Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

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Queequeg
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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Queequeg » Wed Nov 05, 2014 6:31 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:
Queequeg wrote:
Do I personally believe that wholesome motivations bring about "positive" results? I like to believe so, but I've also seen that "the road to ruin is paved with good intentions." It has led me to have questions about the correlation between intent and material results.
Fair enough. But we are limited to seeing results in this lifetime only right? Could be that the conditions for the ripening of the karma just did not exist yet.
Speculation about future lives does not assuage the uncertainty.
You don't know if samsaric existence is suffering and that suffering arises from ignorance? I mean, okay, I can understand that you may not be 100% sure of the path to end suffering, and that Nirvana is the end of suffering (I'm not 100% on those yet either), but the first two?
So here is the problem I have with the First Noble Truth -it must be taken as an irreducible claim, along with a number of further assumptions, none of which I'm not entirely convinced about. "birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering"

For one, suffering here is a qualitative, subjective characterization, which while a compelling one to an extent, is not necessarily true for everyone. There are many people who, though not enlightened by Buddhist standards, have reflected on their life, settled in equanimity, and come to a conclusion about all this - "Its life." Neither good, nor bad. It just is what it is. With that conclusion, they go on living in many different ways, taking the joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, in stride. With the First Noble Truth undermined, the rest of it falls apart.

We can add a footnote and say that suffering is a technical description of the unpleasant experience of perpetually changing circumstances, but that's still undermined by, "Its life." This is not even to mention people who have come to understand their own consciousness through the discoveries of neuroscience which is presenting a pretty compelling case that consciousness and everything that we think we are is a meta phenomena of brain circuitry.In this kind of context, "Life is Suffering", seems like an arbitrary assertion.

The Four Noble Truths is an effort to define a problem specific to a particular world view that prevailed at the time of the Buddha - namely the assumption that this conception of a cyclic samsaric existence, with its rebirth and moral cause and effect, is real. The teaching then posits that one should strive to become inert, not creating any further karma, and finally attain an unbinding that ends the cycle for good. If you don't start with this bundle of assumptions, the Four Noble Truths don't carry the same meaning. Some thinkers have posited that you can't have Buddhism without belief in this model of samsaric existence. I don't agree. Notwithstanding, a teaching that falls apart when certain unprovable assumptions are set aside is at a severe disadvantage in a claim to Truth. I don't think all Buddhist schools of thought are susceptible to this problem.

Just to add a further contrast for illustration purposes, we have the Old Testament and its teaching that suffering is due not to ignorance, but to knowledge. I don't buy that teaching as Truth, but its got its merits, too.

Moving on, those are not all the problems I have with it.

I previously referred to Nagarjuna and how he opened questions about the Four Noble Truths. He does a delicate dance in the Madhyamikakarika concerning people who use sunyata to undermine the Four Noble Truths. Maybe some people better versed in Madhyamika thought can correct me, but his response is appeal to the middle which is a dialectic tension settling on what amounts to the four noble truths as an expedient means (upaya). Are upaya Truths with a capital T? There's a whole body of discourse on this, and as best I can tell, there is no categorical answer Yes or no. Its "Yes, but..." or "No, but..."

And then without even going deep into all the vertiginous logic of Madhyamika, we have pithy doctrines like "Samsara and Nirvana are coextensive." or "There are not two worlds, pure and impure." What does that mean for the Four Noble Truths?

There are also explanations that the Four Noble Truths are understood differently by different people. What does that then say about it being True?

Some schools of Buddhism have accounted for these sorts of questions and offered up resolutions. Whether they are convincing and compelling - well, they seem to be unique doctrines which define these various schools.

So, no, not convinced of the first truth, let alone the other three. I accept them as a tentative premise as I proceed with living my life, but I'm not settled, "This is the Truth, everything else is false." How can I? I don't know that its the truth to the exclusion of all else. It seems to work in many situations as a rule of thumb.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

I think each human being has things to find out in his own life that are inescapable. They’ll find them out the easy way or the hard way, or whatever.
-Jerry Garcia

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Grigoris » Wed Nov 05, 2014 6:48 pm

Queequeg wrote:For one, suffering here is a qualitative, subjective characterization, which while a compelling one to an extent, is not necessarily true for everyone. There are many people who, though not enlightened by Buddhist standards, have reflected on their life, settled in equanimity, and come to a conclusion about all this - "Its life." Neither good, nor bad. It just is what it is. With that conclusion, they go on living in many different ways, taking the joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, in stride. With the First Noble Truth undermined, the rest of it falls apart.
Well, no actually. You see equanimity requires a certain degree of wisdom and knowledge about how things are. Your example merely proves the veracity of the second truth. Ignorance causes suffering.
We can add a footnote and say that suffering is a technical description of the unpleasant experience of perpetually changing circumstances, but that's still undermined by, "Its life."
That is one type of suffering. There are two more.
The Four Noble Truths is an effort to define a problem specific to a particular world view that prevailed at the time of the Buddha - namely the assumption that this conception of a cyclic samsaric existence, with its rebirth and moral cause and effect, is real. The teaching then posits that one should strive to become inert, not creating any further karma, and finally attain an unbinding that ends the cycle for good. If you don't start with this bundle of assumptions, the Four Noble Truths don't carry the same meaning. Some thinkers have posited that you can't have Buddhism without belief in this model of samsaric existence. I don't agree. Notwithstanding, a teaching that falls apart when certain unprovable assumptions are set aside is at a severe disadvantage in a claim to Truth. I don't think all Buddhist schools of thought are susceptible to this problem.
A Buddhist that doesn't believe in the Four Noble Truths. That's a good one! I can't wait to see what I will hear next. :smile:
Just to add a further contrast for illustration purposes, we have the Old Testament and its teaching that suffering is due not to ignorance, but to knowledge. I don't buy that teaching as Truth, but its got its merits, too.
Actually, that is not quite right. Eating the fruit one gained "knowledge" of good and evil, ie one learnt to dualise. And then the problems began.
And then without even going deep into all the vertiginous logic of Madhyamika, we have pithy doctrines like "Samsara and Nirvana are coextensive." or "There are not two worlds, pure and impure." What does that mean for the Four Noble Truths?
You got a few hours spare for me to explain? In a nutshell? Refer to the above statement about Adam and Eve.
There are also explanations that the Four Noble Truths are understood differently by different people. What does that then say about it being True?
That people will always try to warp things in order to satisfy their sense of self?
So, no, not convinced of the first truth, let alone the other three. I accept them as a tentative premise as I proceed with living my life, but I'm not settled, "This is the Truth, everything else is false." How can I? I don't know that its the truth to the exclusion of all else. It seems to work in many situations as a rule of thumb.
Fair enough. I can now see why you are a Pureland Buddhist.
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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by DGA » Wed Nov 05, 2014 8:38 pm

Hello everyone,

I've created a new thread (see link below) for the purpose of discussing the truth of the first noble truth--a very important, fundamental question that emerged from this thread. Please direct further comments and replies on that topic to the new thread, and continue discussing the relative merits of polygamy and polyandry here. Thank you.

http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f= ... 69&start=0" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Queequeg » Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:54 am

Sherab Dorje wrote:I can now see why you are a Pureland Buddhist.
Oh. Can you? Humor me and explain what you mean by that. :stirthepot:
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

I think each human being has things to find out in his own life that are inescapable. They’ll find them out the easy way or the hard way, or whatever.
-Jerry Garcia

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by CFynn » Sun Jan 25, 2015 5:08 pm

Fraternal polyandry was reasonably common in some parts of Tibet - the main rationale for this custom was to avoid division of family property amongst the different families of different brothers. It may also be an effective way of limiting the population in areas where resources are scarce. Polygamy in Tibet was pretty rare - and usually occurred when a family had no male heirs - in which case a man from another family might be brought in as a makpa and becoming a member of that family and leaving his own - in some cases marrying two or more sisters in the same family The main purpose was to ensure a male heir. Also in areas of Tibet where polyandry was practised ~ if there were four brothers in a family one might be a monk (which would rule him out of the arrangement) - and of the remaining three one might be sent off to trade, another to the mountains for months at a time to herd livestock, and the third might be at home to take care of farm. Normally they would rotate these roles - so at any time only one of the brothers would usually be at home with the wife.

Bhutan has a small amount of polygamy - which is culturally accepted particularly in western Bhutan (though less and less so). Most famously the 4th King of Bhutan had four wives (all sisters). Even though culturally acceptable polygamy is not very common - and rarely do the wives share the same house so it can be rather expensive since the husband will usually be expected to maintain a different household for each wife. In western Bhutan where this is most common women usually inherit family property (usually the daughter that remains at home to look after her parents). Traditionally anyone who wanted to marry a daughter with property might have to work full time for her family for several years without pay (more or less being treated like a servant) before even asking. Also anyone who wants to have more than one wife has to get the formal permission from the existing wife or wives - and even if he has permission any one wife can at any time use the fact that her husband has other wives as grounds for divorce - which again can be expensive as she will be entitled to a big chunk of your property and financial support, for at least as long as she remains officially unmarried. Any children you may have had will also be entitled to financial support. It is more acceptable to have a second wife if the first one is barren.

Of course Buddhism itself has little to say about marriage. Buddhist monks are not supposed to attend marriage ceremonies, let alone perform them, and marriage ceremonies are almost always a non-religious community event.

I suspect these kinds of marital arrangements would be very difficult to carry off successfully if you are living in a culture where this is not widely accepted.

Where they do work most of the reasons for these practices seem to be economic rather than anything else.

Anyway the recommendation of most great practitioners & teachers has usually been to try and avoid family life and entanglements if you can. So, if you want to practice, just why would you want to get into any kind of relationship likely to turn out to be even more complex and entangling than usual?

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by PadmeSamadhi » Mon Feb 23, 2015 11:00 pm

Huge amount of information and opinions in this topic, I will say only one name: Drukpa Kunley.

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by gloriasteinem » Thu May 21, 2015 7:31 pm

plwk wrote:David, I can't recall which thread was it that was raised by Indrajala on (if I am not mistaken) the topic where some scholastics are of the opinion that the Buddha had more than just Yasodhara (or Rahulamata) as one wife before His Enlightenment... when I can dig out that one, I will post it here...
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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by pael » Sat Aug 01, 2015 4:35 pm

Is there any sutras on this?
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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by qishenjing » Sat Aug 01, 2015 5:20 pm

My first thought to this...

Is it better to have twenty wives or have one wife and 40 women on the side? It's common place if the west to engage in relationships of a sexual nature with many people even if one is in a committed marriage...and I believe this is spreading. Interestingly though, in western culture it is more accepted to be committed in appearance to one spouse while engaging in affairs on the side, than it is to live honestly while marrying many spouses. Polygamy/ Polyandry is the more honest way IMO.
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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Bhikkhu_YinRi » Mon Mar 21, 2016 3:07 am

Okay I would simply say that if everyone involved is in agreeance than it is without blame.

If you love more than one person and all involved are okay, than it is of little concern of mine.

Pain is inevitable in relationships.

Same Sex couples fight and break up and have their hearts broken

Heterosexuals fight and break up and have hearts broken.

Those whom commit to one or more fight, break up, and have broken hearts.

The cycle is and always will be it is simply the nature of things.

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Footsteps » Tue Sep 06, 2016 5:09 am

Polygamy contributes to population growth. In the context of global times, polygamy is counter-intuitive. The human race is already over population, resources are slim, and widespread ecological disruption is evident. Driving up the population only further disrupts the ecology of the planet and contributes to wealth disparity. As such, polygamy causes suffering to other beings and should be avoided. This means more "legal" problems, not less.

Even when the human population is low or at risk for extinction, polygamy does not make much sense. It is more difficult to guard against incestuous relations if polygamy takes place when the population is low. This also harms other beings, including ones descendents. Polygamy is simply unsustainable.

A woman can give birth only once in a 9 month period. If a woman takes on multiple husbands, she still can only give birth once every 9 months. Polyandry keeps populations stable, reducing ecological disruption. It is more sustainable than polygamy.
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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by maybay » Tue Sep 06, 2016 7:45 am

Footsteps wrote:A woman can give birth only once in a 9 month period. If a woman takes on multiple husbands, she still can only give birth once every 9 months.
If every married woman has 5 husbands, and she has a child every year from age 20-35, that's still 3 children for every man alive.

But maybe you should start with how polygamy is worse for a population than exclusive couples. I just don't see it.
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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Footsteps » Tue Sep 06, 2016 8:23 am

If 2 men are married to one woman and do not procreate out of the relationship, population is better controlled than in a culture marked by exclusive, long-term, monogamous relationships. Whether long-term monogamous relationships control the population better than serial monogamy and non-exclusive monogamy(unfaithfulness) is debatable. The generations displaying long term monogamy(largely dying out in the modern day) were generally farmers who needed field hands and lacked access to birth control. They may have upwards of 11 children, which helped manage the farm and also, along with the high mortality rates, it was rare that all of them would make it to adulthood or old age. In polyandry, the need for labor is met by having multiple grown men share the household. Serial monogamy and non-exclusive monogamy has potential to bear more children, but with the legal issues of having children with multiple parents and the cost of living in the modern era, one doesn't usually see a household with more than 4 children from multiple partners. Altering this slant is welfare eligibility. When having children earns a person more welfare money, the birthrate goes up in socio-economically disparaged areas.

In polygamy a man may have 10 wives. Each wife may have 3-5 children. Within a period of 3-5 years. That's 50 potential offspring in less than 5 years. Not a sustainable picture.
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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Footsteps » Tue Sep 06, 2016 10:58 am

Also, look up Dunbar's number and tell me that the population growth caused by polygamy is in anyway sustainable or healthy for the human psyche.

In the hypothetical fifty-offspring model of polygamy, I previously mentioned, how is one man to feed all those children? One man feeding 50 children? Or let's say one man and 10 women feeding 50 children...how can the environment, as well as the socio-economic landscape afford that? It's a plague of locusts. That's a total of 61 people in one household. This is considered a large "band", in anthropological terms...not a nuclear family unit. Appropriate, perhaps for an intergenerational extended family, but not a nuclear unit.

The environment can feed a man a woman and 3 kids. The environment can feed 2 men, one woman, and 2 or 3 kids. But it cannot feed population of humans whose average family size is 50, especially not while warding off against incest. Also, how can the father act the role of the father to so many children? He cannot. He can only act as father to a portion of those children, because there is not enough time in the day to do otherwise. This leaves the majority of his children suffering from paternal rejection. Parental rejection has been documented to be more harmful to the human psyche than both rape and enduring the death of a parent. This psychological scar follows the children into adulthood, which compromise their ability to interact with the broader community in a cohesive manner. The influx of a population that has such compromised abilities causes a degeneration of moral code and what is considered normal in a given community. When moral code degenerates the entire community suffers, as do unborn generations(until the situation is addressed).

Along these same lines, how are the 50 children going to acquire the skill sets they need to function as independent adults within the context of their environment and culture, if the parental units are so overburdened? They can't. Which means that when they mature, they are not fully functioning adults. This is a disservice not just to the children, but to the world and the human race at large, who will have to bear the burden of these unformed adults.

Many of the worlds most overpopulated places either currently or in the past have practiced polygamy. Now the majority of these places suffer from resource scarcity and extreme wealth disparity.

Furthermore, when population density is increased, disease spreads more rapidly, reducing the quality of life for the inhabitants of a given area. This is well evident in many overpopulated regions of the planet.

Also, sexually transmitted diseases tend to have higher rates of infection in polygamous cultures, especially in that they are often passed onto the developing fetus. Couple that with an increased birth rate and you have epidemics. One man spreads a disease to 10 women who give birth to 50 diseased children. Not ideal, but again, exactly the case in many parts of the world.

Polygamy is harmful to the human race and all other beings. At least in the context of the modern global situation.

If Buddhism is to do the path of least harm and directly or indirectly benefit all other living beings, polygamy should be viewed as an outdated model, contrary to the benefit of all.
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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by maybay » Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:16 pm

Footsteps wrote: In polygamy a man may have 10 wives. Each wife may have 3-5 children. Within a period of 3-5 years. That's 50 potential offspring in less than 5 years. Not a sustainable picture.
You're not making sense. If its one man and ten wives or ten men and ten wives there's no difference.
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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Footsteps » Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:23 pm

It's a large difference. 10 men and 10 wives furnishes the offspring with more parental care than that of 1 man and 10 wives. The children of 10 wives and only one man have less access to a father figure than your other scenario, less opportunity to learn the skills that a father would pass on to their children, less opportunity for paternal attention, and less opportunity for paternal discipline. Furthermore 10 men and 10 wives are better equipped to provide the necessary resources to their offspring than one man and 10 wives. You have 9 more men working and providing resources.

Parental nurturing is essential to the development of a human being. If this is not properly addressed, the human does not develop properly.
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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Kim O'Hara » Tue Sep 06, 2016 1:13 pm

Footsteps is good with the math, folks, although I'm not sure the different arrangements have ever worked in quite the way the words suggest.
Let's say we have ten women and ten men, all of good health and reproductive age.
Monogamy: each W marries each M and they go ahead and have (say) 5 children per marriage. Total: 50 C
Polygamy: 2 men each marry 5 women, each of whom has the same number of children. Total: 25 + 25 = 50 C (and far less genetic diversity, btw) (and 8 M don't reproduce)
Polyandry: 5 men marry one woman, 5 marry another, and each woman still has 5 children. Total: 10 C (with the same lowering of genetic diversity) (and 8 W don't reproduce).

Some of these different arrangements have been traditional in various societies. I find it interesting that polyandry, which limits the population like this, was the norm in a very resource-poor country, Tibet.
I'm tempted to see a similarly 'adaptive' role for polygamy in societies which were chronically at war, since it it ensured there were always 'spare' males to fight and always a new generation bred from the (few most successful) survivors ... but that's probably a bit unfair. :tongue:

:namaste:
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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by Footsteps » Tue Sep 06, 2016 1:47 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:Footsteps is good with the math, folks, although I'm not sure the different arrangements have ever worked in quite the way the words suggest.
Let's say we have ten women and ten men, all of good health and reproductive age.
Monogamy: each W marries each M and they go ahead and have (say) 5 children per marriage. Total: 50 C
Polygamy: 2 men each marry 5 women, each of whom has the same number of children. Total: 25 + 25 = 50 C (and far less genetic diversity, btw) (and 8 M don't reproduce)
Polyandry: 5 men marry one woman, 5 marry another, and each woman still has 5 children. Total: 10 C (with the same lowering of genetic diversity) (and 8 W don't reproduce).

Some of these different arrangements have been traditional in various societies. I find it interesting that polyandry, which limits the population like this, was the norm in a very resource-poor country, Tibet.
I'm tempted to see a similarly 'adaptive' role for polygamy in societies which were chronically at war, since it it ensured there were always 'spare' males to fight and always a new generation bred from the (few most successful) survivors ... but that's probably a bit unfair. :tongue:

:namaste:
Kim
Thank you. Genetic diversity completely slipped my mind.

Because the planet at large is now quite resource-poor, polygamy is counter-intuitive. Given the case, polyandry makes more sense if poly relations are to occur, especially in regions of the planet like China with a one child rule and a preference for male children(creating a deficit of women and a disproportionate ratio of men to women).

In regards to genetic diversity, a population of greater genetic diversity is more robust.

If the buddhist aspirant seeks to indirectly benefit all other beings, reducing genetic diversity is counter-intuitive, as it reduces the ability of future generations to adapt to future conditions.

What disturbs me about this thread is that there is a predominantly male presence who on the one hand, claims that sex and relations are against buddhism(without which the practice of buddhism could not continue on this planet...all monks had to be born), and on the other hand bias toward polygamy in a veiled self-serving fancy. In 2013, it must be realized that women are no longer a commodity and if it is persisted that they are seen as a commodity, men will eventually have to learn to share due to widespread depletion of resources. The entire planet is becoming one large tibet.
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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by MiphamFan » Tue Sep 06, 2016 3:01 pm

The number of breeding women is the constraining factor for reproduction of the population as such polygyny is VERY different from polyandry in its effects.

Bataille described this very well in The Accursed Share.

Polygyny creates a huge excess male population of unpaired males, who create social unrest if not given some outlet. It is no coincidence IMO that the most conflict-ridden areas of the world (Nigeria, Iraq) have high incidence of polygyny.

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Re: Polygamy / Polyandry & Buddhism

Post by AlexanderS » Sun Jan 08, 2017 9:52 pm

pemachophel wrote:Sherab-la,

I don't think you can say Mandharava and Yeshe Tshogyal were Guru Rinpoche's "wives." They were karmamudras -- from what we know, the main two among many. So I don't think you can say Guru Rinpoche was a polygamist which means having multiple wives.

Sorry if this is quibbling over semantics, but, as afar as I know, Guru Rinpoche was never married.

:namaste:
I remember jetsun khandro rinpoche saying at a teaching "and yes Padmasambhava did in fact have 1000 wives. Maybe that's easier for you to believe that he lived for 1000 years". Of course guru rinpoche is not your average human being. But there's been many great practioners ancient and recent who were practiced polygamy and polyandry.

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