Theravada Buddhism and Ethical Perspectives on Sexual Intercourse

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Amnat Yodthong


This research article is a documentary study by the methodology of content analysis from the Tripitakas, Commentaries, and related research papers. The objective is to 1) study the scope and meaning of the sexual intercourse in Theravada Buddhism, and 2) study the ethical perspectives on sexual intercourse in Theravada Buddhism.

The study found that 1) the word ‘sexual intercourse’ from the western perspective carries with it two meanings: the traditional meaning is the penetration of a penis into a vagina, and the modern meaning is the having sex with other organs such as anus or with other objects. In Theravada Buddhism, the sexual intercourse is communicated through the word “Methunadhamma.” It refers to the action of a person thrusting, with intention or pleasure, his or her sexual organ into a sexual organ, anus, and mouth of another being, regardless of male or female, human, beast, or monsters (e.g. giants), including the dead body of those beings. 2) Even if such penetration is only a slight entering, it is considered a total sexual intercourse. The ethical perspective on sexual intercourse in Theravada Buddhism is consistent with the virtue theory because it views that good sexual intercourse is a sexual activity that is accepted by virtuous people, which conforms to Aristotle’s rule of the Golden Mean, i.e. moderation or modesty. For Theravada Buddhism, it is believed that good sexual intercourse refers to sexual intercourse that does not infringe on the Five Precepts, especially the Third Precept that entails a total abstention from sexual misconduct, and must be composed of the Five Virtues, especially the third virtue i.e. Sadàrasantosa which means one’s contentment with their own husbands or wives. It is considered the middle path of the life of the householder according to the Noble Eightfold Path, which is called “right action of the mundane,” referring to the right action of those who still have lustful desires.


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Yodthong, A. (2020). Theravada Buddhism and Ethical Perspectives on Sexual Intercourse. Journal of MCU Peace Studies, 8(3), 1183-1193. Retrieved from
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