Theravada Religious Teachings Promotion of Prostitution - Essay Example

Date:  2021-06-17 16:45:16
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In every religious community, there exist values that the members of such a community are expected to follow. The teachings of the religion in a great way influence beliefs as well as the behaviour of the people in the society. The issue of prostitution is controversial in various parts of the world as well as in different religious backgrounds, with many communities being against the religion. However, there are allegations that Theravada Buddhism is one of the world religions that promote prostitution. In Thailand, there has been interesting stories about sex tourism and Theravada Buddhism has been blamed for the rampant prostitution. The question is to what extent the religion encourages prostitution among the members of the society. The aim of this paper is to argue for the case that Theravada Buddhism teachings encourage prostitution in Thailand. The paper will explain the various beliefs that are held by the religion that promote the prostitution activities.

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The Buddhism teachings in Thailand are such that they do not encourage interference with what is called worldly affairs. In this case, prostitution is one of the worldly concerns that the religion is not expected to interfere with. The argument by the society is that the religion does not hinder people from engaging in prostitution because it is a good thing and the people have the choice on whether they are to engage in prostitution or not (Avila 2). Regardless of the pressure from the society to intervene, the religion has done nothing to deal with the social problem, and this leads to the assumption that the religion supports prostitution.

According to Theravada Buddhism, the actions of an individual have their advantages and disadvantages. This means that the actions of an individual do not necessarily amount to sin which may be prohibited. Instead, everything that an individual engages in will have some benefits as well as some disadvantages. In the case of prostitution, it is known that the act has benefits because the women who engage in the same get money that they use to support their family. On the other hand, the acts have some disadvantages which include the fact that they can lead to dangerous diseases that can spread in the society (Avila 5). As the women engage in the prostitution activities, they are just expected to realize that there are some disadvantages that are associated with the acts.

According to Buddha doctrine that is called Karma, the human beings are always in the process of being reborn in their life. This means that if individuals are not pure, they will have to be punished after they die and will reincarnate as lower beings so that they can learn to cleanse themselves. Those who are pure are to be promoted so that they are beings of a higher order. This is very different from the Christianity religion where the warning is that sinners who die are punished through external fire. This shows that the religion in the case of Buddha teachings does not offer a serious punishment that would compel the women in Thailand to stop engaging in prostitution (Amy, 2).

The Buddha teachings are that individuals can purify themselves by doing good deeds to other people, more specifically, their family members. The poverty in Thailand especially in the rural areas make it difficult for young women to secure jobs hence help their families. As a result, they have no alternative means of purifying their karma so that they are made pure hence become superior beings after they die. The only option that is left is for them to engage in prostitution, get money and then help their families. By supporting their family financially, they are appreciated for the help that they were offered while growing (Avila 4). This means that many women in the country are encouraged to engage in prostitution so that they can purify their Karma as per the Buddha teachings.

The women in Theravada Buddhism are viewed as individuals of a lower level as compared to men. In many societies, engaging in prostitution is regarded as moral decay, which is fought against by all means. On the other hand, Buddhism regards the acts of prostitution as the fate of the girls or what is called Karma. Since they are individuals of lower level, they engage in the activities because of their position in the society and not because they are morally wrong. In this case, the society sees the act as something that cannot be avoided because it is determined by powers that are above the ability of human beings. This is why many women in the society engage in prostitution on Thailand with no actions taken against them (Bauer, 172).

As already indicated, service to other people increases merits of an individual so that when they are re-born next time, they are humans of a higher level. The girls thus value servicing the men in their society as a way of ensuring that they improve their merit. This shows that Theravada Buddhism teachings in a way encourage the girls to engage in prostitution, so that they are re-born as individuals of a higher level. Being a woman already is a human being of a lower level and this means that engaging in prostitution gives individuals a merit. It is questionable what would be the effect if these young girls contracted HIV and died (Amy, 3). Their view is that this would fasted the time they take to be promoted to a higher level of human beings after servicing men as well as serving their relatives.

According to Buddha teachings, there are two types of prostitution which are categorized by the reasons that motivate people to engage in the acts. First is the prostitution that is fuelled by poverty level in a family, and the girls are after alleviating their poverty level by seeking for financing that can enable them to meet their basic needs. On the other hand, some girls engage in prostitution because it is an easy way of making money. For the first case, prostitution that is fuelled by the status in the society such as the poverty levels is not regarded as wrong, but the other form of prostitution is obviously wrong. The challenge with the definitions is that it is difficult for one to determine the reason why an individual is engaging in prostitution. Many girls can engage in prostitution and blame their poverty levels. This is why the religion is believed to be a reason behind the high levels of prostitution in Thailand (Bauer, 171).

In Buddhism, prostitution is not regarded as a sin, and instead, it is preferable to state that individuals are in the wrong livelihood. The actions to such people is that they need to be informed of the fact that they can engage in the right livelihood and stop engaging in the wrong livelihood. The meaning of this is that as long as individuals do not get opportunities in the right livelihood, then there is nothing wrong engaging in the wrong livelihood as it gives them the opportunity to get food and sustain their lives. This in a way is viewed as a reason why people who are not employed are allowed to engage in the wrong livelihood, which is in this case the prostitution activities (Avila 4).

During the time of Buddha, the teachings show that the prostitutes were not punished or discriminated in any way. Instead, they were helped to reform, and they ended up becoming good people in the religion. This does not discourage prostitution in any way, and instead, it encouraged people to reform. It encouraged those who follow the religion to reach out to the prostitutes and advise them so that they can reform. This means that the religion does not recognize prostitution as an evil, and instead views it as a behavior that should be changed and those engaging in the acts appreciated (Amy, 4).

The Buddha teachings also is clear on what is lawful and unlawful sex. The religion teachings emphasize that sex between marriage couples is allowed. It is unlawful for one to engage in sex with women who are married or are in the process of being married. It is also unlawful to engage in sex with individuals who are protected by their father, brother, sister or any other relative. This leads to greater confusion since the teachings does not mention about the girls who are not married and are not under control of any of their relative. Many of the girls who engage in prostitution are not married and are also not under the control of their relatives, hence this can be interpreted to mean that they are not engaging in an unlawful act. Many people engage in the behavior, with the argument that they are not married or protected by any of their relatives, hence are not engaging in an unlawful act (Bauer, 175).

Another factor that makes the religion appear to be supporting prostitution is that it does not mention the men who engage in prostitution. In other religions, it is clear that men and women should not engage in the sinful act. In Theravada Buddhism, it is evident that the men are given greater protection where they are viewed as beings of a higher level, and their acts of prostitution are not addressed by the religious teachings. Prostitution can only be ended if both men and women are made to realize that the act is wrong. As long as men are engaging in prostitution and are not being accused, then it means that there is motivation for some people to engage in the act (Avila 6).

Those against the argument that Theravada Buddhism promotes prostitution state that good deeds do not include the prostitution. Girls can engage in other activities that give them money so that they can support their family hence improve their Karma. The counter argument, in this case, is that the girls are able to support the family regardless of the source of money, and some men who benefit from the sexual activities are pleased with the girls, and this also makes them feel that they have improved their good deeds (Amy, 2). This shows that the girls and those engaging in prostitution can defend themselves using the same religion, such that they can easily justify their actions.

Another counter argument is that girls can stay in rural areas can engage in simple activities that generate income, such that they do not engage in the immoral act. Life in the rural areas is cheaper hence the girls would not be under much pressure to engage in prostitution. The refutation of the argument is that the modern society has been exposed to materialism activities, such that even those living in the rural areas can engage in prostitution for the sake of making money (Bauer, 178).

In summary, there is no evidence that Theravada supports and encourages people to engage in prostitution. At the same time, the religion does not in any way discourage people from engaging in the act, since it does not consider it unlawful. However, there are teachings that tend to encourage people to engage in the act, and this in a great way has made people engage in prostitution without question. The fact that the men in the society are not questioned for engaging in prostitution encouraged them to do so. The fact that women are considered to be lower level beings and wish to reincarnate in future as better beings make them to do all they can to ensure that they increase their good deeds. One of such ways is through engaging in prostitution. To an extent, the religion seems to justify poverty as a reason that can make individuals engage in prostitution. Based on these observations, it is persuasive to conclude that Theravada Buddhism encouraged prostitution in Thailand.

Works Cited

Amy, Proskow. "Trading Sex for Karma in Thailand: An Analysis of the Reciprocal Relationship Between Buddhist Monastics and Thai Prostitutes." Western Michigan University Scholar Works at WMU, 2002,

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