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In the Bhagavad Gita 7.11 Krsna says according the translation of His Divine Grace Swami Prabhupada:

... I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles ...

I think many people misinterpret this shloka as meaning that sex life is not contrary to religious principles. But I think what he is trying to say is that there exist regulative rules for sex life.

The full shlokha, translation and purport from here (http://www.vedabase.com/en/bg/7/11):

balaṁ balavatāṁ cāhaṁ
kāma-rāga-vivarjitam
dharmāviruddho bhūteṣu
kāmo ’smi bharatarṣabha

Translation:

I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O lord of the Bhāratas [Arjuna].

Purport:

The strong man’s strength should be applied to protect the weak, not for personal aggression. Similarly, sex life, according to religious principles (dharma), should be for the propagation of children, not otherwise. The responsibility of parents is then to make their offspring Kṛṣṇa conscious.


I would like to know what these "rules" or "principles" are exactly and where these are stated in our scriptures.

According to his Divine Grace Swami Prabhupada intercourse is only for procreation.

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4 Answers 4

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First of all, let me explicitly state that I assumed that you are asking about the rules & regulations that a husband and his wife should abide by.Because ,sexual activities, of any other forms are clearly stated ,in Shastras, as Adharmic.

Well,except for few prohibited days ,like the days of period,and few others,sexual activities are perfectly legal between a husband and a wife.

Here are some relevant rules from the Manu Smriti:

Manu 3.45. Let (the husband) approach his wife in due season, being constantly satisfied with her (alone); he may also, being intent on pleasing her, approach her with a desire for conjugal union (on any day) excepting the Parvans.

And, here are the restricted days:

3.46. Sixteen (days and) nights (in each month), including four days which differ from the rest and are censured by the virtuous, (are called) the natural season of women.

Manu 3.47. But among these the first four, the eleventh and the thirteenth are (declared to be) forbidden; the remaining nights are recommended.

A husband who avoids his wife on these 6 forbidden nights is as good as a celibate(a brahmachari).

Manu 3.50. He who avoids women on the six forbidden nights and on eight others, is (equal in chastity to) a student, in whichever order he may live.

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The Parashara Smriti says that a husband should always approach his wife on the day her courses cease,otherwise he commits an offence.

If the husband meets not his wife on the day that her monthly courses cease, and she be near at hand, he incurs the awful sin of having killed a foetus. There is not the slightest doubt herein.(Parashara Smriti)

& similarly ,for the wife,it says:

If a woman meets not her lord, on the day that her monthly courses stop, — she after death goes to hell, — and becomes a widow in repeated births(Parashara Smriti).

And, I don't think there are any more rules other than those mentioned above.

EDIT-Also one more thing I forgot to add is that sexual activity is usually prohibited during daytime.

Here is a reference from the Apastamba Dharma Sutras book.which refers to Manu,but i'm yet to find where in Manu it is so stated.

In any case,i think,that sexual activities should only be performed in night is mentioned in some more scriptures.Just need to find those references.

enter image description here

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  • What is the context in which we are counting the days?
    – Yogi
    Nov 23, 2016 at 17:07
  • From the first period day they r counted.
    – Rickross
    Nov 23, 2016 at 17:20
  • @Rickross What do you think about restriction on days like ekadashi ,pournima amavasya, sunday, tuesday and Saturday. The parashar smriti rule is void if the day occurs on one of the above mentioned tithis. The rule is also contradictory to manu smriti 3.47 where first day is forbidden.What is parvan.
    – Yogi
    Nov 24, 2016 at 5:53
  • @Yogi Parvan are the Parva days,the festival days,Sankrantis etc...**The parashar smriti rule is void if the day occurs on one of the above mentioned tithis.** that is understandable..the maharishis can't sit down and explicitly clear each of our trivial doubts,we need to apply our common senses sometimes...In general (except for Manu and Griha Sutras) the 4th day is not prohibited..that is even the 4th day is allowed..But Manu differs in opinion with them..Regarding restrictions on some weekdays..nothing is found in Manu & Parshara may be contained in the other Smritis..
    – Rickross
    Nov 24, 2016 at 6:10
  • @Rickross The parashar smriti quote is hardcore it is like dictation and if two smritis are contradictory so it obviously creates doubts.
    – Yogi
    Nov 24, 2016 at 6:30
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The question is on the premises of below verse.

BG 7.11 -
... dharmāviruddho bhūteṣu kāmo ’smi bharatarṣabha ...
... I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles ...

But the translation is wrong. Evidently the most of the translators, interpret following:
kAma = desire (source: gitasupersite)

It can be desire for anything, such as desire to see beautiful scenery, to eat delicious food, to hear nice music, to smell refreshing scents, to feel pleasant weather, to think something fulfilling.
It's believed that, sex is a rare activity which involves all the 6 senses together. Hence indulgence in sex is indulgence of all the senses.

Gita has no mention of "sex". It either narrates about senses or desires. There is 1 mention of "Kandarpa" (KAmadev), but that has more to do with "procreation". The term "sex life" may or may not involve "procreation".


Regarding "Rules" & "Principles", the scriptures are either divided by opinions or neutral. Different era-s have different level of sexuality. But there are always some general guidelines which are 'good to go' in all the era-s:

  • ati sarvatra varjayet -- "Anything in excess should be refrained" (a subhashita related to RAmAyana)
  • Foods high in taste quotient, invokes mode of passion (Rajas) and the desires are born out of this passion and this may ignite anger (BG 17.9 & BG 3.37)
  • Women should not be mate during menstruation (a general medical guideline)
  • Here are some other principles from Bhishma in AnushAsana Parva:

They that are of improper behaviour, they that transgress all restraints, they that are unscrupulous in respect of sexual congress, become shortlived here and have to go to Hell hereafter.

Persons of every order should never have sexual congress with other people's wives. There is nothing that shortens life so effectually as sexual congress with other people's wives. For as many thousand years shall the adulterer have to live in Hell as the number of pores on the bodies of the women with whom he may commit the offence.

One should never have sexual congress with a woman that is unknown or with one that is quick with child.

One should always abstain from sexual congress on days of the full moon and the new moon.

One should never indulge in sexual congress at day-time. Nor should one have congress with a maiden, nor with a harlot nor with a barren woman. One should never have congress with a woman that has not bathed after the expiry of her functional period.

one should never have sexual congress with a forbidden woman. Nor should one ever have such congress with the spouse of a king or with women that are the friends of queens.

One possessed of wisdom should never have sexual congress with a woman that is old, or one that has abandoned the domestic mode of life for entering the forest mode, or one that is true to her lord, or one whose organs of generation are not healthy or well-formed.

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  • "One should always abstain from sexual congress on days of the full moon and the new moon." - what could be reason for this? Nov 24, 2016 at 17:03
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    @sv, because those days are revered for pitrus (tarpanam etc.), so out of respect and to fulfill rules of chastity during any vedic karma/
    – ram
    Dec 22, 2016 at 18:56
  • @ram ok, that makes sense! Dec 22, 2016 at 19:03
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I agree with @iammilind that the translation of BG 7.11 you cite in your question is a bit misleading and changes the whole meaning or intent of your question. This by no means undermines Prabhupada's translation or purport.

Personally, I liked Shankaracharya's interpretation of the verse from here the most:

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

7.11 I am the balam, strength, ability, virility; balavatam, of the strong. That strength, again, is kama-raga-vivarjitam, devoid of passion and attachment. Kamah is passion, hankering for things not at hand. Ragah is attachment, fondness for things acquired. I am the strength that is devoid of them and is necessary merely for the maintenance of the body etc., but not that strength of the worldly which causes hankering and attachment. Further, bhutesu, among creatures; I am that kamah, desire -- such desires as for eating, drinking, etc. -- which are for the mere maintenance of the body and so on; which is dharma-aviruddhah, not contrary to righteousness, not opposed to scriptural injunctions; bharatarsabha, O scion of the Bharata dynasty.

You said:

But I think what he is trying to say is that there exist regulative rules for sex life.

You're absolutely right! The verse is not giving anyone license to have unlimited sex with whoever one wants whether one is single or married. But Prabhupada is only partly right to equate "kamah dharma-aviruddhah" to mean chastity alone when it should apply to controlling all forms of desire - eating, advancing your career, increasing your bank balance, sex drive etc.

According to his Divine Grace Swami Prabhupada intercourse is only for procreation.

Yes, Shankaracharya agrees as well. He used the term "for the mere maintenance of the body" above. So by common sense, masturbation, reading or watching pornography, extra-marital affairs etc. these all excite the senses in wrong ways and are not really required for 'maintenance of the body'.

Madhvacharya also agrees. Commenting on the same verse, he says:

It is primarily the unchecked desires for sensual enjoyments that causes the diminution of piety and morality; but these desires are not detrimental if they are attuned to sanatana dharma or eternal righteousness. The Supreme Lord resides in all desires that are not contrary to sanatana dharma; but he never resides in any action that is contrary to righteousness.

According to the above interpretation, your title question:

Regulative principles for sex life

...now becomes:

Regulative principles for life in accordance with sanātana dharma

Unfortunately, questions like this are very tricky to answer unless you specify the Hindu sect you belong to because different sects of Hindus follow different rules. E.g., eating fish in Bengal is a common practice (see quote below) and if you read Hindu epics like Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata you will find some kings (kṣatriyas) having more than one wife which is no longer an accepted custom now and even the local law doesn't allow it.

E.g., according to this blog:

Like I have mentioned earlier most Bengali Brahmins especially those residing in West Bengal are non-vegetarians and fish is a staple diet. In fact, traditionally fish is not considered non-vegetarian by us. After fish, mutton has been the most popular dish - however owing to it's high price, its consumption is low. After mutton, it was duck's egg which used to be a popular egg item.

Assuming you are interested in knowing the ISKCON way of dhārmic life §, here's what they recommend:

How to Practise Krishna Consciousness at Home

  »   Everyday Life: The Four Regulative Principles

Anyone serious about progressing in Krishna consciousness must try to avoid the following four sinful activities:

  1. Eating meat, fish, or eggs. These foods are saturated with the modes of passion and ignorance and therefore cannot be offered to the Lord. A person who eats these foods participates in a conspiracy of violence against helpless animals and thus stops his spiritual progress dead in its tracks.

  2. Gambling. Gambling invariably puts one into anxiety and fuels greed, envy, and anger.

  3. The use of intoxicants. Drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, as well as any drinks or foods containing caffeine, cloud the mind, overstimulate the senses, and make it impossible to understand or follow the principles of bhakti-yoga.

  4. Illicit sex. This is sex outside of marriage or sex in marriage for any purpose other than procreation. Sex for pleasure compels one to identify with the body and takes one far from Krishna consciousness. The scriptures teach that sex is the most powerful force binding us to the material world. Anyone serious about advancing in Krishna consciousness should minimize sex or eliminate it entirely.

If you are interested in what Hindu gurus of other sects say about what sex means or should mean for a married or unmarried person, read my answer to another question.


§ I don't subscribe to ISCKON, but for completeness I quoted their basic rules. If you don't subscribe to them either, do let me know and I'll update my answer with more "generic" rules.

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Below are few reasonable reads on this topic:

https://www.speakingtree.in/allslides/according-to-religious-texts-if-a-couple-gets-intimate-at-these-times-it-leads-to-poverty-and-misery

https://www.speakingtree.in/allslides/never-have-sex-in-these-places-as-per-shastras

Above two links depicts the circumstances during which binds humans unknowingly bind sins rather than the activity itself.

Rather than the activity although involving all 5 senses at the same time, the act of watching a women with bad intent is considered a grievous sin in hinduism, christianity and islam- which religion the person belongs doesn't matter.

Christianity: https://christianity.stackexchange.com/a/52/49996 "The root of the matter is lust.

**Matthew 5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

I would say that the act itself is not the sin, it's the intent of the act."**

Hinduism:

Lust is described as a root toxin in Hinduism, followed by anger, greed, materialistic attachments {Kaam, krodh, lobh,moha).

Chapter 3: Karma-yoga TEXT 37 Sri-bhagavan uvaca kama esa krodha esa rajo-guna-samudbhavah mahasano maha-papma viddhy enam iha vairinam

God said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.

Thus, it's always best to protect ourselves to prevent the cause of bad happenings by avoiding looking at females with bad intentions. Sin committed by thoughts: It is well-understood that nothing is hidden from God, not even our thoughts, so even if we plan devious activities in our mind, is accountable as a sin. Holding filthy conversation or hurling dirty comments towards a pregnant woman, or a woman on her periods, is a grave sin. Involving in acts of violence or uncivilized activities against, children, woman and any weak creature, is an unforgivable sin in the eyes of God. Islam advises-

It is incumbent on women and girls to observe ḥijāb; it is equally incumbent on men to avoid looking in ḥarām way and keeping away from mixing with the opposite sex, which normally leads to temptation and corruption.As a matter of obligatory caution, one should not view pictures of non-maḥram women on television that are broadcast live. As for that which is not broadcast live, there is no problem in it provided it is done without ill intentions and the fear of falling in ḥarām.

Accordingly, there is no objection to it, as per Islamic law, if it is not done with lust, evil intention, and does not lead to a bad result. However, since watching obscene pictures is inherently intertwined with looking with sexual urge, and it is a precursor to committing ḥarām acts, it is, therefore, ḥarām.

Thus, the scriptures wants to protect the mentality of humans towards females, who have obtained the gifted body to play the role of nurturing mothers on the earth, which is a godly task in itself.

Note:

Shrimad Bhagawad Geeta Adhyay 14 Shlok 4:

SarvayoniShu Kaunteya MurrtayaH SaMbhavanti YaaH | Taasaam Brahma Mahat YoniH Aham BeejapradaH Pitaa ||

Whatever forms (of beings) are produced in all wombs, O Arjuna, the great Brahma (Prakriti i.e. the matter at large) is their womb (mother), while I am the seed-giving father to all beings.

The eightfold nature, O son of Kunti, is the mother that bears all the beings of different births and I am the father that casts the seed.

As per above sloka, humans shouldn't take pride in unhealthy way by thinking that they are parents, but actually God is the ultimate father, we are just serving as his instruments, so therefore,in arrogance and ignorance prior marriage one shouldn't take joy in wasting preciously rich sexual energy, as it can be a medium to better serve the holy purpose God described in the Bhagwad Gita-

Chapter 10: The Opulence of the Absolute TEXT 28 ayudhanam aham vajram dhenunam asmi kamadhuk prajanas casmi kandarpah sarpanam asmi vasukih

TRANSLATION Of weapons, I am the thunderbolt; among cows I am the surabhi, givers of abundant milk. Of procreators I am Kandarpa, the god of love, and of serpents I am Vasuki, the chief.

Purport for kandarpa: Kandarpa is the sex desire for presenting good sons; therefore Kandarpa is the representative of Krsna. Sometimes sex is engaged in only for sense gratification; such sex does not represent Krsna. But sex for the generation of good children is called Kandarpa and represents Krsna.

So, true contentment lies in keeping away from toxic habits through right knowledge rather than thinking whether one will be considered sinful by doing this or that...

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  • It would be helpful if you quote/summarize the information in the links, in case the webpages ever change or if the links break.
    – CDR
    May 13, 2023 at 18:44

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