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Lust: A Virtue Or A Vice?


Jun 1, 2004
Lust has been wrongly branded a vice and should be "reclaimed for humanity" as a life-affirming virtue, according to a top philsopher.

Professor Simon Blackburn of Cambridge University is trying to "rescue" lust, arguing it has been wrongly condemned for centuries, the Sunday Times says.

His campaign is part of an Oxford University Press project on the modern relevance of the seven deadly sins.

The list of sins was drawn up by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th Century...


What do you think ?


Jul 26, 2004
New Delhi, India
is this "lust" the same as "Kaam" or "lobh", is it about materialistic accumulation or one of the so called primary physiological needs?

not clear from the article. lets try to define the lust and then deliberate on it
May 26, 2005
San Francisco
Re: Lust is a virtue or a vice?

Kaam is usually translated "lust", but given how it is described in the SGGS it seems closer to the concept of "sexual obssession"-- ie, the idea that the primary goal in life is to satisfy your sexual urges, and thus your sexuality becomes the false guru you follow.

Lust in the old definition basically meant nearly the same thing-- satisfaction of sexual urges. Given that only until the last 50 years, sex could easily mean either pregnancy or a fatal venereal disease-- and still does in a lot of societies.

The whole idea of avoiding Kaam then would then be fold-- first, to decrease your chances of dying from VD; second, to ensure that children weren't illegitimate and third, to ensure that you wouild stay mindful of the True Guru. Additionally, in older days rape was seen as a crime of lust, not violence-- perhaps Kaam was also defined to fight that? Now, I don't know enough about South Asian history to claim this is definitively true, it would take some serious reading about culture at the time to pinpoint the origins and definitions of Kaam during the time of the Gurus.

My particular thought about lust in the present day is this: if the participants are on equal footing-- ie, there are no outside pressure that would force one into a sexual situtaion, if the participants are able-minded human adults, if all participants gave their explicit consent to the sexual activity (including defining adultery as "a sexual relationship your marital partner does not consent to" therefore marital partners have also given consent even if they are not participants), and if the participants ensure the safety such that no one gets severely injured, contracts an STD or becomes inadvertently pregnant, then what grounds does anyone have to criticize the participants? Sure, it is lust in the sense of satisfying sexual urges, but it harms no one (ie, doesn't violate the Wiccan Rede, which is a marvelous religious law IMHO). Is it then kaam? That's a gray area.

Let's say a married Sikh couple goes to a sex club that encourages and enforces those rules. They both consent, they both don't make a habit of it, they do it to have some occasional fun and blow off some physical steam. Does it violate Sikh law? I'd say no, but I think I'd be a distinct minority in that opinion.


Jun 11, 2004
Re: Lust is a virtue or a vice?

Dear Khalsa Ji,

The critrion for evaluation and decision making should exist before one can categorise the attribute as vice or virtue. The criterion that I apply in my life is given below.

Any human attribute that weakens me mentally, physically, morally or spiritually is a vice.

Any human attribute that strengthens me mentally, physically, morally and spiritually is a virtue.

It is for the individual to decide what is vice and what is virtue for her or him.

Some time the attribute becomes virtue or vice depending on the context.
To give you an example, sex is condemned in most religious paths, however in some branches of Tantra it is part of religious ritual. True, sexual ritual in Tantra is not meant for pleasure but for some other reason ( I am not elaborating on it here). Even in Tantras, sex for pleasure, outside the institution of marriage, is called lust. Here one can see that even in Tantra the sexual act is context specific. The attribute becomes vice or virtue based on the intent behind the the act or the attribute. many attributes cannot be classified as vice or virtue in any absolute sense.

Things become further complicated in real life, because each individual has (sometimes without his or her knowing it) a hierachy of values. The individual gives up what is lower in the hierarchy for a value up in his ladder. This gives a wrong impression the outsider that the value the individual has sacrificed is not a value for her or him. The heirachy of values is not common to all of us. After all it is a relative world. In this relative world in which we live, many attributes cannot be classified in an absolute sense.

Even with the criteria it is difficult to pass a judgement on values without knowing the context and the hierarchy of values of the individual

With love and respect for all.

Amarpal Singh



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