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I am interested in learning about Buddhism, and there are a lot of questions. I wonder (since it seems to me Buddhists are quite independent, and they don't attach that much to people or things) what about like if they did have families or friends or wives or husbands: do they live without affection etc.?

  • Hi Hannah and welcome to Buddhism SE. We also have a Help Center with useful resources that you might like. Enjoy your time here. – Lanka Mar 22 '17 at 14:19
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Marriage does not guarantee happiness (some married people are unhappy). This answer includes advice about how to choose a marriage partner.

And chapter 6 of A Happy Married Life (which is titled "Security, Respect and Responsibilities") identifies what attitudes and behaviour are recommended by Buddhist doctrine/scripture, between husband and wife. There may also be affection between e.g. a mother and her children.

I don't think it's affection that's identified as the principal problem in Buddhism: the problems are craving (e.g. for what you don't have), and attachment. So for example if you craved more affection than you think you're getting, you will "suffer" (and, I think, cause suffering too). Also, a characteristic of sensual pleasure (and of other "compounded" or "conditioned" things) is that it's impermanent. So for example "physical touch" cannot be a permanent (even if continual it couldn't be continuous), and so people must learn (or must also learn) to live, to behave, to control or regulate themselves without it. And I think that attachment is likely to cause the survivor problems when their partner dies, etc.

For these kinds of reasons, the pursuit of sensory pleasures may be unwise or unsatisfying.

As for "living without affection" there are attitudes which I think are recommended by Buddhism and which are like affection (perhaps these are affection, or perhaps they're a good substitute for or alternative to affection), for example kindness, benevolence, harmlessness, even equanimity.


As for the title ("Do Buddhists need...?"), I'm inclined to read that as "Do Humans need...?". I'm not sure whether to say that all humans are the same, and have the same needs. Perhaps they do, but have different capacities or abilities to deal with those needs. There's a field of Western psychology (which I'm not familiar with) called Attachment theory, which has theories such as how secure people feel depends on things like how they were treated and how they developed when they were infants: as well as how they developed (how they were developed, and how they developed themselves) as children and so on into adult life. Maybe people's needs, or how "needy" they are, varies according.

  • Attachment Theory is a good place to look for more insight. People are 'formed' by early life in ways that are almost impossible to change. Insecurely attached people can seem to "never get enough". – user2341 Mar 23 '17 at 11:59
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Buddhist generally show kindness. Living in solitude is encouraged to practice detachment and other Buddhist teachings.

A need is a personal preference. A Buddhist may choose to entertain affection at the risk of losing his "sila"

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Buddhists come under 4 groups: monks, nuns, laymen, laywomen.

Monks and nuns are not allowed to engage in any romantic or sexual activity. They are not even allowed to touch a person of the opposite gender even as a friendly gesture.

Laymen and laywomen are only expected to refrain from sexual misconduct. ex: Becoming intimate with another's wife or husband. So as long as they keep to the five precepts, they can show affection to another in any socially acceptable method.

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ZEN Buddhist priests and nuns may marry, and laypeople of any tradition do have intimacy at any level.

From the Karaniya Metta Sutta:

“Just as a mother would protect her only child with her life, even so let one cultivate a boundless love towards all beings.”

Real Buddha Quotes

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Very interesting question that you asked. The short answer to it is “yes!”. Buddhists who are well grounded in Dhamma do have intimacy. They have friendship, companionship and intimacy with the good, because of their abstinence from excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures, abstinence from drunkenness, and non- indulgence in gambling.

The five precepts… specially the third... Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami - “I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.” Is a safeguard for us from such.

The five precepts as we know and practice is the worldly right view and worldly right conception. The distinction made in the discourse between worldly right view and the right view that is above the world (supre-mundane) is that, in the case of the latter, this means **Complete Abstinence, expressed by the use of these three more terms - aarati virati and pativirati. Such abstinence applies to right action and right livelihood as well.

One who takes the five precepts with an aim of walking the Noble Eightfold Path, towards attaining Path-Fruition aim for the aarati, virati, pativirati level of abstinence.

  • I don't think it's relevant (or at least, maybe not clear to the OP why it might be relevant) to talk about pornography and masturbation when the question is about affection and physical intimacy. They are, kind of, completely opposite things; perhaps it isn't clear to everyone why you would equate them. – ChrisW Mar 23 '17 at 11:39
  • I tend to agree with you on this @ChrisW. – Saptha Visuddhi Mar 23 '17 at 11:51
  • @ChrisW I didn't see this before it was edited, but perhaps the connection is that lack of 'proper' intimacy seems to give rise to impropriety? I don't agree with that assertion, but it is very common. I also do not think that any physicality at all must pull one back down in to delusion, but that is the normal view also. – user2341 Mar 23 '17 at 12:05
  • @nocomprende You can see edited versions by clicking on the link below the answer, where it currently says "edited 15 minutes ago". I guessed it was based on the doctrine of the twelve nidanas (that pleasurable sensual contact gives rise to craving and attachment) but if the OP isn't Buddhist I doubt that they might have understood that. And I think that whether one's ethical capacity may either develop or atrophy might vary depending on whether there's more than one person involved. – ChrisW Mar 23 '17 at 12:15
  • @ChrisW thank you. To me, no one can develop beyond a certain point in isolation. We 'need' deep interactions to become more fully human. So, to me, all the avoidance of sensation and intimacy is nonsense. But I am not a Buddhist. – user2341 Mar 23 '17 at 12:21

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