Having gotten very active at a local Zen Buddhist center the past 5 months or so, I’ve done a lot of thinking on how my spirituality fits into my sexuality and Master/slave relationships. Below I’ve listed the five precepts, or vows, I look during my precept ceremony. These interpretations of the precepts are modernized from the original Pali cannon to fit better into modern life. One of the things I love about Buddhism is that it has always adapted well to the cultures in which it is introduced.
I vow to not kill willingly, but will seek to cherish all forms of life.
This one is pretty straight straight forward. Freak out all you want at the spider in your bathtub, but take the moment to capture and release it outside. Be mindful of the food you intake and the lives that were ended to nourish you. Have compassion for all life.
I don’t see a lot of direct crossover to M/s, but the indirect ideas of mindfulness and compassion are useful skills for any relationship, let alone a M/s one.
I vow to not take what is not given.
Don’t steal. Give of your time, energy, and wealth often and easily. Do so without an expectation of reciprocation.
I think this is a critical one for slaves and other s-types. Being in service to another demands it. Are you only serving because you expect, or worse, demand, play in exchange? Not a good look, my dude.
I vow to not misuse my sexuality.
While this precept (and similar dogma in other religions) originally meant no homosexual relations, nor extra-martial sex, we can safely toss that interpretation out the window. Modern culture has no room for it, my preceptor has no room for it, and I have no room for it.
I’ll take a moment to mention that before joining my Sangha, I laid out my kinky, queer, poly, self to the Abbot who held no issue with my relationship styles. In his mind, this precept is about being mindful of our relationships and doing what we can to reduce harm as much as we can.
Don’t play with people’s emotions, communicate clearly. Sex for one person might mean something very different to another - make sure you are upfront about what you’re looking for, and don’t engage when clear differences will cause harm (for instance don’t do a one night stand if your partner is looking for more). Don’t engage in play that will leave someone emotionally or physically harmed.
I vow to use noble speech, and speak the truth.
“Don’t lie” seems pretty simple but, as my preceptor also notes, it’s not as simple as that.
Be mindful of your words, and, often lack of words. Even when telling the truth - does what you’re about say cause harm or reduce it? Again, mindfulness, this time in speech.
In various slave contracts, D/s agreements, and basic relationship logic, the first or second rule is almost always “Do not lie to Master directly or by omission.” While simple, I posit that is not actually easy to reach the level of trust required to follow this rule 100%. There are things about me I’ve only told my therapist, for instance. And there other things about me I’ve never told anyone.
If you’re a slave and were asked by your Master: “what is your deepest, darkest secret?,” would you be willing to do so? If you’re a Master, how confident are you that you could handle any answer? Could such a question/answer effect your relationship? Would it add or reduce harm in the world?
I’ll also add this: don’t ask questions that you know will put someone in a position where they will be forced to lie or otherwise be uncomfortable in answering. This is kind of behavior is passive aggressive at best and totally not cool.
I vow to not partake of intoxicants to the point of mindlessness.
The easy one: drink but don’t get drunk.
Some other ideas for the modern world: Curate or disable notifications on your phone. Spend less time mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. Take care to not consume news and other media to the point of anger.
“Intoxicating” is an adjective used often enough in M/s to describe feelings towards Master or slave that I think it’s worth discussing further. Sub and dom frenzy are very real things. I’ve experienced it myself. We get so caught up in the excitement of new experiences that we forget or choose to ignore warning signs in ourselves or others. Despite logic’s best work, we put ourselves into situations and relationships that we really know we shouldn’t be in.
It could be simple incompatibilities - the top is really good at shibari or the bottom is the hottest thing since slice bread and you simply must have him inside you. But you know, deep down, that it’s not a good match. In worse cases it could be not negotiating scenes as well as you should, not safe-wording when we should, or even lust that leads to assault.
The common theme here is mindfulness. Being mindful in action and speech will get you pretty far in life. We aren’t perfect, and never will be, but the more often we can be mindful the more often will be avoiding harm in ourselves and others.