Shining World

Sex and Dharma

Dear Sundari,

Many greetings to Ramji. You are both in my heart. I opened the site to read one or two Satsangas and, after reading Ramji’s last post, I saw at the bottom of the page the suggestion of a Satsanga written by you that caught my attention. I like your Satsangas very much. Thanks. The Satsanga is called “The Craving for Sex”. (I don’t want to bring anything erotic in this email.)

As you know, I have been experiencing an internal conflict regarding my relationship. After speaking with Ramji, writing about it, practicing karma Yoga, etc., I felt peace… But the internal conflict broke out once more two weeks ago. There’s an internal struggle… 

I use the situation to try to practice the teachings I receive through you. I write a lot in a diary, try to analyze the situation from a distance, from the point of view of the Self, and practice karma yoga. Using these tools decreases the internal pressure and helps me to have lucidity. 

I have seen many things about how my Jiva is positioned in relationships, patterns that are repeated … It has been a painful process, but very rich. I think it is a necessary process.

Some important reflections occurred … 

1 – I always believed that I was emotionally dependent on my husband.
Affective dependence is an illusion and is not real, so I need to practice the opposite thinking. I am already complete.

2 – I am afraid that the relationship will end, I am afraid of suffering, I am afraid of making the wrong decision. Fear is one of the roots of suffering and obscures clarity … 

I neutralize this fear as follows: If I use the right tools to see if this relationship is positive for both of us and verify that it is not positive, Ishvara will supply me with everything I need. I have nothing to fear. And here I can also repeat: I have nothing to fear, I am already complete.

3 – Attachment and fear have always been present in this relationship and perhaps in so many other relationships. And to love and to be love, in this relationship or in other relationships, these two feelings need to be abandoned.

4 – Since March I am dedicating myself to the study of Vedanta with you. When Shining World came my way, it could have brought me a lot of emotional instability, but I remained so calm and so detached in this process of migrating to Shinning World, so open to what life was bringing me, that this change did not cause me suffering. This shows me the importance of detachment. I am grateful to have thought about it this week.

Sundari: I have addressed the relationship points you bring up in the next satsang. As we have said many times, most people don’t go into or stay in relationships for freedom. They do so for emotional satisfaction, which is not necessarily the kiss of death spiritually but may well be. Relationships are samsaric preoccupations if they are based on desire and need.   Unless you are a proper karma yogi, intimate relationships create bondage. That is not to say there is anything wrong with relationships, but it is dependence of them for happiness that is the problem. I recommend you read my book The Yoga of Relationships, as it addresses all the relationship points you make here.

Sandra: At the top of my questions about my actual relationship is the sexual issue. I always had the impression that sex is not so important for me. I think that if it was, I wouldn’t have maintained my current relationship for about 10 years. But I feel sexual desire, I feel like satisfying myself sexually. This week I found myself giving my sexual desire to Ishvara and it caused me some pain. I was a little bit surprised when I offered it… 

I would like to ask you a question about sex. About that Satsanga you wrote. I also highlighted some things that called my attention to future reflections. I put it in my diary.

1 -I don’t feel that there is love between my husband and me when we have sex. I do not see involvement between us, I see it as a mechanical activity as if the two were not present, did not appreciate this meeting. I think there is no good chemistry between us. I don’t feel desired. After sex, many times, instead of feeling love, I have a feeling of frustration.

How is it possible to make sex an expression of love? Is this possible when two people don’t have good chemistry together? I don’t want to have sex without love anymore, but I don’t know where to start.

I started talking to my husband about it this week. I asked about his feelings, how is it to him, I told him in a nice way that I do not feel much desire and said also that we never felt in love, since the beginning… I asked him if that was the problem… I never felt in love… He told me that he does not see it as a problem… That we respect each other, that he loves me, that sometimes (for him) the pleasure is more intense, sometimes less, but it is ok for him. I think that he accommodates everything and that it is not really an issue for him. 

But why it is an issue for me? Why? 

I think it would be good to have some guidance. I really decided to face the situation and see what it is all about. I do not want to fear anymore. Fear is not a positive tool for someone that wants moksa. 

Whatever happens, I would like to try to go through this whole process in a mature, conscious way, learning from the situation.

Sundari: True happiness/love is not a feeling, although it seems hard to separate from feelings. Feelings are also the Self, but the Self is not your feelings. So honor your feelings for what they are and do not identify with them because they are always changing, they are objects appearing in you, the Self. Feelings are just the reflection of love, they are not actually love, just like your reflection in the mirror is you but is not you.  Love as your nature means you are whole and complete and need nothing. It does not involve another as all others are known to be the love you are, though love is expressed as a feeling to ‘others’. When Self-knowledge is firm, the object is loved for its own sake, not for how the object makes you, the subject, feel.  Real love wants nothing and fears nothing.  It is self-satisfied.  Desire feels like love because when its needs and conditions are met, the mind is settled and blissful.  When its needs and desires are not met, it is a veritable sea of storms. 

I understand your problem well as many years ago I was in a loveless marriage without sexual desire.  I was not afraid to leave and did, even though I had a two-year-old daughter to consider.  I knew that if I stayed, I would have security but would die to myself, so I had to leave. It was during the very formative years of my spiritual growth, and much like you, I did a lot of self-inquiry and examination of my motives. I knew I did not love my husband, though I respected him, he was and is a good man. At the time, I was not emotionally but financially dependent, and I knew my ex-husband would punish me for leaving, which he did.  It was hard, but I grew in the ways I needed to, and it was absolutely the right choice for me. What I realized in making the choice to leave is that there is no such thing as security in this world, neither emotional nor material.  I am my only security.

You need to examine your core values. If your marriage is not in harmony with your svabhava and svadharma (inborn nature and dharma) you cannot apply karma yoga, because it won’t work. Karma yoga is the greatest emotional and mental burnout insurance there is. It involves consecrating all action to Isvara in the spirit of gratitude, knowing that the results of our actions are not up to us. But karma yoga applied to inaction or action has no effect on the mind when we are avoiding an action required to follow dharma. Sometimes, we must do things that are hard for us, even breaking promises which will seemingly hurt others, to be true to ourselves.  Only you can know if this applies to you. Dharma is a very difficult topic to advise anyone on because we all have personal dharma that applies only to us.

Here is the breakdown on dharma:

The universal laws or dharmas are built into the nature of the Field of Existence and cannot be avoided or contravened without consequence. The results of all actions, whether through appropriate action (dharma) or inappropriate action (adharma), are called karmas.  It is our experience that “as you sow, so you shall reap.”

Although dharma is one, because reality is non-dual, it can be understood in three ways.

1: Samanya Dharma or Universal Values are 1) moral laws governing the Field of Existence that apply to everyone personally, like non-injury, honesty, fairness, equality, etc and 2) the macrocosmic laws of physics, like gravity and thermodynamics, etc.

2: Visesa Dharma is Situational Ethics, or how the individual interprets the universal rules and applies them to their lives with regards to everything: lifestyle, diet, money, work, family, sex, marriage, how one relates to people and our environment, etc. There is some wiggle room here that can allow for justification of adharmic actions, but there is no getting away from the fact that if situational dharma contravenes universal dharma and our svadharma, it is adharma, for us.

3: Svadharma with a small “s” is an individual’s conditioning. This is the nature and the predisposition with which each person is born. To be happy the individual needs to act in accordance with his or her inborn nature (svabhava) or he or she will not be following dharma.  For instance, if it is an individual’s nature to be a business- person and live in a city, it will not work for him or her to take up farming and live in the country.

All dharmas are based on common sense and logic.  Our personal svadharma of course also includes our conditioning: our vasana load, which will be governing how we see and act on all levels. The binding vasanas must be seen and dissolved for peace of mind to be experienced.  Still, we will have a particular kind of nature that we need to be in harmony with, so unless we understand what our svabhava is, we can make decisions that cause great agitation, suffering , and discomfort to the mind and body, making peace of mind impossible.

As I said above, it is possible that on a personal level in order to be true to our svadharma, we must sometimes take actions that cause agitation and distress to ourselves or “others”.  There is no hard and fast rule here.  But again, we cannot use svadharma as an excuse to break universal dharma. If we are bound and cannot change our circumstances or situation, then we must accept that this is prarabdha karma (momentum of past actions) playing out and we attend to it as best we can with the karma yoga attitude.  You know the beautiful prayer: “Lord give me the courage to change what needs to be changed, the strength to accept what cannot be changed and the wisdom to know the difference between the two.”

As an inquirer, the freedom you are after does not require denying pleasure, so there is no problem with desiring sex per se.  The freedom you are after is freedom from dependence on objects, as you have already understood. So sex is not the problem, it is the requirement that you have of your sexual experience that is the problem. If you are truly free of the jiva, you are free to honor its nature and have great sex (or not) without being bound by it. Sex is not a valid spiritual path because the purpose is of sex is pleasure, not liberation. Pleasure never lasts but liberation does because it is your eternal nature. Yes, sex may be an important part of your life, but it should be no more important than any other basic need, food for instance. You don’t eat to get enlightened. The best attitude to sex is total dispassion, a ‘take it or leave it, all the same to me’ attitude.

But though you do have sex, you do not experience pleasure when you do. Everything is experienced in the mind.  We all have the same sex organ, and it is the mind. It can be argued that sex without love and consideration for your partner is just mutual masturbation.  The problem you have seems to be a lack of intimacy with your husband, which you relate to never have been ‘in love’ with him. True intimacy is primarily about Self-knowledge, honesty, and authenticity, not sex. Intimacy is always present when you know your nature to be non-dual love, which has nothing to do with the presence or absence of anyone in your life, whether you have sex or not, or whether you do or don’t reach orgasm. You can experience the most intense intimacy entirely alone.

So are you bored with your husband, or do you just think there should be more passion in your life? Sex is often sought by individuals who are bored with their partner and or, bored with themselves.  Sex is an interesting activity as when your desire is completely satiated, you experience the bliss of your Self directly, though most people don’t realize this and attribute the bliss to sex itself.  When this bliss punctuates periods of anxiety and/or depression, it seems to be extraordinary, even though it is an unremarkable lived experience for Self-actualized people, for whom the bliss of the Self is normal.  Sex is less exciting for Self-actualized people because the bliss of knowing who they are is constant.  Twenty-four hours of sustained pleasure day in and day out is infinitely more valuable than fleeting moments of intense pleasure sandwiched into a lifetime of perfunctory and unfulfilling activities.  

Furthermore, sustained sexual interest in a love object is a contradiction because sexual attractions are notoriously fickle. Our sexual responses are produced by hormones, which nobody controls. Strong sexual passion feels so good, but it is one of the most destructive energies known to humankind, burning everything in its path.  It only works in a relationship when it is subordinated to a solid mature love based on higher values, a passion for the truth particularly, which burns the impurities of the soul. 

However, sex is a natural urge, it goes with the territory of being human. It can be a source of much pleasure. But when the pleasure is associated with a sense of low self-esteem or incompleteness, it may become perverted and cause terrible suffering. The buddha had a good saying regarding pleasure: it is like licking honey off a blade. Dangerous, tread carefully. We can neither deny pleasure nor indulge it without consequence.

The thing to understand is that craving for sex, in your case loving, intimate, sex, is the desire for human contact, not sex itself.  What are you trying to contact? The craving itself is the issue, as craving anything—from food to the company of others—is only present when our true nature is not understood and valued. The actual source of the craving is the desire for wholeness.  In other words, it is a psychological problem that can only have a spiritual solution, meaning self-inquiry. 

As an inquirer and householder, it might be necessary to sublimate the sex vasana to render it non-binding; this kind of renunciation is to be advised if moksa is the aim and sex is a powerfully binding vasana. But this kind of renunciation is not denial. Denying or indulging the craving for (sex or anything else) never solves the craving but exacerbates it.  It is the understanding that nothing is to be gained by indulging this vasana so one makes a different choice every time the craving arises, by sublimating the desire with the opposite thought. You say you are doing this but finding it painful. The question is why.

The solution for you is to conduct a moral ‘dharma’ inventory. If you cannot be happy sexually with your husband, but there are other good reasons for you to remain in the relationship, then you have only two choices. Acknowledge that there is only one source of pleasure—your Self. Nobody gives this to you, and nobody takes it away.  It cannot be augmented or reduced by the presence or absence of a partner, be they exciting sexually or not. Commit to accepting your situation as it is, practice karma yoga and mind management. Accept the fact that your dissatisfaction is a spiritual issue and has nothing to do with your sex life or your husband.

If you cannot do this, and you know that you are not being true to yourself by staying, then you must leave him. Remember, non-injury is the highest value, and if we are not being honest with ourselves and those close to us, we are injuring both ourselves and them. 

As I said, nobody can advise you on the right course of action in this case, it is a private matter. You know what the scripture says. You cannot make Vedanta fit into your life; it can only work the other way around.  It is a question of how dharma applies to you in this situation and what your main motivation in life is.

Much love


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