The Wikipedia entry on incest, and what Buddhism says about it, states ‘Incest (or any other detail of human sexual conduct for that matter) is not specifically mentioned in any of the religious scriptures’. It is very disappointing that some of those writing and contributing the Buddhist martial to Wikipedia have such scant knowledge of the Tipitaka. If anyone knows who this person or people are perhaps you could ask them to contact me. The Parajika section of the Vinaya mentions (and describes) almost every kind of sexual behavior you can think of and a few you can’t, or at least wouldn’t want to (Vin.III,1-40). Likewise, incest is referred to in the Tipitaka. The Pali word for incest would be agammagamana, literally ‘going to what should not be gone to’. In his Digha Nikaya translation, Walshe renders adhammaraga (D.III,70) as incest, which would seem to be quite legitimate (The Long Discourses of the Buddha, 1987, p.401). Buddhadatta gives vyabhicara and natimethunayatta for incest although I can’t find either of these words in other dictionaries. The Buddha describes incest as not taking account that a sexual partner is ‘a mother, aunt, mother’s sister-in-law…or one’s father’s wives’ and says that such promiscuity is of the type that prevails amongst animals (D.III,72). In the Udaya Jataka the Bodhisattva is a prince who is compelled to marry his half-sister. Although the two sleep in the same room for many years they remain celibate (Ja.IV,105). In the Dasaratha Jataka the princes Rama and Lakkhana marry their sister (Ja.IV,130). As with many ancient peoples the Sakyans, the tribe the Buddha belonged to, had a myth about their origins which included brother-sister incest. When the Koliyans were involved in a dispute with the Sakyans they taunted them by sayings that they ‘cohabite with their sisters like dogs, jackals and other animals’ (Ja.V,413). During the Buddha’s life there was an incident where a nun became infatuated with her son who was a monk and had sex with him, an offence entailing expulsion from the Sangha (Vin.III,35). When this was brought to the Buddha’s attention he said, ‘Does not this foolish man know that a mother shall not lust after her son or a son after his mother?’ (A.III,67-8). Perhaps referring to this incident the Buddha also said, ‘These two states, shame and fear of blame, protect the world. If they did not protect the world it would not be clear who was one’s mother or mother’s sister, one’s uncle’s wife…and the world would fall into confusion. The promiscuity seen amongst goats and sheep, fowl and pigs, dogs and jackals would prevail’ (A.I,51).
Friday, December 4, 2009
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As far as I know Siddhartha's parents were cousins and he and Yashodara were relatives of each other. I think this was and still is a common practice in the royal society.
Two issues struck me here: 1) how did the off-springs of Adam & Eve propagate without committing incest? (assuming we believe there is first man & woman); 2) incest likened to animal behaviour.
Going back to millions of years where homo-sapiens lived in small groups (tribal), remote and isolated, no social constructs or norms such as marriage (one man one wife) where it was probable that a man had multiple sex partners and a woman likewise. That means their off-springs are related to one another. In turn (because of tribal community and isolation) these half-siblings have sex with one another (incest?). In all probability, cavemen had incest relationship because they have not developed social constructs, moral values, philosophies, rights and wrongs. They were just too preoccupied with mundane living like satisfying hunger, keeping warm, safe from elements & predators, satisfying natural urge to procreate – all of which we observed today as animal behaviour!
Less we be mistaken, humans are animals, like it or not! We just have mental faculties which we believed are superior to other animals. This is mental construct.
Homo sapiens is only about 200.000 years old, not millions. To condemn incest is not just a social thing based on a moral invented by humans and therefore against our animalistic roots. As our physical attributes also our mind undergoes evolutional development, it is subject to natural selection: A being which likes the idea to have sex with it's relatives is likely to have genetically aggrieved offsprings if not handicapped. As evolution means the survival of the fittest, these individuals are not able to pass on their genes and if only for at most two or three generations other then the individuals which think to have sex with their siblings is not a good idea. The idea incest is sorted out by natural selection in a certain extent. And yes, it is evident that some moral concepts have a genetic basis.
aah-haa says we are animals. But the question is - should we remain being animals? Ben explains incest is a genetically "unskilled" behaviour. I do not think the Buddha was viewing the problem from this angle. If we are driven by our animal urges is liberation possible? "Mu" as Zennists say! :)))
Dear Ben and Yuri
Thanks for your comments. The Universe and Earth is millions of years old and I take it figuratively that after 6 days man was created! But that is all legend and it does not matter even if caveman was 10,000 yrs old. The point is: there WAS incest and we are products of that act. Royalties and those that practised caste discrimination have married their kinship near or distant. How else can they retain royal or pure blood? So are isolated or remote communities. I've heard of villagers marrying relatives. Today, in-breeding is discouraged but there is no absolute medical or scientific evident to show that in-breeding is really bad. If so chicken, cow, and many species (dinosaur?) would have perished by now. That applies to human marrying within the same race.
Morality is a social construct not natural selection. Cross-breeding is good only if it is between best of the breeds. A defective gene is still defective whether it comes from A or B. I do not think that moral concepts are based on genetic. However, societies have evolved values and beliefs – that incest is wrong and therefore should be discouraged by labelling it as immoral, illegal, sinful, etc.
I think the key consideration is whether or not an activity causes harm. When incest is done in a way that does not cause harm such as not producing any retarded children (e.g. incest between two brothers, between a son and a father, between a monther and daughter, or between a sister and brother done with contraceptives to prevent pregnancy or done with condoms to prevent transmission of diseases), it should not be considered morally wrong.
Our negative attitude towards incest might be a result of our cultural conditioning.
Let's think rationally and cooling on incest.
The Buddha very clearly considered incest to be wrong, although the only reason he gives for this position is that it causes confusion or literally ‘breakdown’ (sambhedam). The almost universal taboo against incest is probably related to the social and survival advantages of exogamy and the fact that inbreeding increases the chances of birth deformities. The Buddha called the monk who had sex with his mother a moghapurisa. The PTS Dictionary defines mogha as empty, vain, useless, stupid, foolish. That’s good enough for me.
From the moral point incest is unacceptable. Chinese tradition even frown on marriages of the same surname even though the couples are not related. That is social taboo, nothing to do with birth deformities, which we know take place too for pregnancies in older women.
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