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No illicit sex life – what does it mean?

Sunday, 25 November 2018 / Published in Blog thoughts / 878 views

Devaki Devi Dasi: When taking up Krishna consciousness more seriously, we promise to follow
the regulative principle of ‘no illicit sex life’. Yet, we don’t always
deeply understand what it actually means. And thus, our misunderstandings
may cause damage to our family relationships and may even break a marriage.

First of all, sex life within marriage is not sinful as such, but it is
certainly not favorable for developing pure devotional service. Not
following the other three principles is sinful, but sex life within marriage
is not. This understanding we find in all spiritual practices and religions:
that the man-woman relationship is distracting us from God and needs to be
sanctified by the Lord through the samskara of marriage, which makes it
bona fide and not sinful.
When following the process of devotional service, there are many such
activities which are not at all favorable for developing pure bhakti but are
also not sinful, such as close association with materialistic persons,
criticizing others, engaging in worldly and mundane activities which have
nothing to do with devotional service, talking prajalpa, etc, etc. The list
is long. So a serious practitioner will certainly do everything to avoid

In SB.11.20.27-28 Krishna very nicely describes the inner mood and attitude
of a serious devotee towards any kind of sense gratification:

“Having awakened faith in the narrations of My glories, being disgusted
with all material activities, knowing that all sense gratification leads to
misery, but still being unable to renounce all sense enjoyment, My devotee
should remain happy and worship Me with great faith and conviction. Even
though he is sometimes engaged in sense enjoyment, My devotee knows that
all sense gratification leads to a miserable result, and he sincerely
repents such activities.”

Krishna understands that not everyone will be able to renounce all sense
gratification immediately – from one day to another. For many of us it is a
gradual process. He gives us encouragement to nevertheless remain hopeful,
that if we just continue applying ourselves sincerely to the process of
devotional service – with great faith and conviction – eventually we will
reach the point where we develop a higher taste and can let go of the lower
taste. Krishna’s instruction of sincerely repenting the activities of sense
gratification is very significant. Such sincere repentance will purify us
and impel us to endeavor for a higher taste, minimizing the lower taste of
sense gratification. Paramatma is there within our heart and witnesses
whether or not we sincerely repent. So we can’t cheat Krishna. We should
repent and cry out to Krishna for help: “My dear Lord, when oh when will the
day come when I can finally let go of these activities!?” Krishna responds
to such sincere appeal and will help us by removing our attachments to sense
gratification. These attachments to lusty gratifications are very deeply
rooted in our heart – we have been carrying them with us for many life
times! By our own strength we will not be able to free ourselves from lusty
desires. We need Krishna’s help. Lord Nrismhadev is very expert in
performing such heart surgery with His sharp and long nails. All we have to
do is sincerely invite Him into our heart to do so.

Sometimes devotees ask whether it is ‘OK’ to engage in sex life once a
month. The answer is no, it is not ‘OK’. If we think it to be OK – how can
we repent sincerely?!
Husband and wife have to give shelter to each other’s senses – they have to
work as a team. As a rule, men by nature are more attached to the gross
aspect of sex life, even though women are known to be nine times more lusty.
A woman’s lust manifests in more subtle ways – we are known to be more
competitive, envious and also more attached to showing off our beauty, etc.
Nevertheless, a wife has to give shelter to the husband’s senses. This is
expressed in SB.3.14.20: “As a fort commander very easily conquers invading
plunderers, by taking shelter of a wife one can conquer the senses, which
are unconquerable in the other social orders.”
A wife who refuses to give shelter to her husband’s senses will inflict
severe pain to her husband’s heart. He will feel painfully rejected and has
no shelter. Where can he go, if not to his wife?! In this way, she may even
drive him to satisfy his senses outside of marriage, which is sinful. At the
same time, a trained and expert wife can very much help her husband to
minimize the indulgence in sex life. By her chaste and uplifting beauty, her
good cooking, by keeping the home nice and clean, and by her submissive mood
of service she can divert her husband’s attention and can satisfy him on
higher levels. A dominant wife who always corrects and instructs her husband
may have to face the fact that he will more often approach her for sex life.
It may be his foremost way how he can dominate over her and take the
superior position. Sex life is closely connected with power and control over
another person.
Using contraceptives or abortion is unacceptable within Krishna
consciousness – these turn sex life into a sinful activity.
In SB.4.27.6. Prabhupada explains in the purport:
“Checking population by contraceptive method is another sinful activity, but
in this age of Kali people have become so sinful that they do not care for
the resultant reactions of their sinful lives.” It cultivates the mood of
increasing one’s pleasure by artificially eliminating the purpose of
begetting children. It invites an exploitative attitude towards sex life.

Besides sravanam kirtanam, the main process to purify our senses is by using
them in Krishna’s service. Thus it is highly recommended to try and invite a
special soul to take birth in our family and give this Vaishnava the best
chance right from the very beginning of life to go home, back to Godhead. To
chant 50 rounds on the day of conception is highly purifying and helps us to
transform our attitude towards sex life by realizing its actual purpose: to
beget children.

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11 Responses to “No illicit sex life – what does it mean?”

  1. Visakha Priya dasi says :

    What follows is not my personal interpretation of the term “Illicit” but simply quotes from Srila Prabhupada’s books, letters and talks.

    From “A Second Chance”, Chapter 13

    As sense control is the beginning of pious life, illicit sex is the beginning of sinful life. One should not engage in illicit sex, or sex for any reason except having a child with one’s wife. Marriage is meant for begetting children, and in that sense it is a religious institution. Lord Kåñëa confirms this in the Bhagavad-gétä (7.11): dharmäviruddho bhüteñu kämo ‘smi. “I am sex that does not contradict religious principles.” Caitanya Mahäprabhu had a devotee named Çivänanda Sena, who was a family man. Çivänanda used to come with all the devotees every year to see Lord Caitanya in Puré, and he came together with his wife and children. Once he came to see the Lord, and his wife offered her respects. At that time she was pregnant, so Caitanya Mahäprabhu advised Çivänanda, “This time when you get your child, you should give him the name Paramänanda däsa.” Caitanya Mahäprabhu knew that pregnancy resulted from sex, but He did not condemn sex in this case, as it was conducted according to scriptural injunction.

    From Srila Prabhupada’s lecture on SB 5.5.16, Vrindavan, Nov. 4, 1976

    There are two kinds of sex life, legal and illegal. Legal is married life sex. That is taken as legal. And without marriage, like cats and dogs in the street or here and there, that is illegal. So legal sex life is still allowed. Just like Kåñëa says, dharmäviruddha-kämo ‘smi. If there is legal sex, one man and woman, married, and only for progeny they get into sex life, that is allowed in the çästra. But illegal, illicit sex is most abominable. But either illicit or legal, there are so many sufferings.

    From Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Satsvarupa dasa adhikari, 20 September 1968

    In your letter of the 17th instant, you have very frankly inquired from me about householder life, especially in the matter of sex relationship. A sannyasi is not supposed to be asked about anything sexual. But still, because you are so much dependent on my instruction, so I must give you information as far as possible. Married life is not for sex indulgence. The principle of marriage is on the background of getting good children. So the householder is allowed to have sex life once in a month, just after the menstrual period. The menstrual period prolongs at least for 5 days, so after this 5 days, one can have sex life provided he desires to get a child. And as soon as the wife is pregnant, no more sex life, until the child is born and is grown up at least for 6 months. After that, one may have sex life on the same principle. If one does not want more than one or two children, he should voluntarily stop sex life. But one should not strictly use any contraceptive method and at the same time indulge in sex life. That is very much sinful. If the husband and wife can voluntarily restrain by powerful advancement of Krishna Consciousness. That is the best method. It is not necessary that because one has got wife, therefore you must have sex life. The whole scheme is to avoid sex life as far as possible. And if one can avoid it completely then it is a great victory for him. Married life is a sort of license for sex life on condition of raising children. So you should try to understand these principles of married life and use your discretion. You should not imitate great personalities like Bhaktivinode Thakura, but you must follow His footprints. But it is not always possible to have the same success as great personalities like Bhaktivinode Thakura achieved. So in all circumstances you should try to follow the footprints of authorities but never to imitate them.

    From Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Mr. Suresh Candra, Mayapur, 18 June 1973

    I am pleased to note that as of January 1st you have given up eating of meat, fish or eggs, as well as intoxicants and gambling. You have asked what is meant by illicit sex. Sex should be used only in marriage for begetting nice children to raise in Krsna Consciousness. Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita that I am sex life performed according to religious principles. Sex life for any other purpose means illicit sex. The use of contraceptive method for sex enjoyment is very sinful. Restraint in the matter of these four sinful activities is achieved by tasting the superior mellows of Krsna Consciousness. You say that you are chanting 15 minutes daily from 8:15-8:30. Please go on and increase this chanting as much as you can and that will help you very much in advancing in Krsna Consciousness.

    From “Coming Back”, Chapter 8

    7. Krsna conscious persons should not engage in illicit sex, i.e. sex outside of marriage or sex not for the purpose of conceiving a child. It should also be noted that abortion carries a special karmic reaction-those who participate in killing unborn children may be placed in the womb of a mother who chooses abortion and themselves be slaughtered in the same horrible way. But if one agrees to no longer commit such sinful acts, one can become freed from karmic reaction by inoffensive devotional chanting of the holy names of God.

  2. Devakidd says :

    Thank you, Visakha Priya Mataji, for your comment. I was waiting and hoping that somebody would make a comment like this, in order for me to have an opportunity to elaborate further.

    Yes, we do have to preach the highest standard and strive for it – always! No doubt! And at the same time we have to understand that not everybody can follow it immediately. For many it is a gradual process of purification.

    Uttamasloka Dasa offers some statements from Srila Prabhupada to provide balance and understanding of his actual position in regards to this topic:

    When Srila Prabhupada was personally questioned about sex in marriage he was
    on one level uncompromising but on another level he was understanding. At one time there was a devotee who came to Mayapur and then while in Mayapur that devotee went to some local society girl over there, and the news spread among the devotee community and then they told Prabhupada.
    And then Prabhupada called the devotee and Prabhupada asked him, "Why did you do that?" He said, "I couldn't control myself. I was too much tormented by lust." And Prabhupada said, "But you are married! Why did you have to go to a prostitute!?"
    He said, "No Prabhupada, my wife wanted to follow the principle of no illicit sex so she refused and I didn't want to force her." So Prabhupada said that actually the violation within marriage is extremely minor as compared to what is outside of marriage. So Srila Prabhupada was actually very clear about this.

    Another devotee was told by his godsister that she had left her husband and
    when Prabhupada asked her why she explained that it was because he was in maya and always wanted to have sex. Srila Prabhupada asked, "And you cannot

  3. Devakidd says :

    Once in Mayapur, Bhavananda went to Prabhupada with a complaint, "Srila
    Prabhupada, the grhastas are having sex more than once a month." Prabhupada
    ignored him. Minutes went by, again Bhavananda spoke, but this time Prabhupada cut him off with his sharp reply, "Why do you think I told them to get married?" (you can get the words verbatim from Bhavananda)

    Again in Mayapur, on the roof. One devotee was asking Prabhupada about the
    difficulty he was facing in following this strict principle about sex life.
    Srila Prabhupada responded, "Sex between husband and wife is never sinful, but it will not help their spiritual life".
    Unless we have a mature and balanced outlook and understanding of things, we can create havoc in devotees' lives, break up families and drive devotees into sinful activities. This occured already when Prabhupada was physically present, and maybe even more so today. I hope this makes things more clear.

  4. Visakha Priya dasi says :

    Marriage vow according to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur:
    “The cardinal principle of gṛhastha āśrama is that no one may be the owner of any property or service of another.
    Everyone is only a servant whose activities are ever in the service of the Lord.
    Similarly, the sole object of everyone’s service as the only master, only friend, only son and only consort is Krishna.
    Marrying and giving in marriage do not give rise to any rights of a master either to the husband or to the wife.
    Men and women are joined in wedlock for the purpose of serving each other in the performance of the joint service of Krishna.
    The wife is not an object of enjoyment of the husband, nor vice versa. They do not marry for gratifying their sexual appetites.
    They marry for pleasing the Lord, not for pleasing themselves.
    They choose for their partners only such persons who serve God better than themselves.
    They offer themselves to be accepted by their partners for the favor of being allowed to share in their superior service of Hari.
    Neither the husband nor the wife should claim the services of his or her partner on their own account.
    Both of them are only to offer their services if and when their partner is pleased to permit them to share their service of Hari.
    None of them can force their partners to serve them.

  5. Sita Rama dasa 1962 says :

    Mother Visakha Priya,
    Can you please give the citation for the quotes by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur above?
    Thank you.

    • Madhavananda Das (Orissa) says :

      Sita Rama Das Prabhu, the article that Mother Visakha Priya is referring to is titled, "Relation Between the Sexes". It appeared in volume XXXII of the Harmonist on 7 November 1935.

  6. GaurNitai Dasa says :

    Hare Krishna Mataji,
    Thank you for writing on this controversial topic. As a married person, I can vouch that sex desire is not a button we can press to turn off, given past conditioning and specially while living in the society that we do and the lifestyle we lead in cities. Marriage with a loving spouse is a safety net against illicit sex. We strive for purity day-after-day with services, chanting but to become prematurely paramahamsa simply drives one partner to go outside of marriage bonds and this is far-far detrimental to the individual than having to deal with occasional indulgence within marriage. I feel Krishna has the heart to give us time to come to the paramahamsa stage while we stumble and fall while trying to reach the summit of material liberation.

  7. Visakha Priya dasi says :

    Then as far as dama (self-control) is concerned, it is not only meant for other orders of religious society, but is especially meant for the householder. Although he has a wife, a householder should not use his senses for sex life unnecessarily. There are restrictions for the householders even in sex life, which should only be engaged in for the propagation of children. If he does not require children, he should not enjoy sex life with his wife. Modern society enjoys sex life with contraceptive methods or more abominable methods to avoid the responsibility of children. This is not in the transcendental quality, but is demoniac. If anyone, even if he is a householder, wants to make progress in spiritual life, he must control his sex life and should not beget a child without the purpose of serving Krishna. If he is able to beget children who will be in Krishna consciousness, one can produce hundreds of children, but without this capacity one should not indulge only for sense pleasure. (Bg As It Is for the next 10,000 years, 16.1-3)

  8. Visakha Priya dasi says :

    Dear Gaura Nitai Prabhu,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    The problem, when quoting scripture in a public forum, is that it doesn't take personal struggles into consideration. But personal struggles are not meant to be discussed in a public forum. In my humble (?) opinion, devotees experiencing difficulties should go to their spiritual master (diksha or siksha) and discuss the matter with them. But to launch into dissertations about that kind of problem in public tends to belittle the acharya's instructions and subtly encourages the readers to be lenient with themselves.

    I pray that Sri Sri Krishna-Balarama may give you the strength to overcome all difficulties.

    Your servant,
    Visakha Priya dasi

  9. Devakidd says :

    As I quoted in the article: "Even though he is sometimes engaged in sense enjoyment, My devotee knows that all sense gratification leads to a miserable result, and he sincerely repents such activities.”
    The key is to repent sincerely. If we are simply engaging in sense gratification, then we will not sincerely regret.

  10. GaurNitai Dasa says :

    Let's not forget that illicit activity does not encompass only sex, it applies to all areas of sense gratification. Very few, if at all, have the complete purity of cooking ONLY for Krishna and honoring prasadam ONLY for Krishna's pleasure. This then becomes illicit eating (violence committed in eating plants for our satisfaction). Does it mean we should not eat if we can't be 100% pure? When it comes to satisfying the hunger of the stomach and the strong urge to taste delicious food, we splurge on prasadam without 100% purity or 100% intent of pleasing Krishna. In fact, why do we even add salt or spice in our food? We should cook for Krishna separately. Expanded a little further, unless we use our tongue only for vibrating for glorification of Krishna, we should not open our mouth for even the slightest mundane reasons. Otherwise, t becomes illicit talking. Sleep is illicit if we sleep even a minute extra after 4 AM. Same goes with earning and spending wealth. Not a farthing should be earned more than what is required to keep body and soul together. And whatever little extra we earn we should engage 100% in Krishna's service. Otherwise, it is gambling (illicit wealth). So those who are advocating rules should apply 100% purity in all areas of their lives. In fact, demonstration of this kind of purity will be be an ideal example for the rest of us who are struggling. If not then you have to introspect what you actually are.