For a Buddhist who is single, do occasional "visits" to the brothel break the observing of the Third Precept? In other words, the Third Precept is perfectly "intact" when one engages in such activity (from the words of a venerable here )?

  • And this post from that same thread makes clear what the guy was saying, in a legalistic way (by literally reading the rules and not projecting a personal sense of what the rules should be), you do indeed get that possibility. dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=42&t=22572#p323479 Dec 29 '14 at 20:14
  • But that's not the question I asked. I specifically asked him with the exact phrasing as above, and he specifically said Yes with no exception. Not only for male layfollowers, but also for female layfollowers to "visit" gigolos if they want to.
    – santa100
    Dec 29 '14 at 20:38
  • Under what sort of law? Court of opinion (which tends to ignore what the written rules are), or court of some specific institutional sangha? (which can be very hairsplitting in the interpretation of a rule, or they could decide such a question based on precident) Dec 30 '14 at 4:14
  • Christians have the word 'fornication' (widely misunderstood) which literally means having sex in a brothel. (Fornix means arch, referring to the doorway of the building) For them it is prohibited. As far as I know there is no word for having sex with a willing and 'acceptable' partner where neither person is married if it does not go against any vows they have taken, because such people are not under a code of conduct that they have chosen for themselves. They might be "behaving like animals", but so does everyone in all ways until they develop. No way to fault that, it is inevitable.
    – user2341
    Aug 8 '15 at 0:33
  • Is Upasaka/ika Santa100 still interested in an answer?
    – user11235
    May 20 '17 at 11:09

10 Answers 10


I am a Buddhist, happy, content prostitute. I am not a greedy person, nor am a sex addict (or anything of the like). This is the chapter in which my life is. I have used my current profession to touch the lives of many humans, male and female. I also do advocacy work for prostitutes and know that there are many different types of persons in the sex trade industry.

While I cannot answer the specific question regarding the Third Precept, I would like to offer that my work and my Buddhist practice have played on one another in regards to my own livelihood. Until another path appears to me where I can effect positive change AND make a living in NYC to support my children, I CHOOSE this work.

I am open to my friends, family, and community about my sex work. I don't walk in darkness, but in beauty and light. The compassion that I have is very much felt by all those around me, within and outside of my trade. I give of my true self, but I keep an open mind and heart until the next chapter (which is probably soon because I have done this work for almost five years).

I have gone a bit off topic, I know, but in my advocacy work I have met prostitutes from all over the world...all whom chose this, not all were necessarily happy while doing this, but often as a means to am end. Many while working on the undergrad, and a surprising percentage while working on their masters. Our goal is to humanize the the trade, and to give sex workers a voice because, as you see, not many out there are educated as to the actual lives of prostitutes.

Thank you for allowing me to share.


I think the issue isn't the brothel, but what the visits say about your clinging to (sexual) desire. How do your visits affect your clinging to this desire?

  • Do they reinforce it?
  • Do they have no effect?
  • Do they reduce it?

That's the answer to whether this is misconduct or not.

Although some interpret this injunctions legalistically/moralistically, I think that misses the point. In fact, I think this site has the right idea. It states the abstention is from SENSUAL misconduct, including overindulgence in (say) chocolate.

  • "Abstination from sensual misconduct" is indeed what Buddhism is about. It is written in all sutras to be of benefit to do so, especially the "The Six Dharma Gates to the Sublime" where it talks about the harms that can be done to oneself if one has not let go of sensual misconduct at higher stages of the Path (where there tends to be paranormal experiences and a more energetically dependent state of life and even increased desire).
    – Ahmed
    Oct 8 '15 at 16:35
  • Does it also apply to sex in a marriage? Is it a misconduct when it is enjoyable (as it reinforces the desire then)?
    – michau
    Oct 27 '15 at 14:45

At a more mature level how to look at this is to look at desire just as mere desire. Look at the implication of it on the 5 aggregates more particularly on sensations. Look at proliferation of thoughts what sensation this cause.

The act is to get rid of particular sensations or to create new sensation. Get rid of the burning sensation of desire and the sensation when doing the act. Notice a mind full of desire is not a pleasant situation and act to overcome it by looking lust as lust at the level of sensation and that is impermanent and you cannot absolutely manipulate the desire as you want and being in desire is not satisfactory.


Quote from the excellent Bill Hamilton's Saints & Psychopaths (pg. 94-95):

Buddhists are required to avoid sexual misconduct, but it is not clear what this means in California. Many Buddhist teachers suggest that people should not engage in sexual activities which result in anyone suffering. This is a vague standard that could be logically argued to be a total prohibition of sex, or an invitation to free love. Perhaps it is sufficient to simply practice continuous mindfulness in situations where the issue of sex arises

The purpose of Buddhist precepts is pragmatic in that they are directed at achieving a quiet mind. If your sex life is causing mental agitation in your meditations, you should change your behavior. While on retreat, you should avoid letting your senses wander to sexually stimulating objects and direct your attention to meditation objects. In the daily life situation this may result in becoming a horny, neurotic celibate which may not be good for your practice. It is better to be simple and direct in your views, intead of getting involved in elaborate logical reasoning about right and wrong.


I know it late but Simple answer is no for third precept. Third precept in Pali is "Kāmesumicchācāra veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi." the first Phrase Kāmesu/micchācāra >> Kāmesu=desires (may be sexual), micchācāra=wrong way or practice. This is the only and whole rule by Buddha. Other ideas are interpretation.

There are prostitutes who adhere 5 precept in Buddha time.

Feeding on desire is bad. Most answer emphasis on here. This not necessarily break the third precept. Even eating if you eat with desire , oh I love this taste, it is still feeding on desire. Don't we still eat all this time?

Long Answer: According Pali Cannon. to break third precept all 4 conditions must be met.

  1. with woman who should not have sex with ( say nothing about man)
  2. desire to have sex
  3. put afford to have sex
  4. enjoy it

and there is 20 type of women who should not have sex with. But this come from traditional teaching not Buddha teaching.

  1. who in care of mother
  2. who in care of father
  3. who in care of mother and father
  4. who in care of brothers
  5. who in care of sisters
  6. who in care of relative
  7. who in care of people ( of same kind??)
  8. who in care of dhamma friend

above are women who have guardian and who do not have person with sexual right

  1. who is pregnant
  2. wife that you bought.
  3. who is willingly married.
  4. who is married because of wealth.
  5. who is married because of gifts.
  6. who is married because of parents
  7. working women (lowely paid??) who is married
  8. women who king/government prohibit to have sex with
  9. slave women who also have sex with owner
  10. worker women who also have sex with employer
  11. POW who also have sex with captor
  12. prostitute belong to someone else ( without permission of the person who paid the service)

9 to 20 basically mean women who have someone with sexual right and you have no permission.

To conclude only exception in the above list is women who's guardian permit you to have sex with and one who have no one with sexual right. Example is ur wife who sexual right is you.


Any time you feed into a blind habitual pattern of grasping for a sense pleasure, you feed into and increase your capacity for suffering. The so called single individual who is seeking after a prostitute must already have enough clinging and grasping attachment to have fostered the intention to seek a prostitute, and is feeding into that attachment, creating volitional formation even as he or she acts on that intention and merely seeks. Even before the act itself this is unwholesome.

While there is no wife and family or significant other to offend by breaking a vow of monogamy, there are other considerations as well. The most important thing to consider is that by eliciting the services of a prostitute, that you are supporting the lifestyle and industries of prostitution and human trafficking.

Is prostitution right livelihood? What do you think? I promise you, there is no such thing as a happy, content prostitute. That is to say, if there were other options open to them, they would choose another path in life. The fact of the matter is that the vast, sweeping majority (if not all) of prostitutes are victims of human trafficking, they are modern day slaves that are subject to control and coercion via physical violence, threats against themselves and their loved ones, drug addiction, and brain washing. Many do not know any other way of life because they have been someone else's business property for so long, and they are afraid to leave. They are insecure and abused, and end up clinging to their traffickers.

There is no way around this. If you go to a prostitute you are feeding into you own suffering, but more importantly you are supporting the suffering and degradation of another human being, and ultimately supporting modern day slavery.


The 3rd precept is redundant and cannot be used to guide contemporary sexual behavior because the 3rd precept was taught in association with the duty of parents (in DN 31) to arrange the marriage of their children.

If we adhere to the literal definition of the 3rd precept then having sex with female monkeys or dogs is also OK.

Visiting prostitutes harms oneself & harms others, including the prostitute.

Unsatisfied with his own wife,

with others’ wives he’s seen in tow,

corrupted too with prostitutes—

that’s the way to disaster’s woe.



I'm not sure whether a perfect answer for your question is available in the scriptures. What I can offer you is my view on it.

A single man seeking sexual pleasures is the core of your question. That is nothing abnormal nor denounced by Buddhism. However, you mention a 'brothel'. That alone shouldn't taint my latter statement, though.

The clarity and purity of the intent of the pleasure seeker is what matters most here. Is he going there for sexual pleasures out of love for this prostitute? Is he seeking a relationship? Or, is he paying for different prostitutes each time? In the latter case, his sexual needs have gone overboard! Third Precept won't be intact there. It can also be explained in practical terms of sleeping around with many women just to satisfy sexual desires. It adds to suffering. It creates problems and complications. The Third Precept can't work there, can it?

However, if the sexual pleasure he seeks is on a consensual basis---based on a good understanding and honest intent of a possible future relationship---I guess the Third Precept may stay intact there. But I don't think one will go to a brothel looking for something as profound as a honest relationship. Rare cases exists, though.

Final answer for question 1: It depends on the case and on the individual. Above all, it depends on the intent of the person visiting the brothel. Sorry for the general answer. This is what I know and can do for you.

Final answer for question 2: I don't agree with that answer in your link you gave. In accordance with my explanation above, it depends on the true and honest intent of the pleasure seeker.

  • 1
    "Purity" of the desire doesn't change it -- if anything, loving the prostitute is worse because now there's the possibility of (stronger) emotional clinging. Are you treating the precept moralistically? Whatever one's beliefs on the "moral" differences between "just sex" and love, the former is generally less clingy than the latter. In fact, there was a passage somewhere (can't recall where sadly) to this effect.
    – R. Barzell
    Dec 29 '14 at 21:46
  • 1
    @R.Barzell There's nothing moralistic about Buddhism. It's a practice in reality. What I offered above (as stated in the beginning) is my opinion/analysis of it. If you read carefully, you'll see that I talk in terms of how sex (or rather sex that is not in check) leads to cascading problems, worsening one's situation. You state "just sex" is less clingy than "love"...well, that's highly debatable. Anyway, I'd like to read that passage you were talking about. It piqued my interest.
    – mlomailom
    Dec 30 '14 at 12:35
  • I never said there was anything moralistic about Buddhism, I just asked if you were treating the precept moralistically. I know this is your opinion, but since it's an interpretation, I felt it proper to respond. I agree that sex can lead to problems (it can definitely be clinging), although in general "just sex" is less clingy than romantic love. I will look for the passage I mentioned.
    – R. Barzell
    Dec 30 '14 at 13:22
  • @mlomailom Why are you assuming that having sex with a prostitute because of desire to have a relationship is somehow better? For one thing, you're just exchanging one desire for another. And for another, I'm not an expert, but I think that most prostitutes aren't looking for relationships with their clients.
    – michau
    Oct 27 '15 at 15:01

For a Buddhist who is single, do occasional "visits" to the brothel break the observing of the Third Precept?

1.) Police-officer/Investigator visiting Brothel only for case purpose, without any sex-desire, without any groping-desire... No, 3rd percept is preserved.

2.) Any other person visiting specifically for any work/search not for self-participation-in-sexuality, not for self-participitation-in-groping... No, 3rd percept remains preserved.

3.) Person going for any self-sexual-activity or someone-else's-sexual-activity or self/other's-groping-activity... 3rd percept broken.

Above is for body level

For mental level
Mind is a leader.
Mind thinking about sex, groping, masterbation,... 3rd percept broken.

For speech level Talking about sex or related activities with intention to increase similar desire into self or others... 3rd percept broken.

Above is for Single

For married or officially engaged or dedicated to 1 other/similar partner

At mental level
Mind is leader.
Thinking about sex or related activity when not doing it or when not ready to do it... 3rd percept broken.

At body level
1.) Doing with other than partner... 3rd percept broken.
2.) Doing without partner's permission... 3rd percept broken.

'At speech level`
Talking about sex or related activities with intention to increase similar desire into self or others...when not ready-to or doing it with partner... 3rd percept broken.

Although dedication is necessary to 1 only because in this way person will be able to develop more insight... for to do it with more than 1 increases craving chances for more sex or similar activity, chances of becoming more arrogant.

Not only this, even with 1, if done very oftenly and couple is without any intention of establishing in dhamma during other-times(moments other than that of ***), increases chances of craving for more sex, arrogancy, etc.

Practical experience is with masterbation only, assuming that sex involves similar or more amount of defilements••• presented this answer.

Case when partner is incapable
Either such cases go for divorce/break-up


Good partners sort-out this matter to have a peaceful life. Generally seen sort-out is, " Unsatisfied partner goes for 1 other " or " Decision is made to when-when unsatisfied partner will go to brothel but will do with 1 only ".

Both go for celibacy.
But here is a problem, celibacy-- if adopted unwillingly(without the intention to remove defilements, without the power to tackle lust) it results in more defilements, more unsatisfactoriness, etc.


Ven. Dhammanando is perfectly correct. You break the third precept only if you have sex 1) Non-consensually or though violence 2) With a person 'under the protection of another' - what this means is that the person does not have the capacity to give consent as they are not able to look after themselves. This includes children; as with other cases in the Pali canon, age is not mentioned but rather the capacity of the person. It doesn't mean eg someone still living at home. 3) A married person whose partner has not given consent 4) A slave.

The commentators on that thread are quite wrong to conflate prostitution with slavery. This is a puritan-derived attitude. Instead we could point out that a woman running her own business is making more money and has more freedom than a women in a garment factory. Slavery is a separate matter and it is already clear that Buddhism is opposed to slavery.


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