Published on September 29th, 2014 | by Harmonist staff0
Sex, Death, and Yoga – Part 2
By Hari-kirtana dasa. See also Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
In my last post I left you with a curious proposition based on truthy math: death may be overcome by abstention from sex. Not surprisingly, some of you questioned my conclusion. And why not? I’m sure such drastic notions sound like the dogmatic declamations of an anachronistic yoga fundamentalist. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Well, I don’t think of myself as a yoga fundamentalist, anachronistic or otherwise, and by the time I’m finished with this series I hope you won’t either. Be that as it may, traditional yoga texts are, in fact, where one will find support for my proposition. Patanjali’s yoga system is an unabashedly inward progression: a systematic retraction of the senses from the exterior world of sense objects into the interior realm of the self, wherein attachment to one’s body—to say nothing of other people’s bodies—is extinguished and the mind dissolves back into the primordial pradhana from which it came.
Crossing over the ocean of repeated birth and death by means of detachment from material sense enjoyment is a recurring theme in the Bhagavad-gita as well. For example:
“An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. Such pleasures have a beginning and an end, so those who are wise do not delight in them.” Bhagavad-gita 5.22
However counter-intuitive this verse may sound, there’s a certain logic to the idea that pursuing material sense pleasure, the acme of which is sexual pleasure, consigns one to a destiny of material miseries, the acme of which is death: indulgence in the pleasures of the body reinforces our identification with the body. The stronger our attachment to our bodies and the bodies of others, the greater the suffering we experience when our eternal adversary, time, eventually, but inevitably, severs our attachment.
There is, however, another verse from the Gita that needs to be taken into account:
“Even those who are wise act according to their own nature, for everyone follows the nature they have acquired in this world. What can repression accomplish?” Bhagavad-gita 3.33
A good question: for most of us, repressing our proclivity for physical intimacy accomplishes three things: we become angry, our heart hardens, and then we do it anyway, often in a less healthy way than we might if the impulse went unrepressed.
Our natural inclination towards sex is problematic enough under normal circumstances, to say nothing of how it might complicate the task of realizing the eternal self beyond the fluctuating mind and temporary body. So another question is worth pondering: “Why are we so susceptible to the Siren’s call? Where does the erotic impulse come from in the first place?”
athato brahma jijnasa
janmady asya yataḥ
“Now, try to understand the omniscient, omnipotent cause from which all things proceed.” Vedanta Sutra 1.1.1-2
If “all things” proceed from an original, transcendental cause then sex life must have its origin in transcendence. Since logic demands that one cannot give what one does not have, the erotic impulse is an effect that must first exist, in some form or fashion, in its omniscient and omnipotent cause: Brahman. Sexuality is an attribute of a person (a non-person cannot possess or experience sexuality) so this further implies that the attribute of person-ness is present in Brahman or, to put it another way, that the Absolute Truth is a person—a categorically different kind of person from you and me but still a person—who experiences and expresses sexuality in a purely spiritual dimension.
In other words, God has a sex life! And that’s where our natural inclination for sex life comes from.
Since our sex lives are a deeply personal and very private aspects of our lives (well, usually) it makes sense that God keeps his sex life private, too. And since God is inconceivable, God’s sex life must be similarly inconceivable. One thing we can understand is that the spiritual sex life of God is categorically different from the comparatively mundane sex life of our experience, however deep and meaningful our sex lives may be. Like everything else we see in the inebriated carnival mirror of the mind, our experience of sex life in material consciousness is a schmootzed-up and distorted reflection of the real and original experience of spiritual sexuality.
In spite of this, traces of spiritual sexuality echo through our own experience of physical intimacy. So now the question is, “how do we follow the echo back to a direct experience of transcendental sexuality?”
About Hari-kirtana dasa
Hari-kirtana das is an 800-Hour certified Jivamukti Yoga teacher, registered as an E-RYT 500 yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance, and the author of the upcoming book Confidential Knowledge: 7 Keys to Understanding the Bhagavad Gita. Having a life-long interest in yoga, meditation, and eastern spiritual philosophy, Hari-kirtana lived full-time in devotional yoga ashrams and intentional spiritual communities from 1977 to 1982. He was formally initiated into the Gaudiya Vaisnava lineage of Bhakti Yoga in 1978. After years of teaching meditation and philosophy along with maintaining his personal yoga practice, he began teaching yoga classes in 2009. His yoga philosophy workshops are thought provoking and engaging, with of a high level of active participation, discussion, and discovery. Hari-kirtana designs Yoga Teacher Training courses and is a frequent guest-teacher for numerous regional Yoga Teacher Training programs. He teaches at yoga studios in Washington, DC and vicinity and offers workshops throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. He also leads yoga retreats, writes for teachasana.com, and maintains a blog on his website, hari-kirtana.com.