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When staying at buddhist monasteries (Theravada for me so far) there are the Eight Precepts to be followed. I am familiar with the eight precepts. Regarding the precepts "

This bothers me already for a while: "To refrain from any kind of erotic behaviour" one thing bothers me already for a while.

I cite from the information for guests from the Amaravati Buddhist monastery since the point which bothers me is well formulated there (I cannot directly link to the information for guests since it is mailed as PDF and not online on their website):

  • To refrain from any kind of erotic behaviour

[...] For lay guests, while you are here you should avoid cultivating intimate relationships. This means to avoid physical contact [...]

(Full qoute for your reference at the bottom, here extracted the part relevant to the question extracted)

I understand (also by experience, although I've never done "real" sex up to now) why to refrain from erotic behaviour.

But I never understand why physical contact is automatically associated with erotic practices. Take bodywork (therapeutic) or massage for example. Take communication through physical contact than through words (as in Shiatsu, or simple games with hands-on) for example. Take dance-forms that concentrate on the experience pf physical principles rather than "socialising-partnerfinding" (such as Contact Improvisation) for example. Acrobatics. etc.

On the other hand, there may be many erotic scenarios without involving physical contact.

So, what is so special about physical contact in the context of erotic/sexual behaviour that it needs to be forbidden at all at monasteries?


Full quote:

  • To refrain from any kind of erotic behaviour

An important aspect of spiritual practice is the transformation of energy. This precept refers specifically to Sexual energy which can be transformed into 'heart energy'. To support this process, our training in the community requires that all behaviour supports the practice of celibacy.

For lay guests, while you are here you should avoid cultivating intimate relationships. This means to avoid physical contact or actively seeking out the company of anyone to whom you may feel sexually attracted. Even in speech, it is important to be sensitive to time, place and topic, not creating or furthering situations in which sexual attraction may arise.

This is especially true in contact with the monastics. For the monks and nuns, even private conversation with the opposite sex has strict boundaries. Such contact must be in a public place, or with a chaperon present (and sensitive also to topics discussed). Certain times are available for you to speak with some of the senior monks and nuns.

  • Welcome to Buddhism.SE. We've put together some tips to help you get started here. – Robin111 May 14 '15 at 11:41
  • What's the need for couple dancing and massage therapy in a monastery? The 8 precepts are taken mostly on Poya days or if you are staying at a monastery. – Sankha Kulathantille May 14 '15 at 16:58
  • These were the requirements for laypeople visiting a Monastery, correct? How is that mysterious? Would you bring a bottle of whisky to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting? Or a freshly cooked steak to a vegetarian's home? Simple regard for the choices of others, it says nothing about how you should act in other circumstances. On a retreat, you should be able to use your "indoor voice" as appropriate for a few days. – user2341 Aug 23 '15 at 15:21
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..."I never understand why physical contact is automatically associated with erotic practices"... We are not in control of how sensual desires arise. The only thing we can do to control erotic desire is to cut out what has been known to make the erotic desire arise and that means abstaining from physical contact. Doesn't it help meditation practice when we don't do things that could possibly lead to defilement and distraction? Erotic desire entangles and greatly distracts us from the task of seeing things as they are. Metta :)

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Let me just tell you the story of a monk and his disciple... On a pilgrimage they came upto a shallow river where they are supposed to cross it by walking... At the same time on the banks they saw a beautiful young woman standing hesitated to cross ... To the bewilderment of the young disciple the monk calmly went to the woman and asked her to climb his shoulder and he carried her across... After crossing the river the monk dropped her down and walked on as if nothing happened... The disciple couldnot hold his frustration any longer and bursted out..."what was that?".... The monk looked surprised and then he calmly replied..."why are you still carrying the woman on your shoulders?"....

I believe it is all about your intentions... As long as you does not intend any sexuality in any of your actions there should be no taboo for physical contact... But you must be sure be like the monk who was able to let down the woman from his shoulders...

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