"It is not what you do that matters, but how you do it – with what attitude and aim. The spiritual effect that a seemingly spiritual activity brings, can also be had by the domestic pursuit, provided you preserve a spiritual attitude and dedication."

The Guiding force of Narayanashrama Tapovanam & Center for Inner Resources Development

Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

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A true human should not look to the indulgence in sex for giving him happiness. Indulgence, like a medicine, may be a need, but never a delight. It cannot be considered as a source of happiness either. It is the animals that derive joy from the sensory level, because, they can do no more than that. They have no powers to go beyond the sensory level, either in their actions or in their experiences. So, a sense-life is concomitant with their nature.

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Part 2 of the 5 Part Article Reproduced from the Monthly Magazine Vicharasethu June 1968

Don’t overvalue sex

So, what will be the ideal level or extent of sex indulgence for man is the theme to be considered. How long and how often is the indulgence to be continued, how to restrict it, what is the culmination of the sex-life, etc., are the points which every one must know.

The first factor which will help you to gain regulation over the sex instincts is the right understanding about their role in your life. By fostering the right understanding, you should remove from your mind any over-attachment or over-valuation you may have towards sex and sex-sensations. You should impress upon your mind the truth that the sex-instinct is just one among the so many instincts which have their place in our mind and body. As the so many other needs and urges, the sex needs too are natural, simply because they are present in us by the force of Nature.

A good number of the needs and urges, which possess us, inhere in the senses, which are altogether five—eye, ear, nose, tongue, and skin. Sex urge is the one which particularly hinges upon the skin, one of the senses. The skin has various needs of its own. For example, it likes to wear smooth dress, to lie on soft surfaces, etc. Contact with the opposite sex is also one such need of skin, more particularly of the reproductive organ. We cannot disregard this need. We should not try to stamp it as wrong, for it is born of Nature. Moreover, reproduction, which is an inevitable factor for the continuation of race, can be effected only through the indulgence in sex. So, as long as we do not find fault with the need and place of reproduction or that of the continuance of race in our life, we cannot also decry or devalue the role of sex. The Sastras do not therefore condemn the sex life altogether. They, on the other hand, speak of it as “natural” as a common need of the beings.

But the Śastras are very particular in laying down some ideals and restrictions for man in the matter of sex relations. The habit of man to deem the sex instincts as paramount in his life is too wrong, is ignoble. I think, man gets bound by the sex instincts mainly because he gives them an undue place and importance. He takes sex and sex life to be the “everything” of his life. The example of the silk worm is very striking in this respect. It appears the silk worm is very particular to build a cage, encasement, for it, and make it proof against all loopholes. So it weaves out a cage without even providing an outlet for it to go out and come in. And what happens? It meets its own death lying there! Man’s over-caring of the sex instincts also results in a similar fate. How many lose their health, wealth, prestige, talents, nay every valuable possession of theirs, by becoming prey to violent sex instincts! This is all due to a wrong in them, worked by the mind, in the first instance. Sometimes we have to pay or give the Devil. But, in doing so we have to be doubly careful. We should not give it more than just its due. Let the sex play its part in your life, but do not allow it to over-play, and thereby vitiate the entire drama of life. There are other roles too, which must get their places and chances. Therefore, no one role should be allowed to override the others. It is this wholesome vision, this even-minded attitude, that we must first cultivate with regard to sex. When that is done, I think the rest will follow quite easily, quite pleasantly.

Conform to Humanness

So, Śastras emphasize that the human life is not to be squandered away by pursuing the sex delights. A true human should not look to the indulgence in sex for giving him happiness. Indulgence, like a medicine, may be a need, but never a delight. It cannot be considered as a source of happiness either. It is the animals that derive joy from the sensory level, because, they can do no more than that. They have no powers to go beyond the sensory level, either in their actions or in their experiences. So, a sense-life is concomitant with their nature. But can it be so with we, the humans, in whom the higher powers manifest abundantly. These higher powers will be meaningful only when they make us superior to the animals in all walks of life. Naturally, our source of happiness must also be superior to that of the animals. We have thus to step out of the senses, ascend to the higher plane and get at happiness thereof. Why not do so, when it is possible and desirable?

Remember what we have already said: the human life is based more on the inner level, on the mind-intellect level, than on the body-sense level. The body and the senses should not do any more than sub-serve the mind and intellect. This truth must reign supreme in your consciousness. You should consider the question of sex also in this light. Once you do so, your attitude towards sex will change of itself. Instead of deeming it as an ideal, you will start viewing it just an item of need. You take a poisonous drug, only when attacked by some infection. The same must be the rule in resorting to sex indulgence also. You may wonder whether such a rule is ever practicable. Why not practicable, as long as you have got the mind, which you may tune to any line of thinking, and the intellect, which has the power to determine what is the ultimate good, the ultimate true and the ultimate noble. When once you employ the mind and intellect properly, advantageously, there will be no trouble in adopting the above rule with regard to your sex habits. It is all a question of whether you want to adopt the rule or not, whether you prefer to be wise, careful and considerate in your actions or not.

Once the change of attitude in the lines suggested above is brought about in your inside, it cannot but reflect in your outside. The process will be slow and gradual, that is all. And it should be so. Suddenness will only endanger your stability and progress.

Become by thinking:

Thus, I should say, every one must mould himself, must become himself, from the within, to the without, not vice versa. This is the secret of Jnaana abhyaasa. But many perhaps, do not know about this secret. Yaa mathih, saa gathih, says Ashtaavakra Muni to the King Janaka of old, at the very out-set of his discourse to the latter on the Science of Knowledge. The maxim means: As one thinks so he becomes. Man is moulded by his thoughts. The set lines of thinking, the ideals which we foster constantly, go to make our personality. It is they that enthuse our actions at every stage. So, what you should do is to think rightly, in a way that will yield you beneficial and monumental results. Thereafter, become that thinking. For that, you have to follow up the thinking in the action level in all earnestness. This is the method of Jnana or Jnaana-saadhana.

It is the ignorance on the part of the people about the true nature of Jnaana-saadhana that turns them away from it. What Bhagavadgeeta says about Jnaana-abhyaasa is even more reassuring. It says: Na hi jnaanena sadriśam pavitramiha vidyate. Meaning: In this world, there is no greater purifying force than Jnaana, Jnaana-abhyaasa. There is a great meaning in this.

So, it is the right knowledge about a thing, be it a practice, action or attitude—that makes you attached to, or detached from, it. The process of reaction is one that takes place from within to without, not from the without to the within. So, in the matter of sex and its indulgence, what you should aim at is this: First of all, understand its worth and place, and then give it that, only that. In other words, choose your ideal, make your evaluation. first of all. Then remember that ideal at every step and turn. Try to cling to it steadfastly. Choosing is the internal activity, the exerting of the mind and intellect. Trying to cling to it is the external one, the exerting of the body and the senses. But make no mistake: the process is from the mental level to the bodily level, from the inner to the outer. Once you adhere to this rule, success of your effort will be sure, will be easier, quicker and pleasanter.

The place of asans:

There are some persons, who, I know, who do not have the required respect and faith towards the Jnaana-abhyaasa described above. They will not, therefore, be ready to try the abhyaasa. Their under-development makes them believe that the physical measures are more effective than the mental. So, for achieving celibacy too, they want to resort to the bodily measures, exercises. That is, they want to make their efforts from the bodily level to the mental level. It is for such persons that disciplines like asana, praanayaama, mudra, etc. are prescribed. These disciplines are very effective, no doubt, when rigorously practiced. Badraasana, Agnisaarakriya, Sarvaangaasana, etc. are particularly helpful for restraining and sublimating the sex instincts, gain control over the indulging habit. Let the less evolved souls take to them. But, I must say that unless a simultaneous effort for refining and sublimating the instincts in their source of origin, that is the mental level, is made, the outcome may be bad. It will be like a healthy head over an emaciated body or a healthy head over a stout body. Also like a powerful river when suddenly obstructed, their physical restraints may give rise to a violent outburst sooner or later. And at that time, it may not be possible to bridge it either. So, the safe course is to handle the mind and body with equal care and at the same time. Even for those, who resort to the jnaana-abhyasa, it will be advantageous to practice some asanaas as a reinforcement. The point to be remembered is that if our efforts, whatever be their purpose, are to be successful, they have to be based on the mental and physical sides alike, of our being. Neither of these sides should be cared to the exclusion of the other.

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