All living beings follow a process of interaction. The four natural urges are eating, sleeping, insecurity and sexual interaction. Human beings carry all four instincts because as homo sapiens we live in an animal body. However, we have one important qualification which is an awareness of our existence, our actions and all that is happening around us.
Animals are groping in avidya, darkness. They follow the path of spontaneity and nature. Maybe a few animals can think, but they do not know they are thinking. Animals do experience pain and pleasure, but they do not know they are experiencing pain and pleasure. They react, but they do not know they are reacting. A dog is barking in the next house, but it does not know that it is barking. Consciousness of actions and events, time and space is an extra faculty given to mankind. This extra awareness of what is happening is jnana, awareness and knowledge.
When you indulge in eating, sleeping, fear and sexual interaction with full awareness, then you are acting as a human being. If you indulge in the natural urges of life like any other animal, without knowing purpose and consequences, style and method, then you are acting on the principle of instinct. The higher life which nature has created as a road for evolution is not open to animals because they are guided by nature, living on a purely physical level. In the same manner, those who indulge in sexual activity indiscriminately, not knowing its greatness and dignity are acting on the instinctive level. People who know that sexual life is a very important factor in spiritual enlightenment involve themselves in it with utmost understanding and total awareness, knowing style and method as instructed in tantric scriptures, and they attain the highest result of sexual life.
When two human beings in the form of male and female come together, either through social sanction like matrimony or privately, it is important to keep in mind that the female is not a bitch and the man not a bulldog. This coming together has a spiritual purpose. It is not merely idealistic. It is real in the sense that they are going to help each other to attain spiritual evolution. Spiritual evolution is not a metaphysical idea, but begins with the body, goes through the nadis and proceeds to kundalini. If this is the aim of the two individuals coming together, then their sexual interaction is an absolutely spiritual act.
The coming together of man and woman is not for the sake of fulfilling passion and pleasure, but for the purification of nadis. It is also a tool for creating balance in the emotional structure. When two people have been living together and cooperating with each other, it should create emotional, nervous and physical balance after a year or two. Yet today, after fifteen years of living together, not only with one man or one woman but maybe with dozens, people have not achieved even a small amount of balance. This means that the very system of coming together of man and woman in society is unscientific and destructive, and is not going to give them enlightenment.
There is no use in trying to justify sexual interactions. A man who tries to drive a car without first learning to drive is only going to meet with an accident. In the same manner, body, prana, senses and mind have to be purified and properly trained through the practices of hatha yoga. Then the mind should be properly brought to a point of focus by the practices of raja yoga. The emotional activities of the heart should be properly fixed by the practices of bhakti yoga, and the wandering and wavering mind should be controlled by the practices of karma yoga. Whatever one does, it will only help to evolve.
Sexual life is one of the important ways of expelling toxins from the body. The physical body produces a lot of hormones and chemicals which in turn influence the mind, body and its functions.
Nature has therefore developed systems through which these difficult and most disturbing secretions can be expelled from the body. At the same time, when the urge is controlled it can be transmuted and transformed into spiritual energy which is operating at different levels. At the gross level it is sexual energy, but in dhyana or meditation and in the awakening of kundalini the same shakti is transformed and transmuted.
For the tamasic, rajasic and sattwic states of evolution, the regulation of brahmacharya has to be different. Tantra clearly mentions the pashu bhava, the instinctive personality, the veera bhava, the warrior personality and the deva bhava, the spiritual aspirant. Only the category of deva bhava can use a form of absolute brahmacharya which will be conducive to their spiritual illumination. For people who belong to a tamasic state of evolution known as pashubhava, the regular form of expulsion of sexual emotion and energy is very necessary.
Brahma means supreme awareness and charya means to move in and to live in. To move and live in supreme awareness is the positive concept of brahmacharya. The negative concept is abstention from sexual life.
In tantra it is said that the purpose of sexual interaction is threefold - firstly for progeny, then for pleasure, and thirdly for illumination. The sattwic people transmute their sexual energy and attain samadhi. The tamasic grade expresses the sexual energy and creates progeny. For spiritual life one has to remember to which grade one belongs. In this particular sense karma has indicated the grihastha ashrama, which means the life of husband and wife living together.
The man must practise vajroli, and the woman a kriya called ojhi. Ojhi is total contraction of the uterus so that the sperm cannot enter and is therefore separated from the ova. Vajroli is control of the sexual impulse gland through which the impulse that causes ejaculation recedes. By controlling it one continues with married life as long as one wants, but without ejaculation, and if by mistake ejaculation has taken place, it can be drawn back in. There is no better method. After one year or two years of practice, the man becomes perfect, stops the sperm and the ova is separated. It is tantric brahmacharya, tantric celibacy which is allowed for householders.
The physical energy is not that important, but the nervous system, hormones and the imbalance that is created within the range of the nadis have to be taken into account. If one can create order in the mind so that the mind does not criticize then meditation becomes one-pointed and awakening comes by itself. Brahmacharya from the raja yoga point of view is one of the items of yama. Yama is a process of disciplining one's inner nature. Satya, ahimsa, brahmacharya, asteya and aparigraha are items of self-discipline which one imposes upon oneself, in order to go through a process and ultimately accomplish it.
In this particular sense, one has to remember that asanas, pranayama and shatkarmas play a very important role. In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and other texts on yoga there is also mention of other kriyas through which one can transform physical energy into psychic energy. The energy is known as retas. Those who have sublimated physical energy into spiritual energy are known as retas. Brahmacharya definitely is helpful in concentration of the mind.
Brahmacharya is not suppression. It is a good way of trying your mental strength against a great force, because the elements which you normally confront in life are very weak. With one push you can throw them away. If you are angry, for example, you can just say, "He is a useless man why should I get angry with him?" Mental problems and weaknesses can be easily bypassed, but sexual fantasies and desires are very difficult to escape from. When you face them, it is like facing a tiger. Either you kill or are killed. It is a most powerful force in man. If you really want to test your mental strength and find out how much willpower you have, there are only two methods, one is sleep and the other sexual desires. They are not bad but the most compulsive urges in the human mind. You cannot escape or bypass them. How long can you remain without sleep? Maybe thirty-six hours and then in a minute sleep comes.
If you are married and it is your dharma to have sexual intercourse, you should still try your mental strength either for a few days, weeks, months or if possible for a few years. I am talking to spiritual aspirants.
There are some people who think that sexual life is sinful. Whether they restrain themselves or indulge in it, it will break their minds. If you consider it dirty and still indulge in it, you will suffer from guilt. If you think it is sinful and restrain yourself, again and again your mind will go there because you want it and you don't want it at the same time. This conflict will either drive you into a mental asylum or result in hysteria, epilepsy, schizophrenia and many other disorders.
Therefore, grihastha ashrama is necessary, but at the same time rules and regulations regarding sexual interactions are necessary, especially for aspirants who want to pursue spiritual life. Guidance is given in scriptures where methods, restrictions and diet have been clearly indicated. Food plays an important part as well as the objective and purpose in life. You are not trying to compel yourselves to oppose the laws of nature, but at the same time you have to transcend this mental and emotional agony of mankind. You do not know your inner unhappiness. Sometimes you are happy, sometimes you are not happy. You only know the external happiness but not the inner one.
Sexual impulses do not belong to the sexual organs. They are controlled by a higher mechanism in the brain, and in addition to asanas, meditation should also be practised. In meditation one should concentrate on one point, and try to retain that point in one's mind and vision. That point comes but soon disappears again because the mind is disturbed. Constant awareness and vision of the point should be kept in front of oneself.
The point can be anything - a flower, star, flame, moon, sun, deity, cross the guru or Om. There are thousands of symbols and one has to pick only one, not two or three. If Om, the cross or crescent moon with the star is chosen as a symbol, one must stick to it and not change. The symbol is the base for consciousness. If it is a star, one should try to see the star with closed eyes. Usually when the star comes, another idea flashes through the mind and the star goes out. Again it has to be brought back.
Focusing mental energy is important in so far as control of sexual energy is concerned. One should not misunderstand sexual energy as only belonging to certain sexual organs. Sexual energy is another form of vitality or prana shakti. When pranas are at a lower voltage, then one suffers from impotency, frigidity, sexual debility and many other problems. When prana shakti is at a higher voltage, then sexual energy is strong. There is no impotency or frigidity. Sexual debility is not a disease, but a symptom. The cause is insufficient prana shakti and the energy system is not functioning properly.
The practices prescribed are vajroli, sahajoli, and amaroli; concentration on one point, and finally increasing prana shakti, the pranic voltage, by practising regular pranayama in a place where there are plenty of negative ions.
The cult of modern society urges one to be free, whereas the more orthodox philosophies advocate renunciation. Yoga is the meeting point of both. The philosophy of yoga is not renunciation. It recognizes the necessity of both sexual interaction and brahmacharya as part of one's dharma. It is a blending of the two into one. In the shastras it is said, "What is the use of practising that yoga which cannot be practised in the state of bhoga?" Sensual enjoyment creates tension, exhaustion and frustration, which are balanced by the practice of yoga.
Sivanandashram, Munger, 22 March 1981