

If you choose to be a lay Buddhist, you should undertake 5 precepts and one of those is avoiding sexual misconduct. When two people love and respect each other they can generate lots of happiness through sex. In tantric Buddhism giving sexual pleasure is actually seen as a form of generosity.

One of the most important practices in Vajrayana Buddhism is meditating on Yidams (Buddha forms). Some of the forms represent male and female Buddhas in union. If Buddhas do it, there must be nothing intrinsically impure in sex.

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It would be ideal if a question like this were framed as either an inquiry into personal experiences and views or as relating specifically to the precepts of specific schools of Buddhism.

am not able to make out if celibacy is a must for Buddhists?

The answer I would give is no. Only one Buddhist ever was required to practice celibacy: that was Shakyamuni; and he required it of himself by "marrying himself to the Earth." In an allegorical sense this marriage is indicated by the story of Shakyamuni's final struggle with Mara (the devilish nature of delusion integral to all beings; an innate part of consciousness); when challenged by Mara to produce any person who could testify that he, Shakyamuni, was qualified to become the Tathagata, the Teacher to all living beings, Shakyamuni placed his hand, palm upon the ground and said "The Earth is my witness" (it is said that when he did this, the ground trembled in many directions, scattering the followers of Mara, who fled in terror).

Vinaya, the codified rules of monastic conduct, do not apply outside the school which claims them. So the Vinaya of Theravadan Buddhists cannot be applied to those answering from a Mahayana perspective (as informed readers will no doubt deduce that I am).

I have been celibate for more than a dozen years as I write this. I am in my 50s and am a male American person. It has some great aspects. However, everything is like a blade that has two edges.

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