Because today's society does not properly understand the difference between love and sex, many of us do not acknowledge the importance of the soul in male-female relationships. Promiscuity is widespread. As we have seen, many leaders are losing influence and power because of poor control of their sexual energy. Families, the basic building blocks of a nation, are unstable and crumbling. Countless unwanted children are born every day.
Sexuality is a powerful life force that is neither inherently good nor bad. Like a knife, its value depends upon how it is used. A doctor can use a knife to save someone's life, or a criminal can use the same knife to kill. The difference lies in the consciousness of the person handling the knife. Similarly, sexuality has two polarities. Sexual activity can be a vehicle for gross abuse, exploitation and lust. In such circumstances, sex becomes a matter of selfishness. On the other hand, if the sexual act is an exchange of love, it becomes divine. When we engage in sexual activity in order to express our love, we are acting selflessly.
Importance of Deep Relationships
Society is in desperate need of deep, loving relationships-far deeper and more loving than are the norm today. We are too distracted by sexual stimulation, viewing each other primarily as sex machines and thereby losing access to a more meaningful and fulfilling level of contact. In most cases, what we normally call love is an arrangement to get some egocentric gratification. Remember, most people have not experienced genuine love. In fact, many of us have been unable to accept expressions of love from anyone-whether parent, friend or spouse-without wondering about that person's ulterior motives. We have not experienced selfless and unconditional love, and we surely have not found love through sex.
Men and women must become more sophisticated about relationships. This does not necessarily mean that they should abstain from sex. But instead of grasping at fleeting pleasures, they should learn the meaning of commitment and seek to develop strong, enduring, caring connections with each other.
Beauty Comes from the Soul
This society dedicates an inordinate amount of energy to beautifying the body to attract members of the opposite sex. However, it is the soul, not the body, that is the source of our beauty and attractiveness to others. Because God is beautiful, the more we become godly and divine, the more our natural beauty radiates. Sometimes we forget this truth and maintain our relationships at a mere physical level.
But men and women can develop deeper connections with one another. Beyond the physical dimension, women often fall in love and interact with men from the heart, while men frequently relate from the mind. Because of these differences, they often do not understand each other well. Yet there is a still deeper level of relating where these differences dissolve in the radiant energy of the soul. This is when sexuality can become a powerful, constructive force.
Sex Is Sacred
Sex is healthy and natural, and fulfills a divine function. In its highest form of expression, a sexual relationship means that a man and woman come together in order to serve God, creating an environment for a new soul to enter this material realm and develop its relationship with Him. When we genuinely view sex as a sacred trust and service, it becomes a spiritual act.
On the other hand, when we consider relationships from a superficial perspective, indulging ourselves in "one-night stands," we are accepting a materialistic, selfish view of human life. A more spiritual cosmology sees human beings as part of a larger community in which each person plays a responsible role. A man who simply impregnates a woman and abandons her is not even demonstrating personal responsibility, much less social responsibility or spiritual understanding. To be socially responsible, a person must be concerned about the welfare of the entire community.
Nowadays many of us engage in sex so frequently that our sexual vitality has become weak, and many relationships are even failing physically because people can not satisfy each other. An enormous amount of energy is required to produce semen. Considering that most men waste this precious resource, it is no wonder that we are becoming so incompetent as a society. Our memories are becoming dull and our ability to fulfill each other on all levels is deteriorating. We are becoming increasingly mechanical in our activities, unable to appreciate deeper levels of association, love or service.
The Power of Sexual Energy
Sexual energy is the most powerful energy we have. In order to grow spiritually, we must learn to master it. Despite this society's emphasis on sexual activity, underneath it all everyone simply wants to give and receive love, not lust. When we express our sexuality with love, we can raise our level of consciousness; but when we are under the sway of lust, sexuality can lower our consciousness. We can become divine beings or mindless beasts.
Our failure to understand the spiritual aspects of sexuality and procreation has become a serious problem. Gradually the planet is becoming overpopulated with lower-level beings, simply because people engage in sexual activity without being accountable. Self-centered persons who use others as pleasure units can not expect to give birth to selfless, compassionate, devoted souls. How can such unions produce anything divine? No highly evolved soul would be attracted to such a situation.
We must all be more thoughtful about our sexual conduct. We can easily become distracted by material comforts, and even by sex life itself, to the point that we forget about the importance of genuine love. We must learn to be more loving to one another and more skilled at developing strong, lasting relationships. An enduring relationship, in the form of a committed, loving marriage, provides an invaluable opportunity for a man and a woman to express their sexuality in a spiritual context.
Sexuality in Marriage
In a marriage, husbands and wives should view their partners as gifts from God. Spouses who think in this way, understanding that the Lord has entrusted someone to their care, will be careful to treat their partners in a nurturing manner that pleases the Lord. Marriages established and maintained on such a foundation are extremely loving and sweet, and the children of such a union grow up in a wonderfully supportive atmosphere.
When the couple does join in sexual union, both parties should want the encounter and consider it divine. The experience then becomes an inspiring, profound expression of love. Each time they come together, the man and woman should remember that the ultimate expression of sexuality is the birth of a child. For this reason, they should not use contraceptives or resort to abortion, because these are interferences with the sacred purpose of sexuality.
Contraception is not natural, although it is an accepted practice today. We must be careful not to confuse sociological considerations with spiritual ones. A man and a woman may not want to conceive a child because they lack the financial means to support a new family member, or because they do not feel psychologically ready. But these circumstances are different from the spiritual realities of the situation. Spiritually, when a man and a woman give themselves to each other in sexual union, they must be ready for the natural consequences. Their spiritual consciousness should take priority, guiding them to understand the use of contraceptives from a spiritual perspective rather than a material one.
The Science of Procreation
There is a science about sex life known to ancient civilizations that explains how and when to come together sexually. The consciousness of the man and the woman during the sexual act has a powerful influence on the soul that eventually comes into the world. People who engage in sex in a negative state of consciousness produce beings of lower consciousness.
Often today, people have sex under highly unfavorable circumstances-in the dark, while they are intoxicated, or with someone else's spouse. Sometimes the woman may not want to become pregnant, so that even if she does not have an abortion and ultimately gives birth to the baby, the soul of the unwanted child will not be of the highest caliber. Moreover, the baby may come into an environment where the parents neglect it. Such a soul enters this world in a state of crisis.
But if the partners are willing to accept the responsibility involved, and prepare themselves spiritually for the sexual encounter, their consciousness actually summons a higher soul who can make a positive contribution to the world. We must never forget that the child's future depends, to a greater extent than we may realize, upon the parents 'consciousness at the time of conception. A man and woman engaging in sexual activity are accepting a sacred trust.
A man and a woman who are ready to conceive a child should make special efforts to create a peaceful, spiritual environment before engaging in sex. They can chant, meditate, read spiritual literature and generally prepare their consciousness to welcome a highly evolved soul. Even during pregnancy, the future parents must create a healthy, loving, supportive atmosphere for their offspring. Remember, the soul begins its education as soon as it enters the womb. Modern science is just beginning to confirm this, discovering that the fetus is conscious and can learn while developing inside the mother. The sounds that it hears, the food the mother consumes, the atmosphere that surrounds the mother-all these factors and many others affect the child's consciousness long before it is born.
From what we have said up to this point, it must be apparent that the most natural situation in a marriage is for the husband and wife to engage in sexual activity only when they wish to conceive a child. This ensures that the partners are ready to be accountable and responsible for what they produce. Marriages should function as closely to this ideal as possible, but the spouses must always decide between themselves how totally they can observe such a sexual discipline.
Actually, a husband and wife who engage in sex life only for purposes of procreation are practicing a form of celibacy. In one sense, it is even greater celibacy than avoiding contact with the opposite sex altogether, because it can require stronger sense control. We should remember that the more we please the Lord by using the body, mind and intelligence in ways that He intended, the faster we can escape from the prison of this material world. On the other hand, if we continue to play the "body game," interfering with the body's natural functioning, then we will have to take repeated births until we can transcend our desire for material sense gratification.
How a Soul Chooses Its Circumstances
Although earlier we described the ways in which a soul seeking birth can try to select potential parents, the choice of birth circumstances is not just up to the future child. Both the child and the parents participate in deciding when and where the child will come into the world. The mentality of two specific parents attracts a certain type of soul and, conversely, a particular type of soul is drawn to certain parents.
Keep in mind that karma is quite exacting. For example, if someone robs a bank, it is by karmic arrangement that one particular bank is robbed rather than another. Also, karma dictates who will be in the bank at that particular time. All of these events are being minutely adjusted according to the karma of those involved.
You may ask, "Do you mean that it was my desire and my attitude that produced this deformed child?" Not necessarily. It may be that you need to experience such a situation as a parent for further spiritual growth. Or this particular child may require just such a deformity, and just such a parent as you, in order to progress to the next level of unfoldment. All of these circumstances are exactingly adjusted.
In addition to the efforts of the potential parents and child to choose the proper situation for an upcoming birth, there is another factor at work. The soul does not actually arrange for its situation in life directly. Ultimately, higher authorities working on behalf of the Lord create all of the relevant circumstances. These authorities establish physical traits-such as our nose, the color of our eyes, the color of our hair, or our body type-and environments-such as our siblings, our mother or our nationality. Working with what we might call the "karmic board," they ensure that everything is arranged in proper alignment for the soul taking birth. All these arrangements are part of the experience that the soul has chosen by being attracted to the consciousness of the parents.
Karma and Free Will
Remember, there are no accidents in the universe. God does not make mistakes and He is not unfair. The situations in which we find ourselves, including those with our mates as well as with our children, have arisen for specific reasons. We should learn to inquire into what these reasons might be, so that we may learn our lessons and take the appropriate actions.
Often, it may seem that we are being moved about like tiny pawns on a giant chessboard. But we still have free will, because everything is happening according to our desire. When we add together all the notions about what we want, taking into account the past as well as the present, we get an overall result that will determine the arrangements demigods and their agents need to make for us. In other words, the sum total of our desires determines our circumstances. That is why we must be careful about how we direct our energies. The universe offers us more of anything to which we give our concentrated attention.
We must accept responsibility for all the patterns in our lives, whether we are happy with them or not. Just like a customer in a restaurant, we may not like the way a particular soup tastes, but we still recognize that we ordered that soup and that we will have to pay for it. By being accountable, we can gain the power to make a change.
The Practice of Celibacy
Although sexuality, expressed in a regulated, spiritually oriented way, is appropriate for most people, important exceptions exist. Every culture has special spiritual practices that convey unusual powers. One of these practices is celibacy, which can help a person develop a strong, focused love for all living beings. Celibate individuals, instead of being limited to one relationship, are able to offer deep love and concern to anyone who comes into their environment.
The principle of celibacy lies at the inner core of many religions. The New Testament, in I Corinthians 7, teaches us that it is best to be celibate. However, this same chapter tells us that it is preferable to marry than to burn with desire. The whole idea behind celibacy is that we must feel a specific calling to this way of life, at which point we can learn from esoteric spiritual knowledge about its meaning and practice.
Many techniques are available to allow us to conserve sexual energy to further our spiritual advancement and service. For example, if one preserves the tremendous vital energy contained in even one drop of semen and channels it upward, this energy can elevate one's consciousness. However, a word of caution: men and women should have a specific "calling" to a celibate way of life before engaging in any such practices. In addition, they should be careful not to practice celibacy in isolation, without loving associations. If they are going to exist without an immediate partner, they must learn to see everyone as their family and surround themselves with loving relationships.
Actually, celibacy is quite rare, and we do not recommend it for most people. As a general rule, society requires strong, God-conscious families, which is why most people should marry and raise healthy children instead of practicing celibacy. But everyone should understand that certain individuals choose a celibate lifestyle in order to develop superhuman powers to serve others in a most dedicated, loving way.
At the same time, we must remember that our culture overemphasizes the role of sexuality and that love does not necessarily begin or end with sexual intercourse. This does not mean that sex can not be part of a loving relationship between husband and wife. It is a matter of maintaining a healthy balance between sexual expression and other aspects of life. The important point is that people should not miss the experience of higher love because they are focusing only on the physical body.
In the presence of celibate persons, we often experience intense levels of vitality and love. Genuinely celibate people have an aura around them, because they have powerful energies of selfless compassion that they freely share with others. Priests in ancient Egypt and other early civilizations knew this fact quite well, and many practitioners in modern India still do. Their celibacy empowers them to accomplish amazing feats. Mahatma Gandhi was an example of this phenomenon; he derived much of his strength from his celibacy.
Paradoxically, many celibate individuals are extremely attractive to members of the opposite sex. This is because of the powerful love such people can radiate. There is nothing wrong with this; attraction is natural between the sexes. But the celibate person's responsibility is to be completely unselfish and totally concerned about others.
Celibacy Is Not Denial
When properly understood and practiced, celibacy is not a matter of self-denial. It is a question of love. Individuals who become celibate in order to dedicate their energies to God's service do not experience celibacy as a sacrifice. Their sexual energy transforms itself into selfless compassion and devotion, which they distribute widely to everyone they encounter. They view themselves first and foremost as servants of God and society, always seeking to be channels for divine energies to heal, guide or encourage others.
Celibacy is appropriate only if we choose it freely. If we try to suppress our sexual desire without having focused it in a different direction, we may discover within ourselves a tremendous false ego, intense anger or tendencies to be surprisingly destructive. We must learn to redirect our sexual energy instead of denying its existence or hoping it will go away. False celibacy simply becomes another unnatural distortion of our sexuality, destroying our society even further.
Celibacy should never be a matter of running away from a condition we can not face. For example, some people deprive themselves of contact with members of the opposite sex because they are not able to cope with their own sexuality. The remedy to this situation is greater self-knowledge, not avoidance.
Nor should celibacy be dictated from outside. When it is, we can develop strange, unnatural behaviors. From a practical perspective, it is easy to understand why certain religious institutions impose the practice of celibacy upon its priests. Those in positions of leadership can easily exploit the opposite sex. Without some form of restraint, a priest in frequent contact with women about confidential matters could easily succumb to sexual temptation. But unfortunately, when celibacy is externally imposed, many priests often long for sexual contact and find illicit ways to fulfill their desires.
Every action is linked to our wish for pleasure, and our desire for pleasure originates with our sexual energy. When we are not highly attuned, we seek fulfillment in the form of exploitation and selfish gratification. Therefore, if we lack the genuine desire to be celibate-which can be the case, for example, if others impose celibacy upon us, if we are impotent or if we are afraid to express our sexuality-the practice of celibacy can be harmful. We will only experience frustration and anger, because we are depriving ourselves of pleasures that we deeply long for. By forcing ourselves to be celibate in such circumstances, we may be doing violence to ourselves and, ultimately, to others. We are not experiencing a "higher taste," but merely causing more suffering in the world.
Renunciation Takes Various Forms
True celibacy, then, is a form of renunciation in favor of a higher good. Instead of being a matter of denial or avoidance, renunciation is a question of how available we make ourselves for God's service. For each person, renunciation can take a different form suited to that individual's particular development. For example, those accustomed to the bustle of outer activity may find that renunciation requires them to withdraw and do less.
But for those attached to being alone, renunciation might mean taking on more external involvements, activities and relationships. The love of solitude may be a form of sense gratification, which is a weakness. Interactions with others may reveal that they are not nearly as detached from the world as they would like to think, because their ascetic lifestyle has become a buffer to protect them from genuine engagement in life.
Many yogis who engage in their meditation under a tree, in a cave or in the mountains would fall apart if they had to maintain daily contact with other people. In addition, we have all heard of swamis or gurus who, after spending years in the Himalayas, started making teaching tours to Europe or America, where they eventually fell from their exalted position and succumbed to temptation.
The real test of renunciation comes as we encounter various situations in daily life. Renunciation means a genuine commitment to serve the Lord rather than ourselves in all circumstances. We must see ourselves as caretakers for the Lord rather than proprietors of anyone or anything. However, renunciation does not mean being impersonal or indifferent to relationships. On the contrary, it actually means being more caring, attentive, sharing, aware and protective-not because we are attached to our own fulfillment, but because we are making an offering to the Lord. What we are renouncing is the ascendancy of the false ego, which keeps us imprisoned in this material world.
Celibacy in Marriage
Celibacy is not just for priests and other religious leaders. Earlier we mentioned that engaging in marital sex only for purposes of procreation could be considered a form of celibacy. In the form of complete abstinence from sexual activity for a period of time, celibacy can play another important role in marriage. Sometimes relationships can become difficult because the people see each other only on the physical level. In such circumstances there may be advantages to completely abstaining from any form of sexual activity.
For example, a couple could mutually agree to be celibate for five or six months in order to give themselves the space to experience each other in a different way. A break from their usual sexual routine may give them the opportunity to deepen and strengthen other aspects of their relationship. Eventually, they may find that many of their problems resolve themselves with very little deliberate effort.
Placing Material Life in Perspective
Ultimately, each of us must learn to be free by mastering our senses and desires within the constraints imposed by these physical bodies in this material world. Whether we are celibate or sexually active, we should always connect with something higher that will guide us, protect us, enliven us and give us a sense of security. The ancient Vedic teachings remind us, as do many other traditions, that all material and spiritual worlds originate in God. Therefore, if we try to please the Lord, we are automatically in touch with the nucleus of everything. Then whatever we need will come to us naturally.
Unfortunately, most of us ignore this fact and head in the wrong direction. Instead of improving our relationship with the Lord, we spend most of our time trying to satisfy our lower desires. Sexuality, if misunderstood, can be a trap to keep us ensnared in the material world. Certainly we must pay attention to the body in order to function effectively. But if our priorities are sense gratification and self-satisfaction above all else, we will have to keep returning to the physical world to play the sensual and material games over and over again. On the other hand, if spiritual life is our commitment, then our experiences in this world will not be ends in themselves, but will be signposts pointing the way back home to God.
Questions and Answers
Question: I have been practicing celibacy for about two years. At first I forced myself, and I struggled for a while. But now I am grateful, because I know who I am. I'm in a position now to draw a person to me I really like, because I see relationships from a spiritual point of view. But what about a married person who has satisfied the need for children? Is it natural for that person not to have sexual desire?
Answer: It is wonderful that you have been able to practice celibacy and learn so much from it. As we just mentioned, celibacy can allow you to develop deeper relationships. Also, people do not realize that promiscuous sex actually causes you to age faster. Men expend a great amount of vital energy just to produce one drop of semen. Many years ago when Muhammad Ali was the world heavyweight champion, I made myself available to him as a consultant. He liked to introduce me as "Swami, my friend the celibate monk." Once, in appreciation of my vow of celibacy, he explained that his trainer always told him to abstain from sex for three or four months before he went into a major fight. Many athletes know that sexual activity can lower their resistance, their perceptiveness and their ability to function.
As for the level of sexual desire in marriage, it is generally different for men than for women. Although men may not want to admit it, a woman can be much more sexually powerful than a man. But at the same time, her sexuality is expressed in many different ways. For example, she can transform her sexual energy into love for her children, or into an affectionate relationship with her husband based on touching, holding hands or saying kind words. She is still expressing her sexual energy, but in other forms.
On the other hand, a man has a greater desire for the actual physical act. So a couple must engage in honest discussion and evaluation in order to work the situation out. Just keep in mind that losing one's drive for sexual activity is not unnatural; on the contrary, it can be healthy.
Question: I was having a discussion with a friend of mine who was talking about getting artificially inseminated. What are the consequences of artificial insemination?
Answer: There are many consequences. The major consequence is that the mother and child may have no idea of ??the connection between that particular sperm and the man who donated it-the child's biological father. What is it like to carry a child without having any idea who the father is? What is it like to have no chance of ever knowing your father? It is similar to adoption. We may adopt a child and not know who the mother or father is, yet the man and woman who actually conceived the child exert a powerful influence on that child's personality.
This is similar to the situation in modern medicine in which the recipient of a heart transplant, or of some other vital organ, often picks up distinct personality traits from the donor. These medical procedures are not as simple as most people think. The influence of the donor definitely exists.
If, knowing all these facts, we are ready to take the consequences of our decision, then artificial insemination may be all right. But we should be aware of the many ramifications.
Question: Is there any merit to the various spiritually oriented sexual practices that use the sexual act for yogic purposes to raise consciousness? Can these be morally acceptable in a situation without the anticipation of childbirth?
Answer: Many are familiar with Tantra and its science of controlling sexual energy to experience higher consciousness during the sex act itself. Unfortunately, these days, many people who practice Tantra are just engaging in illicit affairs under the label of spirituality. But serious practitioners realize that the essence of Tantra is to understand the value of the feminine and masculine polarities-the yin and the yang-and to realize the actual significance of the life force.
We must remember that the bona fide Tantric systems, which emphasize reaching superconsciousness through sexual union, are based on control of sexual energy, not promiscuous sexual expression. This simple fact indicates the power inherent in sexuality. Tantric sex is a highly regulated practice that confines the sexual energy for a certain period of time. In this restriction and channeling of sexual energy, Tantra is similar to celibacy.
We must also understand the difference between using sexual techniques to gain mystic power and engaging in sex as an expression of love and devotion. The left-handed sides of Tantra and witchcraft, and many other black arts, rely on practices opposed to spiritual alignment, frequently turning traditional spiritual knowledge upside down. These practices are derived from the knowledge that sexual energy in itself is neutral. When properly directed, it is a catalyst for love and ecstasy. But in its demonic form, sexual energy can express itself as promiscuity or be used to gain dominance over others. We are on dangerous ground if we want to harness sexual energy for the power it gives us rather than for love and procreation.
Earlier in our history, spiritual life was considered natural. Indeed, even today we do not have to know many deep laws and principles to be spiritual. We simply need to understand what is genuinely natural and base our behavior on that knowledge. Any attempt on our part to interfere with or reject the normal outcome of the sexual act means we are going against the order of the universe. We must be ready for the consequences of such actions.
áDedication | áForeword | áEditor's Preface | áAuthor's Preface | áChapter 1: Sex and the Leadership Crisis | áChapter 2: What Is Love? | áChapter 3: What Is Lust? | áChapter 7: Loving Our Neighbors | áChapter 8: The Practice of Compassion | áChapter 9: Love of God |