Saturday, November 08, 2008

The purpose of human sexuality is priti

What we are really asking is the question of what is pleasure itself. What is happiness? The prayojana according to the shastras is sukham, happiness. This is the argument at the beginning of Prīti-sandarbha and that argument leads to the conclusion that it is prīti or prema for the Supreme Truth. The opposite of this, as different as day to night, is the desire for one's own self-centered sense pleasure.

So, the shastra accepts that happiness is the goal, but simply asserts that we are going about finding it in the wrong way: na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum. We are looking for our own happiness, but we don't actually know who we are.

Activities in knowledge of our true self are pleasurable; those which are not, are not.

Let me make this very clear: I am not proposing an irresponsible lust and free sex program. That just does not make any sense. When the Bhāgavata and Gītā, etc., warn about lust, they are making a valid point that needs to be made. It is principally a social dharma argument that warns about the disruption to society. And, of course, one who disrupts society often finds himself in deep spiritual trouble. But we all know that we have to aim for the ultimate goal of life which is prema. By prema I don't mean something different from love of God. I mean love and service to Radha and Krishna. Nevertheless, I think that we need to look at this clearheadedly instead of simply namecalling. What I am suggesting is hardly "lewd."

A number of verses can be quoted to effect is that the only purpose of sex is procreation. For instance,

dharmārthaṁ jīvitaṁ yeṣāṁ
santānārthaṁ ca maithunam
pacanaṁ vipra-mukhyārthaṁ
jneyās te vaiṣṇavā narāḥ

Those for whom the purpose of life is religion (dharma), for whom the purpose of sexual intercourse is children, and for whom the purpose of cooking is to feed the brahmanas, go by the name of Vaishnava. (Skanda-purāṇa, quoted in Bhakti-sandarbha 202)
Now I am appreciative of Jiva Goswami, but surely we should not think that this is all that Vaishnavas or Vaishnavism is about, nor is that what he intended. Clearly if this were the limit of Vaishnavism, then thank you very much: it bears absolutely no relation to what Vaishnavas consider to be the ultimate purpose of life. One who quotes this verse to prove that this is part of the Vaishnava svarūpa-dharma is really losing sight of the forest for the trees.

Let us cut through the superficialities here: Raghunathdas nicely says that our concern is not for dharma or adharma, but service to Radha and Krishna. So can we please try to understand the question of sexuality in that context without this knee-jerk response that it has to be either procreation or lust?

Can we not apply, as I have not ceased to say since the very beginning of my attempts to explain this idea, the same criteria to sexuality that we do to all manner of activities, namely dividing aspects of it according to where they are situated in the modes of nature? We can have eating in the three modes, as well as in the nirguṇa mode, so why not sex? Can anybody actually explain to me why this analysis has not been made? Where have I ever made the claim that sex is the same thing as love?

At the same time, is there really no relationship between sex and love? If that were the case, then how is that madhura-rasa is considered to be the topmost manifestation of love in the spiritual world? And if the material world is a perverted reflection of the spiritual world, then does it not stand to reason that there should be manifestations that are closer or further from the standard of perfection?

This whole discussion clearly goes very deeply into human psychology, and those who simply deny sexuality, or who want to eradicate sexuality from the culture of spiritual life are suffering from a kind of excessive renunciation that to me is a symptom of the very disease that causes our conditioning. It is not sex that causes our conditioning, but a failure to recognize the nature of sexuality, i.e., the very basis of sexuality and its relationship to our core being.

"Is not a thing therapeutically treated cure the very disease it caused?" This is the Bhāgavata speaking. There is sexuality in the mode of ignorance. That is not love. There is sex in the mode of passion, that is also not love. There is sex in the mode of goodness; that is getting a bit closer. But whatever mode of nature sex is engaged in, it is closely associated to the need for love. That is why it is such a troubling entity.

According to the Gītā, you can kill without incurring sinful results, so why can you not love and have sex without incurring sin? Is sex worse than killing?

The essence of the thought here is that a Vaishnava would not do something that is not pleasing to Vishnu, and since sexual intercourse for mere enjoyment isn't something that can be offered, a Vaishnava would not unnecessarily engage in it.

But why should sexual intercourse not be pleasing to Vishnu? If two people love each other, why should their act of love not be offered to the Lord, as per Gītā 9.29? Indeed, the more I think about it, the more the whole objection becomes laughable. Krishna says in the Bhāgavatam (11.11.41) to offer to Him whatever is most dear to one, but somehow this one thing, that is for most people the dearmost iṣṭatama thing of all, is so absolutely abhorrent that it can only be done in the most circumscribed of conditions, namely at the optimum time for procreation.

This is something that I have been discussing for some time. But it is good to revisit points from time to time. The best analogy is with eating. If you think eating is simply for maintaining the material body, then you are only recognizing a relatively minor aspect of the act itself.

With regards to dharmāviruddho bhūteṣu kāmo’smi verse, I wrote about this verse at length before. Kāmo'smi bharatarṣabha. The sum and substance of the point I made there is that there is indeed so much more that could have been said, in view of the wide variety of meanings given for both the word kāma and the word dharma.
If sex were not for procreation, then why do women get pregnant of it each time? And why does one apply artificial tricks to avoid that, items of contraception that do not grow on the trees?
As to ahaṅgrahopāsanā, I discussed this earlier on this blog. There are several articles, here is one. Obviously I will have to revisit all that and try to simplify it for those who are so thoroughly indoctrinated that they simply cannot see, though I truly do despair of any possibility that there is any real hope of it. After all, they don't want to. In fact, however, I do not yet have the impression that anyone has quite caught on.

Aropa is the process by which love is offered to Radha and Krishna; ahaṅgrahopāsanā has about as much to do with it as it does with deity worship.

Radhe Radhe!

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