Can a lay Buddhist be a good lover?
With all the talks about letting go, it sounds like Buddhists are a bunch of emotionless people minding their own business, meditating and chanting the whole day long. No flowers and chocolate, no flirting, no passion (Yawn)
Let’s see what Buddha said in Sigalovada sutta.
Here, I will jump straight into a marriage life. This is because love is a responsible choice made, to offer love to the another person. In another word, it is a decision that we want to love someone. Therefore the advise by Buddha for the husband and wife in a marriage life, teaches us how to love one another too!
Note: In the past, the role of husband and wife is quite defined by society, thus a wife is expected to be responsible for the home management whereas the husband is the bread winner. In our modern society, husband and wife may each play a dual role or the man can be the homemaker whereas the wife is the breadwinner. In addition, there is the LGBT community. Therefore, when reading this sutta, I think it makes sense to go beyond the limitation caused by gender.
In addition, I think the advices are equally relevant to any 2 persons living together. Therefore, I have replaced the description of wife or husband with the word “one another”.
The following are advices for the breadwinner (traditionally the Husband) towards the homemaker (traditionally the wife). I include my own personal interpretation as well.
- Be courteous to one another,
In a relationship, we tend to take the other party for granted as we become comfortable with each other. In our modern context, it basically says.”Please continue to be sweet to one another” Continue to open the doors, continue to be polite and considerate towards one another. Do all the sweet things that you do during courtship.
- Do not despise one another,
When we start living together, we start to notice every single details of how our partner live. Minor daily habits. From their face without make-up to the way they squeeze the tooth paste! Learn to accept our partner and their habits, including those that irritate us. To love someone is to accept them as they are.
- Be faithful to your partner,
Sexual desire is one of the most challenging desire to overcome. A layman need not be celibate (Phew!) However, the Buddha also does not encourage excessive sexual desire in his lay disciples. I think the key is a middle path of moderation and gradual improvement in mastering one’s sensual desire. In that essence, it is good to practice monogamy.
- Give the homemaker authority
Basically leave the decision of home management to the homemaker. If both are playing dual role of breadwinner and homemaker, then refer back to 1st and 2nd advices above and discuss things thru. From the important decision on child education to which brand of washing detergent to use. Another important rule in interpreting this advice is to respect your partner’s way of doing things. For example, if it is your spouse’s turn to prepare dinner, do not interfere with the way they cook! Pass the authority of the kitchen to them. Unless you want to see a flying saucer in the kitchen, do not stand around the kitchen criticising the way they cut the vegetable or the way they cook.
- providing the homemaker with adornments.
Diamond is a girl’s best friend! In the olden days, the wife stay home and the husband is the only one with income and money. The Buddha actually advised the husband to buy gifts for the wife! In our modern context, I think it means to pamper our love one according to our capabilities. Something of appreciation that shows how much we care for their happiness. To bring forth a smile on the other’s face. Super sweet right?
Advise for the homemaker (traditionally the wife) towards the breadwinner (traditionally the husband)
- performs the homemaker duties well,
Basically, it means to manage and run the household well. From managing the household finance to home hygiene. If one is wealthy, managing the servants would also be part of the homemaker’s duties.
- be hospitable to the extended families (in-laws) & relatives, friends and associates of each other
Living together also means becoming acquainted and becoming part of a bigger families that come from our spouse’s side. It is part of the deal. To love our spouse also means being hospitable to their immediate families (our in-laws) and friends / colleagues. This is where the practice of loving kindness meditation becomes a very powerful tool. We cannot be the only centre of attention. Be the gracious host and welcome them to your home. (Ommmmm………..)
- Be faithful to your partner,
Both husband and wife has to be faithful to each other. Whatever commitment we make; we need to be honoured them.
- Protects what our spouse brings,
This means to guard the family resources and wealth. Do not squander them. We have to spend wisely and not be wasteful in our daily expenses.
- Homemaker is skilled and industrious in discharging their duties.
Specifically referring to household management again. Our living condition plays a vital role in the quality of our living. We need not be extremely wealthy to live well. However, we need to take charge of our household standard and make sure that things in our home runs well. In that aspect, we cannot be lazy with home hygiene, meals nutrition, bills and utilities, children upbringing, pets maintenance etc. If we have an altar at home, we need to make sure we keep it clean and tidy too. No hoarding in the home. The list is endless, really.
I hope you find what the Buddha said in Sigalovada Sutta useful.