Early Buddhism and Antinatalism

Totally agreed. :wink:

Totally agree. I’m getting weary of men speaking about me, for me, and on my behalf.

I would add that I feel uneasy when a person of any gender posits something as complex as this as a matter for general or philosophical debate. Such decisions are personal, cultural and contextual matters.

Among friends I would probably have a lot to say, but on a public internet forum? – No thank you. :zipper_mouth_face:

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Well, I have nothing to lose. No position, no public, no nothing. And doesn’t start metta from a place of selfrespect? If I don’t speak out my truth, in all respect to other people’s truth, I’m keeping myself down. And I would dislike others for keeping me down when in fact, I’m doing it to myself. I feel like it’s about time that women speak out their truths - if they feel like it - in stead of shying away. We would be much more listened to if we make men ànd women getting used to the fact that we have a valid opinion on just any subject :slightly_smiling_face:

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I said in my above post:

Because I generally only post my own personal thoughts and observations, I didn’t mention that this wasn’t a unilateral decision but was made with my wife. In fact, she has never felt compelled to have children except once which she humorously recalls as 15 minute period when she held a sweet little baby, the moment passing after she handed the baby back to the mother. :laughing: My wife and I make all decisions together and I have learned to respect and rely on her integrity, both ethically and vision of cause and effect. It’s one of the reasons I think that the world would be a better, more peaceful and loving place if women were the leaders.

Back to the OP, I’ll say again that I think having or not having children is a very personal and private decision. Making Antinatalism a thing, a philosophy, a bandwagon, seems militant to me. It can easily become a view that one clings to and judges others by. That said, I think it’s important for humans to evaluate what they do, why they do it and the cost/benefit to their actions. Kamma. This is an integral part of the Buddhist path. In his noble quest, the Buddha examined his thoughts and actions and where they ultimately led. What a wise and wonderful example for each one of us to follow.

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Conception nowadays is still mostly the result of sex and sensual craving, which were not praised by the Buddha .

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But they are not banned either for the married layperson who is allowed to indulge in harmless pleasures. Therefore, there is no injunction on the married layperson to avoid sex, or having children.

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Hi,

For the Buddha though, sensual pleasures are not harmless. See for instance MN 54 where he spoke to the householder/layperson Potaliya thus:

With the simile of a skeleton the Buddha said that sensual pleasures give little gratification and much suffering and distress, and they are all the more full of drawbacks.’

The Buddha taught a path of renunciation, pointing out the wholesome and the unwholesome as leading to freedom from suffering and suffering, respectively. One of the qualities of the dhamma is ehipassika ‘inviting one to come and see’. It is not injunctive in the way that Vedic religion is.

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From the perspective of the life of a sramana, that is correct. However the Buddha also taught laypersons who were living a married life and he did so with a different perspective in mind. For example, he recommends that husbands provide their wives with adornments in the Sigalovada sutta, even though he would never accept adornments or jewelery for a sramana.

Furthermore, even though the Sigalovada sutta is clear to advise laypersons to avoid certain behavior that is unskillful for a lay disciple, such as gambling, neither sex nor procreation is never mentioned as unskillful, for the married layperson.

Of course, the life of a sramana is the most direct and effective life for the practice of Dhamma, but the Buddha understood that there are those who will not be taking up that life right away or in this lifetime and he provided a way of life for those persons too.

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Hi,

It doesn’t matter your status, the pursuit of sensual pleasure brings suffering and runs counter to the Dhamma.

In Snp.2, the Buddha said:

Now I shall tell you the household’s rule…

Let the intelligent person live a celibate life,
as one would avoid a pit of glowing coals;
but being unable to live the celibate life,
go not beyond the bounds with others’ partners.

Even within a lay context, celibacy is extolled. One aspect of Nakula’s partents’ virtue was the fact they had remained celibate for 16 years within their marriage.

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Sorry you went through all that. Your comments are very thoughtful and thought-provoking.

About international adoptions - Around 20 years ago, a friend of mine had done research, for her job, on the fates of girls in a certain poor region; she felt so appalled at the high likelihood of prostitution for unprotected girls that she felt compelled to adopt a girl from there, to do her own small part to help. That whole process went well, and she and her husband ended up raising a beautiful, happy little girl.

Confident from that pleasant experience, a few years later she went back to adopt from that region again, this time adopting two older girls who were sisters. That process became complicated by officials’ concerns that some girls from that country were being taken without parental consent, so she had to wage a virtual legal war to complete the process and gain her older girls.

A few years or so later, she somehow undertook to track down all 3 girls’ family backgrounds - and was appalled. Everything had been a lie.

Her first one hadn’t been an orphan at all. As an infant, she had been dropped off at (or probably sold to) an orphanage by her father, without her mother’s knowledge or consent. Her mother mourned her baby but lived in utter poverty, lacking even the fee for a bus to the orphanage to try to regain her child.

(My friend eventually took the girl for a visit to her home country to meet her biological mother, who welcomed her lost child with many tears. She must’ve felt relieved to see her beautiful girl thriving and happy. The child has since, last I heard, stayed in touch with her biological mom.)

My friend was lied to regarding the 2 older girls as well. The normal type of family history fed to her before the adoption had been entirely fictional. The truth was that the girls’ father had been extremely abusive, up to the day they witnessed him murder their mother in a horrifying bloody scene, and the girls barely escaped with their own lives.

My friend had struggled and suffered trying to raise the girls, who had come with inexplicable destructive tendencies that began to emerge after they settled in; learning their traumatic background finally explained everything. She told me bitterly that she wouldn’t have knowingly adopted anyone with such a horrific background due to the problems it would predictably bring.

She seemed most angry at the man at the adoption centre who had knowingly misled her. I consoled her, or at least hope that I did, by pointing out that though his deception was wrong, still, he had done it to give these 2 girls their best chance at a good, safe life in a loving and relatively wealthy family.

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Dear Ayya Sudhamma, I don’t know what to say, it’s so sad what you describe. My mother used to work in Indian slums before my birth and back then, things were very different. People were quite naive about adoption and they still are, unfortunately. I changed this comment as it made me think a bit further. What you describe was longtime a common thing in adoption land until this century. The international convention has changed by then end of the 20th century: Hague Adoption Convention - Wikipedia. The convention is said to be followed up strictly - but it is not. As there is a lot of money involved and adoptive children always come from very poor backgrounds, we need to be careful. An acquaintance of mine, Kristen Cheney, a professor of the University of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, did much research on this matter and wrote some interesting essays and books about human traffic in international adoption procedures.

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My perspective as a mid-thirties woman of relative privilege (advanced education, high income, homeowner) living in the US:

The planet cannot withstand more humans, particularly those living in developed countries. I personally do not want to contribute to this problem. I began to feel uneasy about raising children in college, but had never felt a strong drive to reproduce before anyway. Many of my friends disagree with me and see their ultimate purpose or fulfillment as having children. Many seem to think the environmental problems today are just not their fault and not their problem to solve. They also seem to feel a lot of agency around being able to protect and care for their children despite the looming issued the world is facing and the suffering that will come to many other’s children. These are highly intelligent, liberal, educated and career driven women, too. It’s a paradox to me.

At the same time, they are or will be very good parents and the consciousness that is reborn into those children’s bodies will already be setting into life with good fortune. I will be the Crazy Buddhist Auntie to all of them! :pray::joy:

More of my story: I had severe progressive endometriosis for 15 years and in 2019 after trying everything else (diet, minor surgeries, medication) chose to have my reproductive organs surgically removed to end the physical pain. This turned out to be the best decision of my life–during recovery I encountered the dhamma and have been on the path very intensively since.

If I had had children or kept my reproductive options more open I would not likely have been on the dhamma superhighway. My friends with kids are exhausted by their lives–they love their kids but do not have time for anything outside of household chores, work, and childcare.

My husband is also very happy to be child free. We have more time to pursue our interests (he’s a chemistry professor and tinkerer) and more money in the bank and to donate than those paying for diapers, extracurriculars, vacations, college, etc.

In conclusion: people want kids irrationally. If you don’t, great. Spend more time on Dhamma!

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I am not saying it doesn’t cause suffering or that celibacy is not a good practice for some laypersons. However, as the very quote you shared states, he did not expect every layperson to be following that rule. For them, he simply required them to be keep their sexual activities within the bounds of a monogamous relationship. This means he did not think it was skillful to go around criticizing married laypeople for having sex and telling them how against the Dhamma it was. Only when they were ready for a celibate life would he encourage taking that step.

Otherwise, you basically would have to say that the only people who are living well or in line with the Dhamma are those in the sangha who are celibate, and all married and sexually active laypersons are practicing wrongly or against the Dhamma.

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Nice reply, Javier. I think you’ve shown a balance, a middle ground. I think it’s important for me to alter my behavior because I realize it’s danger and that I would rather plant seeds that will bring lasting benefit to myself and others.

It’s a paradox to me too!

I once heard a Christian minister say “And God said ‘Be fuitful, multiply and fill up the Earth.’ Well, it’s full.”

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:joy:

Exactly. No room left!

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Hi Javier,

Thanks for taking the time to read my post and for your thoughtful reply.
Regarding sex and other sensual pleasures:

Perhaps I misunderstood, but I thought that was what you were saying in your comments above:

If indulging in sensual pleasure (kāma-) brings suffering, then surely it isn’t harmless and it is unskilful. No?

Well, I’d say only arhants are completely blameless. Bear in mind that the possibilities for sensual pleasure are endless - sex is but one form.

I fear we might be drifting a bit off-topic and I’m not sure I have much else to add in relation to antinatalism. But I would be very happy to continue discussing this with you in private or in another thread.

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I am someone who never wanted anything to do with children, then had children because I changed my mind ( it happens- so don’t be too sure about yourselves😆), and can’t imagine my life without them.
Why? because they have taught me so much about what is means to develop mettā, karunā, muditā and upekkhā. Would I have done so without them? Who knows?

We think we are in control but it’s all an illusion. Then we have children and think we can control them :laughing:
Our lives go in ways that are so unpredictable, and in hindsight we make conclusions about how this or that decision was good for us. I can only live in the now, keep practicing letting go and developing those Brahmaviharas.

All I can say on the matter is that I either become full Arahant or at least reach the higher stages of enlightenment in this very life, or hope I get a good birth next time around to loving, caring and hopefully Buddhist parents who show me the way of the Dhamma :pray:t3: :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

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You did not intend it this way, I believe, but bear in mind that not wanting children is bucking the cultural trend, and many [women in particular] are pressured to go with the dominant trend.

Folks will use this argument “you’ll change your mind” to invalidate their lack of desire. This is extra difficult for disadvantaged women who may not have access to proper contraceptive or education, or whose education becomes stalled because of the pressure from others.

Again, I don’t believe you were making this statement to pressure others, but it’s good to be cognizant that this is a pervasive and real problem.

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Thank you for sharing these details on adoption. I didn’t look very far down that route. One avenue I have heard good things about within the US is foster-to-adopt. The children stay within their national borders and even communities, there is transparent awareness about the parents’ situation, and the new parents can see if they jive with the kids before adopting.

It does not fix the problem of “what went wrong with the original family to begin with” and still has plenty of room for difficulty and bureaucratic craziness. But it seems like the human trafficking element is removed.

Again I didn’t go far down this route either so completely open to opposing views.

More and more my decision to just not raise kids at all is seeming the most ethically unchallenging :rofl:

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Oh boy, is that true. I have had to make peace with the fact that most of my relatives won’t believe I really don’t want kids. Not even if I become a monastic and stay in robes decade after decade. At some point, “I can’t believe you don’t want kids” will just become “I can’t believe you don’t regret not having had kids”.

I can understand it though. Because most people have nothing else to take refuge in. Family connections is all they have. And if they don’t have any knowledge in any other refuge, its understandably inconceivable that someone wouldn’t want a family. This is not to say people who have kids can’t take refuge in the triple gem. I’m just saying most people, in general, don’t.

It’s safe to say there’s plenty of pain on both sides of the dilemma.

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I’m just speaking to how fickle my mind was on this issue. Why was that? Am I the only one? Do I want to label that decision as moral or immoral?

Yes, I am aware of the wider issues, but
I was solely talking about just myself in relation to being a Buddhist practitioner. Throwing morality (of deciding to have kids) into the mix is a slippery slope. Having children is not black or white issue, and sometimes there are reasons outside of even economical + social pressures, cultural attitudes at play that we don’t see. (I.e karma, lifetimes of conditioning).

Maybe in this life I feel one way, what about the next? The next…? This is all uncertain unless we move significantly along the path. So I will always refrain from being judgmental about why or why not people have kids.

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