This is a project series interviewing Buddhists in other countries. Todays questions involve morality, such as what do Buddhists think of modesty, gays, premarital sex, etc. As always, the questions and answers do very just as they do in Christianity.
What is “sin? How do people stop this “sin” problem?
Kenneth (China) There is no concept of sin in buddhism similar to Christian terms but the closest equivalent would be avidya, which means ignorance of the nature of reality of karma. Bad deeds would result to consequences. People stop negative karma by practicing good merits. Actions are a matter of personal responsibility and accountability.
Gill (Poland) Sin is any action that you do with wrong intentions.
Dave (USA) At the meditation center I attend they talk about skillful and unskillful thoughts, actions, etc. rather than sin because this is more specific about what’s happening, and also because so many of us have baggage around the word “sin” stemming from out Christian childhoods.
Do Buddhists believe sex before marriage is always wrong? If they had sex before marriage, do they need to make merit or do something else?
Kenneth (China) Generally, Buddhists think premarital sex is under restriction to refrain from sexual immorality. However, Buddhists do consider the gravity of each action to be relative and case to case basis.
Gill (Poland) I don’t know what Buddhist believe. As long as you are responsible and don’t hurt anyone by this act (nor yourself), it is not wrong, but in Asia as mostly parents are responsible for marriage of their children so this kind of experience particularly for a girl can be very unfortunate as all the family is involved. If you are ok. you don’t have remords and nobody is lamenting around I suppose no need to make a merit just keep it for yourself and be happy.
Dave (USA) Some do, some don’t. I’m more focused on whether sex affirms the humanity of those involved rather than being exploitative. Sometimes sex within marriage is exploitative, while non-marital sex is affirming.
Do Buddhists have a modesty standard? Must women dress differently in the temple, or in the home?
Kenneth (China) While Buddhists do not observe commandments, they are encouraged to refrain from immorality and violations of the precepts. From my observation, Buddhists do not wear “sunday best” but do wear what is respectable but this is not required or stated.
Gill (Poland) I don’t know. They needn’t but they want I think.
Dave (USA) Women and men are equal. Modesty is about respect. Sometimes being naked is modest. Obviously, context matters.
Tran (Vietnam) Yes, people must dress modestly. (not directed to women)
How do Buddhists feel about gays/lesbians/transgender/lady boys, etc?
Kenneth (China) I think homosexuality is not the fault of people although people should avoid engaging in sexual immorality and this applies to heterosexuals as well. For transgenders, it’s a tricky one haha they could have been reincarnated from their previous genders.
Gill (Poland) Let them be as they are.
Dave (USA) I also believe lesbian, gay, and other sexual minorities are equal to heterosexuals. To say otherwise feels like dehumanizing someone.
Is it wrong/a sin to eat an animal?
Kenneth (China) Personally I think it’s okay to eat animals. Buddha himself consumed meat and monks accept whatever food is offered to them. However, Buddhists do not engage in butchering and vegetarianism is encouraged. The thing is to avoid hurting or harming animals. This issue has diverse viewpoints in Buddhism.
Gill (Poland) No. But may be healthier is not to exagerate with meat. Buddha was not a vegetarian,as far as I remember he was accepting what they were giving, but he only did not wish that animal was intentionally killed for him.
Tran (Vietnam) Yes, it is.
EDIT: Here’s an interesting comment on the function of rules in Buddhism and how that is different than Christianity. I personally have found Buddhist rules to be different (premarital sex is always wrong in Christianity – only “rebell” Christians think otherwise -), but I agree that the function is different. For a Christian, we shouldn’t sin because God is holy. Here’s the comment.