21. How to handle Kama, sex energy?
In the four purushardhas the third one is kama. It usually has below two meanings.
- It is a short form of ‘kamana’ which means desire to obtain an object or objective.
- It can also be the actual process of procreation, thus refers to sex.
In the chapter on ‘desire’ we have used the word ‘kama’ in reference to desire without sexual connotation. However in this chapter the word ‘kama’ is used in connection with sex.
Every creature wants to avoid death or live forever. But that is not possible. The nearest possibility to achieve immortality is having offspring to continue the genetic lineage. Thus nature has made the sexual urge very powerful so that the process of creation continues. That is reproductive instinct.
Kama or sex urge is very difficult to overcome even for monks who give up wealth, power, family and so on. But kama is considered an essential and healthy goal of human life when pursued without compromising the other three goals: dharma (righteous life), ardha (proper means of earning) and moksha (liberation). A life of sexual gratification is allowed only for grihastha ashram and forbidden for other three ashrams, especially to disciples and sanyasis.
Sex is not an ugly topic that must be pushed under the carpet. It is holy and hence found space on temple sculpture. It is a welcome trend that sex education is a part of curriculum to students.
In this background many people have many questions such as whether to get married or practice celibacy, how to control sex urges, and so on.
We like to keep most of our emotions, to us alone, except love. To express love we need another person. Love is also the only emotion that creates something – it creates new life. Love brings not only life and joy, but also pain and suffering.
Painting courtesy of Igor Stefanović
.Love your partner, but be detached because we human beings are imperfect and impermanent. One day either he or she may ditch you or may be taken away by death leaving you in suffering.
Traditionally the institution of marriage is established for the below reasons.
- To fulfill sexual needs in a socially accepted and organized manner.
- For division of labour between man and woman, whereby a man goes out for earning and woman takes care of children and household chores.
- To provide a stable environment for bringing up children because they are more dependent upon parental support for up to 20 years, unlike offspring of other animals and birds
Usually a person gets married because he or she needs support. This support may be physical, emotional, psychological, social, or financial.
If you get married without you having the need to do so, then it is invitation for troubles, because you will make life miserable not only to yourself but also to the partner.
Do not look for the perfect man or the perfect woman, because there can be none. All humans can only grow from imperfection towards perfection. If you understand what needs make you seek a companion, find someone who is reasonably compatible with you.
One reason why marriage can be tumultuous is because you have to share so many things in this relationship. The issue is neither marriage, nor is it about a man and a woman, husband and wife. In any situation where you are forced to share a lot with other people, you will face similar problems.
In a marriage, you usually have to share the same space, the same everything. Consequently, every day, you are treading on each other’s toes in one way or the other. In other relationships, if someone is overstepping the boundaries, you can set boundaries. But in marriages you need to be as close as possible. The greater the closeness, the greater the possibility of conflicts.
Another aspect is that if you try to extract something out of each other, and you or the other person does not get what he or she wants, there will be constant conflict.
Successful marriages or relationships have three ‘C’ in common
- Commitment: Time and resources needed to make the partner happy
- Compromise: Especially set aside ego and show willingness to change
- Communication: Understand your partner, express your feelings, admit mistakes and so on
On the question about whether it is necessary to get married, it’s better to walk alone than to walk with someone who drags you behind. Also it’s better to climb alone than carrying the burden of four or more people.
A stable relation between parents is a must for a child. But abusive relationship between parents can be more damaging for a child’s growth.
As per scriptures, a householder, after he has taken care of his progeny, his parents, his traditions and cleansed his mind is ready to enter the third stage of life, or Vanaprastha. He must lead a frugal life during this stage, sleeping on floor, eating only fruits and bulbs. The more he gives up the worldly delights, the closer he gets to the knowledge of his spirit, and more ready he is for the last stage – the Sanyas Ashram, where he renounces everything and focuses entirely on spiritual pursuits. In these modern days living in forest hermitages may not be possible, but following vanaprastha and sanyas ashram mentally is necessary so as to come out of relationships and possessions that bind us to karma.
Vanaprastha is the stage where man does not need sex for procreation and is capable of overcoming animal instincts and pursue spiritual growth,
In the chapter on mysterious connecting link, we have learnt that on the physical side, sub-conscious mind is the source of vital processes such as breathing, preservation of one‘s own life, desire to procreate life through offspring, caring for offspring etc. In the chapter on Raja Yoga we have learnt that Swathisthana Chakra is source of vitality and sex energy. But the path of tantra yoga is very dangerous and not recommended for ordinary seekers.
A lot of energy is required to produce semen necessary to create another life form. Thus it can be reasoned that conservation of semen is an essential part of conserving energy. Hence scriptures stipulate that Brahmacharya is an essential part for students and also Sanyasis.
Sexual suppression vs. sublimation:
Suppression of sex is not an ideal solution because it often leads to mental damage. If the urge is suppressed, it may strike with double force, when an opportunity arises. What is important is not suppression, but sublimation or transmutation of sex energy.
Sublimation of sex energy:
Usually sexual energy takes physical expression either in the form of intercourse or masturbation. Instead of reckless physical indulgence, it can be harnessed for spiritual growth. There can be different way to do this.
- Change your point of viewing woman: Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to see mother in every woman. You can try to see every woman as manifestation of Atman, because Atman is neither man nor woman.
- Control palate: The attraction towards opposite sex arises out of rajasic nature. Cultivate sattvic nature by taking sattvic food, moderation and fasting. If you can control tongue, it becomes easy to control other organs.
- Avoid bad company that reminds sex: Be in the company of good people, satsang.
- Purify yourself with tapas, japa, dhyana etc.
- To conserve sex energy, whenever sexual urge takes over mind, instead of indulging in physical expression, you may also follow the below procedure.
- Close your eyes
- Get into udyana bandha (abdominal lock)
- Get into mooladhara bandha (anal lock)
- Visualize that your kundalini energy is rising up from swadhistana chakra into sahasrara
- Be in that state as long as sexual urge for physical expression stays
In the above procedure, the asanas and bandhas should have already been learned from a qualified guru.
In Sanskrit sex energy is called Indriya Shakti. Great importance is given to Indriya Nigraha, control of this energy. Gandhiji too experimented with Brahmacharya in his own life because he felt he needed to control himself first, to effectively control freedom movement.
What is Brahmacharya? It is the way of life which leads us to Brahma (God). It includes full control over the process of reproduction. The control must be in thought, word and deed. If the thought is not under control, the other two have no value. There is a saying in Hindustani: “He whose heart is pure has the all-purifying waters of the Ganga in his house.” For one whose thought is under control the other is mere child’s play.
The Brahmachari of my conception will be healthy and will easily live long. He will not even suffer from so much as a headache. Mental and physical work will not cause fatigue. He is ever bright, never slothful. Outward neatness will be an exact reflection of the inner. He will exhibit all the attributes of the steadfast one described in the Gita. It need cause no worry if not one person is met with answering the description.
Is it strange that one who is able completely to conserve and sublimate the vital fluid which has the potentiality of creating human beings should exhibit all the attributes described above? Who can measure the creative strength of such sublimation, one drop of which has the potentiality of bringing into being a human life?
Life without Brahmacharya appears to me to be insipid and animal-like. The brute by nature knows to self-restraint. Man is man because he is capable of, and only in so far as he exercises, self-restraint. What formerly appeared to me to be extravagant praise of Brahmacharya in our religious books seems now, with increasing clearness every day, to be absolutely proper and founded on experience.
From that day when I began brahmacharya, our freedom began. My wife became a free woman, free from my authority as her lord and master, and I became free from the slavery to my own appetite, which she had to satisfy. No other woman had any attraction for me in the same sense that my wife had. I was too loyal to her as husband and too loyal to the vow I had taken before my mother to be slave to any other woman. But the manner in which my brahmacharya came to me irresistibly drew me to woman as the mother of man. She became too sacred for sexual love. And so every woman at once became sister or daughter to me. Gandhiji