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I have noticed most of the time third precept is interpreted as sexual misconduct or adultery. But third precept emphasize all the misbehavior and misconduct using all six sensual spheres. "Kamesumichchara" in here kama means involvement of all six sensual spheres.

E.g in this answer; One must abstain from committing adultery or sexual misconduct. Romantic relationships that are emotionally or spiritually damaging to others, due to existing commitments of the parties involved, are a cause for stress and suffering and based on perversion of the mind.

My question is how fair or correct to narrow third precept to sexual misconduct or adultery?

Does over-thinking violate third precept because its a misconduct of mind due to uncontrollable and misuse mind?

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In my (Mahayana) interpretation, Kamesu-micha-cara means "Behavior incorrectly motivated by desire of sensual pleasure". This pertains to any pleasure associated with any of the senses.

The core idea of the precept IMO is that "desire of pleasure" is "wrong motivation". It is not that sensual pleasure in and of itself is bad. It is that receiving pleasure is an invalid goal. Instead, behavior should be motivated by a valid goal, such as health, well-being, harmony, peace, and Liberation.

Since mind counts as one of the senses, any activity "motivated by desire of MENTAL pleasure" should count as violation of the precept. This would pertain to indulging in all types of mental pleasures such as idle conversations, games, fantasies, philosophizing and others.

There is a fine line here though. An activity would only be a violation of precept, if its sole motivation was receiving (mental) pleasure. If activity has benefits such as development of mental faculties, reduction of pathological mind states, and increase of wholesome mind states, then it should count as constructive activity of useful nature.

For example, if someone is depressed, and is engaging in meditation aimed at increasing motivation and generating positive mind states, this should not count as indulging in mental pleasure - even though it involves deliberate generation of joyful mind states.

So I think the main criteria here is, whether we are indulging for pure pleasure, or doing it deliberately with a wholesome goal in mind.

And yes, in this interpretation "overthinking" or more precisely "indulging in thinking and philosophizing for the pure pleasure of it" would count as violation of third precept.

  • This is good answer. I know practically how over-thinking increase our stress and steal our happiness. Addiction to thinking create over-thinking which is totally uncontrollable. Also I suggest to participators of this site (not you Andrei) that don't narrow third precept to sexuality because it will convey wrong message about Dhamma to readers. Thanks for your verification. This proves how broad the third precept is. Metta! – danuka shewantha Mar 21 '18 at 8:58
  • It is a very dangerous thought to extend the 'Third precept - Refrain from sexual misconduct' to something beyond 'sexual misconduct'. You need to be careful with your wordings and the message you want to convey. – Krizalid_13190 Mar 22 '18 at 3:16
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    I am not refuse sexual misconduct and it partially and superficially convey the meaning of third precept as per contemporary literature. Third precept is so broad and it cover all the addictions due to all sensual spheres. It has to be understood very carefully. Over-thinking is violate third precept when you concern the criteria. I just show the different aspect of third precept. – danuka shewantha Mar 23 '18 at 15:17
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The precept is defined in the suttas as "sexual bodily action":

And how is one made pure in three ways by bodily action?... Abandoning sensual misconduct, he abstains from sensual misconduct. He does not get 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

Since the suttas (DN 31) also teach parents must arrange the marriage of their children and also teach the taint of woman is sexual unchastity, the precept of sexual misconduct also includes sex outside of marriage, i.e. sex without commitment, without compassion, motivated only by lust.

As for sensual pleasures in general, there are many suttas, such as MN 75 and MN 54, which describe the negative aspect of sensual pleasures however these suttas do not appear to use the term "misconduct":

So too, Māgandiya, formerly when I lived the home life, I enjoyed myself, provided and endowed with the five cords of sensual pleasure: with forms cognizable by the eye…with tangibles cognizable by the body that are wished for, desired, agreeable, and likeable, connected with sensual desire and provocative of lust. On a later occasion, having understood as they actually are the gratification, the danger, and the escape in the case of sensual pleasures, I abandoned craving for sensual pleasures, I removed fever for sensual pleasures, and I abide without thirst, with a mind inwardly at peace. I see other beings who are not free from lust for sensual pleasures being devoured by craving for sensual pleasures, burning with fever for sensual pleasures, mn.i.506 indulging in sensual pleasures, and I do not envy them nor do I delight therein. Why is that? Because there is, Māgandiya, a delight apart from sensual pleasures, apart from unwholesome states, which surpasses even divine bliss. Since I take delight in that, I do not envy what is inferior, nor do I delight therein.

2“Suppose, Māgandiya, there was a leper with sores and blisters on his limbs, being devoured by worms, scratching the scabs off the openings of his wounds with his nails, cauterising his body over a burning charcoal pit. Then his friends and companions, his kinsmen and relatives, would bring a physician to treat him. The physician would make medicine for him, and by means of that medicine the man would be cured of his leprosy and would become well and happy, independent, master of himself, able to go where he likes. Then he might see another leper with sores and blisters on his limbs, being devoured by worms, scratching the scabs off the openings of his wounds with his nails, cauterising his body over a burning charcoal pit. What do you think, Māgandiya? Would that man envy that leper for his burning charcoal pit or his use of medicine?”

“No, Master Gotama. Why is that? Because when there is sickness, there is need for medicine, and when there is no sickness there is no need for medicine.”

“So too, Māgandiya, formerly when I lived the home life…as in §12…Since I take delight in that, I do not envy what is inferior, nor do I delight therein.

MN 75


Householder, there are these eight things in the Noble One’s Discipline that lead to the cutting off of affairs. What are the eight? With the support of the non-killing of living beings, the killing of living beings is to be abandoned. With the support of taking only what is given, the taking of what is not given is to be abandoned. With the support of truthful speech, false speech is to be abandoned. With the support of unmalicious speech, malicious speech is to be abandoned. With the support of no rapacity and greed, rapacity and greed are to be abandoned. With the support of no spite and scolding, spite and scolding are to be abandoned. With the support of no anger and irritation, anger and irritation are to be abandoned. With the support of non-arrogance, arrogance is to be abandoned. These are the eight things, stated in brief without being expounded in detail, that lead to the cutting off of affairs in the Noble One’s Discipline.

MN 54

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In simple terms: Precepts = refraining from actions.

My understanding is that the 5 Precepts not only helps us from creating negative karma (Kamma = intention + actions) but also helps us in cultivating a foundation to release our attachment to the 5 Skandhas. (Actions being external factors of attachments.)

To your question:

[My question is how fair or correct to narrow third precept to sexual misconduct or adultery?] <--- I do not see any bits of "unfair" or "incorrectness" to limit sexual misconduct to the third precept. No matter in Theravada or Mahayana, they have given numerous examples and conditions on what is considered as Sexual Misconduct and inappropriate actions. And the range of stuff is very wide.

[Does over-thinking violate third precept because its a misconduct of mind due to uncontrollable and misuse mind?] <--- No. The 5 precepts corresponds to actions only. Over-thinking is addressed through training the mind.

A method of training one's mind is to observe how they arise from the 3 poisons: Greed, Hate, Ignorance, and then apply respective antidotes (Generosity, Loving-kindness, and Wisdom). This training is obviously the core teachings of the Buddha, i.e. the 4 noble truths and 8 folds paths.

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No it doesn't! And it's certainly not about doing something too much. It's about having a sexual relationship with someone else's wife, husband etc. Otherwise getting addicted to music, cakes, chocolates etc. would break the 3rd precept too.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – ChrisW Mar 21 '18 at 16:18

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