Sex, Death, and Yoga – Part 1
Published on March 19th, 2020 | by Harmonist staff1
Submitted for your consideration: the most deeply entrenched and ubiquitous of all human convictions is the belief that we can attain happiness through the enjoyment of our senses. And why not? If human beings are just fortuitous fusions of stardust whose inexplicable sentience is a fleeting epiphenomenon sandwiched between two infinitudes of non-existence then we might as well devote ourselves to the accrual of as much sensual enjoyment as possible.
Modernity has endowed this proposition with the status of an a priori assumption: our ‘To-do’ lists are testimony to our unexamined preoccupation with fulfilling it. But there are inconvenient facts hiding in plain sight that, once recognized and acknowledged, irrevocably undermine this assumption.
So, the facts of life: in the best possible scenario time surreptitiously steals our strength and beauty in circadian increments, our bodies slowly crumple and crumble, the same senses that once carried us to the pinnacles of pleasure betray us into the talons of interminable suffering, and then we die.
Well, thank you, Mr. Buzzkill.
Inconvenient or not, facts tend to win in the end simply by virtue of being facts: our bodies, even at their strongest, are very fragile and the pleasures we enjoy through them, even when extended through the course of a lifetime, will be tragically brief. These inconvenient facts render a full and complete surrender to the senses impossible for one who is unable to suppress an awareness of them.
But our bodies are all we know so, for most of us, the suppression of that awareness is our first priority! To keep our sanity we acquiesce to complicity in organized unreality: we distract ourselves with an assortment of entertainments, anaesthetize ourselves with inebriating intoxicants, and embrace the magician’s strategy of misdirection, smiling as if everything is fine while we desperately feel around inside a top hat for the magic rabbit that will stop time.
And of all the enchanting diversions we indulge in the one that, after a fleeting moment of idyllic innocence, most thoroughly occupies our lives—to the point of obsession when we’re young and with stubborn persistence long after we’re not—is the one pursuit that, ironically, binds us more completely to our bodies than any other. This, of course, is sex.
The erotic impulse springs automatically from our hormones with the approaching dawn of adulthood and thereafter exercises a near totalitarian authority over our decision-making processes for the balance of our earthly allotment. And while we entangle ourselves in the troublesome task of establishing and maintaining a favorable situation for physical intimacy our surrender to the command of carnal desire seals our pact with mortality: our doomed body becomes our master.
Of course, there is more to sex than just pleasure. Endowed with the force of creative potential, sex, when allowed to proceed in harmony with nature, will, as a general rule, eventually result in birth. And the mortality rate for people who are born has held steady at 100% since time immemorial: for one who is born, death is certain. No exceptions. The process of dying begins with our first breath and counts down from there. Had we not been born we would not be obliged to die. Birth is therefore, for all intents and purposes, the cause of death.
And death is universally acknowledged as quintessentially unpleasant. So we have a problem: the pursuit of the epitome of material pleasure ensures our descent into the nadir of material misery. DOH!
Surely there must be a solution to this confounding conundrum. So let’s do some truthy math: we know that if A = B and B = C then A = C. Hence, we can deduce that if sex is the cause of birth and birth is the cause of death then sex is the cause of death.
Therefore, if one wants to transcend death then the solution is simple: stop having sex.
From the author: Part One of this series owes a significant share of its form and substance to ‘Immortal Longings’ by Ravindra Svarupa dasa, who kindly blessed my hot-rodding a portion of his original essay.
Painting: Death and the Maiden, Hans Baldung Grien, 1518-1520 (source).
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.