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Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
Why Does the World Population Increase?
If Buddhists do not believe in the soul created by god, how are they going to account for the increase of population in the world today? This is a very common question that is asked by many people today. People who ask this question usually assume that there is only one world where living beings exist. One must consider that it is quite natural for the population to increase in such places where good climatic conditions, medical facilities, food and precautions are available to produce and to protect living beings.
One must also consider that there is really no ground to think that this is the only period in which the population in the world has increased. There are no means of comparison with any period of ancient history. Vast civilizations existed and have disappeared in Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Ancient America. No census figures on these civilizations are even remotely available. Population, as everything else in the universe, is subject to cycles of rise and fall. In cycles of alarming increases of birth rate, one might be consequently tempted to argue against rebirth in this or other worlds. For the last few thousand years, there has been no evidence to prove that there were more people in some parts of the world than there are today. The number of beings existing in the various world systems is truly infinite. If human lives can be compared to only one grain of sand, the number of beings in the universe is like the grains of sand all the beaches in the world. When conditions are right and when supported by their good kamma, a few of these infinite number of beings are reborn as human beings. The advancement of medicine especially in the 19th and 20th centuries has enabled human beings to live longer and healthier lives.
This is a factor that contributes to population increase. Population can further increase unless sensible people take measures to control it. Hence, the credit or responsibility of increasing the population must be given to medical facilities and other circumstances available today. This credit or responsibility cannot be allotted to any particular religion or any external sources.
There is a belief among certain people that all unfortunate occurrences that destroy human lives are created by god in order to reduce the population of the world. Instead of giving so much suffering to his own creatures, why cannot he control the population? Why does he create more and more people in thickly populated countries where there is no proper food, clothing and other basic and necessary requirements? Those who believe that god created everything cannot give a satisfactory answer to this question. Poverty, unhappiness, war, hunger, disease, famine are not due to the will of god or to the whim of some devil, but to causes which are not so difficult to discover.
Sex and Religion
'The lower part of us is still animal.' (Gandhi)
The sex impulse is the most dynamic force in human nature. So far-reaching is the sexual force that some measures of self-control is necessary even in ordinary existence. In the case of the spiritual aspirant, for whoever wants to bring his mind under complete control, a still greater measure of self-discipline is necessary. Such a powerful force in human character can be subdued only if the aspirant controls his thoughts and practises concentration. The conservation of the sexual force helps to develop this strength. For if he controls the sexual force, he will have more control over his whole make-up, over his lesser emotions.
Celibacy is one of the requirements for those who like to develop their spiritual development to perfection. However, it is not compulsory for each and every person to observe complete celibacy in order to practise Buddhism. The Buddha's advice is that observing celibacy is more congenial for a person who wants to cultivate his spiritual achievements. For ordinary Buddhist laymen, the precept is to abstain from sexual misconduct. Although perversion of the sexual force is not under this same category, the perverted person invariably suffers bad reactions either physically, or mentally or both.
There is a need for Buddhist laymen to exercise some degree of control over their sexual force. Man's sexual urge must be controlled properly otherwise man will behave worse than an animal when he is intoxicated with lust. Consider the sexual behavior of what we call the 'lower animal'. Which really is often 'lower'? The animal or the man? Which acts in a normal, regular manner as regards sexual behavior? And which runs off into all manner of irregularities and perversities? Often it is the animal that is the higher creature and man that is the lower. And why is this? It is simply because man who possesses the mental capacity which if rightly used, could make him master over his sex impulses, has actually used his mental powers in such deplorable fashion as to make himself more a slave to those impulses. Thus man can, at times, be considered lower than the animal.
Our ancestors played down this sexual impulse; they knew that it was strong enough without giving it any extra encouragement. But today we have blown it up with a thousand forms of incitation, suggestive advertisements, emphasis and display; and we have armed the sexual force with the doctrine that inhibition is dangerous and can even cause mental disorders.
Yet inhibition the control of impulse is the first principle of any civilization. In our modern civilization, we have polluted the sexual atmosphere that surrounds us. So great is the mind-body urge for sexual gratification.
As a result of this sex exploitation by the hidden persuaders of modern society, the youth of today have developed an attitude toward sex that is becoming a public nuisance. An innocent girl has no freedom to move anywhere without being disturbed. On the other hand, females should be dressed such a manner as not to arouse the hidden animal nature of youths.
Man is the only animal that does not have periods of natural sexual inactivity during which the body can recover its vitality. Unfortunately, commercial exploitation of the erotic nature in man has caused modern man to be exposed to a ceaseless barrage of sexual stimulation from every side. Much of the neuroses of present-day life is traceable to this unbalanced state of affairs. Men are expected to be monogamous, yet women are encouraged in every possible way to 'glamorize' themselves, not for the husband alone, but to excite in every man passions that society forbids him to indulge in.
Many societies try to enforce monogamous relationships. Thus a man with many failings can still be a moral man, meaning that he is faithful to the one wife that the law allows him to have. The danger here lies in the fact that thoughtful people who are intelligent enough to realize that these rules are artificial and not based on any transcendental, universally valid principles, are liable to fall into the error of thinking the same about all the other ethical laws.
Sex should be given its due place in normal human life; it should be neither unhealthily repressed nor morbidly exaggerated. And it should always be under the control of the will, as it can be if it is regarded sanely and placed in its proper perspective.
Sex should not be considered as the most important ingredient for one's happiness in a married life. Those who over-indulge can become slaves to sex which would ultimately ruin love and humane consideration in marriage. As in everything, one must be temperate and rational in one's sexual demands taking into consideration one another's intimate feelings and temperament.
Marriage is a bond of partnership for life entered into by a man and a woman. Patience, tolerance and understanding are the three principal qualities that should be developed and nurtured by the couple. Whilst love should be the knot tying the couple together, material necessities for sustaining a happy home should be made available by the male partner for the couple to share. The qualification for a good partnership in marriage should be 'ours' and not 'yours' or 'mine' . A good couple should 'open' their hearts to one another and to refrain from entertaining 'secrets'. Keeping secrets to oneself could lead to suspicion and suspicion is the element that could destroy love in a partnership. Suspicion breeds jealousy, jealousy creates anger, anger develops hatred, hatred turns into enmity and enmity could cause untold suffering including bloodshed, suicide and even murder.
Source: Buddhist Study and Practice Group, http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhism/
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