Lust greases the gears
on the wheel of giving birth
and being reborn.
In accordance with the basic principles of Buddhism, as long as one does not break the precept against killing a person by having an abortion, there is no reason to oppose birth control. Birth control is moral if it is done to improve the [already existing] children’s quality of life and education, or to avoid financial burden. Abortion is strictly forbidden in Buddhism and is considered equivalent to killing a human being. It does not matter whether the aborted fetus has developed recognizably human features or not; any abortion is the same as killing a person. So Buddhism is opposed to birth control through abortion. So we need to investigate the various techniques of birth control.
Mahāyāna Buddhists believe that the intermediate-state body (zhongyin shen) (the spirit-body in the stage of existence between death and rebirth) enters into the mother’s womb while its parents are copulating. Seeing its future parents united, the spirit becomes deluded; if it feels passion for the father, it enters the womb to become a female, and if it feels passion for the mother, it will become a male. It also clings to the father’s ejaculated sperm and the mother’s ovum as its “self.” But as we can deduce from embryology, this concept of self should not arise until the ovum is actually fertilized—that is, at conception—which does not necessarily occur while the parents are copulating…
It follows then, if one wishes to use birth control, it should be done before the sperm fertilizes the ovum in order to avoid abortion, which constitutes killing. It may be moral if prior to sexual intercourse one takes anti-pregnancy pills or installs anti-pregnancy devices and/or medication inside the uterus or vagina. Such treatments will prevent the sperm from reaching the ovum or cause the sperm and eggs to lose their potency. But one must be absolutely sure that one is not killing the fertilized ovum. Otherwise, it’s best not to use birth control at all, and to instead use the method that Buddhism praises most highly—to practice sexual restraint.
Orthodox Chinese Buddhism: A Contemporary Chan Master’s Answers To Common Questions
Chan Master Sheng Yen