The Bhikkhus Rules

A Guide for Laypeople

by Bhikkhu Ariyesako | 1998 | 50,970 words

The Theravadin Buddhist Monk's Rules compiled and explained by: Bhikkhu Ariyesako Discipline is for the sake of restraint, restraint for the sake of freedom from remorse, freedom from remorse for the sake of joy, joy for the sake of rapture, rapture for the sake of tranquillity, tranquillity for the sake of pleasure, pleasure for the sake of conce...

Sexual Intercourse

The first offence of all the 227 listed rules of the Paa.timokkha concerns a bhikkhu engaging in sexual intercourse. It remains a hot issue, perhaps even more so today, going by the number of sexual scandals that rock the Buddhist religious world in both the East and the West. As Venerable Thiradhammo writes:

"While some of the guidelines may seem somewhat rigid or prudish, it is important to reflect upon the volatility and durability of rumour, even if untrue. The incessant sex scandals in religious circles may provide a sufficient incentive to encourage the greatest measure of prevention and discretion."

(HS ch.13)

The rule was originally laid down because of Venerable Sudinna. He was the son of a rich merchant, who left home to become a bhikkhu only after great opposition from his family. He went away to practice Dhamma and when he came back to visit sometime later, his parents were overjoyed to see him and plotted to lure him back into the lay life again. They invited him for a meal and then laid out their wealth in front of him, piled up in two huge heaps of gold, while the wife he had left behind dressed herself in her most irresistibly alluring way. Venerable Sudinna remained unmoved by all of this. After telling them to throw the gold away in the river, he called his former wife, "Sister." Nevertheless, when his elderly mother pleaded with him at least to give them an heir, he foolishly gave in and had sexual intercourse with his former wife.

This First Defeater Offence is summarized:

"A bhikkhu who engages in any form of sexual intercourse is Defeated."

(Paar. 1; See BMC p.45)

Every form and variety of sexual intercourse with sexual penetration — whether genital, oral or anal, whether with woman, man or animal — is forbidden. The penalty is the heaviest one of Paaraajika or Defeat.