You are on page 1of 3

7/27/2018 What Buddhists Believe - Buddhist Views on Marriage

BuddhaSasana Home Page

English Section

What Buddhists Believe

Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera

Chapter 12 - Marriage, Birth Control And Death

Buddhist Views on Marriage

In Buddhism, marriage is regarded as entirely a personal, individual concern and
not as a religious duty.

Marriage is a social convention, an institution created by man for the well-being and
happiness of man, to differentiate human society from animal life and to maintain order and
harmony in the process of procreation. Even though the Buddhist texts are silent on the
subject of monogamy or polygamy, the Buddhist laity is advised to limit themselves to one
wife. The Buddha did not lay rules on married life but gave necessary advice on how to live a
happy married life. There are ample inferences in His sermons that it is wise and advisable to
be faithful to one wife and not to be sensual and to run after other women. The Buddha
realized that one of the main causes of man's downfall is his involvement with other women
(Parabhava Sutta).Man must realize the difficulties, the trials and tribulations that he has to
undergo just to maintain a wife and a family. These would be magnified many times when
faced with calamities. Knowing the frailties of human nature, the Buddha did, in one of His
precepts, advise His followers of refrain from committing adultery or sexual misconduct.

The Buddhist views on marriage are very liberal: in Buddhism, marriage is regarded entirely
as personal and individual concern, and not as a religious duty. There are no religious laws in
Buddhism compelling a person to be married, to remain as a bachelor or to lead a life of total
chastity. It is not laid down anywhere that Buddhists must produce children or regulate the
number of children that they produce. Buddhism allows each individual the freedom to decide
for himself all the issues pertaining to marriage. It might be asked why Buddhist monks do not
marry, since there are no laws for or against marriage. The reason is obviously that to be of
service to mankind, the monks have chosen a way of life which includes celibacy. Those who
renounce the worldly life keep away from married life voluntarily to avoid various worldly
commitments in order to maintain peace of mind and to dedicate their lives solely to serve
others in the attainment of spiritual emancipation. Although Buddhist monks do not solemnize
a marriage ceremony, they do perform religious services in order to bless the couples.

Separation or divorce is not prohibited in Buddhism though the necessity would scarcely arise
if the Buddha's injunctions were strictly followed. Men and women must have the liberty to
separate if they really cannot agree with each other. Separation is preferable to avoid
miserable family life for a long period of time. The Buddha further advises old men not to
have young wives as the old and young are unlikely to be compatible, which can create undue
problems, disharmony and downfall (Parabhava Sutta). 1/3
7/27/2018 What Buddhists Believe - Buddhist Views on Marriage

A society grows through a network of relationships which are mutually inter-twined and inter-
dependent. Every relationship is a whole hearted commitment to support and to protect others
in a group or community. Marriage plays a very important part in this strong web of
relationships of giving support and protection. A good marriage should grow and develop
gradually from understanding and not impulse, from true loyalty and not just sheer
indulgence. The institution of marriage provides a fine basis for the development of culture, a
delightful association of two individuals to be nurtured, and to be free from loneliness,
deprivation and fear. In marriage, each partner develops a complementary role, giving strength
and moral courage to one another, each manifesting a supportive and appreciative recognition
of the other's skills. There must be no thought of either man or woman being superior -- each
is complementary to the other, a partnership of equality, exuding gentleness, generosity, calm
and dedication.

Birth Control, Abortion and Suicide

Although man has freedom to plan his family according to his own convenience, abortion is
not justifiable.

There is no reason for Buddhists to oppose birth control. They are at liberty to use any of the
old or modern measures to prevent conception. Those who object to birth control by saying
that it is against God's law to practise it, must realize that their concept regarding this issue is
not reasonable. In birth control what is done is to prevent the coming into being of an
existence. There is no killing involved and there is no akusala kamma. But if they take any
action to have an abortion, this action is wrong because it involves taking away or destroying
a visible or invisible life. Therefore, abortion is not justifiable.

According to the Teachings of the Buddha, five conditions must be present to constitute the
evil act of killing. They are:

- a living being
- knowledge or awareness it is a living being
- intention of killing
- effort to kill, and
- consequent death

When a female conceives, there is a being in her womb and this fulfills the first condition.
After a couple of months, she knows that there is a new life within her and this satisfies the
second condition. Then for some reason or other, she wants to do away with this being in her.
So she begins to search for an abortionist to do the job and in this way, the third condition is
fulfilled. When the abortionist does his job, the fourth condition is provided for and finally,
the being is killed because of that action. So all the conditions are present. In this way, there is
a violation of the First Precept 'not to kill', and this is tantamount to killing a human being.
According to Buddhism, there is no ground to say that we have the right to take away the life
of another.

Under certain circumstances, people feel compelled to do that for their own convenience. But
they should not justify this act of abortion as somehow or other they will have to face some
sort of bad karmic results. In certain countries abortion is legalized, but this is to overcome
some problems. Religious principles should never be surrendered for the pleasure of man.
They stand for the welfare of the whole mankind.

Committing Suicide
Taking one's own life under any circumstances is morally and spiritually wrong. Taking one's
own life owing to frustration or disappointment only causes greater suffering. Suicide is a 2/3
7/27/2018 What Buddhists Believe - Buddhist Views on Marriage

cowardly way to end one's problems of life. A person cannot commit suicide if his mind is
pure and tranquil. If one leaves this world with a confused and frustrated mind, it is most
unlikely that he would be born again in a better condition. Suicide is an unwholesome or
unskillful act since it is encouraged by a mind filled with greed, hatred and delusion. Those
who commit suicide have not learnt how to face their problems, how to face the facts of life,
and how to use their mind in a proper manner. Such people have not been able to understand
the nature of life and worldly conditions.

Some people sacrifice their own lives for what they deem as a good and noble cause. They
take their own life by such methods as self-immolation, bullet-fire, or starvation. Such actions
may be classified as brave and courageous. However, from the Buddhist point of view, such
acts are not to be condoned. The Buddha has clearly pointed out that the suicidal states of
mind lead to further suffering.


Previous Page Contents Next Page

Source: Buddhist Study and Practice Group,

[Back to English Index] 3/3