Peace and health to you!
I am an 18-year-old Buddhist of the Theravada tradition who is seeking to incorporate the Dharma into more areas of his life. However, there is one that is currently more pressing than others.
I have a wonderful girlfriend of seven months whom I have deep respect and appreciation for. We have a balanced and healthy relationship. However, she has a significant zest for physicality: extended kissing, touching, making out, things of this sort -- never so far as any form of sexual contact, which we both agree we are too young for, but nevertheless quite intense at times. I have maintained a clear head throughout our time together and harbor no illusions: we will almost certainly break up at some point in the future, given the fact that our college choices are such that we will be in a long-distance relationship, quite apart from the fact that all phenomena are transitory and shouldn't be clung to. However, I often wonder if the physical aspects of our relationship are fostering undue craving and attachment in me. Could you please explain to me the Buddha's stance on such matters, with particular emphasis on what the Third Precept means in the lay Buddhist's life? I would be most grateful for any of your thoughts on this.
Thank you for asking me.
First we must understand we are very sensual beings; especially at your age. It is very natural. The Buddha taught universal truth. The truth is that we are very sensual. The truth is that if we are unrestrained in our senses, we may fall victims to our senses; we become slaves to our senses; the greatest trap is the sexual trap. Most are unrestrained slaves of this sexual trap, behaving no less than animals, having sexual relationships with one and sundries. Beware AIDS!
The third precept states that one should undertake to refrain from committing sexual misconduct. This has no direct bearing on whether couple should be legally married. Marriage is actually a social/legal obligation when a couple becomes man and wife. Sexual misconduct means having sexual excesses with one and sundry without a thought for genuine relationship. This behaviour is just like animal sexual instinct. Sexual misconduct will bring potential problems like unwanted children, abortion, adultery, and death from AIDS! If a couple is genuine in love and cares for each other, I would say that whatever they do in privacy is not sexual misconduct. However, I would be of the opinion that the couple should adhere to social norm, human dignity, and legal obligations, to get married if they want to live together.
The greatest gift in Buddhism is the freedom to choose and decide. When one understands the teachings of the Buddha, one has clear understanding of life and will be able to conduct one's life with wisdom.