Wikipedia says:

Incest is human sexual activity between family members or close relatives. This typically includes sexual activity between people in consanguinity (blood relations), and sometimes those related by affinity (marriage or stepfamily), adoption, clan or lineage.

In some societies, such as those of Ancient Egypt, brother–sister, father–daughter, mother–son, cousin–cousin, aunt–nephew, uncle–niece, and other combinations of relations within a royal family were married as a means of perpetuating the royal lineage.

DN 3 appears to say the Sakyan Aristocrats were superior to Brahmans because the Sakyans Aristocrats slept with their blood sisters and thus keep the Aristocrat lineage pure.

Recollecting the ancient name and clan of your mother and father, the Sakyans were the children of the masters, while you’re descended from the son of a female bondservant of the Sakyans. But the Sakyans claim King Okkāka as their grandfather.

Once upon a time, King Okkāka, wishing to divert the royal succession to the son of his most beloved queen, banished the elder princes from the realm—Okkāmukha, Karakaṇḍa, Hatthinika and Sinisūra. They made their home beside a lotus pond on the slopes of the Himalayas, where there was a large teak grove. For fear of diluting their lineage, they slept with their own sisters.

Then, Ambaṭṭha, King Okkāka was inspired to exclaim: ‘The princes are indeed Sakyans! The princes are indeed the best Sakyans!’ From that day on the Sakyans were recognized, and he was their founder.

For I also say this:

"The aristocrat is best of those people who take clan as the standard. But one accomplished in knowledge and conduct is best of gods and humans.”

It was only yesterday when an acquaintance was tell me how he was part of an Australian veterinary team that went to Thailand to rectify the birth deformities of in-bred goats by impregnating the Thai goats with sperm from Australian goats.

Did the Buddha praise the practise of incest? Are there any Commentary apologetics for this above, seemingly, ignorant teaching in DN 3? I thought the Buddha was supposed to be omniscient? Or is DN 3 just another fake DN sutta composed to convert eḷamūgo to Buddhism?


Quoting from Piya Tan's commentary:

  • On the first page:

    The Buddha is not trying to humiliate Ambaṭṭha, but trying to show him that class is not due to birth (not birth alone, anyway).

    That theme is found elsewhere too, the Dhammapada etc.

  • On the second page, after "Ambaṭṭha is humbled", the Buddha starts to explain "the fruits of asceticism" in terms of "knowlege and conduct", wishing to ...

    impress on Ambaṭṭha‘s mind the importance of both theoretical knowledge and the trained mind. The Buddha expounds the well known sāmañña,phala stock passage on the threefold training in moral virtue, mental cultivation and wisdom, found in the first 13 suttas of the Dīgha Nikāya.

  • Footnote 66

    It is important to note here that the Buddha does not approve of incest. Apparently, incest was not a taboo in such ancient times. In fact, it is practised in some societies, such as ancient Egypt and Achaemenid Persia, for sake of preserving the bloodline. The Buddha‘s wry humour is evident here. Apparently, by the Buddha‘s time (certainly by commentarial times), incest was unacceptable. For, we have an account of an inter-tribal quarrel, where the Koliyas derided the Sakyas as ―descendents of those who married their own sisters, like dogs or foxes!‖ (DhA 3:254). In the Chinese translations, this sibling marriage was replaced by those ―within the third degree of kinship, that is, uncles and nieces, and aunts and nephews‖ (Nakamura 2000: 33). The Dīgha Comy actually classes incest as ―abnormal lust‖ (adhamma,raga), ie, ―lust between mother and mother‘s sister and father‘s sister and maternal uncle‘s wife and other such improper situations‖ (mata matuccha pituccha matulanī ti adike ayutta-t,thane rago) (DA 3:853): see SD 8.7 (2).

  • 1
    As i suspected, "Commentary apologetics". – Dhammadhatu Apr 23 at 6:07
  • 2
    It's what makes sense -- it's how I read it without the commentary ... e.g. because that's the interpretation that fits with Dhammapada verse 396, "I do not call him a holy man because of his lineage or high-born mother." ... and because there are other DN suttas which are interpreted as something of a parody of Brahminical doctrine, e.g. DN 27 about the origin of humans. – ChrisW Apr 23 at 6:18
  • None of it makes sense to me. To me, it all sounds like non-sense. Anyway, thank for your answer. Regards – Dhammadhatu Apr 23 at 10:38
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    I don't really understand the question in the OP -- i.e. given that (according to the sutta) the Buddha said, "they slept with their own sisters", why do you interpret or imagine that as the Buddha's "praising the practice"? – ChrisW Apr 23 at 10:51
  • 1
    That's this again isn't it. Again I interpret that as not, "The Buddha said they're superior", but instead, "The Buddha said they're considered superior (by those who believe in superiority-by-birth)". Anyway it didn't occur to me to interpret it as "praise", so. – ChrisW Apr 23 at 11:41

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