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I’ve been going to Vipassana meditation retreats for a while now. Every single time, I am plagued by sex idea and fantasies, almost like going crazy by it. During the sittings sometimes the whole hour passes with planning and imagining scenarios of sexual nature. Of course, the things I plan never actually get carried out once the retreat is over. But I am quite stumped at this pattern. Can you give me some insight on it, and an approach to manage/outgrow it? I should also mention that sadly I am not able to keep the precepts during these retreats- I end up “flying solo” multiple times . Thanks

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  • You're human, it's normal.
    – Cdn_Dev
    Commented May 19 at 23:28
  • hi. in Buddhism, the word 'human' does not mean 'homo sapien' and being filled with lust. The idea lust is 'human nature' comes from the New Testament (Galatians 5:17-26). The Buddhist scriptures literally say a human is free from lust, hatred & delusion suttacentral.net/an6.39/en/… Commented May 22 at 12:17
  • Buddhist thought is great, and I appreciate it. But feeling sexual attraction is a result of brain chemistry and hormone production, usually when people are within their reproductive years. This feeling encourages people to mate and partner with others, which is normal for most animals. If you're trying to fight this feeling because of Buddhism you're fighting a losing battle. The problem isn't lust, it's sexual misconduct.
    – Cdn_Dev
    Commented May 23 at 12:49

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Vipassana is a result of maintaining the Noble Eightfold Path. MN 149 says:

Any view belonging to one who has come to be like this is his right view. Any resolve, his right resolve. Any effort, his right effort. Any mindfulness, his right mindfulness. Any concentration, his right concentration: just as earlier his actions, speech & livelihood were already well-purified. Thus for him, having thus developed the noble eightfold path, the four frames of reference go to the culmination of their development. The four right exertions... the four bases of power... the five faculties... the five strengths... the seven factors for Awakening go to the culmination of their development. [And] for him these two qualities occur in tandem: tranquillity (samatha) & insight (vipassana).

MN 149

Avoiding inappropriate sexual activity is an aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path. Bhikkhu Bodhi has translated the Right Action factor of the Noble Eightfold Path as follows:

And what, bhikkhus, is right action? Abstinence from the destruction of life, abstinence from taking what is not given, abstinence from sexual misconduct: this is called right action.

SN 45.8

What is not sexual misconduct in Buddhism relates to two sutta teachings:

  1. The parents show their compassion to their children by (i) they restrain them from evil, (ii) they encourage them to do good, (iv) they arrange a suitable marriage. (DN 31)

  2. Having abandoned sexual misconduct, he abstains from sexual misconduct. He does not have sexual relations with women who are protected by their mother, father, mother and father, brother, sister, or relatives; who are protected by their Dhamma; who have a husband; whose violation entails a penalty; or even with one already engaged. (AN 10.211).

The above two sutta teachings are summarized or conjoined in the Theravada Commentary about what is not sexual misconduct:

In the case where the father is gone, or the mother provides support such as food and clothing, the mother guards [her] thinking "I will give [her] to a good family when she comes of age." This is called "protected by the mother". By the same means "protected by the father", etc., should be understood.

Yuttadhammo Monk translation

In summary, the constant sexual thoughts in the question are examples of wrong view and wrong resolve (wrong thought). The mind does not understand what is harmful to oneself & to another in relation to sex, therefore the mind has wrong view & wrong resolve. As mere examples, due to inappropriate heedless impulsive sex:

  • people get heartbroken, people develop low self-esteem or develop bitter anger due to feeling being taken advantage of;

  • people develop sex addiction (which is often due to the fear to be alone or the avoidance of experiencing the pain & shame of their previous sexual activities; a need for reaffirmation);

  • people are insensitive and even cruel towards other; such as watching pornography

  • people become unfit for marriage due to loss of bonding instinct and when they eventually get married their marriages eventually fall apart, causing harm to themselves & their children.

  • people, as they age & their physical sexual drive falls, develop psychological issues, which would probably contribute to the significant percentage of people over 40 years of age today who use some type of antidepressant medication.

These various harms are examples of falling into the hell (painful), hungry ghost (addiction) and animal (sociopathic) realms. Thus the Buddha, for example, described sexual promiscuity as animal behaviour.

Monks, these two bright qualities guard the world. Which two? Conscience & concern. If these two bright qualities did not guard the world.. the world would be immersed in promiscuity, like rams with goats, roosters with pigs, or dogs with jackals.

AN 2.9

The Buddha compared ignorant (blind) animal behavior to human behaviour as follows:

Sooner, I say, would that blind turtle, coming to the surface once every hundred years, insert its neck into that yoke with a single hole than the fool who has gone once to the nether world would regain the human state. For what reason? Because here, bhikkhus, there is no conduct guided by the Dhamma, no righteous conduct, no wholesome activity, no meritorious activity. Here there prevails mutual devouring, the devouring of the weak. For what reason? Because, bhikkhus, they have not seen the Four Noble Truths. What four? The noble truth of suffering … the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering.

SN 56.47

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We are creatures of habits whether in our actions, speech or thoughts. Try to pick up the habit of dropping instead. Engaging in day-dreams, fantasies or just letting the mind rampage in all kinds of imaginations is a habit. Like all habits, it can be unlearned by counteracting with an opposite habit. For example, if a person is in the habit of shooting their mouth off, they can get in the habit of pausing for a few seconds before talking. Or if a person is in the habit of procrastinating, they should try to get in the habit of just acting first (“let’s do it now!”) instead of thinking excuses. So, instead of picking up and chasing after any suggestive thoughts that comes into the mind, just drop them.

Suppose a sexual thought comes up and the mind is lost in fantasy. Once, we catch hold of ourselves, try to cue ourselves mentally with the words, “drop it” or “drop”. If necessary, keep repeating those words. If we lose the battle and the mind wanders off. The next time there is an opening and we again catch hold of the mind, just pick up the mantra again. Keep “dropping” until the mind has quietened down enough to focus back on the meditation object.

In fact, it pays to practise this mantra in our daily lives as well. Because wandering off is just so habitual for the mind, it will do so at any time of the day regardless of what we are doing at the moment. So, use any occasion when we caught the mind wandering to drop whatever thoughts that we are engaged in at that moment. As long as it is not related to what our tasks are at the moment and it falls under the random, meandering and whimsical side, just drop it. The mind may protest and give excuses about how important these erratic mental rambles are. Don’t buy it, just drop them there and then! Keep practising this way while we go through the day. I find that when practised in this manner and the time comes to meditate, suddenly, the mind becomes more amendable to dropping spurious stuff. It becomes much easier to stay in the present moment with the meditation object.

So, identify the unskillful habit and find an opposite habit that can counteract it. Hope this helps.

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"You notice that in the contemplation of the body, it doesn’t start with the other person’s body. It starts with your own. Now, partly this is because, as the Buddha says, the reason we’re able to lust for other people’s bodies is because we have a strong attraction to our own bodies. Even if we think we hate our bodies, that our bodies are ugly, we’re still very attracted to them. That can lead us to be attracted to other human bodies."

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu "Unattractiveness" https://www.dhammatalks.org/audio/evening/2017/170930-unattractiveness.html

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