Part III – Chapter21
Give up sensuality.
A certain level of spiritual realization is required to overcome another weakness common in this day and age – sensuality, by which we shall here meanthe yearning for and pursuit of sexual sensations. Sensuality includes sexual fantasies, reminiscences and anticipations, since all such mental rehearsing of sex causes sexual sensations, almost as effectively as actual sexual acts do (and indeed, some people’s sex lives are entirely imaginary).
Sexual activity is of course normal and necessary from a biological point of view, as is food. The problem with it is that it is a very strong force in our body and mind, capable of driving us on a mad search for gratification at any cost. This is especially true when we are young, and our reproductive instincts and powers are at their peak. But it can also be true during late middle age and early old age, when many people cling to their waning sexual abilities (to seduce and perform).
From the meditative point of view, one problem with sex is the energy it dilapidates, which would be better used for spiritual advancement. Without sufficient energy, one cannot meditate long or deeply. Loss of sperm for men (and I assume there is some equivalent incident for women), even if involuntary, is a spiritual retardant; all the more so, if voluntarily caused.
More broadly, sensuality diverts one’s attention from the things in life that really matter, the deeper issues. It reinforces confusion of self with ego. It narrows people’s concerns to futilities, making them shallow. Their thoughts become frivolous and prurient, their language full of “dirty words”. They cannot concentrate or think straight.
Once enslaved to sensuality, one becomes dependent on the receptiveness and complicity of others. When partners are available, all seems well for a while. But when relationships become more tenuous or complicated, or they cease to be, much emotional and social difficulty ensues. Sometimes, sufficient anger is aroused to generate physical violence. Much time is wasted trying to “fix things” in the couple; and very often things get even more problematic. One’s life becomes woefully entangled – for what has ultimately very little value: some mere sensations!
People regard “romantic love” as the ultimate justification of sex (apart from bonding and reproduction). But, honestly, most sexual relationships are not based on love, but on lustmixed with possessiveness and dependence. The word love is brought up as sugar coating, as a seductive lie; the liar even lies to himself or herself, too, so as to make the lie more credible to the partner. The true love people may sincerely feel for each other has nothing to do with sex: it is a matter of mutual respect, trust and support.
Of course, sexual attraction for members of the opposite sex is normal and natural. When a man sees a pretty, well-shaped, fresh girl or young woman, he cannot but feel attraction; and similarly, a woman is attracted by a man. These are biological instincts, inscribed in our genes, for the perpetuation of our species. But for this, we would not be here. One has to accept the fact and take it into consideration as a factor, when trying to increase one’s chastity. One does well to remember that “grace is delusive and beauty is passing”.
Look upon your sexual impulses and desires as mere visitors in your house – as temporary events that can never rule you, if you do not allow them to. Strength of character is possible, even easy, and very rewarding. Do not draw pleasure even from passing sensations, not even in your dreams. Keep your mind and hands clean. Purity of thoughts, words and deeds is essential to spiritual success. And it makes one happy, too.
Human beings would not exist as such without reproduction. Moreover, sexual relations not specifically aimed at or resulting in reproduction are biologically justified, since they serve to maintain a family bond, which is useful to survival of the couple and their children. This biological perspective is also, by the way, the Jewish “middle way” regarding sex – a more moderate doctrine than that found in other religions, one based on the general idea that life on earth (if properly lived) is a good thing, intended by the Creator.
Notice, as an indicator, thechutzpathat is eventually written on the face of people who engage in unnatural sex acts, for example. Such people confuse their brazenness, impudence and insolence with self-assurance. They boast of “gay pride”, only to mask their profound sorrow and shame. But even straight sex (even based on “love”) takes its toll, increasing narcissism and selfishness.
This is, historians tell us, a relatively recent argumentum.
Lust may either be selfish (in which case one pursues self-gratification, without concern for the partner’s pleasure or even pain), or it may be cooperative (in which case, the sex acts involved are most accurately described as mutual masturbation). Cooperative lust is sometimes confused with love, note. As for sex with prostitutes (some of which, by the way are unwilling partners – effectively slaves), it is frankly based on lust – but its inherent cynical truthfulness does not justify it.