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."
Christianity generally teaches that lust is sinful. In the New Testament, Jesus says that to lust after a person who is not one's wife is the same as committing adultery. In his Sermon on the Mount, he explains, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28)."
Other New Testament writers affirm the idea that sex should only occur within marriage, and that natural impulses outside of marriage only lead to trouble. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, "Now concerning the matters about which you wrote. It is well for a man not to touch a woman. But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband (1 Corinthians 7)."
Further evidence that lust is a sin in Christianity comes from 1 John, where lust is described as being ungodly: "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world (1 John 2:16)."
Some contemporary Christians understand lust as being sinful only if one acts upon the temptation, not merely if one is lured. But Christian denominations generally teach that lust is wrong. Catholicism considers lust a capital sin. The Catholic Catechism states, "Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes (Verse 2351)."
Similarly, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints warns that a heterosexual marriage is the only proper way to satisfy lust. The Mormon Doctrine & Covenant states, "And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out (42:23)."