Masturbation is a common form of sexual activity, and for the most part it has been accepted as normal, especially in the west.
In this blog post we will discuss what Buddhist scriptures say about masturbation and if it’s allowed or not.
The debate around masturbation in Buddhism focuses primarily on whether or not it counts as ‘sexual misconduct,’ and whether or not the Buddha would have approved.
Is Masturbation Allowed in Buddhism?
In Buddhism, masturbation is not directly forbidden. But, there are some general guidelines in Buddhist teachings that can be applied to behavioral habits such as these.
Buddhists follow the Four Noble Truths, which state that life is suffering, the cause of suffering is desire and attachment to worldly things, suffering ceases when one stops desiring or attaching to worldly things.
Yet this can be hard in today’s world where there are so many distractions.
Buddhists – be they lay followers or monastics – are expected to adhere to higher principles and not engage in inappropriate sexual behavior or ‘sexual misconduct’.
Now, there are no concrete definitions specifying exactly what ‘sexual misconduct’ entails though, which allows for differing interpretations to each school of Buddhism.
A voluntary sexual act of any kind is prohibited in the Vinaya, which is the regulation book for Buddha’s monks.
There’s strict enforcement of this rule. As such, any monk or nun found guilty of violating this rule will have to confess it to a gathering of monks and/or nuns as applicable by his/her order.
But no one would be punished for being raped or having wet dreams.
Note that laity was not given any guidance on this matter by the Buddha.
Are Monks Allowed to Masturbate?
In Buddhism, it is tradition that monastics do not engage in physical relations of any kind.
Monks can not watch porn or masturbate or engage in any other behavior that stimulates sexual activity.
A Buddhist monk does not engage in sexual intercourse because he/she has taken vows of celibacy. One reason for this practice is that it decreases the state of craving which ultimately leads to unhappiness.
This does not mean they need to inflict pain on themselves, it’s just to live a peaceful life where the things you have do not define you. The path to enlightenment is not defined by the physical body or senses, but by identification through consciousness.
For them, losing the desire for physical gratification helps them gain more inner peace by removing elements of longing and desire, which lead to suffering and dissatisfaction.
The self-repeating cycle of masturbation drains us of what we truly need; numbing us in a way and taking us further and further away from true happiness and compassion – which remain elusive when future joy is all we hope for.
Buddhist practitioners can take short-term vows of celibacy, but monks have let go of many physical sources of pleasure so that they can focus on internal pleasures such as those found through meditation and prayer.
By abstaining from certain actions and desires, they find meaning beyond the material world. This helps them achieve a goal that is more permanent than the feeling of temporary pleasures such as food and sleep.
Generally, masturbation creates a habit by increasing desire. It’s not uncommon for people to become addicted.
And a desire for more leads in the opposite direction from the Noble Path.
Masturbation probably isn’t a big issue for monks. If you devote yourself to religion, then sexual pleasure isn’t something you spend a lot of time thinking about. That’s not to say they haven’t— but, they have a different way of life that often influences their decision-making processes.
While they do get away from these common desires that commonly get in the way of true meditation or worship more effectively, this can also mean they are very unfamiliar with many of the things you find commonplace in people’s lives today.
It is typical for religious monks not to be familiar with the entertainment industry, so things such as
watching porn are often irrelevant.
Therefore, most monks may not be affected by the sexually suggestive content found in ads today, which many critics agree is quite excessive and inappropriate since it will likely make those who cannot control their masturbation habits very uncomfortable, especially those with religious convictions.
Are Lay Buddhists Allowed to Masturbate?
Buddhist laymen are also expected not to commit adultery or other forms of sexual misconduct.
Buddhism’s ethical code is laid out in the Five Precepts. The precepts of Buddhism address the most common areas in which an individual might be prone to misconduct: killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct etc.
However, precepts vary in degree based on whether you take 5, 8 or 10 precepts. In practice, laypeople follow 5 or 8 precepts, while monks (bikkhus) follow 10.
Bhikkhus are expected to practice full abstinence all year around. However, for lay Buddhists there are more moderate degrees of the precepts.
It is prohibited for lay people to engage in any kind of sexual activity on special days when they observe eight precepts.
As for most Buddhists, they are expected to live responsibly and according to the precepts. Specifically, this means avoiding sexual misconduct or acting dishonorably with regards to sexual activities.
Lay Buddhist practitioners will take the five precepts most of the time, while Bikkhus would strive to adhere to the ten precepts at all times. That being said, not everyone practices them evenly.
According to modern medical science, masturbation actually relaxes someone by letting them release tension and stress.
It also works as a natural way of releasing endorphins which helps keep you happy and healthy physically and mentally. You could even go as far as saying that masturbation has therapeutic benefits!
As for guidance for lay people, Buddhism possesses the qualities of openness and tolerance that distinguish it from most faiths, and since masturbation has been proven to be both physically and psychologically healthy as long as it does not become a substitute for proper sexual relations, it may agree with current medical opinion about the topic.
In general Buddhists believe that all beings have Buddha nature and as such never consider activities which lead to more suffering for oneself or others as good deeds.
Masturbation may be considered an act that leads to self-harm because someone might feel shame about themselves afterwards. There may also be a sense of guilt associated with it.
So as a matter of fact, masturbation itself is less damaging than guilt or self-disgust over it.
There are many people who feel that masturbation can be beneficial to their lives because they don’t have any other outlet for physical stimulation or release.
Some people find relief in masturbating when they’re feeling stressed out or anxious about something else.
For Buddhists, it is best to avoid masturbation since it can lead to an indulgent lifestyle, which is contrary to Buddhist doctrine.
Buddhism is a philosophy that emphasizes selflessness, enlightenment, and compassion.
One can see the Buddha’s teachings as a guide to help people abstain from excessive desires and urges by not indulging in the sensory pleasures of the senses such as food, drinks, sex or any craving.
In Buddhism, it’s said that sensory experiences are distractions from the real goal of spiritual practice. Therefore, sexual desires are a distraction from the goal of enlightenment. And that’s why it’s important to avoid masturbation.
Some people, however, do not consider masturbation to be an act of self-abuse, but rather an act of self-love. All of this is actually dependent upon the person’s beliefs.