Buddhist Views on Cohabitation
The Buddhist view on cohabitation is a far cry from what the western world believes. Though this might be the case, Buddhists have varying beliefs to the concept. In the western world, cohabitation is not new because children live apart from their parents when they get to the age of eighteen. They are expected to stand on their own feet and face challenges.
In the Burmese lifestyle though, things are completely different. They stay close to their parents and as such, one family had close to 4 or 5 members. They don’t encourage sexual knowledge before marriage and place high value in virginity. Hardly do they make love before they are married.
Buddhism scripture mentions cohabitation as a serious act. Any women who are guided by brothers, parents or relatives etc should be respected and avoided. If one gets into any relationship with them, they are committing Kamesumicchacara, committing adultery or sexual violation.
While this might be the case, not all Buddhists hold the same view. There are those who believe the formal Buddhist marriage institution has no scriptural authority on whether or not it is wrong for couples to cohabit as they choose without any form of blessing or sanction. There are many Buddhist priests who are licensed to perform civil ceremonies.
This means that any couple that chooses this course can have their union blessed by a priest who acts as the adjunct of the marriage service they choice. The ceremony then becomes the declaration of intent before a supportive and treasured community. This also adds extra consequence and responsibility to form a married or equivalent relationship.
The third of the 5 Percepts undertaken by Buddhists says ‘Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami’ (I undertake the course of training in refraining from wrong-doing in respect of sensuality’). While this is not a commandment, it is an ethical approach and one that is upheld by the Buddhists.
It simply means any behavior is grounded in clinging and grasping anything that will impede the progress of awakening towards freedom from existential anguish. As such, any man or woman that is driven by sexual desire whether it is before or after their marriage can be said to be disregarding the path to awakening unskillfully. Craving sensual pressure is therefore, a hindrance that needs to be avoided by Buddhists.
There are some Buddhist sects that practice or teach in a monastic environment and they don’t allow any kind of marriage type to be formed. There are other sects who see that everyday life is a ground for spiritual fulfillment as such, they do not prohibit followers from cohabiting or raising families.
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