Sex and Spirituality
Abhaya Mudra Dasi: The Origin of Sexual Experience
Sex is so common yet so mysterious. What is the origin of sex? Some claim that it can be called a yoga process. Can it be so? Some so-called “tantrics” even claim that through sex they can practice yoga. If sex is yoga, then why is it restricted and its restraint included as one of the regulative principles in Vaishnava tradition? Freeing ourselves forever from the fundamental concepts centering around sex which only serves to perpetuate material existence can mean venturing into dangerous waters. The wise learn more by listening than by experience. Sometimes a persons new to devotional service ask whether the practice of sexuality is acceptable as long as it is limited to the married partner and it is not an illicit affair. For many it seems as though this point is not easily understood.
Sexual behavior and the mentality associated with sex have existed since the creation of this material world. In fact, the desire for sexual enjoyment is the very cause for material embodiment. Therefore it is natural that when someone wants to be liberated from material existence that they also desire freedom from sexual bondage. Abstinence from sex is seen as a spiritual act. Nonetheless, the desire to renounce it does not throw any light upon the nature of sex or its origin. Renouncing something without understanding it can lead to a relapse of the same activity. Sex is one of the most difficult things to renounce because it holds the seeds of material existence.
Although the act of sex is short-lived, the entire universe moves along under the facility for reproduction created by sexual relations. While the attraction leading to sexual act pulls together two different genders, the act of sex itself does not have a gender. The experience of sex is beyond gender and for this reason some have mistaken that it can be practiced by individuals belonging to the same gender.
That sex act that furthers the universal law of reproduction is never fruitless. Lord Shiva, also called Shambu in Brahma Samhita, is in charge of the universal genetics. His teja never goes in vain, a fact that is mentioned in Shrimad-Bhagavatam in relation to the incident between Shri Mohini Murti and Lord Shiva:
“Just as a maddened bull elephant follows a female elephant who is able to conceive pregnancy, Lord Shiva followed the beautiful woman and discharged semen, even though his discharge of semen never goes in vain. O King, wheresoever on the surface of the globe fell the semen of the great personality of Lord Shiva, mines of gold and silver later appeared. Following Mohini, Lord Shiva went everywhere—near the shores of the rivers and lakes, near the mountains, near the forests, near the gardens, and wherever there lived great sages. O Maharaja Parikshit, best of kings, when Lord Shiva had fully discharged semen, he could see how he himself had been victimized by the illusion created by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus he restrained himself from any further maya.” (SB 8.2.32-35)
The example of this story additionally illustrates that sex unifies the experiences of both males and females alike. The attraction to sex is performed by the illusion of gender but the act itself is genderless. This is one of the mysteries of sex.
It is stated in Bhagavad Gita (10.8) that a Vaishnava knows everything about this material world as well as about the spiritual world. As consequence, his conclusion is to become engaged only in devotional service rendered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead Shri Krishna. Still, for some people, it is inconceivable how a celibate monk would know all about sex without practicing it? It is only through the statements of the Vedas that the wise can become knowledgeable about the different facets of the Absolute Truth.
In many popular religions like Christianity and Islam discussions about sex and its nature have long been considered taboo. In most religious practices the topic is suppressed and avoided. This fact is especially true to someone who takes vows in hope of spiritual enlightenment. In some parts of their world Muslim women are completely covered by a dress called hijab. This act shows a direct and physical denial of sexuality. Among some Catholic Christians there is more subtle and emotional denial than mere physical negation which is expressed through self torment. Adherents feel that the more the faithful suffers, the greater chance of redemption. Catholic monks and nuns are cloistered separately. But in their attempt to present all their emotions to God, Christians often end up only satisfying those who are hungry for sense gratification. Signs of self-denial of worldly feelings are considered ample testimony for spiritual achievement by an uneducated public. Some Buddhist sects consider the denial of spiritual identity—including gender—as the key for self-enlightenment. The state of nirvana (without body) is looked upon as the supreme achievement. In those forms of Buddhism the sadhaka not only denies the material and emotional gender but also any recognition of spiritual identification.
In Krishna consciousness if an aspiring devotee of Shri Krishna shows any of these propensities for denial of identity he or she would not be considered very advanced. Denial is the philosophy of the mayavadis. Life’s imperfections that popular religions attempt to overcome by the means of suppression do not make one elevated according to the Vaishnava philosophy. Then, what would be the difference which the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness offers on the sensitive subject of sexual experience? And what does sex has to do with spiritual enlightenment after all? Is it worth distracting our attention towards a topic like sex that has proven itself time and again to be a destructive one?
Today sex is deliberately encouraged in society, and in this way an endless continuation through material existence is promoted. Many from the creative segment of society like artists, film maker, etc. claim that sex can be used as means for achieving spiritual realization, a tamasic view that agrees with modern day so-called tantrics. Such gross misconceptions appear especially valid to those who do not understand the sublime reality of the Absolute Truth. For them sexual experience is like catching the moment which gives them a false sense of unity with time.
We have heard deluded statements like, “Living in the present moment is the perfect state of mind.” There are many self-appointed so-called gurus who teach techniques of achieving this unity with time through breathing and relaxation techniques. Nonetheless, catching the present moment has been an elusive goal for the ordinary living entity. The only proven way for temporarily catching the present moment in the material world has been through one simple technique – sex. This proves that the conditioned living entity is searching after Shri Krishna Who normally reveals His nature in the material world in the form of the irrevocable time factor. Thus, everyone in the conditioned world runs after the unity with time through sex, an experience proven to last only a fraction of a moment. All conditioned living entities who want to enjoy without the consent of Shri Krishna would try to catch the present moment through sexual experience over and again. Thus sex drives the material world and supports the three divisions of the time factor. A nice example of all-encompassing nature of sexual experience is found in Shrimad-Bhagavatam in relation to the story of Kardama Muni and Devahuti. There a nice description of how sexual relations affect the flow of time is given:
“After coming back to his hermitage, he divided himself into nine personalities just to give pleasure to Devahuti, the daughter of Manu, who was eager for sex life. In that way he enjoyed with her for many, many years, which passed just like a moment.” (SB 3.23.44
It seems that sexual experience has the potency to expand, divide and compress time. And in order to understand how sexual experience is the cause for the fractured experience of past, present and future and the fundament of the material world we turn again to the purports of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada. In the following quotes the material world is described as brahmajyoti covered by maya.
“Everything that exists is situated in that brahmajyoti, but when the jyoti is covered by illusion (maya) or sense gratification, it is called material.” Bg 4.24, Purport.
“The brahmajyoti is spread unlimitedly, and the material world is but a covered portion of an insignificant part of the same brahmajyoti. This covering is temporary, and therefore it is a sort of illusion.” SB 1.9.44, Purport.
“Part of this all-pervasive brahmajyoti, which is compared to the sun rays, is covered by the darkness of the mahat-tattva, and this insignificant part is known as the material world.” SB 2.4.14, Purport.
Why is this fact important in our investigation regarding the origin of sex? Because brahmajyoti represents the eternal time factor or sat feature of the Absolute Truth. The impersonal feature of the Absolute Truth offers an experience of constant unity with time for the souls who have obtained this level of realization. For the devotees of the personal feature of the Absolute Truth this state of impersonal realization is unpalatable. Merging personal individuality with the impersonal brahmajyoti could only be compared to a state of constant sexual experience. The reason is because while merged with the impersonal Brahman the living entity has caught the moment and stays constantly in the sate of sat realization of eternal time. In the state of impersonal sat the living entity has become one with the time factor without realizing that time is a feature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In the impersonal brahmajyoti the living entity gets hypnotized by the experience of eternal climax. Althoug very pleasurable, this level of realization of the Absolute Truth is not at all advanced. It is difficult to think in this all-consuming state of brahmajyoti. But if the living entity had the ability to objectively consider his situation then he would have had arrived at the conclusion that being caught in eternal pleasure without the ability to share it is futile. The moment a living entity who is caught up in the experience of brahmajyoti has a glimpse into his own intelligence, at that very moment he falls down from the sat state back into material existence. In the earthly experience of false pleasures, this relapse into material suffering happens far more often and much faster: after a few seconds of illusory bliss the jiva finds himself back in the realities of the mortal world. In this world, guilt and blame are the usual feelings associated with sexual experience. The conditioned living entity is after the sexless pleasure rather than the shared experience with a partner who is similarly conditioned. And if some agreements between two conditioned living entities are achieved in the ways of sexual experience they call that harmony love. Nonetheless, even for those that share some mutual agreement the elusive nature of sexual experience will stay beyond their limited understanding of love.
In order to understand the mystery of sex we have to focus our attention on the Origin of all that is, namely, Shri Krishna. The feelings of so-called pleasure that stream from the state of sexual experience is coming from His impersonal feature or the impersonal Brahman. Brahmajyoti is the effulgence or the transcendental sex appeal coming from Shri Krishna. Brahmajyoti is the attraction which compels a true devotee to come and offer service to the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna. But whoever tries to enjoy the light streaming from the transcendental body of the Supreme Lord without the Lord will be burned by illusory misconceptions about the nature of the soul and the nature of the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna. Brahmajyoti is reflected in our embodied experience though sex. Brahmajyoti is the veil which covers the real personality and face of the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna. For this reason a sincere devotee prays for the removal of this veil in order to see the Supreme Lord face to face, as seen in mantra fifteen of Shri Ishopanishad:
hiranmayena patrena satyasyapihitam mukham
tat tvam pushann apavrinu satya-dharmaya drishtaye
“O my Lord, sustainer of all that lives, Your real face is covered by Your dazzling effulgence. Kindly remove that covering and exhibit Yourself to Your pure devotee.”
Krishna Consciousness is the only real solution for getting rid of sexual bondage and the misconceptions associated with it. Only through Krishna Consciousness we can realize the origin of sexual experience and move beyond it. But as tiny living entities we are stuck in this material existence. The only way out is prayer. We can constantly talk to the indwelling guide Lord Paramatma Who is our companion in this material world. Constantly chanting Hare Krishna mahamantra and associating with the Lord of the heart and His devotees is our guarantee that one day Shri Krishna will grant us the opportunity of His personal association. Then we will know Him beyond the passing “bliss” of the impersonal sexual experience.
Projections of Sexual Experience
As noted, blame, guilt and shame are the usual feelings following the sex. Playing with Shri Krishna’s energy without recognizing His personal existence naturally brings about suffering. It is a fact, that if one lives in the material world, he or she inevitably becomes entrenched in some form of sexual experience. Artificial denial of sex and just showing the negative emotions associated with it have little effect on suppressing its powerful nature. Often social norms try to define sex and they spread like disease into the religious organizations as well. The norms are meant to evoke the feelings of guilt and blame as artificial means of control. But the unstoppable sexual experience leaves practically everyone unable to follow their vows. Society undergoes constant changes due to sex desire, the consequences of which are social unrest in the form of gender, rank, class and politics. This is the history of the world. Societies at different times form their own unique cultural values based on their interpretations of emotions associated with sexual experience.
Since the impersonal nature of sex is the perverted reflection of the Absolute reality so-called spiritualist or impersonalists focus with great zeal on the negative emotions associated with sex experience. They surpass in their negation of sexual experience even the moralistic circles of society. The goal of the impersonalists is to achieve eternal sexual experience by denying its gross material existence. In this way, the mayavadis are great hypocrites. Learning from them will not bring permanent benefit because their main focus is the seizure of sexual enjoyment for eternity.
One who is merged with the impersonal brahmajyoti will not for a long time blame anyone for his failures within material existence. Nonetheless, the guilt associated with impersonalism remains in a seedling form with the living entity even in the brahmajyoti. Until one has a desire to associate with Shri Krshna as an Individual he will suffer the consequences associated with the exploitation of the pleasure potency of the Supreme Lord. The individual who wants eternal pleasure without the Lord must sacrifice his own individuality.
Reality beyond Sexual Experience
No one can break the surge of sexual climax. The wise know this fact and keep away from the temptations. In the material world the jivas must endeavor for the opportunity to experience sexual pleasure. And in this way the conditioned living entities are actually on a higher platform than the souls trapped in the impersonal brahmajyoti. In the material world the living entities are allowed time for reflection between sexual experiences. In such moments the lucky souls are given the opportunity to meet a genuine spiritual master and understand that Shri Krishna is a person.
On the contrary, life in brahmajyoti is different. The difficulty of breaking off from the existence in the light of Brahman can only be compared to the futility of stopping the climax of sexual experience. Getting out of brahmajyoti is close to impossible. In this way the souls in the material world are luckier because they have the opportunity to realize the personal feature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Brahmajyoti or the transcendental sex appeal of Shri Krishna is reflected in the material world through Shiva. He is the greatest devotee of the Supreme Lord. Such is the power of Shiva, the linga of Shri Krishna. One of the services that Shiva offers to Shri Krishna is guarding the transcendental abode of Vrindavan. Although Shiva is not allowed to enter the most intimate rasa dance he does not allow anyone who is not an exalted devotee to enter the transcendental abode of Shri Krishna. This service of Shiva is very similar to the function of entrapment performed by Brahmajyoti. The light emanating from the transcendental body of Shri Krishna is meant to trap the lesser transcendentalists like the mayavadis.
Those who have the audacity to think that Shrimati Radharani and Shri Krishna engage in sexual experience are still spellbound by the perverted reflection of reality, called impersonalism. It is worth noting that in the relationship between Shri Krishna and His devotees there is only love. That sublime love is beyond the impersonal sexual experience. The concept of love is foreign to the conditioned living entity whose modus operandi is self-satisfaction.
What is the mode of a true devotee? Srila Prabhupada states (SB 6.1.63 – lecture, Vrndavana, August 30, 1975) that if someone is a pure devotee of Shri Krishna he or she has already surpassed sex desire. Thus the pure devotee has found attraction greater than sex. A great example in this regards is Haridas Thakur, the namacharya of this age. His example teaches us how to practically overcome the temptations of illusion simply by chanting the holy names of Shri Krishna.
Overcoming the Sex Addiction of Impersonalism
Within the body which has the sexual identification either as a man or a woman sits the individual soul. The soul has individuality which is beyond the yoke dictated by the body. Discovering our eternal individuality is initiated by the performance of devotional service here in the material world. Devotional service is based upon strong philosophical grounds. Mere practice of renunciation is insufficient to grant realization about the nature of the soul. Devotional service starts with practicing individualistic approach to everything around us as Shri Krishna is all pervading and can be seen in all ingredients of the world. The bodies are like microcosms. If we study ourselves—our bodies, minds and souls—we can understand the nature of Shri Krishna and His material and spiritual worlds. In Bhagavad Gita the five components that can give us Absolute knowledge (even if we study only one of them) are given by Shri Krishna Himself. They are the Absolute, the living entity, the material nature, time and karma. Any one of these separate subject learned from all angles with the help of shastra and guru can bring one to the state of enlightenment about the nature of the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna. Still, moving beyond impersonalism is the most difficult task in this world. Impersonalism is the state of being in this world and for this reason it is so difficult to surmount. Practicing personalism can start here in the material world. It is done by accepting that we are servants of Shri Krishna. And rendering respect, personal attention and service to the servants of Shri Krishna is more important than obtaining fame and riches.
A man and a woman can live peacefully together only through mutual compatibility, a technique which is well presented through jyotish shastra. Marital harmony is the only key for breaking through unconcealed sexual demand. Despite the uniqueness of each living entity, each is one of us compatible with Shri Krishna. The prakriti living entity has an established relationship the Purusha Supreme Lord since time immemorial. The omnipresence of Supersoul is a confirmation of this fact. Despite the forgetfulness of the jiva regarding his original position, Shri Krishna is always situated in everyone’s heart.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is not an ordinary living entity. He is compatible with every single living entity. An indefinite number of individual souls have unique relationships with the Supreme Lord. Every single living entity, according to his taste and mood, has an individual association with Shri Krishna. For the restoration of his individual relationship with the Supreme Lord, the jiva needs to go beyond the brahmajyoti which is the border between mere sexual experience and genuine love. And despite the fact that brahmajyoti is the effulgence coming from the body of Shri Krishna, it has to be crossed by the sincere devotee of the Supreme Lord because the transcendental light keeps the Individuality of Shri Krishna concealed behind the curtain of pleasure. The ones who desire to restore their relationship with the Supreme Lord have to go even beyond the identification that the living entity is the prakriti and Shri Krishna is the Purush. In love the formality of prakriti / Purush relationship may be broken. In the reality of love sometimes the living entity accepts a position of superiority to Shri Krishna. And sometimes the Supreme Lords keeps His superior position intact.
But how long would be before we can realize our relationship with Shri Krishna in the material world? This world has but one real use. It is a training ground for spiritual progress. Talking in practical terms, we cannot expect to enact our relationship with Shri Krishna here and now without His Personal presence. Paramatma is always here but we should not forget that He is only a partial expansion of the Supreme Lord. We have to be patient for the mercy of the Supreme Lord. One example of such patience is Lord Nityananda Himself. He did not reveal His real identity (although He is non-different from Lord Balarama) before the advent of Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu:
According to Sri Caitanya Bhagavata by Srila Vrindavana Das Thakura, when Lord Nityananda heard that Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was revealing His true identity as the Supreme Personality of Godhead—along with His sankirtana pastimes—He immediately came to Navadvipa-Mayapur Dhama. He waited at the house of Shri Nandana Acarya’s house for His younger brother, Gaurasundara, to find Him.
Our training ground for spiritual perfection in this world should consist of actions aimed at satisfying the spiritual master and Shri Krishna in ways that further the distribution of Krishna Consciousness in the material world. But before we can be truly successful in this mission we have to seriously observe our positions as individuals and as group.
In modern society, divorce has gained very high marks but unfortunately in ISKCON the score is even higher. We cannot compete with the greater society and pretend that we are better than everybody else when our standards have become lower. Compatibility between couples is the key for establishing varnashram. Still, even in marriage we need to adhere to our regulative principles. Brahmacharya is an elevated position. And many devotees end up practicing it only as outward show. When these symptoms are becoming prominent we have to go back and learn the basics of Vaishnava philosophy that can sustain us on an elevated position. We have to understand that the level of our spirituality is not abstract but is it is reflected in the very surroundings we live in. We must act on the platform of being personal with each other though in the mood of service. This is a personal inter-relationship that is beyond mundane, physical or sexual attraction. If we bahave as though our spirituality is a bare theory and do not live up to our moral obligations to Shri Guru then we can easily fall before the vision of the public at large and appear as absurd in their eyes. If humanity perceives that there is nothing to learn from us then we have failed in our mission, and as a consequence restoring our lost personal relationship with Shri Krishna will remain of question. It is our job to prove that what we preach is non-different from the way we live because transcendental loving service is not theoretical. We have achieved this rare human form of life after many millions of births and the real purpose of this life is Krishna consciousnes. We need to practice devotional service here and now with the limited ingredients provided to us by karma and pray fervently for the mercy of the Supreme Lord.
What will happen if someone tries to eliminate the brahmajoti factor in his life. It will not work. The Lord is sat chit ananda vighara. Brahmajoti cannot be separated from the Personality of Godhead. It represents the sex appeal emanating from the transcendental body of the Supreme Lord. Yet, Shri Krishna is not merely an Entity defined by His gender and neither are His servants, the living entities. In transcendental love, gender is merely the attracting factor. Shri Krishna is the Purusha and the living entity is the prakriti. However, as the highest love model between Shrimati Radharani and Shri Krishna dictates, They never entirely dwell on the fact that One is the Boy and the Other is the Girl. Their personalities surpass all other supportive factors in Their relationship. That is the very reason why Shri Krishna is most attracted to Srimati Radharani and not to any other girl.
Although, brahmajoti is part of the Supreme Person Shri Krishna it is unhealthy to dwell on this platform and a pure devote gives the disciple everything to move beyond it. It is stated in Shrimad Bhagavatam (2.6.20) that the spiritual world consists of ¾ the Lord’s energy. The material world is only ¼ of the entire existence of the Supreme Lord. It is just like the body of a person is just ¼ from the entire living entity; the other ¾ designate his activities, feelings and thoughts. The brahmajoti platform would never fully justify the existence of the Supreme Lord and His servants because it is incomplete just as it is incomplete to accept only one’s body as representation of an entire person.
Dwelling on the brahmajoti platform is insecure. Our future is doomed if we do not develop personalism in our relationships. One of the opulences of the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna—which elevates Him above even Lord Narayana—is that He is always surrounded by His devotees. And if we want to realize the Supreme Personality of Godhead then we also have to be surrounded by the devotees of Shri Krishna. We have to value their association the way we value the association of Shri Krishna. The Supreme Lord can be found where His devotees are present… With this humble attempt to distinguish between sex and love, brahmajoti and the spiritual realm, we pay obeisances to all devotees of Shri Krishna from the bottom of our hearts.
Can sex be a yoga process? The answer is an explicit “no.” For the many reasons described above, following the regulative principle of no illicit sex is a great facility for developing of personal relationships between devotees. The center of this personalism is our love for Shri Krishna—not sex—as everywhere else in the material world.
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