To a great extent, what I have been trying to explain is that what is considered sādhana by most devotees consists only of external processes, the basic development of a mental culture that has as its ultimate purpose the connection of the idea of the sacred to that of sexual love.
From another point of view, though, the pravartaka stage is primarily an "inner" process, whereby one seeks the self and God inwardly. But since the ultimate challenge of spiritual life is to actively find the presence of God in all things, one must slowly move outside of one's self and learn how to experience God-in-the-world. This does not happen automatically for most people.
The Dual Sādhana combines the internal and external
To accomplish that, we must go to the all-important second stage, that of "dual sādhana" or the sādhaka stage, in which one combines internal and external practices. And in the siddha stage, one puts that enhanced awareness of God externally into action.
These awarenesses are progressively more difficult, precisely because of the external element. An internal system is self-contained and does not necessarily have to be externally verified. I can believe any fool idea (and many people do) and, with determination, I can maintain that belief in the face of tremendous contradictory evidence. It is for this reason that religion is often justifiably accused of fantasy wish fulfilment and immaturity.
For instance, one such illusion may be, "I am a loving human being," which a religious person projects onto himself, and "others are evil" which he projects onto those of different beliefs, when in fact neither is true nor verifiable from experience.
In other words, those in the pravartaka stage can easily deceive themselves into thinking they are advanced or present themselves as very advanced, when in fact they are not. This is the cause of much sadness in the world. One of the most common symptoms of such self-deception lies in the pretense of celibacy, or in a rigid and misogynistic celibacy, which often serves as a proxy for genuine spirituality.
In the dual sādhana, one has a combined internal and external practice; or, put another way, one learns to experience simultaneous oneness and difference on a number of levels. This is because -- and this is the beauty of this process – each partner enhances the other's inner experience through union. In a sādhaka couple, each partner contributes his or her energy to the meditative practice of concentration, empowers his or her partner to experience exponentially their sacred potential.
At the same time, because two individuals are involved, there is a great necessity for character reform. Each partner, despite the empowerment in the experience of the spiritualized sexual union, is still another person with differences of personality, taste, viewpoint, etc. The "other" is always a "reality principle."
This means that if a couple is serious about the sādhana, they have to learn how to deal with each other's quirks, and indeed both have to be serious about self-reform. In the sādhana of prema, the characteristics of humility, service, pridelessness, surrender and so on all must be cultivated.
The sādhana of love can never be cultivated under duress, or in the midst of psychological games. You need to be serious about spiritual character development. You need to be pure. The beauty of a couple is that because of one's intimacy with the other, and because of the power of the ever-increasing pleasure exchange that depends entirely on the cooperation and complicity of the other, one is forced to work hard at such character development. Much more than in most other kinds of relationships, loving or not.
Sex and sādhana
As we have already said, "Love comes from love." So the Vaishnavas say that the principal sādhana for prema is bhakti, which is devotion.
Now one of the seemingly radical claims made by the Sahajiya path of prema is that sex has a role is sādhana. Not just a small role, but a primordial one, a central one.
The theological basis for this has already been spoken of in the article about Radha and Krishna. Now I would like to talk about it a little more in relationship to the psychological reasons.
Few people feel comfortable admitting the extent to which sexuality has a role in our psychology. That is one of the reasons why sannyasis and brahmacharis exist. It is wrong to say that Sahajiyaism is against the principal of sexual restraint. The primary rule in the sexual aspect of Sahajiya sādhana is restraint: the renunciation of orgasm.
We will come back to that in a moment. First, though, I want to talk about the relationship of sexuality to the spiritual. How is it possible when most orthodox spiritualities around the world seem to say the opposite, that the two are mutually inimical?
Sahajiyas are believers in the unicity of psychic energy. This is called by some kundalini energy, or by Freud, "libido." In particular, Freud, by his own independent approach arrived at many of the same conclusions that the yogis who discovered kundalini did. Of course, Freud was an observer of the functions of the psychic development in the growing child, and those observations are quite different in nature from those of the yogis, whose descriptions concern the effects of sublimation of the sexual energy.
Sublimating the sexual energy in yogic terms means reversing its flow. Stated perhaps overly simplistically, the Sahajiyas say that if the sexual energy flows outward in orgasm or ejaculation, that is a sign of kāma. If one restrains the urge to orgasm (upastha-vegam) then the sexual energy is kept within the body with great psychic and physical benefits. But since the principal consequence of this restraint means that one partner continues to give sexual pleasure to the other without interruption, the Sahajiyas call it the characteristic of prema.
Since the giving of pleasure is an essential element in love, the increasing of love should be the primary benefit of the sexual act. Any other benefits are secondary. Most men and women who are even slightly sexually conversant and value the communion of sexual intercourse know that mutual gratification is the essence of a fulfilling sex life. Since most people are conditioned to or attached to the orgasm, and bigger and better orgasms as the climax and goal of the sexual act, the goal of mutual and simultaneous orgasm is considered by the uninitiated to be the summum bonum of intercourse. Delaying the orgasm, especially for the man, is only considered desirable because it increases the impact of his own orgasm and also increases the chances of his partner's finding fulfilment in orgasm.
The Sahajiya starts with the premise that the orgasm is not a worthwhile goal because it interrupts the pleasure of loving communion. The real pleasure of lovemaking is in fact not in the friction of genital parts or the stroking of erogenous zones. The real pleasure of lovemaking comes from the delight in the spiritual proximity of the beloved, from the pleasure of giving and exchanging pleasure. The physical body is only a vehicle for feeling the spiritual presence of the other.
The physical body is, like with all sādhanas, only the vehicle through which another purpose is achieved.
In this case, there is not just a mingling of physical bodies, but also of subtler bodies, as the energy fields and so on, mingle in the act of making love. By keeping the energy from flowing outward through orgasm, the kundalini energy rises upward. But it is important to recognize that this is not an individual act, but a mutual one. The energies of both partners flow into one another. By restraining the orgasm, those energies enhance the expansion of pleasure in each other in a seemingly infinite progression.
The culmination of this practice comes when one experiences what I am calling the bindu, which simply means the "point." This is the state where one is on the point of orgasm but does not "cross over" as it were. It is analogous to a surfer who rides on the crest of a wave. But unlike the surfer, whose eventual fall is inevitable, when the pair of lovers has achieved expertise in this method, they can spend a great length of time in this state without ever falling over. As a matter of fact, the experience is something like an extended orgasm that continues and even increases constantly without diminution, without a break, in an almost unbearable state of pleasure.
Nama sankirtan, mantra smarana, lila smaranaSo far, most devotees will treat what has been said already with suspicion. Am I not talking only of enhanced sexual pleasure without any spiritual ramifications whatsoever? At least not spirituality as a Vaishnava understands it?
Naturally, those in the orthodoxy are already finding this to be totally unrelated to the process of bhakti that they know, and indeed they would be correct if that is all I had to offer. On the other hand, for those who are ordinary tantrics or practitioners of Taoist sexuality, the next step in the Sahajiya sādhana will appear completely irrelevant or superfluous.
In answer, the first thing to remember is that the difference comes in the mentality with which one does any particular activity. Eating is eating, which can be done in the three gunas of prakriti; honoring prasad is devotional service, which is transcendental when accompanied by awareness and loving feeling.
Now the physical pleasure of the sex itself is very great, the psychic pleasure of proximity to another spiritual, conscious, living soul in intimacy, and the delight of giving pleasure to the loved one are all tremendous. But for a devotee couple, two Vaishnava sādhakas, this pleasure is enhanced by the process of sādhāraṇīkaraṇa. I have written about this at length on this blog. It may be a bit difficult to understand, but let me just say that for devotees who have gone through the pravartaka stage, this will be a natural occurrences.
Devotees who already have gone through the pravartaka stage training, including yogic meditation training, and have identified the sacred as Radha and Krishna, become absorbed in the pure bliss of their nitya-vihāra, have a panoply of emotional responses that resonate from deep within their devotional being during the act of lovemaking.
First of all, the pleasure itself has a spontaneous reaction in sankirtan. The names of the Divine Couple come to their lips, resonating from deep within the psyche. This ever increasing pleasure ceases to belong to the physical, mortal couple who are engaged in the coarse physical act, but becomes non-different from the Divine Couple as pleasure. Through the process of lovemaking, one comes to experientially identify one's own pleasure with that of the Divine Couple; one crosses the bridge, so to speak, from a sense of separation from the Divine Couple to a sense of oneness.
And that prompts the reaction of a witness: one becomes transformed, not so much consciously, but spontaneously, into a witness of the Divine Dance of Radha and Krishna and one chants their names in glorification of their lila. This is manjari bhava: one serves the Divine Union, one experiences the Divine Union through identification and assimilation to Radha, the Pleasure Potency of the Lord. The pleasure of sexual union for a sādhaka couple ceases to be their own pleasure: it is the pleasure of the Divine Couple which is being reflected as prasad into the consciousness of the devotee. The union of the sādhaka couple projects them into the universal, divine union of Radha and Krishna, which is the underlying truth of all existence.
This is the meaning we find hidden in Kaviraj Goswami's verses:
bhavati vapuṣi kampa-sveda-romāñca-bāṣpam |
adhara-madhu mudāsyāś cet pibaty eṣa yatnād
bhavati bata tad āsāṁ mattatā citram etat ||
If Krishna should touch Shri Radhika,
then lo! her sakhis start to shake;
they sweat, tears well up in their eyes,
and the hair stands upon their neck.
And when Sri Krishna carefully sips
the maddening liquor of her lips,
they are the ones who swoon and fall!
Is this not truly wonderful? (11.137)
sārāṁśa-prema-vallyāḥ kiśalaya-dala-puṣpādi-tulyāḥ sva-tulyāḥ |
siktāyāṁ kṛṣṇa-līlāmṛta-rasa-nicayair ullasantyām amuṣyāṁ
jātollāsāḥ sva-sekāc chata-guṇam adhikaṁ santi yat tan na citram ||
Just as the moon enlivens the lilies, so Krishna is the bright moon who enlivens the lily-like hearts of the residents of Vrindavan. His pleasure-giving potency is personified in Radha, who is like a creeper whose fruits are prema. Her girlfriends are like the unlimited branches, leaves and flowers which expand out from her self and are thus equal to her. For this reason, when that winding creeper of love is watered with the heavenly potion of Krishna’s sporting activities, then the leaves and flowers (the sakhis) find hundreds of times more pleasure than if they were themselves to be sprinkled; this seems quite normal. (11.16)When one has attained this consciousness, the sādhana can be considered successful.
This experience then comes back and "informs" every aspect of one's life. The bliss of lovemaking fills the Holy Name, so that the sound "Radhe Shyam" immediately awakens subliminal memories of the bliss and associations to it.
Some people may worry that the restraining of orgasm results in the building up of desire which will become uncontrollable. This may be a fear in the beginning stages before one has learned the art of redirecting and assimilating the energies that are let loose in the physical act of sex. One thing that seems to be true: there is a big difference between making love to a partner and autoerotic practices. In the orgasm-restrained method of lovemaking, it appears that the partners offset each other's "lust" and help to dissipate it.
Autoerotic practices, on the other hand, seem to be, almost by definition, egocentric and thus have only limited beneficial consequences, if any, in reducing sexual tension. Indeed, yogic theory holds that all energies wasted in this way have a deleterious effect, whether with a partner or through masturbation.
The fact is that as one becomes habituated to this alternate approach to sexuality, what in fact fills every pore of the body is not sexual frustration, but residue bliss. One learns to live with an enhanced sexuality that is associated with a deep meditative concentration. The awakened energies that are constantly present, demand directedness to smarana, to external sublimation in acts of kindness and generosity. But most of all, they remain alive to the love of the other and love for the Divine Archetype, whose Love is the source of all love and into which one seems to have become merged.
Nevertheless, I recommend a meditation session at the end of lovemaking, in which both partners calm the senses with the mind and capture any dissipated and disorderly energies that have been activated and align them with the subtle chakra system. A few minutes of meditation on the mūla mantras will consolidate the physical, psychic and spiritual benefits of the act.
I have suggested a ritual on this blog that can be used prior to lovemaking. There are numerous prayers that can be used. Sādhaka lovers should definitely pay their obeisances to each other as a matter of course beforehand, touching each other's feet in mutual respect, honoring the Deity of Love who is being invoked. A prayer that calls on Radha and Krishna to make the act of lovemaking one that is favorable to the culture of devotion should be made, as is a prayer that recognizes the principle that both are servants of the Divine Couple's love and union, and that whatever one does is being done in the consciousness of selfless service to them.
Some persons have accused me of being obsessed with sex. Others appeal for a "reasonable" or "balanced" attitude to sexuality. This is not altogether wrong: I am speaking of a culture whereby one does become obsessed or ekänta, single-minded in the pursuit of prema through the methods prescribed here and in my other articles.
But let me make the following clarification: Let us say there are three stages of sexuality: indifference or renunciation, balance, and obsession. In fact, none of these apply to this sādhana, because we are talking about a spiritual practice of experiencing the state of mystical non-duality with the Divine Couple, Radha and Krishna, in madhura rasa. There is no such thing as spiritual perfection without total surrender. The path of Love is the practice of love. The path of madhura rasa is through sexual sādhana in partnership with another sādhaka who seeks the same goal. There is really no other possibility.
Balance is an artificial construct that simply has not taken into account what the goal is, nor in fact realized in any way what the spiritual potential of sexuality is. In fact, the balanced are in favor of indifference, because for them, sexuality is not recognized as central. Therefore, the unrealistic idea is that one "progresses" towards indifference. Even some Sahajiyas say that the goal is indifference to physical sexuality. But if that is so, one would never, could never, abandon the accumulated benefits of sexual meditation and apply them to Radha-Krishna smarana. Balance here is not a philosophy, it is a state of confusion.
Of those who are obsessed, we have two types: those who claim to be Tantriks and those who are just materialistic hedonists. Many Tantriks also claim that their culture of material pleasure is meant to produce indifference in the long run. Materialistic hedonists are a pathetic bunch who are constantly looking for the dwindling returns of limited sources of pleasure. More women, longer penises, hard core pornography, sex-enhancing drugs like viagra and ecstasy – on and on the list goes deeper and deeper into the tamo-guna. There is no hope on this path, certainly not any hope of the divine prema that is the goal of the Sahajiya.
If the Sahajiya is obsessed, it is an obsession with prema, with love, the purified essence of desire reciprocated. When attained through practice, both partners are transformed and practically become gods in whom love sparkles in every pore of his or her being. Jai Shri Radhe!