Monday, April 6, 2009


Adultery (aticariya) is having sexual relations with another person while married or with a person married to another. In the Tipitaka a male adulterer is called a paradarika and a female equivalent is called aticaryini (S.II,259). An adulteress might also be dubbed 'an owl-like one' (kosiyayayani) because she was thought to sneaks around at night (Ja.I,496). Adultery is probably the most common breach of the third Precept. Most marriage ceremonies include a solemn promise by both parties that they will be faithful to each other. Committing adultery breaks this promise and usually involves other negative behaviors such as lying, deceit and pretence. The negative results on others can include shattered trust, humiliation, heartbreak and a weakening of family cohesion. For these reasons the Buddha said: 'Being dissatisfied with ones, if one is seen with prostitutes and the wives of others, this is a cause of one's decline' (Sn.108).
Of the numerous people I council, either over the phone or in person, the largest number are the injured parties of adultery - and perhaps 70% of these being women. Whether this is because men are more likely to commit ad to be unfaithful or whether men are less likely to disclose that their wives have cheated on them I do not know. Whatever the case, when you see the results of adultery it really brings home its seriousness. Only two years ago a woman came to see me saying that she had been given AIDS by her husband. Remarkably, she seemed to have got over what must have been a terrible shock, but it had nonetheless turned her life upside down.


Barry said...

I really appreciate your scholarship on these issues.

Adultery may well be the most common breach of the Third Precept, as ordinarily understood.

But in my experience, the precept is breached whenever craving, lust, and lechery arise in the mind. Or, better said, whenever I indulge these impulses. In this way, I can see how I break the precept many times each day.

Walter said...

Such thoughts will cross the mind. They arise of their own. If we don't act on them, we have not "sinned"... ie created bad karma, I think.

Ming-Jie Chai said...

Hi Bhante, you have any suggestion for us to discipline our minds to not act on lustful thoughts? I suppose this is the 'samadhi' that Buddhism talks of. Thanks.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear MJ
My teacher, not a particularly wise man but a very down-to-earth and practical one, said to me when I asked him this question; 'don’t fight them and don’t feed them.' I have found this advice very useful. When I have lustful thoughts, I give them a bit of attention and then gradually mosey on off to some other subject. They used to sometimes get the better of me and make me all hot and flustered. Advancing age has quieted them a lot and nowadays they are only a minor irritation. I see them like the wart on my left hand. It’s a bit unsightly but its been there so long I'm rather fond of it - and its not really too much trouble. Don’t fight them and don’t feed them and you should be okay.

MidPath said...

Dear Bhante,

I have a question.

If two married persons, under very unsual circumstances, agreed to remain married but not conjugally (for the sake of the child) and one of them has another partner with whom he has a relationship with similar to a wife.

Further, it is not a secret, there are no lies or deceit or pretence. There are also no lies, deceit or pretence towards the child.

Is this person breaking the third precept?


MidPath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear MidPath,
Goodness! We really are living in interesting times, aren't we? Okay, let me think about it for a moment……..Right, here goes. Such a relationship would seem to have become a marriage of convenience (the convenience of the child) and to that extent would not be considered a 'real' marriage. The couple would have the piece of paper but not the sexual relations, the faithfulness and the love (although perhaps there might be 'liking') that normally define a marriage. Therefore, if there was mutual agreement between the couple that each should seek love and even sexual fulfillment elsewhere, I would say that the third Precept was not being infringed because the couple are longer really married, in the true sense of the word.

Jenni said...

dear Bhante,

is the breaking of 3rd precept only applied to married couples? what about dating couples? will it be considered as breaking the 3rd precept too if one of them cheat with another person or a prostitute?

Shravasti Dhammika said...

When a couple have an understanding that they are now committed to each other, and this almost always goes together with the understanding that they will be faithful to each other, then if one cheats they would be, in my opinion, breaking the third Precept. If one tells the other that the relationship is now finished and then has a relationship with another person, that would be different.