What can repression accomplish?
Posted January 21, 2005
Bhaktavatsala prabhu has suggested that "in brahminical society there is no presence whatsoever of homosexuality . . . as it is a wholly spiritually-minded society". He may be holding up some pure standard written about in sastra, but here on Earth things are not so simple. In almost any brahminical sanga in the world one will discover that sex life is commonplace -- both homosexual and heterosexual. It's the same all over.
Bhaktavatsala das quotes Srila Prabhupada, "It is the mundane sex interest that keeps one enslaved to the material realm, and the 'bodily concept' of life". However, the Bhagavat teaching is not that one needs totally to renounce sense enjoyment. One needs to strike a balance, one needs to make time for spiritual sravanam, kirtanam, sadhu-sanga, etc. It's not that enjoying your senses keeps you from God; it is the exclusive use of your life and time for sense enjoyment which binds one to the material realm.
Srila Prabhupada taught that the best path was the path of moderation. He rejected the false vairagis who prematurely attempt to give up all sense enjoyment, giving the example of the elephant who bathes, and then throws dirt all over itself.
The premature renunciation of material enjoyment leads to obsession with that enjoyment. It's like a person who decides to go on a crash diet or give up all sex. At first the person is all excited about being strong in his ascetic endeavor. But almost everyone is unable to maintain such a strict regimen. The object of renunciation is meditated on as the source of pleasure that one wants to renounce. This process reaffirms the subconscious thoughts that the person is depriving himself of pleasure. In this way, the premature overzealous renunciate ends up meditating on that which she or he wishes to negate. It ends up being too much to handle, and the person goes from abstinence to gluttony. This is common among dieters, and it applies to sex life as well.
The process prescribed by the Bhagavat is gradual disentanglement from focusing on sense enjoyment. The attitude apparently expressed by Bhaktavatsala das, however, leads to false renunciation and then to obssession with satisfying the hunger wrought by deprivation.
He quotes a Bhagavad-gita verse: "I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles." We all know what the Gita says, but we live in a world where people follow their own conscience. If you want to put up a sign in front of every ISKCON temple that says "No sinners allowed" or "God will punish the sinner", what effect will that have when the primary function is to uplift the most fallen? It will make them feel that they are not wanted, that they are excluded from sanga because they are not good enough.
Then he says: "Sex life must be given up, especially as there are no such selfish activities (even for propagation of children) in the eternal transcendental realm of Govinda, which is ever free from birth, and death. It is eternal, as are we, as is Govinda." In my opinion, sex life is not something that the average non-elderly person needs totally to give up; I do agree it is not to become the driving force of your life. As far as there being no sex in the spiritual world, that is a fallacy:
Actually lust and sex are there in spiritual life, but when the spirit soul is embodied in material elements, that spiritual urge is expressed through the material body and is therefore pervertedly reflected. When one actually becomes conversant in the science of Krsna consciousness, he can understand that his material desire for sex is abominable, whereas spiritual sex is desirable. Spiritual sex is of two kinds: one in accordance with the constitutional position of the self and the other in accordance with the object. When one understands the truth about this life but is not completely cleansed of material contamination, he is not factually situated in the transcendental abode, Vrndavana, although he may understand spiritual life. When, however, one becomes free from the sex urges of the material body, he can actually attain the supreme abode of Vrndavana. When one is so situated, he can utter the kama-gayatri and kama-bija mantra. -- Teachings of Lord Chaitanya
And from Bhaktivinoda Thakura's The Bhagavata,
Sexuality symbolizes the highest attraction and the acme of deliciousness of transcendental service. In the Amorous Performances of Vraja, the secrets of the eternal life are exhibited in their uncovered perfection in the activity of the Love of unalloyed souls. . . . Ethical restrictions of sex relationship, that are imposed at Ayodhya by the form of the monogamous marriage are relaxed at Dwarka where the Absolute manifests His fuller personality and appears in the guise of the polygamous Husband. The conventions of marriage are abrogated in Vrindavana where the sanctity of wedlock becomes secondary and a foil to the Amorous Exploits of Sri Krishna in His Fullest Manifestation.
Bhaktavatsala das writes, "The mundane sex business is to be given up entirely, if one wishes to indeed 'go back to home, back to Godhead' and get free from the shackles of the mundane material existence. . . ."
With respect, "going back home" is not dependent on celibacy. It is dependent on becoming self-realized. Bhaktavatsala prabhu is my friend, so I do not say this about him, but I have many times heard what verges on fanatical rhetoric, often from people who do not follow their own advice. It frequently comes from a place of frustation with their own spiritual lives; it manifests in "speaking out for the Lord" in harsh terms, castigating all who fail to live up to the perceived demands of an unforgiving Deity. They strike out at others in the name of following to the 'T' the most renunciative and restrictive policy. The true spiritual teacher is just the opposite. He or she is personally strict but lenient with others.
Bhaktavatsala writes, "One cannot have kirtan, and still be involved in the mundane sex affairs." In my view, this slightly pompous attitude is provably fallacious. How many people around the world are engaged in Kirtan? How many are not engaged in sex life for enjoyment? The answer is obvious. If we take this uncompromising attitude, are we not taking the role of God, taking the position as spokesman for God, taking the harshest position and attitude possible? Nityananda and Gauranga were engaged in magnanimous lila, not saying, "Abandon hope, with no chance to gain the mercy of God."
Let us not fall for the trap of fundamentalism -- the resullt of an
inner despair and a seeking to gain favor from God by championing the
perceived anger and strictness that God has towards His/Her children.
If we were softer and more accommodating when it comes to others'
perceived faults vis-à-vis their eternal path to Godhead,
that would really please God. Our own salvation comes from the
development of a softening of our own hearts, not in displaying disdain
for the perceived faults of others.