Birth control is the practice of preventing birth from taking place. There are two ways this can be done - by preventing conception from happening or by destroying the foetus at some stage before it is born; i.e. abortion (gabbhapatana). Buddhism teaches that life begins at or shortly after conception and thus considers abortion to be a type of killing (M.I,265). To prevent conception from happening, either by using condoms, contraceptive pills, cervical devices or spermicides does not involve killing and is thus morally neutral. The ancient Indians practised douching to prevent conception and also made condoms out of animals' intestines.
That pretty much does it as far as sex and Dhamma is concerned. If there is any other aspects of the subject that you would like discussed please let me know and if I think I can say anything meaningful about it I will. From the 1st of next month I will discuss the positive emotions from the Buddhist perspective.
Thank you for bringing up this subject, one of many that are important. The path of Dhamma invites us to harmonize with biodynamic selves and realize our ultimate nobility.
This said, it would make sense, to those in committed (in dhamma) sexual relationships to practice the non-violence and intense self-discipline of conscious fertility in service to all of life, as opposed to artifical birth control techniques (NONE of which are 100% effective all the time, including the sterility technique of vasectomy).
Conscious choices made in awareness of fertility realities is called Fertility Awareness (and also sometimes called Natural Birth Control). Being that one of the main cravings is that of bhava, existence/propagation, it takes tremendous samadhi to even want to consider taking 100% responsibility for our possible sexual fertility.
This responsibility includes: awareness of hormonal and biological/lunar fertility windows, female physical symptoms that announce fertility (cervical changes, mucous changes, temperature changes), and abstinence from genital-genital intercourse druing those windows (up to two weeks a month sometimes). Also male non-ejaculation skills ( a la Mantak Chia) can be developed to the extent of being an excellent natural birth control (see the work of Jolan Chang) for those who master it.
Unfortunately, many people approach sex as a mutual masturbation technique, rather than a practice of self-mastery in relationship with Dhamma. Committed relationships are harmonious in Dhamma, however they can be sabotaged by ignorant sexual behavior.
As a midwife, I have known women who have conceived due to various birth control mishaps as well as the usual 1-1.5% rate of conception for ALL forms of contraception. So, the work of Conscious Conception/Non-Conception practice is a path of practice that is very beneficial for all.
I would also add that for females in heterosexual relationships, artificial birth control techniques present many problems due to the fact that they involve poisons/endocrine disrupters/chemicals create lowgrade fevers and mind-body disharmony. The most basic condom also presents issues in that it is not conducive to anything more than brief intercourse without copious amounts of artifical & problematic lubrication - without which breakage or mishaps occur.
For males, particularly those who have undergone infantile foreskin removal (circumcision/genital mutilation), condoms reduce the already reduced sensations.
For both, we need to look at the fact that are bodies are intelligent, communicative vessels. Creating barriers and confusing the messages of our hormones could certainly perpetuates sankaras. Abortion also creates much suffering.
So, approaching our choices with regard to potential fertility can be an opportunity to practice much mindfulness.
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