Is masturbation the same thing as killing?

Hi all,

One quick question.
I’m wondering is masturbation the same thing as breaking the first precept since the sperm is unable to live outside of human body for long time. Thanks

I would venture that sperm doesn’t contain a mind, so “self-pleasure” isn’t the same thing as killing another being.


No it isn’t. There is no precept or implication that a lay person is breaking the first precept if they masturbate.

In the monastic code of conduct the conscious and intentional emission of semen is a serious offense, which entails suspension and requires the community to analyse and decide on probation and rehabilitation of the monk:

It is less serious than killing another human, which is an ofense which leads to expulsion/ loss of status of bhikkhu:

On top of that, there are three ofenses entailing confession related to killing living beings:

To lay male and female Buddhissts masturbation would not directly mean the a breaking of a precept, but just like any other distraction related to the five strings of sensual pleasure, it is definitely not helpful in terms of engagement in the four ennobling tasks the four noble truths are all about.



The way I understand sperm is not a conscious being.
It is a living thing like a tree.
The way I understand the mind arises when it become a fertilise egg.
However according to Ajahan Braham, the consciousness arise when the fetus is three months old for which I do not agree with him.

I think you’ll find Ajahn Brahm says that consciousness can arise anytime between fertilisation and birth.


The way I understand consciousness arises on fertilisation which I call the birth.
In another note, my personal opinion is that sperm cell has consciousness.
However it is not a human.
Death of the sperm is the birth of the human.
The only way I can argue my point is by the Antarabhava idea which is not the Theravada position.

When it comes to the leader of the free-world we are still waiting for the consciousness to kick-in!


The way I understand the birth is the arising of consciousness.

Thanks all for the reply.

Since it has no mind, it is not a living being? I think it’s just one of the ingredient from many ingredients needed in order to create a living being, what do you think?

If you guys want a medical opinion, here is some information about sperm:

  1. It is viable for seconds after emission, meaning it doesn’t live outside the body for any appreciable time without synthetic methods
  2. It has half our genome
  3. Even in fertilization, the vast majority of sperm die in any emission
  4. Our cells in our bodies die all the time. Sometimes there are things we do which can increase the number of cell deaths. But remember these cells have no, or severely limited ability to exist outside ourselves.

So, no-- this is not killing biologically or dhammically. We translate the 1st precept at Abhayagiri as “I undertake the precept to refrain from killing any living creature”.

Since sperm is “you” or a “part of you”, if your overall body survives the act of masturbation, then you didn’t kill :slight_smile:


Correct and yes, sperm, along with a lot of other conditions, is an ingredient for potential life.

The Chinese for over three thousand years realized that man can have several orgasms in a row without ejaculating and thereby increase longevity not feel the fatigue that follows the ejaculation.

The New York Times published a few years ago, the result of scientific research on the damage caused by the production of sperm in the body of man, concluding that "generate sperm is much more difficult than scientists thought. This requires a shift of resources that can harm the long-term men’s health ‘’. And it makes sense, because throughout his life a man ejaculates on average five thousand times. Whereas each ejaculation contains from 50 to 250 million sperm, he ejaculates about a trillion unnecessary sperm! However, in reality, you need only ejaculate when you wanted to have a child.

Celibacy and Tantric Buddhism

I compare sperm to containers / nanobots / tiny drones: machines housing genetic material, programmed for just one purpose, & able to operate only within a specific environment. They are not alive because they cannot develop / attract consciousness by themselves.

1 Like

But do you think killing is still considered killing whether it has the ability to exist outside ourselves or not?

Please avoid off topic!

It is interesting that what is found in the Vinaya’s Bhikkhu Vibhanga disagrees with what the Chinese believe.

In the origin story for the Sanghadisesa rule #1 one finds that once the bhikkhu Seyyasaka starts masturbating that he regains a healthy appearance:

Then Seyyasaka ate, slept, and bathed as much as he liked, and whenever he became discontent and sensual desire overwhelmed him, he emitted semen with his hand.
After some time Seyyasaka became handsome, his features rounded, his face a good color, his skin clear.
Monks who were his friends said to him, “Seyyasaka, you used to be thin, haggard, and pale, your veins protruding all over your limbs. But now you’re handsome, your features rounded, your face a good color, your skin clear. Have you been taking medicine?”

Note nevertheless that the rule is about monks not doing it, as it is not proper and at least incoherent with the idea of renunciation the contemplative life is based on.

Last but not least, is it possible that the case of how masturbation is used in this rule’s origin story imply that in ancient India, at least to some layfolk, masturbation was considered a way of regaining good health?


Not more than red blood cell or skin cell. In fact, why would it have any consciousness?
Any single cell is basically a mechanism. Intricate, complicated, but a mechanism. Not more “alive” than a flying remote-controlled (or autonomous) drone is a conscious being. At least there’s no existing reason to think differently.

Besides, in the context of the topic, a proper intercourse would also be an act of mass-killing, because, as you may know, only one sperm cell survives and fertilizes the egg. :slight_smile: And women, if they’re not getting pregnant, would also be killers because eggs die after ovulation and not being fertilized. Which is obviously not so (i.e. all these are not acts of killing).


Agree. That is why I said this is my personal opinion which I can’t support with Sutta or Abhidhamma. Buddha never spoke about cells.
I can’t see any difference between a sperm cell and a human. Perhaps the sperm cell could be another life form but not a human. It is like the caterpillar and the butterfly.
Before we discuss whether sperm cell has the consciousness what we have to discuss is whether the one-day-old embryo has the consciousness.
The strange thing about this is that very knowledgeable monks such as Ajhan Braham deny the possibility of having consciousness in a one-day-old embryo. This view is the result of the self view.

Are my future parents already here?

(MN 38)

"Monks, the descent of the embryo occurs with the union of three things. There is the case where there is no union of the mother & father, the mother is not in her season, and a gandhabba [8] is not present, nor is there a descent of an embryo. There is the case where there is a union of the mother & father, and the mother is in her season, but a gandhabba is not present, nor is there a descent of an embryo. But when there is a union of the mother & father, the mother is in her season, and a gandhabba is present, then with this union of three things the descent of the embryo occurs.

So, is one day old embryo considered a sentient being? I would say, definitely a yes.

1 Like