Thursday, February 14, 2013

Neither attachment nor aversion is the ideal strategy

I have received a few private remarks, including the complaint that I seem to be obsessed with sexuality. Do I have no other subject that interests me? Of course, there are plenty of things that interest me, but my principal subject is prema. And because of Rupa Goswami's emphasis on the madhura-rasa, I have expanded my areas of interest to include the sexual, the spiritual and Sahajiyaism, which I understand as the natural way to prema.

One of the most often heard criticisms or comments is that I think that sex itself leads to prema. This is of course ridiculous. It is like saying that the reason kirtan is effective is only because of the music. If that were the case, every musician would be enlightened, which is certainly not the case. It is music when used in the service of the Holy Name, like clothes and decorations on the Deity, that it becomes spiritual. In the same way, in a mind that has been properly prepared, sahaja-sādhanā helps propel one into the realm of prema. But understand, sexuality alone, however powerful, is only one component in the complex of this sādhanā.

In the five kinds of prema or components that go into the mix of madhura-rasa, only one is the aspect of physical lovemaking. The other four are the characteristics that predominate in the śanta, dāsya, sakhya, and vātsalya relations. One who does not cultivate those characteristics of love cannot expect that simply engaging in sex one will achieve prema. Then, as the self-satisfied critics smirkingly say, "even the bonobos would have it."

But when has the good fortune to have a loving relationship with a devotee, the act of physical lovemaking serves as a most powerful sādhanā. It takes us right to the source of the problem, sex desire, and deals with it directly: it is therefore its solution.

You can look at sexuality either from the standpoint of attachment or aversion, both of which we see plenty. But neither attachment nor aversion is the ideal strategy, as the words of the scripture repeatedly emphasize.

So what is the median position?

According to the goal desired, that median position will be different. But the Sahajiya or general Vaishnava strategy is to understand and employ the sexual energy in the service of prema. Seen thus, one is detached from sexuality as a force to be feared or loved for its own sake. Of course, as a sādhanā it will be loved by the qualified sādhaka because of its effectiveness, in which case it is the appropriate use of rāga: it is called ānukūlyasya saṅkalpaḥ.

Those who reject sexuality as being inimical to spiritual life in general and bhakti in particular do not seem to have assessed it objectively for its usefulness. They simply deny its utility except for procreation, and as fortune would have it, they have plenty of scriptural evidence to support their position. But such scriptural strictures are meant to warn against the main problem that arises from the powerful force of sexual desire, which is excessive attachment (rāga) on a purely physical or mundane level, which is essentially rājasika or tāmasika, and therefore leads to both internal and external disruptions.

But its opposite number, dveṣa, is simply the reverse of rāga and so it too is rājasika or tāmasika, at best sāttvika, and therefore can neither be the solution to the problem of sexuality, nor answer the question, how is it to be used?

Attachment and hatred or fear are both inimical to the proper assessment of sexuality, or indeed any other universal factor that may or may not be beneficial to devotional service. Generally speaking, devotees (like nivṛtti-mārgīs in general) are more likely to think that something is bhakti or service if it has elements of austerity or renunciation. It is the principal of no pain, no gain. If you suffer, it must be good.

This rather strange guiding principle does not account for pleasure as a psychologically significant motivator. There are no sticks without carrots. For, without a carrot, a stick will have only the most limited effectiveness. You can get the donkey out of the carrot patch with a stick, but the donkey will only try to find another, better carrot patch.

The positive force that we envision is love, but not the love that is merely the opposite of hate. Prema is not on the level of the body, but on that of the soul. Those who cannot see the usefulness of sexuality as a means to prema-bhakti generally have an abhorrence of the act itself. They deny that it has other functions beside procreation. Indeed, the very fact that human sexuality goes far, far beyond procreation in its functions is one of the things that differentiates human beings from most other creatures. Any philosophy or religious practice that has an unrealistic understanding of the social and psychological functions of sexuality, in their subtle as well as gross manifestations, cannot help solve the problems that arise from it.

Where sexuality is concerned, of the two, attachment and revulsion, the former is a stronger and more powerful motivator than the latter. But for most of those who are revolted by it, this is primarily an intellectual position, not a visceral one. Nearly all transcendentalists are ambivalent about sexuality, in other words, fearful of its power and control over their will, and so try to counteract its influence by cultivating revulsion (bībhatsa-rasa) in the same spirit as some Buddhist sects by thinking of the horrors of the material body, and so on, disdaining the pleasure of sexuality and human love as illusory, ignorance and destructive of true spirituality.

Most of these spiritually inclined sadhakas hold that it is impossible to have a detached view of sexuality. One must cultivate disgust because that is the only remedy for this overwhelming attachment to the pleasure of sexual enjoyment and the material bondage to the world that follows.

But we take a position that glorifies love beyond liberation. We see the Yugala-sādhaka's experience of śṛṅgāra-rasa in the company of a loving devotee of Radha and Krishna, drenched in the chanting of the Holy Name, Yugala-nāma as the single most effective agent in attaining madhura-prema.

The ecstasies of lovemaking experienced in the depths of a Yugala-sādhanā are the unfailing barometer of one's advancement. These ecstasies spread to every other activity, especially Harināma-saṅkīrtana.

1 comment:

spirits said...

Makes sense to me, hows avoiding or being attached going to solve the issue at hand especially in CV.