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Until and unless I become enlightened I will be driven by my needs. At times I am aware and these urges do not overpower me but not always. What is wrong here according to Buddhism? Enjoyment? If yes that is the case then with all people who are enjoying writing in this forum. Desire to help others masquerades as compassion. I find desires as the central point of origin of actions. I have my doubts whether compassion is the real force. I think compassion is mixed with desire in all our actions till we are liberated. Please enlighten me. For the sake of clarity I am just a regular Joe not a monk.

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    Which sort of Buddhism? In Chinese Buddhism, sex is bad full stop. In Vajrayana, sex is sometimes good on the grounds that the power of desire can be used to move yourself towards enlightenment. – MatthewMartin Mar 12 '16 at 16:36
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    @БаянКупи-ка Sorry. I have asked a dozen times in the past, I guess this time I was hoping everyone already knew by now, but that was lazy of me. I'll make an effort to ask next time or at least (what I usually do is) post a comment to remind people that answers-as-comments on a question are deleted, and to please post an answer instead. Thanks again for reposting it as an answer. – ChrisW Mar 12 '16 at 21:49
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    See also When shouldn't I comment? in this Help topic, and this meta-topic. – ChrisW Mar 12 '16 at 21:51
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    From the comments the OP posted in many of the answer, and the text of his question, I think it could be much more precise/clearer. As is, it just seems to ask what is the general problem with sex (which is very broad, involves different traditions and teachings for households and monks, and so forth -- which reflects on all answers). But from what I understand, after reading it all, is that he is actually interested in knowing on which basis sex, in essence, is unwholesome (say, contrary to hunger / eating food). Just a thought,... – Thiago Mar 12 '16 at 22:00
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    It's possible the OP wants to wants to argue (that people are too anti-sex, are repressed, have small libidos; that there are certain sects in India with a secret doctrine; and that natural animalistic sex is kamma-free and a necessity; and that meditation can be used to go beyond cravings) and not really ask a question. The whole topic tends towards discussion or argument, because it asks "why is it bad?" (although the third precept implies it's permitted), and it doesn't specify a school of Buddhism which lets the OP bring in arguments based on secret doctrines etc. – ChrisW Mar 12 '16 at 22:19

13 Answers 13

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Sex(1) is unwholesome(2) according to the Buddha's teaching.

If one is on this forum just to enjoy oneself then that is probably unwholesome. If the real intention to be on this forum is to learn and/or help people then that is most likely a wholesome intention and is good kamma.

Wanting to be compassionate is a wholesome intention. Not everything we want is unwholesome.

(2) Unwholesome actions lead to suffering. Unwholesome actions are usually entangled with a wrong view of self, nonacceptance of reality and/or not letting go of reality.

(3) Wholesome actions are usually in harmony with acceptance of reality, letting go of reactions to reality and/or the correct view of self

(1) Why is sex between consenting adult laypeople unwholesome? I don't know precisely but I do have faith in the Buddha's teaching. Even just wanting to exist is also unwholesome, so I wouldn't get my feathers ruffled over it.

  • Can you share a definition of "wholesome" and "unwholesome", or a way for people to distinguish for themselves which is which? – ChrisW Mar 11 '16 at 15:30
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    Unwholesome action leads to suffering. Unwholesome actions are usually entangled with a wrong view of self. Wholesome actions are in harmony with reality, in harmony with the correct view of self. Why is sex between consenting adult laypeople unwholesome? I don't know precisely but I do have faith in the Buddha's teaching. – Lowbrow Mar 11 '16 at 22:13
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    Sex is unwholesome? It is Natural just like thirst. Its a bodily need. When it becomes a mind's craving then it becomes unwholesome. But please do not digress from my question. My question is simple - unitil and unless I am liberated mind is active and urges dominate atleast for some time of the day not always. Writing in this forum is an intellectual pursuit which again is enjoyable. For example writing or reading can elevate your thinking to a higher level or clarity about vision of life which is required to be enlightened. You are implying repression of sex which is unwholesome. – Shashank Khare Mar 11 '16 at 23:52
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    Sex can certainly be a distraction while practicing the Buddha's eightfold path. – Lowbrow Mar 12 '16 at 0:41
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Until and unless I become enlightened I will be driven by my needs. At times I am aware and these urges do not overpower me but not always. What is wrong here according to Buddhism? Enjoyment?

As I can see in the comments of your question, you are obviously aware that the rules of monk and laypeople are different. Laypeople are allowed to have sex and are just refrained from engaging in sexual misconduct. These are the distinctions drawn by the Buddha so that practitioners might develop as much as possible in the practice, considering their 'conventional' realities. Although the ultimate reality is same for one and all and it is the prerogative of the individual to determine how much one could immerse oneself in the practice.

Buddha did not condemn enjoyment. The whole Noble Eightfold path is the way to eternal happiness. But what might be wrong in the process of enjoyment is our 'Ignorance'. Ignorance is considering something that is Anicca (Impermanent), Dukkha (Source of Suffering), Anatta (Non-Self) as Permanent, Source of Happiness and Self. Ignorance is the root cause of all miseries. Ignorance is eradicated by cultivating Wisdom.

So what could be wrong with enjoyment? You could get addicted to it considering it to be permanent, source of happiness and self. And why is addiction wrong? Here is an answer by U Tin Lwin from this paper, Vipassana and Vedana as Understood by a Novice:

Avijja is the origin of upadana, which is the developed form of tanha (craving). It is this tanha that gives rise in its turn to every fresh rebirth. For instance, when a man covets something belonging to another person, he tries to get it by some unlawful means which may be theft or even robbery. Such an act is akusala-kamma (evil deed). On the other hand, he gives alms hoping to enjoy wealth in the next existence. Such an act, though it may be labelled kusala-kamma (good deed), is also led by tanha. He is then bound to be reborn in another existence to enjoy or to suffer in accordance with his kamma (deeds). Even if he knows enjoyment only in that existence, he cannot escape dukkha, he remains subject to old age, illness, death and other suffering. Never does one's enjoyment last forever, because nothing in the world is permanent; everything is indeed transitory and certain to change. It is the same old story, each time his rebirth takes place he encounters all kinds of dukkha and struggles with them. So one's samsara (cycle of births) goes on and on without any prospect of coming to an end. Samsara in a way resembles an enormous whirlpool in an ocean in which innumerable beings, including divine, go round and round, sometimes submerging and at other times surfacing, but never finding any way out.

The whole article is really beautiful and covers many common misconceptions. The ultimate truth is the same for one and all. Ignorance might be bliss but the ultimate truth liberates from the cycles of Samsara.

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There is nothing wrong with enjoying sex, so long as you don't mind suffering.

Let me turn the question around on you: If you were never able to have sex again, even though your desire and drive to do so remained, how would that make you feel?

Judging by your question and the comments you have made, I would assume this would cause you suffering.

This is all that the Buddha is saying. Such a mind-state of clinging and craving will plant the seed for potential future suffering. You cannot suffer because you can't have sex, if you don't want to have sex to begin with.

Likewise, a mind free from craving, free from anger, and free from delusion, seeing clearly the transient, unsatisfying nature of all impermanent phenomena, is a mind with no potential to suffer.

This is the Buddha's teaching: This leads to this, that leads to that. That is all.

It really is true, I can tell you from my own experience. If you give the Buddhas teaching a fair chance and put it into practice, you will likely see very quickly in meditation how perturbed the mind becomes by the constant craving for sensuality.

I am very much like you, in fact. Before my first meditation course last year, I loved having sex, and indulging in sensuality. I thought it was great, and the more I got, the happier I was.

When I attended the course, at first it was very nice, sitting in silence. It was very peaceful. For the first day, at least.

After this, for the next few following days, my mind was bombarded with lust.

All day, for several days, my mind cried out for the object of its desire, and every time it did, I brought it back to the present moment. This was true suffering. My mind was inflamed. Not because I needed to have sex; clearly not having sex will not kill you, but instead, because in this meditative state, I could clearly see how this craving was inflaming my mind.

I can tell you this, this lust is like a thirst that is never quenched. The object of your desire can never quench your thirst; as soon as you have it, it is gone, like sand falling through your fingers. As soon as you get it, it's gone, and before long you need more.

This is why we are always in search for more, never knowing peace, always wanting. We're chasing a mirage of water that will never quench our thirst.

A simile by Ajahn Chah illustrates this well:

Maggots

When we give rise to right view in our hearts, we can be at ease wherever we are. It's because we still have wrong views, still hold onto ideas that are poisonous, that we're not at ease. Holding on in this way is like being a maggot. Where it lives is filthy; its food is filthy. Its food isn't fit to be food — but it seems fitting to the maggot. Try taking a stick and flicking it out of the excrement where it's feeding, and see what happens. It'll wiggle and wriggle, eager to get back to the pile of excrement where it was before. Only then does it feel right.

It's the same with you monks and novices. You still have wrong views. Teachers come and advise you on how to have right view, but it doesn't feel right to you. You keep running back to your pile of excrement. Right view doesn't feel right because you're used to your old pile of excrement. As long as the maggot doesn't see the filth in where it's living, it can't escape. It's the same with us. As long as we don't see the drawbacks of those things, we can't escape from them. They make it difficult to practice.

We can sit here all day discussing the Dhamma, but in the end, the only thing that will truly convince you of the Buddhas teaching is to give it a fair chance yourself and put it into practice. Seeing first hand that what the Buddha says is in fact the way that the mind and body work together is the only way to know for yourself the path that leads to the cessation of suffering.

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desire is the driving force even behind the strive for awakening and nibbana, the difference is that it's a NOBLE and a WHOLESOME desire, leading towards goals of corresponding quality and ultimately beyond the desire itself, whereas worldly desires are and do the direct oppostite

compassion is genuine as much as our mental hindrances and defilements are gotten rid off, the further one is positioned on a spiritual path the more refined and sublime their wholesome qualities are

compassion, being a wholesome and a noble quality, is certainly to be cultivated

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"Until and unless i become enlightened I will be driven by my needs. At times I am aware and these urges do not overpower me but not always. What is wrong here according to Buddhism?"

The essential problem in Buddhism are all phenomena which are characterized as dukkha (and our craving for them, more on that bellow). Bhikkhu Bodhi explains that dukkha is:

The unsatisfactoriness of the conditioned due to impermanence, its vulnerability to pain and its inability to provide complete and lasting satisfaction.

-- Majjhima Nikāya, intro (Bodhi)

In a gist, dukkha is everything that is impermanent.

On the subject of "needs", there are many kinds of needs and desires. In Buddhism, they can be seen as wholesome or unwholesome. Wholesome is that which leads to well-fare, non-suffering, pleasing destinations after death, or ultimately, Nirvana. Unwholesome is that which does not.

According to Buddhism, desires associate to the senses [hearing, sight, touch, smell, taste and thoughts/ideas/emotions], are defined as sensual pleasures. These are unwholesome.

The Buddha acknowledges a range of characteristics about sensual pleasures: that there is some gratification in them, that there is danger in them, that they have origin, that they are impermanent, and that they can be escaped from. As such, he defines our bond to sensuality:

(1) “And what, bhikkhus, is the bond of sensuality? Here, someone does not understand as they really are the origin and the passing away, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in regard to sensual pleasures. When one does not understand these things as they really are, then sensual lust, sensual delight, sensual affection, sensual infatuation, sensual thirst, sensual passion, sensual attachment, and sensual craving lie deep within one in regard to sensual pleasures. This is called the bond of sensuality.

-- AN 4.10

The sensual bond and it's nurturing is, in essence, problematic for two reasons:

  • Obtaining sensual pleasure may not be satisfying, or the satisfaction from them is always temporary (thus, they are dukkha) -- leading for craving more or something else in an eternal cycle to appease lust.

    “Bhikkhus, the body is impermanent. What is impermanent is dukkha.

    -- SN 35.1

  • Not obtaining what we need/desire is a source of pain and suffering:

    "Lord, might there be agitation over what is externally not present?"
    "There might, monk," the Blessed One said. "There is the case where someone thinks, 'O, it was mine! O, what was mine is not! O, may it be mine! O, I don't obtain it!' He grieves & is tormented, weeps, beats his breast, & grows delirious. It's thus that there is agitation over what is externally not present."

Obtaining the sense pleasures one wants (and further developing craving, because it's satisfaction is temporary) or failing to obtain them / failing to find satisfaction is a potential for further serious problems:

"Again, with sensual pleasures as the cause, sensual pleasures as the source, sensual pleasures as the basis, the cause being simply sensual pleasures, people indulge in misconduct of body, speech, and mind."

-- MN 13 (Bodhi trans.)

Furthermore, these misconducts lead to bad outcomes -- more suffering here & now -- and/or bad destinations (more suffering after death).

Now, the fundamental/existential "desire" that keeps us bound to the cycle of birth and death subject to suffering is called craving (pali tanha). Craving is the second noble truth -- the origin of dukkha -- and it's permanent cessation yields permanent/everlasting freedom from dukkha, from suffering, Nirvana (third noble truth).

Therefore, delighting in forms, in touch, in smells, in sounds, in tastes...are unwholesome. They are unwholesome because such delights do not bring craving to an end, but essentially just nurture it. In it's worse form, it can further cloud our minds and make us do things that bring more suffering to ourselves and others (as summarized above). Because of it's danger and because renunciation to them is a safer (and arguably faster) path to Nirvana, the Buddha taught the monks to abstain and not look for such delights. However, he did not taught lay people to not have sex, but just to not have sexual misconduct.

Also, there are some schools that seem to try to use sex in a way to develop oneself in the path -- but that's beyond my knowledge.

On the other hand, there are desires that are beneficial (that helps one in his training to attain Nirvana) but they are not associated with sensual desires. They are desires for renunciation, desires for harmlessness, desire for the well-fare of beings, desire for their non-suffering, desires for attaining Nirvana.

"And what is right effort? There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, arouses persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen... for the sake of the abandoning of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen... for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen... (and) for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This is called right effort.

-- MN 141

These desires orient our action towards wholesome actions.

While unwholesome actions are defined as those rooted in greed, hatred and delusion:

  • greed being all sorts of craving and lust
  • hatred being all forms of negative mental states of aversion and ill will
  • and delusion being the non understanding of the impermanent nature of phenomena (e.g. wish that something pleasuring was permanent) and non understanding of our thirst and how it plays our minds (e.g. creating illusion of a permanent self).

...wholesome actions are defined in the negative: actions rooted in non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion. These actions are said to lead to better outcomes, and better destinations (after death) or Nirvana.

"Enjoyment? If yes that is the case then with all people who are enjoying writing in this forum."

There are many kinds of enjoyment. The Buddha compares sensual pleasures with other forms of happiness in the following passage:

[...] The pleasure and joy arising dependent on these five strands of sense desire, that is called sensual pleasure.

"Now, if someone were to say: 'This is the highest pleasure and joy that can be experienced,' I would not concede that. And why not? Because there is another kind of pleasure which surpasses that pleasure and is more sublime. And what is this pleasure? Here, quite secluded from sensual desires, secluded from unwholesome states of mind, a monk enters upon and abides in the first meditative absorption (jhana), which is accompanied by thought conception and discursive thinking and has in it joy and pleasure born of seclusion. This is the other kind of pleasure which surpasses that (sense) pleasure and is more sublime.

"If someone were to say: 'This is the highest pleasure that can be experienced,' I would not concede that. And why not? Because there is another kind of pleasure which surpasses that pleasure and is more sublime. And what is that pleasure? Here, with the stilling of thought conception and discursive thinking... a monk enters upon and abides in the second meditative absorption... in the sphere of the infinity of space... of the infinity of consciousness... of no-thingness... of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. [...] the cessation of perception and feeling. [...] This is the other kind of pleasure which surpasses that pleasure and is more sublime.

"It may happen, Ananda, that Wanderers of other sects will be saying this: 'The recluse Gotama speaks of the Cessation of Perception and Feeling and describes it as pleasure. What is this (pleasure) and how is this (a pleasure)?'

"Those who say so, should be told: 'The Blessed One describes as pleasure not only the feeling of pleasure. But a Tathagata describes as pleasure whenever and whereinsoever it is obtained.'"

-- Pañcakanga Sutta, SN 36.19

In another exposition, the Buddha distinguishes between worldly joys and unworldly joys. For example:

"Now, O monks, what is worldly joy? There are these five cords of sense desire [...]. It is the joy that arises dependent on these five cords of sense desire which is called 'worldly joy.

"Now what is unworldly joy? Quite secluded from sense desires, secluded from unwholesome states of mind, a monk enters upon and abides in the first meditative absorption [...]. This is called 'unworldly joy.

-- Niramisa Sutta: Unworldly, SN 36.31

It can be seen in the suttas that, in general, happiness, joy, contentment (or, specifically, the wholesome kinds) are at the very heart of the teachings.

In that case, reading and posting texts of buddha-dhamma here can produce a kind of joy. Provided such joy is associated with the well-fare for beings and with the desire for beings to attain freedom from suffering, then it is understood to be of a wholesome kind.

"Desire to help others masquerades as compassion."

Compassion is, indeed, a desire.

"I find desires as the central point of origin of actions."

Rightly so.


(in a comment): "You need to give me a sutta which clearly defines when sex has karmic repercussions for householders. No sutta of Buddha talks about sex for householders explicitly."

The only teaching for householders I know on this subject is on the five precepts which includes "abstaining from sexual misconduct".

I'm also not aware of any sutta elaborating on karmic repercussions of sex specifically for householders. I would actually find it odd to find such distinction, as if the nature of action/karma would be different depending if a person is householder or monk.

In general, regardless of who engages in sex (householder or monk), what most people infer from passages such as AN 9.7 is that sexual intercourse is rooted on taṇhā:

It is impossible for a monk whose mental fermentations are ended to engage in sexual intercourse.

Also, a sutta that has been analyzed in light of this issue is the Alagaddūpama sutta (MN 22, The Simile of the Snake). In it, the monk Ariṭṭha professes his understanding of the buddha dhamma as

"As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, those things called obstructions by the Blessed One are not able to obstruct one who engages in them."

and is strongly debunked by the Buddha. It seems the commentary explains that his issue is about sex. Nyanaponika Thera notes:

he conceived the view that sex indulgence was not necessarily an obstruction for a monk. Arittha is said to have used a rather sophistic argument, saying, "If some of the five sense enjoyments are permissible even for lay adherents who are stream-enterers (sotaapanna), etc., why is an exception made as to the visible shape, voice, touch, etc., of women?" According to Comy, Arittha goes so far as to charge the Buddha with exaggerating the importance of the first grave offence (paaraajikaa) for a monk (i.e., sexual intercourse), saying that the emphasis given to it is like the effort of one who tries to chain the ocean.

The similes about sense-desires, given in the following section of the discourse, seem to support the commentarial reference to sexual intercourse.

Gombrich (in How Buddhism began, 1996) and Pyia Tan have also mentioned this episode associated to sex. Pyia Tan writes:

In fact, Ariṭṭha comes up with this clever argument: “If some of the sensual pleasures are permissible to lay-followers who are streamwinners, etc, why is an exception made regarding form, voice, touch, etc, of women?” or of men, for that matter! The Commentary states that Ariṭṭha goes so far as to charge the Buddha of exaggerating the importance of the first grave offence (pārājikā), that of sexual intercourse, claiming that this urgency is like trying to “chain the ocean.” (MA 2:103)

Also, in the Saññoga sutta the Buddha explains how bondage in the context of sexuality arises:

"A man attends inwardly to his masculine faculties, masculine gestures, masculine manners, masculine poise, masculine desires, masculine voice, masculine charms. He is excited by that, delighted by that. Being excited & delighted by that, he attends outwardly to feminine faculties, feminine gestures, feminine manners, feminine poise, feminine desires, feminine voices, feminine charms. He is excited by that, delighted by that. Being excited & delighted by that, he wants to be bonded to what is outside him, wants whatever pleasure & happiness that arise based on that bond. Delighting, caught up in his masculinity, a man goes into bondage with reference to women. This is how a man does not transcend his masculinity.

It reasonably follows (from text and insight) that a sexual impulse is, by very nature, sensual desire -- the delight in it has the same fundamental characteristics as any other sensual delight, and attempt of depriving oneself from such act raises the same mental effects (e.g. the pain of not having what one desires) as the attempts of depriving oneself from any other sensual desire. It is indeed a "bondage with reference to man/woman".

It's reasonable to conclude, than, that any impulse for sexual intercourse that is not viewed as sensual desire (e.g. seeing it as a kind of desire that is distinct from sensual desire that ought to be "pure" or wholesome) is a faulty view on the nature of that impulse.

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Of course craving is at the root of all our actions while we're still not enlightened yet. However, there're different degrees of craving from the coarsest to the subtlest. Sexual activity is at the coarser end of the spectrum for it's part of a basic instinct common to both humans and animals. The desire to share Dhamma knowledge or to help other people is a subtler form for you don't quite see that among the animals. Dhamma cultivation process is like chipping away the dust and crust of a rock to reveal the diamond core inside. If one's not able to chip away the outer layer, what hope is there to ever get to the core! It's also important to keep in mind that the path to enlightenment is not one with absolutely no desire whatsoever. See a beautiful analogy Ven. Ananda taught the Brahman Unnabha about wholesome desire in SN 51.15

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The spiritual path is lonely. We have others to walk with, but not lean on. Why I am making this point is that, we have to observe ourselves with responsibility irrespective of society or people. Clarity of perspective is important.

We are responsible for our thoughts, emotions and actions. We need to truly see this point. Not many people understand it clearly. Taking this into perspective, we need to get behind our actions and truly observe it.

What I am saying is that, preaching the Dhamma or having sex are 2 actions. They are not important. What is the volition behind them? That's important.

Humans and animals have desires and they have the tendency to act. Humans can do it consciously. That is by truly thinking about it. Animals do it however they can or whenever in a more "crude" way sometimes, because that is how they are programmed. Their survival or compulsive instinct takes over.

As humans, we are always seeking some kind of pleasure or pleasantness if you observe correctly. Pleasure seeking activities. If some bad feeling comes out of an activity, we tend not to do it. If some good feeling comes out of an activity, we go back to it.

When we do activities compulsively, without observing it, this is what happens. Seeking pleasure unconsciously.

You made a point about enjoyment. You could enjoy preaching the Dhamma or you could enjoy having sex. I would say they are not the same enjoyment. Now you have to observe how the activity you do owns you in a way. Do you feel the compulsive need to have sex or masturbate? That activity owns you. That is craving or Tanha. You just want to try or do it because it makes your ego feel good, that's compulsive.

If you can just as well keep the compulsive feeling aside and truly realize all actions as providing feelings, (good feeling or bad feeling is irrelevant), that is of the same source, the ego, please be my teacher ;) This is equanimity.

So please see that there is actually nothing good or bad (or right or wrong) in the context of everything. But your actions just have consequences. We don't know what consequence yet because we can't or don't need to see that far. If you are ready to accept any consequence, consciously, then you are free to do whatever. May karma guide your path.

In this light I just want to share a small story I heard from a certain guru. There was this man who used to always look at this woman who used to live in the neighborhood. She looked good and she also sort of reciprocated the looks she got from this man. But the man didn't talk to the woman at all. Time passed, and the man died. He went to heaven because he was such a "good" guy always doing "morally good" deeds ;) The gods told him he is extremely "good" but that kind of "good" is not acceptable. He must go back to earth with 2 and a half hours of time and do a single "bad" deed. And then he will be accepted into heaven completely.

He went back down to earth and was thinking what "bad" deed could he do anyway? Then he thought, alright, this is the time. He went straight to the neighboring woman's house, knocked on her door. She was shocked to find him there. He forcefully entered her house and said "I am going to do something to you." Nature took over. Stuff happened. And he thought "ah yes now I have done a "bad" deed and can go to heaven gleefully!" Just as he was about to leave the woman's house, she said, "Where are you going? Come back. You are wonderful, you made me feel really nice!"

He totally facepalmed.

In conclusion, this thing you call compassion should be natural. That is true compassion. By natural, I mean that it should come out of your own volition. It CANNOT be forced. I cannot sit here and command you to be good to your neighbor. It DOES NOT work that way. If you truly see or realize the responsibility you have to your society and other humans and animals and plants and everything, your thoughts and emotions will automatically start to tailor themselves to behave responsibly. That is why we practice metta meditation.

  • So some bad deeds are allowed till Nirvana? – Shashank Khare Mar 12 '16 at 3:54
  • I am saying take a back seat and really look at what's going on. Why bother about Nirvana or some cool sounding Sanskrit/Pali word at all? It may be true. But have you experienced it or anything near it? I am saying let go. Don't sit there and complicate your mind with assumptions. Let's say you achieve this thing called Nirvana. Then what? Don't make a goal out of it. I clearly mentioned there is "nothing good or bad". Its only your narrow perspective that makes it good or bad. Don't judge. The path is the goal. Your life situations, mental concoctions are all part of it. – esh Mar 12 '16 at 4:06
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    I am saying STOP taking a viewpoint and simply observe! Don't even take my view, or a Buddhist view or a Hindu view or a Christian view. Don't get stuck in bullshit. Come out of it. Let it be. And simply observe everything. You'll start seeing common sense. – esh Mar 12 '16 at 4:23
  • If i loose awareness and it happens why would it be kamma? It is just that animal instinct has taken over. Why should it be tagged as desire? May be simetime sex is initiated through mind but not always. – Shashank Khare Mar 12 '16 at 15:26
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I enjoy sex just like I enjoy good movie. What is wrong about it?

Well, if here you are enjoying something, maybe I shouldn't go out of my way to complain about it and to tell you that your enjoyment or your behaviour wrong. If you were enjoying some "good movie", it might not be polite to interrupt and say you shouldn't.

Still in this question you do seem to be asking, "what's wrong with it?" -- and so to be on-topic maybe an answer ought to try to tell you.

I enjoy sex just like I enjoy good movie.

Maybe there's some difference between enjoying a movie and enjoying sex.

Assuming you mean "sex with someone else" then a difference is that sex can lead to wanting to find pleasure in, to repeatedly or perpetually find pleasure in, to control finding pleasure with someone else. That can lead to wanting to control or own someone, to assign to someone else the responsibility for your happiness, can lead to suffering for both of you. It's not quite like enjoying an inanimate object.

Also a movie is shareable (anyone can see it), whereas a sexual partner is less so; so having a sexual partner could lead to isolation, jealousy, to not treating everyone equally.

Also a movie (unlike a sexual partner) won't make further demands on you: maybe a movie will cost you a few hours, whereas desire for sex can cost a lifetime.

Until and unless i become enlightened I will be driven by my needs.

Well, it might be better to call sex a "desire" rather than a "need".

Sometimes some kinds of addict might call their desire a need though: for example they might say, I need alcohol; I need drugs; I need people to admire me; I need to feel proud; etc.

I think the way it works is something like:

  • sensuality - "I can see and touch things"
  • feeling - "I feel good, I like these things"
  • craving - "I want more"
  • attachment - "These are the things I want more of, the things I need"

Then attachment kind of goes against two of the marks of existence:

  • "impermanence" - although what you're attached to is impermanent, attachment to it or craving for it makes you want it to be permanent, or makes you feel suffering/dissatisfaction when it's not
  • "anatta" - although things are not-self, attachment makes you think they are, for example, "that is my wife" and "I am the person who needs sex".

Sex is forbidden to Buddhist monks. Perhaps you can consider them as proof (evidence) that sex is merely some desire but not a need. The rules of conduct for monks is written and well defined -- having sex would mean that person is no longer a monk.

The Bhikkhuni Sutta is informative: food is a need; monks might have craving too (especially craving for enlightenment); monks might even have conceit (especially the conceit that, because someone else was able to attain release, then so can they); but not sex. Sex is forbidden (and, by implication, also unecessary, not a "need").

There's also a sutta which answers your theory ("What I am saying is simple. Till the time you are liberated you are bound to have cravings. Cravings produces Kamma. So it is a vicious cycle. You are stuck forever.") that because unenlightened people have desire then they can never become enlightened: see the Brahmana Sutta.

Another metaphor might be, "A car in motion has momentum, therefore it can never stop." Well that's a theory but people can stop cars (using a brake, not using the accelerator, not refuelling the car, etc.).

If yes that is the case then with all people who are enjoying writing in this forum.

There are differences between enjoying sex and enjoying a movie; and other difference between enjoying this site.

People might enjoy this site because it helps them to understand the Dhamma.

The Dhamma is in some ways not like sex or a movie. One difference is that Dhamma is akalika i.e. "timeless". Perhaps the Dharma is (or can be) always helpful, always useful, no matter where and when you are.

Desire to help others masquerades as compassion.

Maybe it seems that way.

Sometimes I feel as if I know at least partially the person who I'm writing to (on this site), but not always.

In this post you were talking about and maybe trying to justify your sex life (which I know next to nothing about), and saying things I might not agree with (e.g. about "need") and so I didn't get the feeling that I knew who I was writing to -- maybe I'm not necessarily writing it to be "compassionate" to you.

I find desires as the central point of origin of actions.

Hmm. Maybe "intention" is the central point: we do things because we have some or other intention. That's suggested by the definition of "kamma" as "intentional action".

And then, maybe "intention" is conditioned by "view": for example if you view sex as desirable, or view it as a need, then you intend to have sex. Conversely if you viewed liberation as desirable and sensuality as unsatisfying, then you might have a different intention. (That's suggested by the "noble eightfold path", which places "right intention" immediately after "right view").

I think compassion is mixed with desire in all our actions till we are liberated.

One of the models of the path to liberation is that of the Four stages of enlightenment.

According to that model, things like "identity view" and "doubts about the teachings" are the first fetters to overcome. "Sensual desire" is more persistent, and gradually overcome during the two stages after that. A kind of craving (for existence) continues until the last stage ... so maybe you're right that "desire" of some kind of other is persistent.

Still, the second noble truth is that craving is a source of suffering. Feeding, fuelling, and enjoying addictions and self-justifying them as a "need" might not be the best way to reduce or eliminate craving.


I think this answer isn't the whole truth but it's an answer.

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Until and unless i become enlightened I will be driven by my needs. At times I am aware and these urges do not overpower me but not always. What is wrong here according to Buddhism? Enjoyment?

  1. Since sex is technically speaking not against the 5 precepts (as long as it's not sexual misconduct), there is nothing wrong about it from the point of view of (Buddhist) ethics
  2. Note, that there is a difference between vedana (feeling) and tanha (craving, "thirst"). There is nothing wrong about experiencing pleasant feelings as such, but having desire for them will lead to dukkha (suffering). So any desire will prevent you from getting nibbana (awakening, enlightened) and is certainly not a fill-in until you get there. Remember, that you can only progress on this path by letting go.

"And as I remained thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, thinking imbued with sensuality arose in me. I discerned that 'Thinking imbued with sensuality has arisen in me; and that leads to my own affliction or to the affliction of others or to the affliction of both. It obstructs discernment, promotes vexation, & does not lead to Unbinding.'

"As I noticed that it leads to my own affliction, it subsided. As I noticed that it leads to the affliction of others... to the affliction of both... it obstructs discernment, promotes vexation, & does not lead to Unbinding, it subsided. Whenever thinking imbued with sensuality had arisen, I simply abandoned it, dispelled it, wiped it out of existence. - MN 19

Summary: Desire/Enjoyment will lead you away from nibbana.


Desire to help others masquerades as compassion. I find desires as the central point of origin of actions. I have my doubts whether compassion is the real force. I think compassion is mixed with desire in all our actions till we are liberated.

In Buddhism, action is the translation of the word kamma

Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect. - AN 6.63

If you look at others, you can see their actions of body and speech, but you cannot know their intentions.

So if someone is helping somebody out of self-desire, this would be both good kamma and bad kamma, since the intention to help others with body or speech is good, but the intention of self-desire is bad.

Summary: You cannot know, what others think/intend. Also, Buddhists should have metta (unconditioned loving kindness) towards others from their side and not get caught up in prejudices or suspicions about the intentions of others, because then they would have bad intentions themself.

  • What I am saying is simple. Till the time you are liberated you are bound to have cravings. Cravings produces Kamma. So it is a vicious cycle. You are stuck forever. – Shashank Khare Mar 11 '16 at 23:57
  • In MN 60 there is a section about "Cessation of becoming", which can maybe bring some understanding. – OidaOudenEidos Mar 12 '16 at 10:46
  • Cessation of desire or of becoming is Nibbana. I am not discussing it. The discussion is about sex which is the most potent force prior to Nibbana. The transitory period is what is critical and should be managed well. – Shashank Khare Mar 12 '16 at 18:49
  • @ShashankKhare I don't know what you mean by transitory period. – OidaOudenEidos Mar 13 '16 at 17:55
  • from being a layman to advanced practitioner wherein cravings are no longer driving force. – Shashank Khare Mar 13 '16 at 19:27
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Until and unless i become enlightened I will be driven by my needs.

Even when you are enlightened you will have your bodily needs but this is not fueled by greed, hatred or ignorance.

At times I am aware and these urges do not overpower me but not always.

When a person gets overpowered by lust or any other form greed, hatred or ignorance what happens is that the person has lost his mastery over the mind.

The Buddhist pratice has a 3 fold training covering higher virtue, higher mind and higher wisdom. When you mastery over the mind is shaky then so will become your wisdom and also virtue. In these situation developing clam maybe the best thing to regain mastery over the mind.

What is wrong here according to Buddhism?

Buddhism training is such that you do not become a slave your your mind and your uncontrolled desires and aversion. So this is not a desirable situation to be in but as worldlings these things happen. With lapse of time you have to train so you are not a puppet of your desires but you have control over the mind and finally eradicate the roots (greed, hatred, ignorance, non greed, non hatred, non ignorance) by which you finally gain ultimate control or mastery over the mind.

Enjoyment?

As a householder you can enjoy within the framework of the 5 Precepts.

If yes that is the case then with all people who are enjoying writing in this forum. Desire to help others masquerades as compassion. I find desires as the central point of origin of actions. I have my doubts whether compassion is the real force. I think compassion is mixed with desire in all our actions till we are liberated. Please enlighten me.

Action can be due to: Chanda which can be either wholesome or not. If the action is attached to either greed, hatred or ignorance it is not wholesome. Having desire to act on its own is not a bad thing.

I enjoy sex just like I enjoy good movie. What is wrong about it?

It is preoccupation with sex or to the opposite sex which might be leading to excessive desires, hence to start with you can reduce this. Details in overcoming this is given in: Saññoga Sutta

And the women became excessively preoccupied with the men, and the men with the women. Owing to this excessive preoccupation with each other, lust was aroused, and their bodies burned [with passion]. Because of this burning, they indulged in sexual activity. - Aggañña Sutta

In essence what you are doing is you are evaluating some one desirable or ugly and developing craving and aversion to the present and unpleasant sensation that follows. This processes should stop whereby you are equanimity knowing the arising and passing nature of the arisen feeling.

Now coming to what is wrong with it:

  • Lust is a craving which cases the cycle of dependent origination to turn creating more misery in the future. Also covered in the 2 Noble Truth.
  • It is part of sensory desire (kāmacchanda) in the 5 hindrances which will stall your spiritual progress.
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I enjoy sex just like I enjoy good movie. What is wrong about it?

From a Buddhist point of view it would be considered as unskilled or unwholesome since it tends to enforce craving and attachment, thereby leading one further away from Nibbana.

If one practices meditation intensively sensual desire will subside and one will come to view it as being gross and dangerous when seeing and knowing the impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and uncontrollability build into conditioned phenomena.

The Buddha likened pleasant sense-objects to flower-tipped arrows, i.e. arrows which are hidden beneath a flower. When one grabs the flower one gets stung by the arrow.

  • Nothing wrong with Buddhist viewpoint but it should not be mistaken for Buddha's view. Nowhere in percepts it is mentioned not to have sex or have less sex atleast for householders. Meditation if practised right slowly cool your senses down. Natural urges subsides and even the breathing slow down. In deeper states it even stops. But for layman these experiences are simply beyond their reach. He cannot be told that sex is unwholesome. How can something natural be unwholesome? Please read Freud. Sexual repression create mental disorders which are far more lethal. – Shashank Khare Mar 15 '16 at 13:09
  • In Buddhism we have no such thing as repression. Insight meditation naturally does away with craving and underlying tendencies, through the elimination of Avijja. – Lanka Mar 15 '16 at 14:13
  • i am talking about people who say sex needs to be avoided. It needs to be transcended through meditation and right living. People whave done it understand the difference between the two. – Shashank Khare Mar 15 '16 at 14:22
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With regards to your question of desires, You are correct there is no difference in terms of desires caused by senses such as smell, touch, taste, hearing, sight, and consciousness.

Since you are given human form your body is bound to go through nature of its form (physical needs, physical instinct, evolution which applies to all animals, plants, and nature around us). Buddha said 'clinging' to something will bring more suffering in the end regardless of the object of clinging was good or bad. So keep that in mind. If you don't eat for several days your body will need food to properly function. If you have a normally functioning and healthy body, you will want to have sex to create your offspring.

With regards to whether 'desire as central point of origin of actions', yes and no depending on the level of awareness. Most animals yes and there lots of human beings living like animals. That could apply to what you consider 'compassion' as desire as well but true compassion is beyond desire, thinking, or word. It's in the different realm.

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It is difficult for humans to understand the dangers of sensual pleasures, including sex pleasure.

I remember in the past I thought the same but after achieving higher states I saw how sex pleasure causes painful feelings in the future, just as The Buddha had said:

"Now, what is the taking on of a practice that is pleasant in the present but yields pain in the future? There are some brahmans & contemplatives who hold to a doctrine, a view like this: 'There is no harm in sensual pleasures.' Thus they meet with their downfall through sensual pleasures. They consort with women wanderers who wear their hair coiled in a topknot.

"The thought occurs to them: 'Now what future danger concerning sensual pleasures do those [other] brahmans & contemplatives foresee that they have spoken of the relinquishment of sensual pleasures and describe the full comprehension of sensual pleasures? It's pleasant, the touch of this woman wanderer's soft, tender, downy arm.' - Cula-dhammasamadana Sutta, MN 45

Most humans cannot perceive the dangers of sensual pleasures, so they think "what's the harm in it?".

Suppose someone were to eat lots of tasty delicious desserts, while in the present they might think "what is the harm in these desserts? It tastes good", but then suppose later on their doctor informs them that they have some negative health condition because they ate so many tasty desserts and snacks.

Or suppose someone was born without pain receptors and hurt themselves badly without perceiving it.

In the same way humans engage in sensual pleasures thinking "there is no harm" or "what is the harm?".

Humans do however see the dangers in STDs and unwanted pregnancy don't they? Because they can perceive it.

Maybe a lay person might be able to overcome the negative effects of sex if they achieve higher states, with concentration.

"If one, longing for sensual pleasure, achieves it, yes, he's enraptured at heart. The mortal gets what he wants. But if for that person — longing, desiring — the pleasures diminish, he's shattered, as if shot with an arrow." - Kama Sutta, Sutta Nipata 4.1

Do you think sex pleasure is temporary or permanent?

Do you think sex pleasure leads one towards enlightenment here and now?

Do you think sex pleasure can cause unwanted pregnancies and STDs?

It is important to also note that giving up sex pleasure by itself does not make one enlightened, it simply makes achieving enlightenment easier.

What actually causes enlightenment is the destruction of taints.

My suggestion for the lay people attracted to sexual pleasure is to get married to avoid sexual immorality and try to achieve higher states.

protected by Lanka Mar 28 '16 at 21:10

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