Spiritual Life and the Sexual Instinct (Radio program)
|Spiritual Life and the Sexual Instinct|
|by Alok Pandey, 2018 (1:00:43)|
|Listen on Auroville Radio →|
- 1 Sex in the animal kingdom
- 2 The importance of not being bored
- 3 Sex is physical, vital, mental...
- 4 Shunning is not our solution
- 5 The reality of vital interchange
- 6 Sex and yoga
- 7 After a fall: “Get up, brush your pants, start walking!”
- 8 When one is progressing on the path
- 9 Brahmacharya and the traditional stages of life
- 10 Retas into ojas
- 11 Not repression but saṁyama
- 12 “Keep offering”
- 13 The true Tantra
- 14 ”The strongest girl and the sweetest boy”
- 15 Love in the Ashram
- 16 Q & A
Sex in the animal kingdom
Alok Pandey: (Am I audible?) To start with, since we have titled the series as ‘disorders’, let me set it right, that sexuality is not regarded as a disorder. It's a very normal, universal force, expressing itself through countless forms. And when I use the word ‘countless forms’, it's not just unique to human, not even to animals; right from the first living organisms, there is some kind of process which we can call ‘sexual’. And we use the words ‘sexual reproduction’ and ‘asexual reproduction’. So what is the difference? The difference, like everything else – as Sri Aurobindo puts it so beautifully in one of his aphorisms – that animals do it in season, but men do it out of season.
- “182. God loves to play the fool in season; man does it in season & out of season. It is the only difference.”
And I think that makes a big difference; and that's partly because of the coming of the mind. And the way it works upon the body, the way it works upon the whole personality – as the Mother speaks in one of her long conversations, that “what is really meant by the Fall?” And she says: before the mind came, we were more in tune with the oneness of creation. But with the coming of the mind, there has been a kind of fall, compared to what we were in our very natural, beautiful state – when we were connected with all the forces in a very normal and natural way.
So sexuality, like everything else (we are not talking of Yoga right now, and the special difficulty it poses)... because there are things which are distinctly ‘not natural’, and definitely harmful even to normal human beings. But sex is a very normal, natural, healthy phenomenon; but the challenge that comes even in normal human life is that animals do it when there is a – they do it primarily for procreation. I mean lions, for example, they mate only once in a year. And once the female lion is pregnant, she would not allow the male to come near till the child is born, and reasonably matured. So, they know it.
And again, if we see the giant panda – it's like once in a blue moon. It's a very rare thing. So sometime when we use the words “mating like animals”, we should be very careful (!), because, you know, animals are not that bad. Some animals mate very fast [early], like rabbits. But they mate very fast because they live very short – they live for a very short period. So it's an instinct by nature that they mate very fast, not because they take some great pleasure in it.
But with human beings, because the mind has a tendency to do things for the sake of pleasure – so sex for procreation changes to sex for recreation. And that's when we start entering a slippery slope, because anything when we start doing only for pleasure, then there's a tendency for habit-formation, tendency for addiction, tendency for all kinds of issues.
The importance of not being bored
So we know, nowadays we talk about pornographic addiction. But sex addiction has existed for a very long time. Especially the physical mind can latch onto it; the physical mind can, merely by habit, start making people seek it. Not only for pleasure, but because of the absence of pleasure. And the more the society becomes... you know, one of the reasons why sex-impulse arises in nature, I was really surprised how Sri Aurobindo has put this. He says, “boredom”. So if one is jobless, one has nothing to do... and I think that's one thing which we have to avoid in a community which devotes itself to spiritual pursuits. Because there's a tendency. Especially pursuits which are purely connected with meditative things. So we have meditation; the rest of the time there's laziness, tendency towards boredom. So boredom – people seek pleasure, and they start seeking pleasure through sexuality. So that's where one of the issues begin to come up, that sex in a normal, healthy way, changes into sex which is done for the sake of pleasure. Nothing wrong with pleasure, again – but the issue is we have a choice: we have a choice of the most degraded form of an object, or its most purified form. So when often people speak of “pleasure and ananda” – sometimes people even compare the two, ironically – obviously they are not aware of the other pole of things.
But it's simply, we can say that any form of pleasure is a degradation of the original Ananda, which is so subtle, so profound. And equally, seen from this end, the more we can master it – the more we can offer it, purify it – the more it will change into its higher equivalent. So that's the whole logic behind transformation: that any activity of lower nature can be transformed by a process of purification, upliftment, sublimation, and offering, into its diving equivalent.
Sex is physical, vital, mental...
So the question comes: is there a divine truth behind sex? Because we see sex exists at many levels. Physical level we are aware of it; even we may say that... we don't use the word ‘atomic sex’, but definitely there is a law of attraction which operates. So in sexuality also there is a law of attraction. It's one of the first stimulus. So it does exist purely from the point of view: physical, bodies coming close to each other, there's a physical component in sexuality.
Even there are foods which stimulate, and foods which put it down. It's known traditionally, for example, that sattvic foods – foods like fruits – they are very conducive in general to Yoga, and even they tend to tone down the sexual impulse. (They are not going to take it away, but it does tone down.) Equally, very stimulating food – rajasic foods, spicy foods, hot food, non-vegetarian food – they increase the drives, which include anger and sexuality.
So it's interconnected with the very fabric of life. We can see even foods have that property, or rather can impart this kind of property to human beings and animals.
So then we come to: apart from the physicality, there is the nervous element in sexuality. What is called as an ‘itch’, sexual itch. So even if we throw it away from the mind, we throw it away from the vital, just there is a kind of stimulation at a very, very physical level – it's a very nervous stimulation. One of the most difficult things to get rid of. Because it's relatively easy to clear on these layers, but there's just kind of an itching sensation in those parts, very physically, which bring up the whole cascade of events, and bring up the whole thing again back to the forefront.
Of course there's a vital element in sexuality which is not just about pleasure – it's about domination, control, and every possessing... many things. There are people who almost believe that if there is no sexual relation between a man and a woman, there is no love. Which is obviously a strange doctrine. But it's like ‘the will to possess’, to dominate, to control. So that's also there in sexuality, which comes from the vital part.
Emotions get confused and mixed up with sexuality. Then of course there is the mental component: the images, the thought. All of this is part of the sexual impulsion. And behind it all, the subconscient. Simply the samskara, the habits, millions of years.
If this were all, it's still easy. There's also the environmental component of sexuality. So when we reject it, throw it out from the physicality, it remains in the environment. And from there, a trigger can come. So certain traditional yogis will say, “Don't look, don't...” You know it's an impossible thing. But there have been people like that in the Ashram; there was a sadhaka who used to close his eyes and walk out of the room. And some of the smart girls in the Ashram used to play a prank. The moment he would start walking out, they would put their feet in front, and he would stumble and fall. So either which way, he was falling down! And obviously that's not a solution at all.
Shunning is not our solution
But there are certain... I mean it's a real problem. So there are certain sects, like for instance Ramanarayan sect, where they don't look upon girls. The swamiji... if you attend their meetings, all the girls and women are supposed to sit behind. So there are absurd ways people have gone on to, which includes shunning all women; and Sri Aurobindo in one of his aphorisms says beautifully (with his characteristic touch of humor), that either the perfect solution is to shun all women, or to love all beings.
- “304. There are two ways of avoiding the snare of woman; one is to shun all women and the other to love all beings.”
Now, our path is a much vaster path. “All beings” – when we love, we don't start shunning and start creating a gender difference. Why women?: because, well, biologically it is true that (not because of anything pejorative) sexuality, though it is there in both, in men it is much more serious difficulty because of various reasons. There are very biological and physiological reasons for it. For women – for many women – sexuality is a final instrument to express love. For many men (I mean, when we use the word ‘many’, we know there are many exceptions) – for many men, sex can exist as a standalone thing. Regardless of any emotional involvement. Whereas women can very easily get emotionally involved, even when there has been a very casual kind of sexual involvement. So it's because the biological system of it [works] very differently; therefore this difficulty is generally regarded as being the prerogative of men.
Whatever it be, both – particularly in today's age – nobody is an exception. And we should understand it as a general difficulty: it has nothing to do with morality. To start with, we should disengage the moral notion. Take for example, when Sri Aurobindo was asked, “is there a difference when we have sex with boyfriends or with some other person?” He said there's no difference from the spiritual point of view. So there's no moral issue involved.
The reality of vital interchange
But there is definitely a difference when we have sex with one partner – that also Sri Aurobindo brings out. So amazing how he has touched upon every aspect. And that's because in any sexual relation (I have put on hold that aspect: “what is the spiritual side of sex?” On hold, but it'll come at its own time.) – but when there is one partner, consistently over a long period of time... any sexual relation involves a vital interchange. So because of this vital interchange, many good and bad (‘good and bad’: a way of saying) – but many qualities get exchanged. So it's not just an exchange of fluids. It's an exchange of consciousness. It's a kind of commerce, a very intense commerce.
And by the way, for that reason there is also a difference between ‘self-abuse’ as it is called (masturbation), and sexual intercourse. Because when people practice masturbation, there is no... it is more dangerous, more harmful. Because you get into the grip of purely elemental energies; there is a loss without anything in return. Whereas in a normal sexual relationship, there is a both-way traffic. So if both are at the same level, it's just the same, it doesn't matter. But if both are very disparate in their level of consciousness, there is a big difference.
So sometimes you see such strange things, like in the Ashram context: a certain kind of healthy friendship has been there, right from the days of the Mother. It's understood that it was not about sex (but, well, I mean, things could happen). But the moment there was a kind of relationship with somebody outside the circle – and we see this in ancients also – that they did not encourage relationship outside the circle. Because it will involve a kind of interchange which can be really deleterious to the core principles of Yoga. And that's why it was discouraged. So there is no morality involved in it, it is just a question of that if we have one partner, we are growing up with that partner, much of the vital excitement and all this that accompanies sexuality may go away in the background. Second, the two become one over a long period of time, because of this vital interchange. And both can handle each others' material which is passed into them.
Whereas if there is a – because it's a vital pleasure-seeking process also in human beings, unfortunately. There's a need for newness, novelty. And this need for newness and novelty can lead to issues like changing partners which also mean, keep on taking – every time there is a vital interchange, you keep taking a truckload of issues which the other person has. So it's not just an exchange of bodily fluids, but many other aspects.
So this emphasis in certain religions and traditions on one partner – this is the basis. It's not about morality, but a very purely... knowledge of how our inner commerce takes place, our inner thing operates. And this knowledge means that even in many other interchanges, where there's not a frank sexual intercourse, there could be an interchange of material. So one has to be cautious and careful.
If we read some of the letters, the early days in the Ashram, somebody would ask, “When this lady passed by my side, we shook hands and she smiled at me, I felt the sexual impulse rise.” In traditional yogas they would say: shun the woman. If you read Swami Shivananda you'll be frightened. He has a whole book on Brahmacharya. So if you read it you'll feel, “my God, it is an impossibility”. And he says, and many of these yogis admit, that it's universal. It's not that anybody is exempt from this. We can put a cover, nice coating, etc., which makes it worse – because then we suffer from guilt, shame, and other things. So all these have no place in what we are discussing. (Though we'll touch upon that.) But simply because of the law of vital interchange, the vital commerce that takes place.
Sex and yoga
So, now, apart from these, there is what Sri Aurobindo told in the later part – '49, '50 he has written his writings on the supramental manifestation. In which case he speaks of the difficulties that will come in the way of the supramental manifestation. And he says that the difficulty is dual: corporeal and psychological. And then he speaks about the corporeal difficulties; it's a very beautiful passage, where he talks – in a very short, brief passage, he gives in a nutshell what has to be done, the whole process. (Though he has described it in detail elsewhere, also.)
So he says the difficulty – corporeal difficulty – comes from two elements. One is the sexual; and the other is food. Because essentially, through food also we take a truckload of inconscience, because everything we take – either we take minerals, or plant, or animals, and we do take in our own share of inconscience. And of course, sex. And then he says the problem with sex is there is a divine principle behind, that supports it. So it's not so simple to just get rid of the sexual impulse – or rather the attraction – because there's a divine principle.
When Mother was asked, “What is this divine principle behind the attraction of a man to a woman?” She said, the relation between Purusha and Prakriti. Now there's a divine principle, if we see Ishwara and Ishwari – the two coming together – there is a truth behind it. While it is true that the soul is neither masculine nor feminine. And one has to live in that state of consciousness, very beautifully exemplified by a story. And this story will show to what extent the difficulty has been faced by the ancient yogis.
- So the story goes that once, Vyasa and his son Shukadev are crossing the river. Now Vyasa is a great seer (he has composed the Mahabarata, the Puranas, and many religious things). He had the capacity to have trikaldrishti. So when he is going on the bridge, there were many ladies who were taking a bath there. And the moment he steps onto the bridge, and come into their purview, they adjust their clothes and make some gesture that they don't want to be seen. And Vyasa walks. And when Shukadev (his son) goes, they just continue bathing, as it is. So Vyasa is very perplexed: “How come, I am so careful, I do not let any thoughts of sex enter into my mind anywhere; I have done with it long back. How come that in my presence they were uncomfortable, but very comfortable when Shukadev is walking – they don't mind bathing just as they are?” And then they say that look, you have expelled it from all other parts, but it is still there in the subconscient nature. And therefore the women feel it, and therefore they are very sensitive. (Whereas Shukadev, he doesn't feel anything about it! – for him, there is no difference between a man and a woman; he lives in that consciousness.)
So we don't feel anything about it. So you see to what extent it can go. In a great seer like that. And we have legion stories in our own scriptures, in Indian scriptures. I mean, __ had children; many of these yogis had children. Vishvamitra several times went up and down the way. But the difference is – what really makes a difference – is whereas these yogis (we come to the full mastery later), if they fell, they got up again and bounced back.
After a fall: “Get up, brush your pants, start walking!”
In Sri Aurobindo's letter – there's a very nice little letter to Nirod-da. [Nirod] says, “You know, I fell again...” (maybe something else), and he says he feels bad, “I am unfit”; these thoughts come to many people in Yoga. Even after many years. Champaklalji after twelve years writes to Sri Aurobindo, “Are you sure I am fit for this Yoga?” Can you imagine?
So Sri Aurobindo says, “All right, what is to be done? Get up, brush your pants, start walking!” So don't start lamenting; things like guilt, shame, have no place in Yoga. They sap away the energy. Despair, depression... but what happens is, after a sexual relation – or even after self-abuse – suddenly there's a whole door that opens, because there's a fall into the inconscient state. After that immediate pleasure, there is a state of torpor.
Now in that state of torpor – for a normal person it doesn't matter. Because we live in torpor (!). But the moment we begin to become more and more conscious – I mean, those who are conscious of their nights know it very well: that after any sexual relation, the whole night becomes a very different night. Otherwise one can remain conscious throughout the night. And one sees the difference. So the first challenge is, the moment there is a state of torpor, the gate opens to all kinds of things. So one can get up in an irritable state; doubts can come in; there can be feelings of depression, despair, guilt – not because that is something divinely ordained. The Divine would not want us to experience these things. He would want us to wake up and start the process again: sit down and meditate. That's it; that's how the yogis of old have gone.
Vishvamitra did not lament that, “Ah, I have fallen because Menaka came into my life.” Vishvamitra went ahead with his life, and gave the “Gayatri Mantra”, and is regarded as such a great rishi.
So one of the first things is to dissociate these mental things which have come up – partly because of society and morality – about sexuality. It'll make it easier to handle. And indeed it happens; over a period of time, all these issues go up, go away; and we know that it is the process, and we come out of it much faster. Sri Aurobindo says, the ability to bounce back = much faster.
When one is progressing on the path
The second problem in sexuality, vis-a-vis Yoga, is those who begin to live in the higher centers (I am sure people would have experienced it) – that ordinarily, in the human sexual relationship, there is just a little joy or pleasure or whatever which is purely confined to the muladhara [chakra]. I am sure this experience many will relate. But, after one has made the ascension, then paradoxically it is not just the muladhara centers which get triggered: it's right from the top to the bottom. Some people experience it as an intense pleasure, because those higher centers come down. But the problem is that it's also a great fall, because one was dwelling in these centers which were very active. And there's a veiling of the consciousness, which one has to recover. And the more one develops, goes far into Yoga, the easier it is to recover. (You know, within a few hours – maybe within a few minutes, if one is... but usually within a few hours.) The more one is behind – I mean, one has still not taken largely on the path, is still not stabilized – the more time it takes.
Which means, the for a long, long part of the journey, the two go together. Sri Aurobindo was asked this question: “Is it possible to have self-realization even while having the sexual impulses?” He said, “Yes.” And the very interesting part is (some of us may be aware), there is a very famous letter of Eleanor [Lambert?]. I heard about her name; she was an American lady, fashion designer. And she writes a letter to Sri Aurobindo – people don't know the questions, but we know the answer. So in one of the letters she writes, “It's very strange, that when I was having sexual relations with my husband, I suddenly experienced the state of the Self. Did I really hallucinate? Is it true?” Sri Aurobindo says, “Yes, your experience is true.” “Why did it happen during this phase?” “Because you were in a state of entire self-giving.”
So even in that state (now, this is not the path recommended! Laughter), but it's possible to go very far. So one should not start struggling with the impulse in the beginning. Mother keeps telling about this: “Look, first accumulate the positive forces of Yoga: peace, light, love, gratitude – all this, one should develop before touching this part.” And repeatedly she cautions; she even cautions, “Well, ultimately it will drop away with the dropping away of the animality on the body.” So some people unnaturally put themselves in conflict with this part, leading to a lot of loss of time on the way.
Brahmacharya and the traditional stages of life
And when Sri Aurobindo was asked in the beginning, “Why are you not very keen on taking very young people into the yoga?” Usually the age group was late 20s, preferably early 30s, mid-30s. Standard age was mid-30s; there were very few exceptions of youngsters. They wanted to come, but not all were taken. And when Sri Aurobindo was asked, he said “because, although they are initially driven by something nice, the vital has not yet had its full play. So it will emerge, and there will be many conflicts in the nature, which they won't be able to handle in the Ashram setting.” Because it does not facilitate easily this kind of an urge. So it's better that they have the experience of life, know what things are, and then come.
So in ancient days, this was how the system worked. The first, initial phase was Brahmacharya. It's strange if you look at it, like: “why did they keep the first 25 years for the most difficult things?” Or the first student years. Normally when one takes the journey of Yoga, one thinks, “Oh, Brahmacharya is for later part.” Which is true in a way, that the true practice of Brahmacharya begins when one has already navigated much of the way.
The reason is, when children are there, they are very malleable. And it is a conducive environment – and this has something to do with education – for the first 18-20 years, though the impulses, the hormones, begin to rage – but if the environment is such, if they are having a lot of physical exercises, and there is in general a certain kind of discipline in the atmosphere... like in the Ashram, one reason why there is so much emphasis on physical exercises is simply because this impulse can be sublimated or channelized. Physical exercises, or poetry, music – they are some of the ways by which this impulse can be sublimated and channelized. Not conquered or mastered.
So for the initial, at least 15-20 years, one can lay a strong foundation of Brahmacharya. Then the rest of the life it becomes easy. So that was the ancient principle of education. Then one enters into grihastha, which means one has the experience of everything, including sexuality, children, everything else. Then one is ready for the next stages. So this was the logical process.
Now in Yoga also it operates in a way, only the stages are compressed. So generally an experience of life, outside; an experience with a partner, maybe having children, seeing through it all. It may be a short while; it's not necessary to go through the whole process. Intelligent people learn fast (!), and let us accept that we are all smart enough to understand things much faster: that ultimately, the joy that we are seeking does not come through any body. It comes only through the One, who alone is.
Retas into ojas
But it takes time; it takes certain experiences. If we forcibly try to put a cap over it, that has its own difficulties. When Sri Aurobindo was asked, “The problem is only in the physical intercourse. Why? Because there's a loss of seminal substance. There's a base to it.” So if we really see it, the seminal substance has (and something corresponding in the women) has two components to it. One is of course the reproductive cells. And a lot of energy of the body goes into the formation of the gametes. It's a fact. That's why – look at the power of it, that it can create a whole being. And there's another part which contains things like lecithin, phosophorus, etc., which nourishes the brain. So there's another part. So this loss of the seminal substance, or the fluids, that was regarded as very important; because if you conserve it, you can change it into retas and tejas and ojas and vidyut. This was the whole process.
And that's why the word used is ‘heat’. Being on ‘heat’. So if you conserve the sexual energy, there is a general heat in the body. If you conserve this heat, it goes and starts nourishing the brain-power. Many people who have conserved it, they know what a brilliant memory they can have. Men like Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo – amazing memory.
By the way there's a small little anecdote of Sri Aurobindo, which is not commonly published. When somebody asked him, “Is it possible to experience Brahmacharya in married life?” And Sri Aurobindo says, “Yes, of course.” He was well-married, once. And he says, “I am aware of it. It is possible to experience Brahmacharya in married life.” (That's a rare thing, you know. By and large, it's not so easy.)
Not repression but saṁyama
So, someone asked Sri Aurobindo, “It's only about the physical part, otherwise it's ok?” Sri Aurobindo said, “No.” Even if you think and contemplate on sexuality, the energy loss takes place. Physical is the final act. So it's not as simple as ‘I refrain from the physical act.’ In fact sometimes, if we refrain from the physical act, and keep all the energy inside, and put a cap with shame and guilt – then it can lead to certain kind of disorders, which is also well known, both in medical science and yogic science.
I have personally seen a few, where people who put a cap over it end up seeing sexuality in everyone. So I sometimes say, a bit jokingly, that “We come here to see the Divine in everyone, but we end up seeing only hostile beings and sexual people in everyone!” Because whatever we have suppressed inside, that gets projected into others. So self-righteousness, shame and guilt are certainly not the way, not the way, not the way. That part is very clear. In fact, they are a danger. Probably more dangerous than simply going through a normal life and then emerging out at some point of time. As I said, many experiences can come on the way, do come on the way, even while sexual process is going on.
But what do we do during this period? Sri Aurobindo advises saṁyama. ‘Saṁyama’ means irregulation. Don't let it be just like an animal thing. So in his essay he talks about that, again. He says there is a divine principle behind it; therefore, complete rejection of the sexual impulse was not possible. So what do we do? He says of course all animal ways of sexuality, the cruder elements, have to vanish from it. That he says very clearly and categorically. So all animal things in sexuality: the will to possess, the will to force oneself. And it's coming in a big way in society itself. So... there has to be a higher and higher element which must come and take hold of the sexual acts.
Very interestingly, in India, the celebrated land of Kama Sutra also... (among many things)... Kama Sutra, if you read through it – I don't know if somebody has read it – it's a very interesting scripture. And it was written by a sage – the sage Vatsya – and he's done a very interesting study. Now, people talk about Kama Sutra and say that “Kama Sutra is about sexual postures.” No. If you really see it thoroughly, you will see that each posture is also simultaneously a kind of asana that is being done. More importantly, Kama Sutra emphasizes very little, very little on the actual process; a lot more elaborately on the (what in psychology would be termed as) a preparation for sexuality. And the preparation is such, you almost feel that he is lifting it up to some heavenly height (!). “Take a bath in this kind of water,” “Apply sandal paste and perfumes....” It's almost a way to sublimate sexuality to an almost godlike level.
Of course, there were limitations. And the main thing is saṁyama. And Sri Aurobindo in one of his essays, “The Process of Evolution”, speaks about it. He says any tendency which wants to manifest in Nature has to go through a cycle. The same thing with illness – Mother said it has to go through a cycle. But you can shorten the cycle, or you can prolong it. That is in our hands. So once a tendency is manifested, it will go through.
Now applying a certain degree of reasonable restraint – that means, as far as possible, come out of self-abuse. As far as possible, stay with one partner. As far as possible (again, none of these for moral reasons), start giving more and more gaps. As far as possible, make an observation and study what are the triggers. Like boredom is a trigger. Definitely like if there is somebody jobless, there is laziness, sexual impulses rise very strongly. As far as possible, engage with physical activities. As far as possible, stay busy.
Then again, there are many other things. Reading of books which can really be uplifting to the thought and mental consciousness; spending time in satsang – all these are known things. Meditation. (Of course, true meditation. There's a very interesting story: somebody told Sri Aurobindo, “Oh, A. sits for so many hours in meditation! He meditates for hours – must be a very advanced sadhak!” And Sri Aurobindo says, “Yes, but he meditates on his wife.” So he could see through the mental world of humanity.)
In fact, in one place Nolini-da says that chastity is not a physical condition. He says that it's a condition of the mind. It has nothing to do with the physical condition; and that's why there are many stories in Indian context about this. Chastity was never like just having one partner and sleeping with that partner – it's a condition of the mind. And then he goes on to say, “If you see the mental atmosphere of people, everybody's promiscuous.” I mean, just imagine!
Even with things like homosexuality; Sri Aurobindo has written about anything. He says it's nothing to do – calling it ‘aberrant’ and all is again a moralistic way of thinking. But Sri Aurobindo says that first of all, it has always been there – it's just the society has put a taboo on it. The second part is that he says if you confine this impulse, don't let it be expressed in certain ways, normal and healthy ways... like for instance, prisoners. I know for sure when soldiers are fighting in forward areas, where they can't even look at a girl, and they are living together, huddled together (and even with recruitment centers), homosexuality is a very common thing. So wherever you repress this impulse, it takes other roots. All kinds of roots. Sometimes it can take very deviant roots.
So the approach towards mastering it must be very healthy. So then what is the process? He says – one method he gives is rejection. Of course it does not always succeed. But the very fact that one has put in a little effort, it helps. Because it lays the foundation of the future. Whereas if we immediately succumb, then you are giving into an impulse and forming a habit-pattern. So even if the rejection doesn't succeed, it's worthwhile practicing. And this rejection can apply at many levels: at the thought level, where it is relatively easier; at the physical level, the food one is eating, the habits, etc.
But more importantly (and that's where the Mother brings in the dimension) – if you read all the books on sexuality, this will be the culminating point. Read Shivananda; at the end, he will say, “You can try whatever you want – ultimately it is the grace of God, which can free you from this.” Now he was a great yogi (!) and he has given a great emphasis on Brahmacharya. Now Brahmacharya, particularly in physical transformation, is a must. Other experiences, one can have. But physical transformation cannot be without Brahmacharya. That's what Sri Aurobindo says.
So, he speaks about – Mother speaks about – ‘offering’. She says, “Keep offering.” And all kinds of things one can try (personally I can share this). I have tried ‘remembering the Mother’. Ok! I am in the middle of a process, I am offering to Mother: “Mother, please take care of this.” And suddenly you will see that it is a very different state altogether.
Now, each one tries his own way. There's no fixed way about these things. But one tries it. And one day, one succeeds. By constant offering and invocation of Grace, a time comes when one is out of it.
Now when one is out of it, one should be careful of the environing consciousness. Because sex is also in the environment. So it can just come back. And it needs just one small little door; because it is millions of years. It's not just human. And any little door opens – and that's why sometimes the rule of ‘vigilance’. Now vigilance again is not an external vigilance: “I'll close my eyes, I'll not look here, I'll not go to see a picture.” Vigilance is to become conscious of what is happening inside us. And be careful about that.
The true Tantra
Another thing I have found to be very, very beautiful and very instructive – you know, we talk about Tantra and sex, and things like that. And there's a left-hand Tantra where basically, both have to reach an exalted state – the partner and the person – and yet, they have to do everything except the final act. And this is a test given to the tantric disciples of the left-hand path. I know it for sure; I know one tantric Siddhar of the left-hand path. And if the disciple couldn't control himself, he would say: “You are unfit; never again come to me.” But that's a dangerous way. Sri Aurobindo doesn't suggest us (!) about these things. But they attempted some kind of bold path.
But the right way is to keep on offering; and a time comes when it becomes weaker and weaker. Then with regard to the environing consciousness, again I read a very interesting statement by Swami Vivekananda. And I just love it, because I feel it's the simplest thing to follow in life. (Especially for us, because we are children of Divine Mother, and we love her.) So he says, “What is true Tantra? True Tantra is to see the Divine Mother in all women.” I have never found a more powerful – and of course a daring – Tantra Sar.
Sri Aurobindo has translated this part of the Tantra Sar into English, where he says: “O Devi, I worship you. O woman, I worship you as a Devi.” Meaning thereby: regardless of who the woman is – she's your partner, she's outside you, she's in your immediate... – worship her as a goddess.
Now this very fact of treating women – in fact that's the exact sentence of Swami Vivekananda: “Worship all women as goddess, that is the true Tantra.”
Sri Aurobindo says – of course he says ‘that is one part of it’. He has translated this part of Tantra Sar. But he says you have to see the Divine Mother in all – obviously you can't deprive men also, of [being seen as] portions of the Divine Mother (!). But this is a very, very magic remedy. It takes time; but to fix the mind on looking at anyone and everyone, that the person is none else but the Divine Mother. Some power aspect of her.
”The strongest girl and the sweetest boy”
Now, again, there's no instant remedy. But definitely over a period of time, through various ways, another thing which I have found very useful (and maybe with that we can end and open it to questions, or answers – because I can't say there are any quick answers to this). It is, which I feel very tacitly has been done as an experiment – without calling it like that – in the Ashram context. Because lust is ultimately a degradation of love. I really believe that true love can actually be a cure for it. So true love means: love without expectation. To love divinely; to love without the least bit of demand, even seeking for pleasure. And I suppose a time will come when humanity will be able to love like that.
Sri Aurobindo says in one of his aphorisms: when the strongest girl in the crowd, and the sweetest boy, they can come together – that is the sign of a new age.
- “476. When will the world change into the model of heaven? When all mankind becomes boys & girls together with God revealed as Krishna & Kali, the happiest boy & strongest girl of the crowd, playing together in the gardens of Paradise. The Semitic Eden was well enough, but Adam & Eve were too grown up and its God himself too old & stern & solemn for the offer of the Serpent to be resisted.”
So it will happen one day. True love will conquer over lust. Which also means true love will conquer over death. Because lust is one of the doorways towards death; Mother goes on to say that “each sexual act is a step towards death.” And that's why we see in Savitri, paradoxically: it's a story of Love, and the opponent is Death. And ultimately she masters. But after that mastery, she doesn't leave Satyavan. She says: “Our bodies need each other [to the] last”
So there is a truth, where he has already revealed to us – there's a truth of the relationship. So he is not asking us to shun relationship. He is telling us: make it pure, make it more beautiful, make it healthy, make it around the common aspiration. Don't let it remain vital, stuck in the vital mud and the mire. And one day – man may not be ready today, but surely a time will come, when there will be relationship like that.
Love in the Ashram
In the Ashram context, whenever there was a vital involvement, Mother and Sri Aurobindo would immediately discourage it. But wherever there was true friendship and true love, they would never discourage it. In fact, some of the old sadhikas – one of them was telling me, “Whenever we would tell Mother, ‘Mother, I feel love for this person, what should I do?’” And the sadhika was telling me very beautifully, she said: “Never repress the energy of love. Never repress the energy of love.”
Another sadhika, who fell in love with a person who was already in a relationship with another woman – she said, “Now I am caught up. What should I do?” She said: “Your love is psychic in nature. You may continue.”
And these are direct – both of them, the people themselves have told this to me.
So why I'm saying is, love should not be confused with lust. We – at least in India there's a tendency to club the two together. So if you're moving around, if the man and the woman are moving around together, they are the most fallen of all people – because obviously they are in lust. It's not necessary. It's possible to love without lust. And I think it's the most beautiful kind of love that can ever be experienced; and it can become actually a support, and not a hindrance, to sadhana.
This is not a ‘sanction’, as Sri Aurobindo would say, for ‘searching for a soul-mate’. Soul-mates, one cannot find by searching. It's one in 50 or one in 100 cases, one may find somebody who is meant to be the actual partner. But one should not be searching for a soul-mate; the search is for the Divine. And in the process, we have to go through many experiences of life, in which sexual relationship, vital relationship, mental companionship, psychic love, and ultimately, in some future time, spiritual love will flower upon earth in human bodies.
I think I'd like to stop with that. If there's anything anyone would like to share, add, substract, question – most welcome.
Q & A
Love and sex in Sri Aurobindo's poetry
- You mentioned this quote of Sri Aurobindo, when he said that he experienced Brahmacharya even when he was married. Yet in some of his poems, and even in Savitri, you really feel like he is describing lovemaking.
Everything except the final act. That's what. So in Savitri, when you see that act of marriage, you see – I mean, leaving aside the symbol part (there's a symbolic way of looking at it) – but I take it that Sri Aurobindo is Sri Aurobindo. He is using symbol and the real, and bringing them together. So I don't believe we should take it only symbolically. If you see the love of Savitri and Satyavan – what magnificent love. That's why I ended up with this note. That there's a possibility for human love. Where he's describing how she feels emotionally, ‘a flutter in the heart’, she makes him all her world. And he makes her all, all, completely his. There's an utter self-giving; there's an utter fusion of the two. There is together following on the same beautiful path, towards... they're born for a work, and they must do together the work. But that's where it ends.
In ignorance, he talks about, love seeking a sign. Where he says “The warm inadequate signs that love must use”. “[L]imb cries for answering limb”. So even it goes to that. But he doesn't bring into the actual relation.
Now another place where he brings in that aspect of love, where Savitri tells Satyavan, “give me more of your kisses, more of your embraces. I thirst for more...” That's when – that's in the beginning of the Book of Yoga.
Savitri, Book VII, Canto I:
“The Joy of Union; the Ordeal of the Foreknowledge
of Death and the Heart's Grief and Pain”
- Her passion catching at the fugitive hours
- Willed the expense of centuries in one day
- Of prodigal love and the surf of ecstasy;
- Or else she strove even in mortal time
- To build a little room for timelessness
- By the deep union of two human lives,
- Her soul secluded shut into his soul.
- After all was given she demanded still;
- Even by his strong embrace unsatisfied,
- She longed to cry, “O tender Satyavan,
- O lover of my soul, give more, give more
- Of love while yet thou canst, to her thou lov’st.
- Imprint thyself for every nerve to keep
- That thrills to thee the message of my heart. (p.471)
Now interestingly if you see, there, Sri Aurobindo describes how Savitri is completely identified with the human consciousness. Because this suffering, this pain. So at one level, it liberates us – that there's no scope of guilt. But what she does with it: she doesn't either remain there as an indulgent woman, who is crying and craving, or as an indulgent partner. (Of course he didn't know, poor fellow. I mean, good for him! Good for him – she has won the battle for him.)
So she doesn't remain there. Then comes the next step. She says, “What shall I do? Because my heart is craving for more, it's crying for more, but it won't get more.” Isn't that the truth of our human relationship in the vital level?
Then she takes the path of transmuting it. And that's where she transmutes the energy of lust into the energy of love.
So when Death says it's a craving of the flesh, she tells that “My love is not a craving of the flesh”, “My love is not a hunger of the heart”. And then, because she has transmuted it, there is a possibility for love to become divinized, and inhabit upon earth.
So definitely Sri Aurobindo didn't make it a taboo subject. Savitri, the most important work, speaks about it – absolutely right. But it also speaks about the transmutation of love, from the animal to the divine state, passing through a phase of humanity. Savitri's love is never shown as animal love, but a human love, where everything is involved. And then it transcends to the Divine.
What Mother said about marriages in Auroville
So I think it's important to remember that, as Mother said, “Man has one leg in animality and the other in humanity. At the same time he is a candidate for divinity.” Sometimes we think being in animality can lead to divinity. You have to go through the human phase. And that's why in Auroville, where she talked about that marriages are no more necessary – they've become redundant as an institution, dated.
She also gave this message which nowadays we keep as ‘on marriage’, but it was not given for marriage – it was given for relationship. It was given primarily... when she gave this message to Auroville that marriage is not necessary, she said, “Bring it back. They will misunderstand.” (I mean obviously we will say, “Ah, wonderful! We can have free sex with anyone!”) So she cautions, speaks about what it means to be in relationship. There she says, “To unite your body; to unite your senses; to unite your feelings; to unite your interests; to unite your mental occupations...” And then she says, “In the center, there's a fire of aspiration. You must unite around that, and walk the same path, at the same pace, together towards the same goal. That is the secret of a lasting union.”
At the same time, she did not condemn or ridicule anybody if they went through many experiences. There's a very clear passage in the Agenda where there's a man who flirts around, and people say, “Oh, Mother, you are talking to him? He is a very bad man.” Usual, typical, you know... and Mother says, “Oh, I find him very good. He has gone through illusions – people go through it.” So casually she said.
Another instance where people started shunning a woman because she started living with a man. (Now I'm talking of Ashram – those days. Imagine!) So, she started suddenly living with a man, and people who used to respect her a lot, suddenly started shunning. So Mother says, “When these things happen outside, I can understand; but when this happens here, I am shocked.” What is she shocked about? Not about the woman living with the man! – but about people's reaction. And then she says, those who are still living in this social mindset, they're not ready to even take the first step onto the path of Yoga. These are her words. You can find it; it's there in Collected Works. “They're not ready even to take...”
So it's not about society, it's not about morality, it's not about conventions, it's not about religion. But it's about the science of spirituality, where sex brings in its quota of excitement, and fall, pleasure... which is okay, but is not okay if one wants to take the further ascent.
And if one has acended, it means touching base again and again – which also the Divine uses. There's a line in Savitri:
- This too the supreme Diplomat can use,
- He makes our fall a means for greater rise. (p.34)
And he describes it how for... then what happens, the higher self comes into the dusky fields of the subconscient darkness. And there, “curtained by the darkness, does his work” (p.35). This is also a fact of experience. But having said that, at some point we have to change the basis of relationship – human relationship – from an animal to a divine one. That should be the thrust of our evolution. And meanwhile many things will happen; we have to take it as experiences on the way.
Comment: Relationships can get people un-stuck
- I wanted just to add a comment from my psychotherapetic work over the years. Often, very often I see when I work with people, that people are very stuck in their patterns, where they escape from world to their little world, and whatever. And very often the main thing getting them out of there was a relationship, or a woman – yet often not even the healthy ones, but ones really confronting people with...
- Sometimes I'm actually wondering if the Divine is not working with these means as well.
Yes of course! I am in 200% agreement with you. Divine is free and he can use any means. And I myself have seen – though I don't speak about it, but... the reason is, people will take it as a sanction. So in Evening Talks for instance, when somebody asks Sri Aurobindo about this truth behind sex, he said, “Yes, there is a truth.” He said, “Why don't you tell us?” He said, “No, no, it's very dangerous if I tell you.” Because humanity will take it as a sanction. But I do agree that Divine is free; he works in the infinite freedom. And he can use anything, including a relationship, to suddenly bring us out of a pattern or a groove in which we are stuck, and shift us. I completely agree with you. And that is an experience one has, if one goes through life... it should not be seen with a ‘good and bad’ lens. That's a big difficulty. I think that's a big challenge. Because we still have the religious and moral ideas, which prevent any true mastery.
The Shiva lingam
- Can you say something about Shiva lingam? It's very common...
Yes. So, there are several kinds of understanding about it. I'll tell you – Shiva lingam. So if you see Shiva lingam, it's rooted in a way that there is a base, which is like a female genitalia. If you look at it. And there's a lingam, which is more like a male phallus. That's all. Many people have understood it as, “oh, it's about sexuality”. But actually it's about... (I personally believe – I mean leaving aside the tantrics, Shaivites, who used it as a tantric symbol – I just refer to it as the ‘left-hand Tantra’ which went down a path. Even Vaishnava Tantra took the left-hand path. But they took the path of loving all, at a human level, which easily degrades into all lust.) But the Shiva lingam, to my understanding, which Mother has also mentioned, is the union of the Divine with material Nature.
So, lingam is not the male phallus. Lingam is the Shiva extending himself above and below, in everything. And this is Prakriti, the most material nature, who receives.
Now, it happened that because that is a settled truth, there is something similar reproduced by nature – because it draws the idea from that, and produces in the physical plane, in the most material creations. Because there's a subtle truth there about it. But the truth is there – not vis-versa.
So, many of these psychoanalysts reverse the whole process, and say “oh, it's basically all about sexuality”. No. It's about a deeper truth. The Divine giving himself to Nature: literally penetrating. And Nature is receptive. So that's how the masculine and the feminine come in, the Purusha and the Prakriti come in. But to reproduce this truth at a human level, or at an animal level, nature has created forms which try to reproduce it. But obviously it's very clumsy, it's very distorted.
And Sri Aurobindo speaks of this experience of the divine consciousness penetrating material nature; and he has literally used the words kāmānanda and maithunānanda. Which are again misinterpreted; because maithun, as you know – maithun means, at a very crude level, it means self-abuse. But maithun also means ‘the union of two opposites’. So: the highest divine consciousness, touching matter and permeating it – penetrating it.
Literally if you see, the words – Mother doesn't use this word, but in one of her Prayers, she prays to the Divine consciousness: “Thou who permeatest, penetrates every cell of my body.”
Now, it's a very profound experience. If you have to reproduce it in some way, how do you do it? So, long back (because in India all kinds of experiments took place), they took that truth and gave it a symbolic form: the Shiva lingam. That's how I understand it. I know there are many other ways of looking at it. But it is consistent at least with our Yoga, where the highest consciousness entering into material nature. And Shiva and Parvati's relation is about that.
So if... nothing to add, substract? We can... Anything you would like to say or share?
The dangers of pornography
- You mentioned about pornography, that it is...
Yes. Pornography is dangerous. It's dangerous even for a normal... because, see, normal, healthy sexual relation is one thing. But the problem with pornography is that pornography finishes the emotional capacity to relate with a woman. You see, women... of course, pornography, women probably also look. But in a healthy sexual relationship, there should be an engagement of two personalities. One of the first things that we learnt as a psychiatrist (I am bringing in my profession), I was very happy: even standard textbooks mention that sex is not about physical intercourse, but it's about the coming together of two personalities. But in pornography, there is not personality involved. I mean it's purely about pleasure, through a form. So once you do it again and again, the mind – what is patterned upon the mind – is that relationship is about pleasure through a form. And that's one.
Second, because there's a free availability of women or men. So the second pattern that is imprinted is ‘novelty’. So very soon, one is fed up with one form.
Now, all these are perversion. This is not normal sexuality. Perversion in the sense... (maybe somebody will say, “Oh, no, it's not perversion, it's normal.”) But of course it's not natural. It's very unnatural.
The third is, because it gives you quick access. So you have no saṁyama. Any time you feel like having sex, there is an impulse, there is a possibility on the net (or even, in Parliament, people sit and watch pornography).
That's why I'm saying it's a disease. It's a disease.
Now we talk about pornography addiction. But it's a disease, if you look at it.
Then, the fourth thing... you know, as I said, during purely self-abuse practice, the big problem is that there are a lot of very elemental energies – what are called in India as bhutas (‘bhuta’, not ‘ghost’, but elemental energies which are in the environment). And they can easily take grip of the person. And they will start pushing. So the impulse becomes worse and worse – because they are there in the environment of a person.
And I think Mother notes about Maurice Magre who had visited (I am afraid my French pronunciation might not be right, please corret me): M-A-G-R-E. Magre, he had visited and met the Mother; he was a famous French writer. And he said, “I have seen people who indulge too much into sex, that there is a swarm of vital entities around them.” And Mother said, “I congratulate you – your observation is absolutely right.” And Mother narrates this in one of her talks, that he made a very correct observation. That there is a swarm of elemental energies.
Now what can these entities do? They can even create accidents. Because basically these are elemental energies; they don't care. They are just interested in their fun. So the problem with pornography is, that is is – apart from __ and __ – it is dangerous. Unlike healthy, normal sex with a partner. (Even if you have a few partners. Leaving aside the sexually-transmitted diseases, and so on.)
But what is the solution? I don't know, because pornography has invaded the world. Lots of money is now there; maximum money is in pornography. So money, sex, power – they are interconnected. What Sri Aurobindo said in The Mother – these are the three doors of fall: money, sex, and power. And in pornography we see all the three mixed together. I don't have a solution. Individual solutions okay; ideally, at some point, we will have to decide – like whether you want pollutants; like carbon dioxide, and people are having all these conferences on carbon emissions... we should ban it. The word ‘banning’ works. But at some point, you have to ban the psychological pollutants which are destroying the atmosphere.
That's my feeling; but when it'll happen, I don't know. Because it is a strong pollutant. And if you have an [internet] access, you don't have a solution. Because you can't blame children. They're very impulsive. 13-year-old or 14-year-old, you have given him a toy from which he can have instant pleasure. But at some point, I think the decision has to come at a very high level. Because otherwise it's a free streaming.
Okay, so I think we can close it. Thank you so much...
- Essays Divine and Human, p.446
- “The difficulty is that the vital has always been accustomed either to doing something or to something doing and when it is doing nothing or nothing is doing (or it seems like that on the surface), it gets bored and begins to feel and talk or to do nonsense.” (Letters on Yoga – III, p.424)
- Essays Divine and Human, p.463
- Ibid., p.490
- Savitri, p.719, “The Return to Earth”
- Ibid., p.471, “The Joy of Union; the Ordeal of the Foreknowledge of Death and the Heart's Grief and Pain”
- Ibid., p.398, “Satyavan”
- Ibid., p.612, “The Gospel of Death and the Vanity of the Ideal”
- Words of the Mother – II, p.272
- Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, p.340, 9 September 1926
- See Glossary to the Record of Yoga
- “You have perhaps read the books of Maurice Magre; there are some in the library. He describes this; he had come here, Maurice Magre, and we spoke and he told me that he had always noticed — he was highly sensitive — he had always noticed that people who have sexual desires are surrounded by a kind of small swarm of entities who are somewhat viscous and rather ugly and which torment them constantly, awakening desire in them. He said he had seen this around certain people. It was like being surrounded by a swarm of mosquitoes, yes! But it is more gross, and much uglier still, and it is viscous, it is horrible, and it turns round and round the person and gives him no peace, and it awakens in him the desire that has formed these entities and they batten on it. It is their food. This is absolutely true. His observation was quite correct. His vision was very true. It is like that.” (Questions and Answers 1954, p.279)
- “This is indeed one of the three forces — power, wealth, sex — that have the strongest attraction for the human ego and the Asura and are most generally misheld and misused by those who retain them. The seekers or keepers of wealth are more often possessed rather than its possessors; few escape entirely a certain distorting influence stamped on it by its long seizure and perversion by the Asura.” (The Mother, Chapter IV)