Sexual enjoyment or the release of sexual energy is part of one’s personal life. He or she may do so in anyway one pleases. It is a highly individual decision superimposed on other priorities, the least a spiritual way of life. Sexuality is a self-truth finding rather than herd-instinct instructions of the past. Indeed, alongside the tough sanctions of celibacy we also have the Kama Shastras, Sutras and Puranic stories of Shiva-Parvathi in the Kailash and Radha-Krishna in the Vrindavan to tell the tales of their divine sexual unions, of being soul-mates etc. So, is one to adhere to age-old tuition of celibacy and make part of his or her bodily limbs redundant or dysfunctional? Or does one make a subjective compromise between sex and spiritualism without suppressing sexual energy?
MANUSMIRITI: Some of the earlier texts ‘warn’ us of sex. Manu, the Hindu law-giver, considered celibacy as being essential to spiritual life. He believed abstinence from sensual enjoyment or renunciation of pleasure was the best course: Manusmriti 2:96-97. He advised spiritual students to remain on guard in the company of women as they were by nature, seducers: 2.223.
In ancient India, students of the Vedas and Upanishads, mumukshus and spiritualist were exhorted to observe strict celibacy and that was considered essential for Self-realization. Indeed observation of celibacy became an important feature of Hindu spiritualism. So we also had seers and sages who observed celibacy despite their house-holder status.
CHAKRAS: Orthodox Hindus believed that abstinence from sex is essential for sublimating sexual energy-retas into spiritual energy-tejas. The Chakra and kundalini practices have it that when a person controls his sexual impulse or sexual energy, instead of being released elsewhere, would change direction and travel up the spine, go up through the back of his spine and activate his higher chakras. This was a way to Brahman. Then again this aspect of yoga speaks of discretion and control and not any mandatory sanction against sexual enjoyment.
GUNAS: Then again, sex was also a ritualistic conduct subject to the principles of dharma. Here the householder is allowed sex but ‘lawfully’ within dharmic laws. Sexual activity was also given a ‘gunas’ coating. Sattvic sex is of the pure mind that has a go to procreate only. Rajasic sexual activity is a result of egoism of personal pleasure and demonstration of strength. Tamasic sex is disregarding social norms (if that can be defined?) or exhausting the Kama Sutra.
RITUAL: Chandogya Upanishad 2.13, 1 & 2: Sexual activity is ‘deemed’ to be a ritual: “The beckoning is the invocation-binkara; Making the request is the proposal-prasthava; Lying close to the woman is udgitha; Lying on the top of the woman is pratihara; Reaching climax is consecration; He comes to the finish, is nidhana. This is the hymn to Vamadeva women out of sexual intercourse. He who knows this Vamadeva chant as woven on sexual intercourse, comes to intercourse, procreates himself from every act, reaches a full length of life, lives well, becomes great in offspring and in cattle, great in fame. One should not despise any woman. That is the rule.”
EXEMPTIONS: Were all these moral values upheld by everyone? In the old days, it did not seem so with the ruling or merchant class. The Purana stories seem to suggest that gods, goddesses, devas etc seemed to enjoy and exemption of the celibacy principle. From Lord Indra downwards, page after page has been written of the sexual exploits of gods and devas. Indeed, the tantric form of worship considered sex as an important means of spiritual transformation even though tantric cults remained secretive, then and now.
SELF: Spiritualism is based upon three main tenets or basic beliefs: (a) the inner spirit is the only reality, (b) the inner self which we call also as the higher self is distinct and different from the outer self or the lower self , also known as the physical self and (c) through a process of detachment and spiritual discipline, it is possible for us to detach ourselves from the outer self and discover the inner self that is hidden in all of us. Even assuming that sex is the domain of the outer self, one is to ask if it hinders discovery of the inner self.
OJAS: We considered retas and tejas. Ojas means spiritual energy, even sexually related energy. We have dictionary definitions of ojas being the vital heat permeating the human constitution and sometimes employed to signify virility or the generative faculty. It is the subtle, health promoting substance through which consciousness and Nature’s intelligence are connected to the body. Either way, sexual energy is the basic expression of ojas to found the warmth of one’s emotions, passions or even as expressions of one’s intellect.
Ojas is also the creative relationship between Prakrithi and Purusha. Unless one is given to ‘self-satisfaction’ sexual activity is the exchange of energy between two people and there is less to say that this creative energy expressed physically is also valued energy. In Ayurveda, ojas means ‘vigor’, the essential energy of the body which can be equated with the "fluid of life". Those who practice Ayurveda say that Ojas is the sap of one's life energy.
SHIVA-SHAKTI PRINCIPLE: Soon after Lord Shiva weds Goddess Parvati, the divine couple left for Kailash. It is said to be a rocky honeymoon. Nandi, the door-keeper overhears the lovemaking. His sacred utterances culminated in the Kamashastras, the tradtional works on Kama. It was too vast to be accessible. Shvetaketu is the forerunner of those producing the summaries of the Kama Shashtras.
The erotic manuals of Kamasutra are attributed to Vatsayana. It is a treatise on men and women, their mutual and sexual relationship. It is not intended as an instrument for satisfying physical sex and desires but is an ancient manual of deep and spiritual erotical life that emanated from the Kailash mountains. Indeed the Kamasutra emphasizes Purusharthas or the four goals in life. It prompts one to preserve Dharma – virtuous living , Artha – material prosperity and Kama – relates to erotic and asthetic pleasures. Dharma, artha and kama, ordered according to importance, are achieved in everyday life.
All the three aspects are to be given equal importance without any of these spheres taking precedence over the other. Neglecting one leads to diminished stability of life. Moksha, the fourth goal, is liberation through the release from the cycle of birth and death.
TANTRA: The approach of sex in the Kama Sutra is a secular form, meaning non-religious and non-spiritual in a way but sex in Tantra is definitely spiritual. Both the Kama sutra and Tantra do not deny the value of spiritual practice but the Kama Sutra does not present the perspective openly.
Thus spiritualism in the Kama Sutra is inferred by implication. There are writings to suggest that Vatsayana did not directly include the deeper tantric sexual practices because it was more an appropriate too for tantra marga aspirants. So Vatsayana is said to have kept his Kama Sutra at social levels for individuals to balance their sexual appetites and spiritual obligations.
Tantra is called the ‘everyday way of life’ because one is asked to use daily activities to evolve spiritually. Tantra is an extreme expansion of consciousness, which includes a complex extent of methods and techniques which concern the sexual energy as well. This implies that the tantric male and tantric female achieve a faster spiritual development by transmuting and subliming the sexual energies into emotional, mental and spiritual energies.
The existence of sexual symbolism at all levels is an essential characteristic of tantrism. In the context of erotic union, one is asked to implore a possibility of attuning oneself with the union between the Cosmic Consciousness and the Cosmic Energy.
Whoever says that bed-mates cannot be soul-mates by a transfiguring process where a couple assume to be Shiva-Krishna and Shakti-Radha. This has been the age-old Yang-masculine and Yin-feminine fusion where partners transcend their physical limitations and have a perfect spiritual control without having to renounce their physical bodies. This is the central tantric concept of Shiva-Shakti. It is the spiritual foreplay and afterplay of maithuna. Some writings call this spiritual state as Buddhafield of cosmic joy and cosmic orgasm.
YONI: In Tantra Yoga, yoni is more than the vagina. Literally it means ‘womb’ or ‘divine passage’ or ‘place of birth’. So the womb is more as nature and cradle of creations or ‘sacred temple’. In Tantra, the vagina is a sacred part of the female body which is treated with care and respect, even revered.
Yoni massage or physical pressures to the vagina is a sensuous form of intimacy that builds trust between sexual partners. It is said to be important to create space for women, the receiver, in which to relax, from which she can more easily enter a state of high arousal and experience physical pleasures to proceed to spiritual pleasures. The male partner, the giver also experiences the joy of giving pleasure and witnessing the special moment. It bonds them emotionally and spiritually.
So, the yoni is not simply a pleasure point but is interpreted broadly in a profane and spiritual context. At some point the yoni is the origin of bliss and is thus considered to be symbolic of Shakti and prakriti. There are many linguistic examples in Shaktism also. Kali is associated to the Yoni, She is the ‘blood consuming consort’ of Lord Shiva. The rural Tamil root equivalent of yoni is derived from pundarika-lotus which is symbolic of purity. The word for menstrual blood, uthiram, has no connotations of impurity, for it is also a word for life giving blood.
SHIVA-SHAKTI UNION: In Tantric cosmology, the universe is perceived as being created, penetrated and sustained by a perfect, indestructible and blissful Shiva-Shakti union. It represents yoga between the masculine deity and a feminine one. Accordingly, Shiva represents the constitutive elements of the universe, while Shakti is the dynamic potency, which makes these elements come to life and act. From this point of view, Shakti represents the immanent aspect of the Divine, that is the act of active participation in the act of creation. Maybe exactly this Tantric view of the Feminine in creation contributed to the orientation of the human being towards the active principles of the universe, rather than towards those of pure transcendence.
From a metaphysical point of view, the divine couple Shiva-Shakti correspond to two essential aspects of the One: the masculine principle, which represents the abiding aspect of God, and the feminine principle, which represents Its Energy, the Force which acts in the manifested world, life itself considered at a cosmic level.
The initial Shiva-Shakti physical connection is platonic. It serves the manifest Shiva and Shakti by deep imaginative love. It then proceeds to be a real love connection to become real tantric fusion and realization. Spiritual love is said to have matured after Lord Shiva educates Parvathi of 102 tantric forms of love making. Thereafter it was a spiritual union of Parvathi merging with the Parmatman; a union in which has no duality. This is the spiritual and natural sexuality of Ardhanrishvara in which they are perennially content.
ART AND SCULPTURES: Art and sculpture depictions of Shiva-Shakti maithuna or sexual intercourse, have deep spiritual meaning. Temple structures do not carry these depictions without an inner meaning. In maithuna, action, way and reaction is seen both physically and spiritually. It is passive and active both inside and outside. Hands represent the all-encompassing cosmic activity. The eyes represent the all seeing cosmic knowledge. Breasts represent the nectar of Bliss source. Belly also represents prakriti and source of life. The feet represent the cosmic way to unity-dharma.
Naked Shiva-Shakti represent prakriti or nature. Linga, the cosmic male principle Shiva, represents spiritual energy. Yoni, the cosmic female principle represents material energy and active fertility. Together Linga-yoni represents both manifest and unmanifest reality or creation and destruction. The intercourse and rhythm is the rhythmic movement of the universe.
Shiva-Shakti yoga represents the inner and outer world in which they are active and passive. The essential symbolism of the Shiva-Shakti maithuna represents the fusion of inner duality and outer duality; it is beauty of sexual and spiritual unity and fusion.
The whole issue of sex is to be seen with a spiritual eye and not a physical one. Spiritualism behind Shiva-Shakti maithuna or Radha Krishna maithuna can only be understood by a pure mind. Otherwise it ends in lust and lustful thoughts. Spiritual sex transforms partners into soul mates for physical sex may also be the way that Jivatma-Paramatma merge is comprehended spiritually. If one is having problems with meditation or stumbles the spiritual path because he or she is not observing celibacy, then the real problem may be focusing; not sex.
God has a reason for every human limb and its meanings are subtle and not gross. Stretching that may lead to spiritual truths. But each individual is prompted to find his or her own truths. Imposed truths are similar to water droplets on a lotus leaf. It is hardly unlikely that universal truths of Cosmic Consciousness and meditation practices are copyrighted to celibates alone. Celibacy…. thy way is moderation.
Hara Hara Mahadeva
(draft: The Hindu Person - Gods, Goddesses, Minor Sages and Sages) by Yogi Ananda Saraswathi