Is Lust Only Natural?

A multifaith guide to lust.


Rabbi Shmuley Boteach says that the way to make the most of lust is to get married--and many religions would agree with him. In Judaism and other faiths, lust is seen as simply natural; what is more important is how the lustful believer acts (or doesn't act) on that lust. But Jesus' famous words--"But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart," make it clear that Christianity, as well as other faiths, see lust itself as a sin. Use this guide to see where the five major religions stand on lust.


Buddhism encourages renouncing sensual pleasures. Sensuous lust is considered one of Buddhism's five hindrances. The Buddha taught that lust is a result of desire, which must be abandoned to reach enlightenment. The Buddha formulated 5 precepts of Right Conduct One of these is: "I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from sexual misconduct." Buddhists interpret this precept in different ways, but most believe that consensual sexual relations between a couple are okay, and that sexual misconduct would include adultery, rape, incest, and other sexual abuse.

Many Buddhist texts explain these teachings on lust. The "Discourses of the Buddha" states, "The pleasure and joy that arise in dependence on the eye: this is the gratification in the eye. That the eye is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change: this is the danger in the eye. The removal and abandonment of desire and lust from the eye: this is the escape from the eye."

The Dhammapada teaches, "Those who are infatuated with lust fall back into the stream, as does a spider into the web spun by itself. This too the wise cut off, and wander, with no longing, released from all sorrow (Dhammapada 13)."

Other Buddhist texts go further, to say that lust is evil. The Itivuttaka states, "Monks, there are these three roots of evil. What three?

"Lust is a root of evil, hate is a root of evil, delusion is a root of evil. These are the three roots of evil."

And as Buddhaghosa wrote in the Visuddhimagga, "Of the divine state of love the near enemy is lust, because, like love, it sees good qualities. It is like a foe lurking near a man. Quickly it finds access. Hence love should be well protected from lust."

Continued on page 2: Christianity »

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