I receive a large number of queries from seekers who are unclear about the role of sex on the path of spirituality, they wonder if practicing celibacy is necessary for self-realization, if, abstinence is a prerequisite to attain that transcendental state. I have been meaning to write on this for months but the mounting number of queries on this issue nudged me to cover this important topic today, albeit briefly.Interestingly, most religions, all major ones anyway, are bullish, if not downright rigid, about continence. Practitioners, protectors, priests and preachers of such religions are expected, if not required, to be celibates and they lay great emphasis on seekers to practice it too. Well, that is their opinion and I do not wish to judge them. My focus today is not religion, it is spirituality. Religion is one, only just one, of the means to experience spirituality.In order to help you build your own viewpoint, let me offer you four perspectives on sexuality.
1. The Vedic Perspective
Krishna clarifies this in:
vēdēṣu yajñēṣu tapaḥsu caiva dānēṣu yatpuṇyaphalaṁ pradiṣṭam
atyēti tatsarvamidaṁ viditvā yōgī paraṁ sthānamupaiti cādyam (ibid, 8.28)
The one who is firmly established in the exalted state, the one who has mounted the vehicle of yoga, rises above all tapas and methods. Such yogin has no longer any utility in practicing austerities.
Also, in āpūryamāṇamacalapratiṣṭhaṁ samudrāpaḥ praviśanti yatvata… (ibid, 2.70), Krishna states, just like many rivers merge into the sea but the ocean remains unmoved, the enlightened one remains still and is not perturbed either at the abandonment or acceptance of any sense gratification.
An important point to remember is to accept vedic exposition in its entirety and not distort it as per your convenience. Till one goes through an intense practice, one is not a yogin, no matter how sound his intellectual understanding.
Study of scriptures is designed to give you food for thought and wisdom to perform the right action. They are means to an end. When they are regarded as the end in themselvs, it gives birth to rigid second-hand knowledge and fanatacism.
2. The Yogic Perspective
Patanajali, in his aphorisms, lays yama, moral restraints, and niyama, external observances, as the foundation of his eight-limbed yoga helping the seeker attain meditational equipoise unearthing their superconscious state .
In ahiṁsā satyā ‘steya brahmacaryā ‘parigrahā yamāḥ (Yoga sutras, 2.30), the sage does not put celibacy under niyama but yama. According to Patanjali, celibacy is about voluntary moral restraint. Predominantly because correct adoption of moral restraints helps one to stabilize one’s mind, its restive tendencies, it helps one to lead a life of purity. According to yogic texts, celibacy is about chastity and not necessarily abstinence. It is not an austerity one needs to practice to get somewhere, it is simply a way of life to help the practitioner remove distractions and live a life of balance, the middle way.
There is nothing unchaste, unnatural or wrong about sharing intimate moments with your partner, this can only help your practice, saving of course certain practices of specific duration that may require otherwise. Only your guru can shed light on such anuṣṭhāna, timed undertakings.
Yoga means to join, to become one, to gain union of individual soul with the Cosmic Soul, to merge individual consciousness in the Supreme Consciousness. All kriyā, practices, are designed to help you move towards and attain the aforesaid outcome. It is a journey from the outside to the inside. If I may put it, this is applied veda, practical application of the profound philosophy propounded in vedic texts.
3. The Tantric Perspective
Tantra is the rapid path to self-realization. Why rapid? Because it challenges everything you have been taught, it is designed to break off your conditioning, it uses seemingly obscure, although meaningful, methods to set you free from the shackles of dualities of good-bad, right-wrong, moral-immoral, hot-cold, light-dark and so forth.
Kularnava Tantra, Neel Tantra, Sri Vidya Tantra, Tara Tantra, Kali Tantra, Chinnmasta Tantra and dozens of other tantric texts are replete with practices where exploration of sexuality is a vital aspect of sādhanā, propitation, of adoration, of worship. Not all tantric rituals require presence of feminine energy or sexual activity; to tell you the truth, of the five major systems of tantric worship, only two require it absolutely, that too, only under certain circumstances. Practicing rituals with a female consort is not for the uninitiated nor for the beginners, it is for advanced practitioners. It is almost like playing with fire, unless you know the art, you may end up getting burnt, in this case — compromising your practice and misunderstanding the essence.
Contrary to the popular belief, tantra does not encourage reckless sexual acts, it gently allows you to accept sexuality as part of your manufacture, your original composition. It is only upon acceptance can one understand, absorb and be comfortable with sexuality. For as long as you are uneasy with any concept, entity or viewpoint, you continue to harbor silent fears and inhibitions and you limit yourself from realizing your transcendental state.
Yoga and vedas are important constituents of any tantric practice. Most tantric rituals utilize yogic practices and vedic eulogies and mantras. There is nothing called Tantric Sex, it is a misnomer, a catchy marketing term used by business minds to profit from the ignorance and fantasies of an average seeker.
If time permits, in future, I may write, perhaps in a book form, on tantric philosophy, systems, rituals and practices separately. The world could do with some factual, original and authentic information on this subject I think. I have devoted years to tantric practices and have first hand experiences into some of the most intriguing aspects of tantra.
4. My Own Perspective
I have already stated my take on the three perspectives in the respective sections; however, let me offer you my explicit viewpoint on the present topic.
You got your body because your parents engaged in an act of love. You came out of the womb of your mother and were latched to her breasts the moment you were born. Sexuality is the basis of your physical existence, it is part of your being. It as sacred as your love for God and as vital as your breath. Some of the greatest yogis, sages, seers were married. They lived in their hermitages but they had consorts. This is the path recommended by the vedas, slow and steady, go with the nature.
If you gain inner strength, if you become a better, more compassionate, kinder, more loving person by practicing celibacy, you should continue with continence in that case.
However, if you are married, and have developed this obscure idea of abstience being a shorter route to divinity, I am sorry to disappoint you but this is going to be a futile exercise. It is going to lead you nowhere near God. As part of strengthening your resolve, or certain practices that may last a certain duration, you may practice abstinence, but beyond that, I hope you have a very good reason.
Regardless of whether you are seventeen or seventy, do not be scared of your sexual thoughts, do not react at such thoughts, do not label them. Thoughts are just thoughts, intrinsically, they are devoid of any essence. If, for whatever reason known only to you, you wish to stay away from physical intimacy, all you have to do is not pay attention to your thoughts. They will leave you in no time. Unless you are able to maintain your meditative state at all times, you will have hard time staving them off forever though. Sexuality is innate in every moving creature that breathes.
Some of the greatest inventors, finest minds, geniuses, poets, world’s most successful people, peace workers, those who influenced millions of others, were they celibates?
Physical love whether expressed by a gesture of a simple peck or a passionate kiss, eating together or making love, it is an extension, and outward expression, of your inner being, your feelings. It completes any intimate relationship. When channelized, sexuality transforms into love, when untamed, it becomes lust.
Ultimately, it is something you need to reflect upon yourself, arrive at your own conclusion. My writeup is not be taken as the justification to go rampant and engage in immoral acts. Just stay true to yourself and ask your conscience. You will get all the answers. Either learn to channelize your sexual energy, or, expend it wisely. However, if you try to curb it, you will only experience frustration. Harnessing your sexual energy has tremendous benefits. Subduing it has enormous downside. So, what benefits do emerge from harnessing it and what is the process of doing so? That is the other side of the coin. Something for another time!
Whether you wish to be a celibate or prefer to celebrate, be at ease, do what gives you peace and helps you help others.
Discover your own truth.