Temples of Sri Lanka


Translated to English by Hashini Wedanda from the Sinhala article by Venerable Nindane Chandawimala Thero published in Satipatthana Magazine.

Almost every third world country is facing economic inflation. To get out of this economic decline, several proposals were presented by economists. Among those proposals, the population structure of a country has been taken first. The country’s economy cannot withstand the rapidly increasing population. Resources are also limited. Population growth is the main obstacle to reap maximum benefit from these limited resources. Due to this, it is the opinion of scholars and responsible people that the population growth should be limited.


With the unsustainable growth of the population in the underdeveloped countries, the problems of food, housing, protection etc. became acute. A large amount of capital that should be used for the development has to be used to feed the people. It not only weakens the country’s economy but also increases poverty. Due to poverty, people are tempted to commit horrible crimes. So, it is a generally accepted opinion of every underdeveloped country that the population growth should be gradually limited due to these conditions. Birth controlling methods are used for this. Different strategies are used to temporarily prevent the termination of pregnancy, by preventing the woman from giving birth to a child through surgery and abortion etc.


Many people have different opinions about this birth control and population organization. And also, there are those who say that birth control is necessary for population organization and those who say that it is unnecessary. Birth control has been accepted as a violation of creationism [or God’s will] by those who believe in it. Even Hindu philosophy rejects birth control. “The lifeblood of a country is its superior human resource.” Some are of the opinion that it should not be limited. Some say that due to the number of deaths caused by natural causes such as wars, epidemics, floods, etc., it is naturally balancing the population and therefore emphasize that birth control is unnecessary.


In ancient times, the country’s development was entirely based on human labour. Therefore, the adequate population in a country made a great impact on agriculture. After the industrial revolution, due to the use of machinery, there was little human labour needed. Not only human labour but also human beings were devalued. Developing countries too, are also under the impression that the rapid growth of population has become an obstacle for their development since they too have been caught by the same industrial wave. To get rid of these conditions, the main strategy that has been used nowadays is population organization.


In our country too, family planning and birth control have been given a major place. There are separate government-sponsored organizations for that. Whether birth control is suitable for a country like Sri Lanka which inherits Buddhist culture was frequently criticized. According to Buddhism, no firm conclusion has been reached that births should be controlled or not. But according to Buddhist teachings, a conclusion can be reached about whether birth control is appropriate or inappropriate. Every Buddhist teaching has an ethical and psychological tendency. Therefore, let us first examine whether the purpose of population organization and the methods used for birth control are in accordance with Buddhist teachings.


As mentioned earlier, the increasing population is a death blow to the economy.

When the economy becomes poor, the country’s virtues and morals deteriorate and lead to theft and various robberies. When the financial problems of life are acute, it is natural for man to be tempted to steal. This is also described in the ‘Caccaavatti Sihanāda Suttta’ [DN.26]. According to the sutta, unequal distribution of resources definitely swell the spreading of poverty. According to the teachings of economics, our resources are limited. Human expectations are limitless. The population growth rate is also high. In light of these facts, the need for a population organization to eradicate the country’s poverty and use the country’s limited resources in a fair manner is also consistent with Buddhism. It is clear from perusal of sutras such as ‘Caccavatti Sihanāda Sutta’ [DN.26], Aggañña Sutta’ [DN.27], Kūtadanta Sutta’ [DN.5] and Singālovāda Sutta’ [DN.31], that it is the will of Buddhism to organize the population so that it is not a burden on the family economy or the economy of the country.


Buddhism accepts the need for population organization and birth control is accepted in accordance with Buddhist ethics. Buddhism approves birth control if it is for the welfare of both one’s self and others. If birth control is beneficial to society but harmful to oneself, it is not approved as appropriate. Therefore, birth control should be beneficial to both the parties. The consensus regarding birth control in Buddhist teachings can be found in the Rahulovada Sutta’ [MN.61]: ‘attakyābādhāya nasaṅvatthati parakyābādhāya nasaṅvatthati ubhaya kyābyābādhaya nasanvatthati’: if the birth is controlled accordingly, it is completely consistent with Buddhist teachings. Birth controlling should benefit both the parties as well should not harm the traditions and customs of a society. Contraceptive methods should not be harmful not only to fertility but also to social organization and social traditional customs. Otherwise, it is not in accordance with the Buddhist teachings if the society is polluted by inappropriate usage of birth control and acting like adulterers. According to economics, except for the necessity of birth control system, it does not think for a moment about the damage that can happen to the social customs or ethical system. Buddhism always gives a conclusion after a thorough investigation in all the aspects.


Some modern methods of birth control do not agree with Buddhist teachings. Abortion has been legalized in some countries. Buddhism strongly rejects birth control through abortion. Vinaya Pitaka’ states that destroying even the foetus formed in the womb completes a Prānaghāta Akusala Karma[ Killing] and it belongs to the grave sin of killing a complete human being. ‘Karaṇīyamettā Sutta’ mentions that we must be compassionate even to a sentient being in a womb: Bhūtā vā sambhavesī vā sabbe sattā bhavantu sukhitattā’.

Psychologists express the opinion that using certain artificial devices and certain types of pills used for birth control can lead to nervous weakness and sexual impotence as after effects. Also, it is a recently accepted opinion that certain substances used to prevent childbirth can be harmful to health. Modern artificial methods of birth control do not agree with Buddhist teachings at all.


According to Buddhism, methods of preventing unnecessary births can be found in the teachings of the ‘Suttas’ in the ‘Tipitaka’. Natural birth controlling is considered as the best method of birth controlling after having the desired number of children. One must have a strong self-confidence to control births while controlling the senses. One must have a developed mental power to control the rising sexual impulses. For that, by practicing celibacy, rising sexual impulses can be curbed to a certain extent.


Using contraceptives for birth control is dangerous. Where the reasons for conceiving a life are explained in Buddhism, a great deal of freedom in the use of birth control is given. According to the Buddhist teachings, sexual intercourse will not result in the birth of a child unless the three necessary factors come together. This is explained in Mahātaṇhāsaṅkhayasutta ’[MN.38]: tinnaṅ kho pana bhikkhawe sannipāthā gabbhassā wakkanti hoti; idha māta pitaro santipathitā honti; māta na ūtūni hoti gandhabbō ca pacchupatthitō hoti neva thāva gabbhassā wakkanti hoti; ida mātā pitarō sannipathithā honthi mātā ca ūtūni hoti gandhabbo ca na pacchupatittitō hoti neva thāva gabbhassā wakkanthi hoti; yatoca kō bhikkave mātā pitarō sannipatita honti, mātā ūtūni hoti, ghanndabbōca paccu patiththitho hoti ewaṅ thinnaṅ sannipātā gabbhassā vakkanti hoti.”


“Bhikkhus, in order to have a pregnancy three factors are to be there. Firstly, mother has to be menstruated, secondly, mother and the father should have had intercourse, thirdly, a being to be born has to be present”.



It seems that pregnancy will not occur if one of the three factors is lacking. Artificial methods prevent a father’s sperm from joining an egg cell of the mother. Buddhist teachings show without using any artificial birth controlling method, having sexual intercourse when mother does not experience her menstrual cycle would not let pregnancy take place. This is an action totally based on their mutual understanding.  According to the Buddhist teachings intelligent and strategic birth control is not harmful to oneself or others.


A system of Buddhist ethics is described in the ‘Singālovāda Sutta’ [DN.31]. It describes duties they need to fulfil for each other. Planning the family in a way that the duties could be fulfilled properly would be beneficial for everyone. If not, families will be confused and quarrels will increase and they will have to live miserable lives. Therefore, the procedure to be followed for a happy and flexible society by fulfilling their duties and protecting their rights has been described in Buddhist ethics. When the overpopulation does not support the country’s economy, emergence of immoral and uncivilized society is unavoidable. Therefore, creating a moral society is the primary goal of Buddhist teachings. So, with that noble intention in mind, it can be said that birth control is consistent with Buddhist teachings.


Organizing the family is the best method to overcome poverty and hardships of the life. Therefore, in a Buddhist country, with the desire to achieve noble intentions without exceeding Buddhist ethics, population organization is consistent with Buddhist teachings.


© Satipatthana Magazine


You might also like
en English