I undertake the training precept to refrain from sensual misconduct.
We come back to the context of this precept: refraining from harming or hurting others with our sexual energy, and noticing how our appetite for anything connected to the five physical senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch) impacts other beings and resonates in our own mind and body.
We can use any of the senses to make us feel more like animals, or more like angels. For example, our eyes can seek out pornography or soothing images, we can listen to things that disturb and upset us or things that uplift us. This precept, like the other four, is a call to wake up to what we are doing, moment by moment. There’s no time off from the principle that our actions and words really do matter.
Meanwhile, it’s worth recognizing that there’s no fixed list of sensual activities that are “bad” or “good”. We have to use our best judgment about what effect our actions have on ourselves and others. We can reflect before, during and after an action. Sometimes our good intentions go awry – can we figure out why? What did we fail to consider in this case?
Actually, there is a list of bad activities.
The words of the Buddha to his (male) followers:
“Abandoning misconduct in sensual pleasures, he abstains from misconduct in sensual pleasures; he does not have intercourse with women who are protected by their mother, father, mother and father, brother, sister, or relatives, who have a husband, who are protected by law, or with those who are garlanded in token of betrothal.” (MN41.12 Nanamoli/Bodhi)
Essentially, people who are promised to another person, and people protected by law (young, handicapped or otherwise vulnerable people) are to be left alone (sexually). Good idea to handle them with care emotionally as well, I would say.
Golden Rule: Never let Passion override Compassion (M. O’C. Walshe, Buddhism and Sex 1975)
On the good side, if you’re in a committed relationship, finding a way to keep your partner happy is an excellent idea. Sex can be a true barometer of what’s happening in a relationship. Being generous, open and honest in your most intimate relationship can only help your partner and yourself. Wouldn’t it be great if in all our relationships we were generous, open and honest?
Next up: truthfulness