Did Buddha say anything about promiscuity?

I got the following reply for one of my posts in stack exchange.
What is your opinion on this?

DN 31 states it is the duty of parents to arrange the marriage of their children; as occurred in India for thousands of years; probably until only very recently. Therefore, what place is there in Buddhism for “promiscuity”? In DN 31, it is clearly stated a sexual “liberal” or “rogue” is a bad or dangerous friend. As a Sri Lankan, you should know this. Sounds like you have been reading too many posts by dodgy Western monks on DW & SC. The suttas clearly state a Buddhist not only practises morality but speaks in praise of morality (SN 55.7)

My opinion on this is the answer sounds extremely reasonable because it includes the Buddha’s reported words. What I find unusual is your question, which asks: “Did Buddha say anything about promiscuity?”, when the reply to your post states much of what the Buddha said related to promiscuity (but excludes Dhp 242, which also relates to promiscuity). I find it unusual that you doubt (lack faith/saddha in) the answer when it has been well-researched & referenced. Do you not have faith in the Buddha-Dhamma, as found in the Pali suttas? Do you believe in ‘adhamma’ or ‘non-dhamma’? I searched SC and obtained the following results: :grinning:


Hi @SarathW1

This is a good question and while it’s great to see what the EBTs suggest, it’s important to reflect on the broader picture of the Dhamma; indeed, the EBTs also suggest that we do exactly this: think for ourselves in light of the Dhamma.

And for me, according to this “big Dhamma picture”, virtue’s basis is kindness, harmlessness, the promotion of not just truth, but a Truth that will lead to greater ease - a Big Truth, encompassed by kindness, based in kindness.

Such a Teaching, that encourages us to reflect, to think for ourselves as it were and also, at the same time, encourages extraordinary, heroic kindness leads me to the following opinion.

That it is up to each one of us to make sure that no harm comes to ourselves or to those whom we interact with - regardless of whether or not one’s sexuality is involved. It is not up to another person, to interpret EBTs for us. It is up to us. Because the nature of the actual Practice…is well…practical. It’s such a verb. It has to be done. And by no one but our own selves. Thus it’s personal. It has to be a decision based on personal reflection.

And of course we can share our personal reflections with each other but really, it seems to me, a valueless activity to judge each other on these. However, I do find it interesting to listen/read the reflections of those who’ve read the EBTs widely, who’ve practiced for a long time and who demonstrate through their behaviour that they’ve become better human beings: kinder, more patient, more peaceful, less harsh.

And one of the opinons that I"ve come across in my travels is that the 3rd precept takes into account both time and place. Thus the social norms of a given cultural/historical context comes into play.

Again, going back to the “big Dhamma picture” this makes sense. Because if we are, as the EBTs suggest time and again, simply born of causes and conditions; then that which harms us and hurts, that which breaks our hearts and trust will also be born out of a particular context.

I hope this helps. :slight_smile: At the end of the day, we each have to decide for ourselves, not to harm. And that means thinking about a possible partner’s conditioning, and whether or not, what we propose to them, will hurt them or not. Virtue, for me, and it’s how I read the EBTs, is always about harmlessness and of course, to do that, we have to dig deep; we have to really see each other, understand each other, as only then can we reduce the harm we cause each other.

When people say to me that the EBTs were spoken in another time, another culture, as if these were reasons to dismiss them, I find myself perplexed. For these reasons don’t point to excuses for dismissal; rather they call me to understand more deeply and to see, that past time and my own, not according to common sense, but according to “Buddha-Dhamma sense”.

And as for that comment about being a Sri Lankan…well…I could make such a claim too…it’s part of my cultural and genetic heritage. I get it. I get what the worlds of expression are in just that little phrase: “As a Sri Lankan”…

But I also get how trapped that makes a human being. To simply “be” this fixed. It’s trapped. It’s a trap. A trap of identity. Conditioning is not just a Truth, it’s a Noble Truth…specifically I’m thinking of the 3rd and 4th Noble Truths…Conditioning is fluid and seeing this (even on rudimentary levels) is supposed to give us some power to see that we are actually not so trapped. We can actually free ourselves.

This person, using their “Sri Lankanness” as a weapon to keep others as stuck as they are within their cultural sense of self, is insulting the true Buddhist history of that island: the True Buddhist history of Sri Lanka is one that grew Arahants, sustained a thriving 4 fourfold community. Anyone, suggesting that it is their ethnic/national identity that gives them the right to judge the interpretations, reflections and Practice of other Practitioners, insults those Arahants of old, those men and women and children who truly practised on that island and who are still doing so today.

They rob anyone of non-Sri Lankan background of any rights to the Dhamma. And they have no right to do this. Because they didn’t start the wheel of Dhamma rolling for the benefit of all, including non-Sri Lankans. To bring their “Sri Lankanness” into this matter, is therefore, not only an act of harmfulness, an unkindness, a meanness to those who aren’t Sri Lankan, it is also a demonstration of gross Ignorance and stupidity, utter Avija. And if only on some worldly measure, anyone judges my right to say so, then I’ll tell them that my skin is as brown as milk chocolate and I feel a great affinity for that island on which I was born in this life and on which my biological ancestors were born, but I know better than to think that gives me any “ownership” of Buddhist knowledge and on some level I know that it’s not really who I am.

The Buddha gave us all the gift of Dhamma. To whatever degree we Practice it earnestly and kindly, it belongs to us to that degree.

With metta


Well, anyone who has half a brain (cell?) are likely to express their opinion. The practice is to stop reacting. There is a proverb ‘emptier the pot, the more the contents are likely to be stirred’ (pirinu kale diya nosele).

Being Sri Lankan has its advantages when it comes to the disadvantages, as does being from a Western cultural backdrop. I think Sri Lankan’s have a broader knowledge as it is taught in school and part of their culture. Disadvantages include belief that non-EBT material is EBT and difficulty overcoming cultural aspects of the Buddhist religion. I am of course generalising and none of the disadvantages apply to me at all!! :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: Sri Lankans love Western monks because there see that those monks (and nuns) have ordained out of faith and understanding rather than some mass ordination. The good work at SC and DD will speak for itself. :anjal:

With metta

If some one goes to a sex worker, does it consider promiscuity? I am thinking about the sex workers and harems of kings used to have in Buddha’s time.

Thank you so much for a very beautiful and wise post.



The poster withdrew his/her comment.
Perhaps s/he must have realised the inaccuracy of broad brush statement.

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Prostitution, sex work, concubines, mistresses, etc, have existed in most societies for most of history. To have equanimity towards this is Buddhist practise. However, to live this type of lifestyle does not appear to be Buddhist practice. To me, this seems to be confusing the path with the nature of the world. For example, would the Buddha have recommended the following lifestyle found in the EBTs?

Intoxicated with my complexion
figure, beauty, & fame;
haughty with youth,
I despised other women.
Adorning this body
embellished to delude foolish men,
I stood at the door to the brothel:
a hunter with snare laid out.
I showed off my ornaments,
and revealed many a private part.
I worked my manifold magic,
laughing out loud at the crowd.

Thig 5.2

My impression is Sri Lankans not only love Western material things but strongly believe worldly wealth is a result of good past kamma (rather than often a result of greed & exploitation). I have observed this on forums where Sri Lankans have asserted the wealth of evil people is due to the good kamma they did in a past life.

For example, Sarath in his post referred to the sex workers and harems of kings used to have; as though being a king was something inherently noble.

However, if I was a ‘pimp’ (dealer in prostitutes, which is wrong livelihood) or Hugh Hefner (owner of Playboy), would this also be inherently noble?




It was an accepted practice in Sri Lanka that two brothers bring one wife. (Eka Ge Kama)
This is not practiced openly nowadays. But I know this still prevails in some part of Sri Lanka.

My question is will this break the third precept?

Definitely not for the monks.

Harems, no. Prostitution would break the precept, unless the worker avoided taking married clients.

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So it is ok for a single man to go to a sex worker?

I didn’t say that. I said it wouldn’t be breaking precepts.

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It is gradual training.
When you practice eight precepts and ten you practice the same five precepts at a higher level.

Perhaps you are right.
But prostitution is illegal in some countries and you may go to jail for visiting a sex worker.

This is irrelevant. You seem to keep wanting to make a case that prostitution & sex work is OK,

No, I think this is a very important point.

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I think it is not important at all because the need to visit prostitutes will unlikely lead to progress on the path and, if there is reincarnation, then it is possible reincarnation as a hungry ghost, animal birth or hell may occur.

The Buddha in at least three places in the EBTs compared promiscuity to animal behaviour of goats, chickens, etc, therefore, based on the teachings found in other suttas, such as the Dog Duty Ascetic, promiscuity appears it may lead to animal birth or another lower realm. To quote:

Here, Puṇṇa, someone develops the dog-duty fully and uninterruptedly; he develops the dog-habit fully and uninterruptedly; he develops the dog-mind fully mn.i.388 and uninterruptedly; he develops dog-behaviour fully and uninterruptedly. Having done so, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of dogs. But if he has such a view as this: ‘By this virtue or observance or asceticism or holy life I shall become a great god or some lesser god,’ that is wrong view in his case. Now there are two destinations for one with wrong view, I say: hell or the animal realm. So, Puṇṇa, if his dog-duty succeeds, it will lead him to the company of dogs; if it fails, it will lead him to hell.” MN 57

For me, the error of your thinking is you believe kings that have harems have the results of good karma, such as the story of Sakka & his nymphs in MN 37 or the stories of Islamic harems.

The Buddha taught right action does not harm oneself or another. Your posts seem to only think about the benefits to men & ignore the consequences for women.

If you could make a compelling case why prostitution is a harmless form of livelihood for women, you might start to convince me of the merits of your views, here. :smiley:

white slavery

So what? Is it the role of Buddhism to support the legalisation of prostitution? :neutral_face:

I am not talking about the morality of sex.
I think any type of sex is an animal behavior.