Re-channelling Desires

Desire is the root cause of suffering. It cannot be escaped simply by living the life of a sannyasin. However in the path of sannyas, one learns to utilise desires rather than be ruled by them.

The sannyasin realises that sexual drive is a very great power which can neither be suppressed nor fulfilled. By gratifying the sexual drive, one is trying to extinguish a fire by throwing kerosene onto the flames. Because success can never come in that way, the sannyasin chooses the way of sublimation or transformation of sexual energy into spiritual. Sexual energy is a physical manifestation of cosmic energy. When it is absorbed and transformed it is the greatest power for spiritual development. When it is directed away from the generative thrill of orgasm, it leads to blissful awakening of higher centres of conscious awareness.

The act of sublimation of the primal energy in man is called brahmacharya which literally means 'established in God'. This is a great ideal of spiritual life. It has been traditionally interpreted as sexual continence or celibacy, but it actually refers to the conservation of vital energy and its direction towards higher conscious awareness in all activities. The seat of this energy is not so much in the semen as it is in the mind. Only by controlling the sexual impulse as it arises in the mind can the state of continence be attained.

When the mind is free from sexual fantasies and semen is not released, this is called brahmacharya: It is a state of control which develops through rigorous ashram life. However, if a person refrains from sexual contact, but his mind and dreams are filled with sexual fantasies and semen falls, that cannot be called brahmacharya. Brahmacharya enables the sannyasin to live a higher and more satisfying life. It is established by gaining control over the vajra nadi, which links the energy used in sexual activity to the brain. The whole effort has to be made on an inner level and not on an external level. Becoming established in continence, the sannyasin gradually unites with the cosmos, the total reality, to enjoy a continuing and increasing bliss which never diminishes.

How is sexual continence established?

Sexual energy cannot be dammed up without impairing natural life processes, depleting vitality and leading to depression and mental problems. Sexual energy is stored up in the unconscious. When it is denied active expression it is deflected back into the unconscious, where it must be redirected into work and creative and spiritual activities. Otherwise, mental disturbance will inevitably occur. In sannyas life this energy is spent every day in hard work and creative activity which demands total awareness, and utilises every faculty and capacity of the mind. In the ashram routine, sannyasins work with an intensity which re-channels this energy completely.

If one does not work in this way, the energy finds immediate expression in perverse erotic play, aggression or inner tension. This is what happens in many monasteries where intense karma yoga is not practiced and the young initiates spend all their time devoted to studies and prayer. To effectively redirect all these powerful impulses for higher purposes, the sannyasin has to eat and sleep less and be totally occupied in his work for a period of years.

Sexual, emotional and spiritual energy are expressions of the same force on different levels. Once the sannyasin is established in the ashram lifestyle, it is found that mental problems and depression diminish, and spiritual awakening progresses rapidly.

Then the benefits of successful sublimation manifest clearly, as it is found that the sannyasin has far more energy and dynamism, and is free of mental tension. The ordinary man works less, eats and sleeps more, and is plagued by mental problems and physical tension and illness. It is successful sublimation of sexual energy which lifts the sannyasin into higher realms of experience and away from the thoughts, problems, diseases and debilities which beset ordinary people as they continue in life. The sannyasin accelerates into a transcendental realm of regenerative bliss rather than degenerative and weakening pleasure.

Once the readjustment is established the sannyasin becomes firmly fixed in spiritual life, disciplined and steady in mind and emotions. Then he no longer needs to maintain such an intense work schedule. He can sit quietly or work hard all day without any difference, for he has learned to conduct the life force and lets it flow productively into the creative mental and spiritual planes. Once the passage is established, the process becomes effortless. The kundalini energy which operates on the sexual level in ordinary man has been transmuted to operate on the spiritual level.

Transcending sensual love

Sensual love is a God-given experience. It should be experienced and enjoyed, along with all the pleasures of the world. Sensual life is not anti-spiritual, and no one should develop a mental blockage in this matter. True spirituality accepts life; it never rejects.

Sooner or later however, one realises that sensual love is limited by the senses. One cannot gain a greater experience through the senses than they can give. It is the yearning for a higher love, an eternal love which is without limitation or end, which the spiritual quest satisfies. Sannyas life sublimates the energy which receives limited expression through the senses. It transforms the indomitable force of sexuality away from worldly objects and turns it to a higher ideal, transforming human love into a higher experience, that of divine love. The urge for sexual union is a reflection of the universal impulse towards union with the infinite.