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Biographies > St. Augustine to Gandhi: The Sexual Dilemma

   by Peter Holleran

   "Kill the snake of desire in the beginning;
   or watch out: your snake will become a dragon.
   But everyone considers his own snake to be just an ant:
   if you do, seek knowledge of your real state
   from one who is a lord of the heart.
   Until copper becomes gold,
   it doesn't know that it's copper:
   until the heart becomes a king,
   it doesn't recognize its poverty."

   (Rumi. Mathnawi II version by Camille and Kabir Helminski, Rumi: Daylight)

   When the story of "I” comes to an end, abberrant desires based on the avoidance of the yawning chasm of emptiness diminish. What arises thereafter in the self-radiance of reality is an individual matter. It is a given in non-dual discussions that the realization of our true nature should erase a radical separation between the body and the spirit, the lower and higher selves, the soul and God. Throughout history, however, man has struggled with these opposites, alternately feared as the world, the flesh, and the devil. The gnostic, and, in general, yogic, views, in particular, requiring a radical ascent or separation from incarnation, has prevailed until most recently, when an influx of newer teachers from the East, as well as the rise of psycho-therapeutic techniques such as Primal and Bioenergetics in the West, have led to the idea that a benign incarnation is possible in this very life and body wherein the war of the opposites ceases. Perhaps this is easier said than done. In this essay I have chosen St. Augustine and Mohandas K. Gandhi as two archtypal historical examples from the West and the East where the sexual impulse has been dealt with in what some would consider a negative, or ascetic way: on the one hand by the creation of a compatible philosophy, and on the other by the clandestine use of yogic techniques of sublimation, out of either fear or need. Ironically, Augustine, an articulate opponent of astrology who dismissed its influence upon human beings (but whose life pretty much disproves his belief) was born under the sign of sex, death, and self-transformation, Scorpio, while Gandhi also had an important Scorpio influence in his chart.

   St. Augustine (354-430) tells us in his famous Confessions of how he went from a life of “conscious depravity” to a devout catholic life of repentance and austerity. While his mother was a Christian, his father was not, and Augustine did not receive baptism into the faith until he was thirty-two years old. He passed through many experiences and suffered the events of his life before going through a crisis of religious conversion. When he was finally baptised, his mother, to whom he was very close, rejoiced, for this was an event she had prayed for and looked forward to for many years.

   At the age of eleven Augustine was sent for study to Madouros, Algeria, twenty miles south of his birthplace, Thagaste. Madouros was a stronghold of paganism ("paganism" meaning all who were not Christians), and apparently his visit there had a strong negative influence on him. At sixteen he went to rhetoric school in Carthage, and he later wrote that it was there that his moral corruption was made complete. A year or two later he fathered a child with an unnamed woman, and several years afterwards he abandoned them both. From 376 to 383 he taught philosophy in Carthage, and then left for Rome and Milan where the woman and child (Adeodatus, or “given by God”) followed him. When they left Rome he took up with another woman. Finally, in the summer of 386, he had a spiritual crisis and converted from Manicheanism to Christianity. He was baptised on April 24, 387, much again to the delight of his mother, who died soon afterwards with her mind finally at peace. Her death, which influenced him deeply, is related by Augustine in one of the most moving passages of the Confessions. A chastened man, he resigned his job as a professor and returned to Thagaste, where he started a religious community. For thirty-four years, from 396 until his death in 430, he was Bishop of Hippo, a nearby seaport.

   The Rule of St. Augustine became the standard reference manual for many Christian religious orders. As a spiritual advisor, perhaps his best advice, in my opinion, was the following warning to his fellow renunciate monks:

   ” Dear brethren, rather than you should say or think yourselves to be different or better than other men, I would that you should return to the world.

   In spite of this insightfulness, Augustine arguably did more than any other Christian leader to glorify the monastic state while damning that of the householder. He struggled with the desires of the flesh long before his conversion (saying, “O Lord, give me chastity and continence, but not just yet”) (1), and he never quite got over the conflict with the body. Born under Scorpio, a sign of internal warfare, he might have struggled to find a unity between the spirit and the flesh, but only succeeded in driving them farther apart, denouncing Manicheanism and Neo-Platonism, but in the same breath upholding very similar views. He was among the first Christians to equate sexual desire with original sin, saying, “Everyone who is born of sexual intercourse is in fact sinful flesh." (2) This is a far cry from Ramana Maharshi for whom the concept of original sin was the assumption of identification with the individual “I”-thought or ego itself, or even from the early Hebrews for whom man was a psycho-physical unity breathed to life by God and commanded to go forth, be fruitful and populate the earth. Hilton Hotema wrote:

   ” The founders of Christianity considered carnal copulation to be the cause of the fall from grace. They taught the unmarried would attain greater glories in heaven, some of them saying that those of either sex who indulged in coition, even though in wedlock, could not enter heaven at all, for the condition of wedlock did not free the body from the evil effects of sin.

   The argument that carnal copulation was necessary to perpetuate the race was met with the statement, that if Adam and Eve had not yielded to temptation, God would have provided some other mode of reproduction that would have dispensed with the co-operation of the sexes, and thus the world would have been peopled with passionless, innocent beings. Such was the doctrine taught by Justin, Gregory of Nyassa, Augustine, and other early Church fathers.
” (3)

   In a famous controversy with Augustine, Julian of Eclanum argued that sex in marriage was a good, wholesome, and normal thing. Augustine exercised his ecclesiastical power and overruled him, having Julian deposed and exiled. Largely as a result of the work of Augustine, by the time of the Middle Ages the Latin word “concupiscentia”, which had meant “strong desire”, had come to mean “tainted sexual desire”. Theologian Paul Tillich wrote that Augustine “never overcame the Hellenistic and especially the Neoplatonic devaluation of sex.” (4) Nicholas Berdyaev was far less gracious, saying that Augustine’s writings on sex “remind one of treatises on cattle breeding. ” (5)

   In short, Augustine, wise as he may have been in many ways, did much to make sex sinful and the body a curse for future generations of Christians. To the original early church, including the much misunderstood St. Paul, the body was a temple of the Holy Spirit, and was to be respected and honored as such, rather than as a tomb (“soma sema”) as the gnostics generally held it to be. It has even been argued that Jesus himself was neither celibate nor ascetic, being a member of the Nazarene, and not the Nazarite, branch of the Essenes. (6) (7)

   While in general speaking “old school” and recommending chastity or at least a responsible and reasonable self-control, both Ramakrishna and Paramhansa Yogananda in our time recognized the negative aspects of repression of the sex impulse, which is that of producing a devitalized self-conscousness and brittle asceticism. Ramakrishna, to Abhedananda, who asked him to remove his lust, rebuked him and said he should see all women as embodiments of the Divine Mother and also said that if he did take away his sex desire “he would find life insipid.” Yogananda told a close disciple that if he did likewise (assuming it were even possible), the disciple would “feel like he was losing his best friend.”

   It is quite possible that the recommendations of Augustine and other ascetic philosophers derive, at least in part, from a fundamentally emotional problem, which is represented in the body-mind by a fundamental shock whereby the born-being recoils from life, by varying degrees creating a split between the sexual, feeling, and cognitive centers. According to psychologists Alexander Lowen, Arthur Janov, Wilhelm Reich, and others, the average (ie., neurotic) individual is split into body and mind, as it were, by a central contraction or tension in the core of the bodily being, often felt at the level of the solar plexus or diaphragm. This may begin natally or even prenatally, but generally is well in place by the age of around five. An unnecessary dichotomy is then created in one’s feeling between the spirit (felt to be interior to the body) and the body itself, which perception is then held in place by belief systems, shallow breathing, the stored early life imprints, and, in general, the inability for the life-energy to flow freely in the system. Lowen states:

   ” If we can conceive of the body as being divided in its midsection by a ring of tension in the diaphragmatic area, the two poles would become two opposing camps rather than opposite ends of a single pulsation that moves between them. Now it is a fact that some degree of diaphragmatic tension exists inmost people. I pointed out earlier in connection with the loss of belly feeling, hara, due to a restriction of deep abdominal respiration. It is also true that some degree of ‘splitting’ is common to most people in western society. The effect of this splitting or dissociation of the two halves of the body is a loss of the perception of unity. The two opposite directions of flow become two antagonistic forces. Sexuality would be experienced as a danger to spirituality, just as spirituality would be viewed as a denial of sexual pleasure.” (8)

   David Boadella, Director of the Center for Biosynthesis, argued that there was a second primary ‘ring’ of tension at the level of the root of the neck, which, along with the tension in the diaphragm, effectively cuts off feeling at the heart. He called these two areas of tension the ‘linchpins’ of the entire process of bodily armoring. (9) When, through feeling-opening, however achieved, the contraction at these levels dissolves or relaxes, the philosophy and repressive viewpoints held in place by these contractions, operating below consciousness, dissolve also. The body may then be seen, not as a wild, untamed beast, a radical opponent of the ego-self, but a ‘presentation’ of spirit, and a fit base for the development of more advanced stages of spiritual awakening, where the root contraction or misidentification of egoity even prior to or at the heart of the body-mind itself is transcended.

   Some of these early pioneers in feeling therapy went too far, however, and in their exuberance at discovering the depth of the possibilities of bodily release, denied the validity of extra-corporeal spiritual experience altogether. This was the mistake of Janov's initial primal theory, which reduced all such experiences to the conceptualization of birth trauma. Mickel Adzema, in a very important and illuminating article, A Primal Perspective on Spirituality, argues convincingly that such is not the case at all, nor the conclusion of all who successfully undergo such therapies. The mysticism, when present, that develops among many when their neurotic split is healed, however, is generally not one of suppressive dissociation from the body and the world, but a natural expansion of the experiential dimension, in which the sexual, emotional, psychic, and spirit realms are not at war with each other. Whereas the general historical motivation behind much of mystical pursuit has been, as Reich maintained, a diversion of life energy to the head because of an inability for individuals (and even entire cultures) to experience sexual pleasure (or, stated more specifically, correctly, and appropriately, whole-bodily pleasure, which has a natural ease, economy, and truthfulness).

   In Love’s Body, Norman O. Brown argued that “to have a soul separate from the body is to have a body separate from other bodies”. When such bodily recoil relaxes, the stress-created feeling of an inward self dissolves as well, along with the exclusive and fear-driven motivation to escape the domain of the descended life. We then begin to be capable of love, and through that disposition, with basic subjective egoity handled, a more natural form of spiritual practice can develop and deepen, leading potentially to the eventual realization that, rather than the soul or self existing exclusively within the body, the body, mind , and world also arise within the infinite Soul or Self. That is where the fulfillment of non-dual realization leads. But first the “house” of need-driven aggitation with its subconscious roots must be set at rest, or at least reasonably so, or one may never be able to perceive and believe the great Truth. This is why traditionally karma yoga including forms of devotion were advocated as preparation for instruction in advaitic philosophy. Many among the modern such teachers, on the other hand, stress getting the non-dual insight first, arguing that that is sufficient, and the only means, free of egoic delusion, for the purification of the psyche and embodiment of the spirit to occur. Both schools have their persuasion.

   PB wrote that, while certain limiting forms of psycho-therapy were not adequate for dealing with karma, emotional purgation was required to prevent egoity from invading one's spiritual quest. He states:

   "Again, what is the use of taking a few small sections of the past, such as childhood or adolescence, and attempting to deal with them only, when the true past of the ego contains innumerable subconscious memories of former lives on earth and numerous tendencies which arise from episodes belonging to vanished history? The only thorough and complete way to deal with the ego is not only to deal with its surface manifestations, but to get at its own hidden existence on the one hand, and to work by aspiration, meditation, and reflection upon the Overself on the other hand." (10)

   "Without some kind of inner purgation, they will merely transfer to the religious or mystic level the same egoism which they previously expressed on the materialistic one." (11)

   "So long as the little self feels itself wise enough to make all its decisions and solve all its problems, so long will there be a barrier between it and the Higher Power." (12)

   "Your handicap is the strong ego, the "I" which stands in the path and must be surrendered by emotional sacrifice in the blood of the heart." (13)

   "Until he learns that his enemy is the ego itself, with all the mental and emotional attitudes that go with it, his efforts to liberate himself spiritually merely travel in a circle." (14)

   "The ego is full of subterfuges to keep him from getting away. These go all the way from sheer megalomania to the suggestion that it does not exist. It resents criticism, however truthful, but accepts praise, however undeserved." (15)

   "One of the ego's chief delusions takes the form of believing that its advanced planning, its reasoned management, and its apparent solutions of problems are more important than they really are." (16)

   PB realized - as have the best among schools of deep feeling therapy - that the unconscious is not a wild untamed beast with a mysterious will of its own, but merely deeper aspects of the ego itself - the so-called shadow of Jung included:

   “Jung thought he had found, in what he called the unconscious, the source which twisted, negated, or opposed the ego’s ideals. This source was the shadow. He needed to go farther and deeper for then he would have known the shadow to be the ego itself.” (17)

   “To say that the ego keeps us captive is only one way of stating the problem. That we are infatuated with it, is another way.” (18)

   “The ego will accept discipline and even suffering rather than let itself be killed.” (19)

   “The ego finds every kind of pretext to resist the practice required of it.” (20)

   “The ego lies to itself lies to the man who identifies himself with it, and lies to other men.” (21)

   Nevertheless this must all be uncovered and undone not only for the spirit-force to be allowed entry, but for his consciousness to be recast in the image of the Overself:

   "[A] reason for the need of the Long Path's preparatory work is that the mind, nerves, emotions, and body of the man shall be gradually made capable of sustaining the influx of the Solar force, or Spirit-Energy." (22)

   "The Overself will overshadow him. It will take possession of his body. There will be a mystical union of its mind with his body. The ego will become entirely subordinate to it." (23)

   These last quotes portray something of the profound transformation the quest promises, even if such ultimate stages are transcended in turn at some point, as the non-dualists attest.

   The aforementioned idea of Norman O. Brown, that a split occurs after which one feels he has a soul (or ego-soul) separate from the body, and simultaneously a body separate from other bodies, relates well to the teaching of contemporary non-dualists that a "personal story" begins at about the age of two with the development of consciousness-bifurcating language. Whether simple cognitive understanding and observation will obviate the problem, as the more advaitic teachers claim, or whether preverbal 'shock' to ones feeling nature must be undone, or both, has been discussed elsewhere [see the latter part of The Integrationalists and the Non-Dualists on this website]. That subject is very important, beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, that idea of "shock", especially "vital shock" was a big part of Adi Da's [aka Da Free John] much popularized argument on the "self-contraction." Advaitist James Schwartz , however, writes that any "self-contraction" is not of consciousness itself coming into abrupt contact with matter, which is not philosophical, but possibly a contraction of, not only the physical, but also the subtle body, due to such an event.

      Once a relative loosening of the contraction in the feeling domain is achieved, in any case, it may be easier to engage the more subtle exercises of jnana or advanced philosophical insight. Many contemporary individuals and even spiritual teachers thus find some type of psychological work, whether deep feeling therapy, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), or others, a useful complement to spiritual meditation, study, and contemplation.

      This is not to suggest that the points made in the article Goo-Goo Eyes in this website are irrelevant, nor that the “reproductive soul”, or aspect of the soul desiring re-embodiment, may not, will not, or must not eventually face its death (as Anthony Damiani pointed out), but only to offer a balancing viewpoint. And in regard to this matter, we need not be too impatient or anxious to see such a demise. I once said to a friend, who was spiritually inclined, "you know, they say that it takes a long time for the desire for sex to die out," and he replied, "why would you want it to?" I said, "I guess that's why they say it takes a long time."

   But is there, from a non-dual perspective, such a thing as true desire? Or do the Four Noble Truths reign supreme? In the words of Charles Henderson Blake:

   "Why do you desire to give up desire? What drove you to this laughable quandary? A desire for happiness? Wanting to be up on the universe? Better than everyone? Nature spins to chase tail! Peace be still. Soon dead and never...Seduced by words like TRUTH and PURE. Blinded by that tertiary lust that scoops you out of your body and emotions. Poor oyster without shell! Easy prey for the hucksters that shucked you!"

   For those of us in their fifties, sixties, seventies, and beyond, who have been on the quest for years, and where time is getting short, it may in fact be wisdom to recognize that that one is about as good as he is going to get, that one may not get any "better", and that the only left to do at this point is surrender, or to "Be As You Are", as Ramana often said. Perhaps we would be better off forgetting the words of the old teachers, and just trust in the heart. For those starting out, in their twenties and thirties, the aid of various therapies may be a more viable resource. When all is said and done, however, there is still no inherent reality to a dream character who achieves improvement. As Wei Wu Wei put it, while discussing Buddhism:

   Since Bodhidharma, the recurrent menace that has overshadowed the Supreme Vehicle has been man's infatuation with himself. Whenever the succession of great Masters weakened in power or in quality the self-flattering mirror-polishing doctrine re-emerged. Hui neng and Shen Hui rescued the doctrine, but today it needs saving again, for, in the West at least, we are nearly all busy polishing our mirrors, or perfecting the hansom-cab as I have termed it, instead of understanding that neither the polisher nor mirror, perfector or cab, has ever or could ever exist...As long as we do not perceive the fatuity of a phenomenon telling itself how marvelous it is, we will never come to the knowledge of that which we are when we have understood that, as phenomena, we are not." (24)

   To round out this discussion, the reader is directed to an excellent work by Paul Vereshack, called Primal Therapy, Spirituality, and the Experience of Sudden Illumination (Satori), which attempts to compare and contrast these two distinct but complementary levels of work, what they attempt to achieve, and the realms in which they are operative. He is also directed to an interesting new book, Touching Enlightenment: Finding Realization in the Body, by Reginald Ray, student of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, for a discussion of awakening, the relationship of unresolved karma and the body, and the interplay of somatic bodywork within the tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism.

   Paul Brunton had this to say about St. Augustine and spiritual healing:

   "The truth that it is not the ego which is instrumental in the higher forms of healing is made evident to every practising healer throughout his career. When Saint Augustine was dying, a sick man came to him and begged to be cured. Augustine replied that if he possessed any powers he would have used them upon himself. However, the visitor said he had been told in a dream to ask Augustine to cure him by the laying on of hands. The saint yielded and followed the instruction. The man was healed." (25).

   St. Augustine, rest in peace......

(1) St. Augustine, Confessions (Penguin Books), p. 8,7,17
(2) St. Augustine, On Marriage and Concupiscence, 1, 11
(3) Hilton Hotema, Secret of Regeneration, Lesson No. 69, Chapter No. 206 (Mokelumne Hills, CA: Health Research, 1962), p. 6
(4) Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology (Chicago, 1957), p. 2, 52
(5) Nicholas Berdyaev, The Destiny of Man (London, 1937), p. 233
(6) Holger Kersten, Jesus Lived in India (Dorset, England: Element Book Ltd, 1986)
(7) William E. Phipps, Was Jesus Married? (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc., 1986)
(8) Alexander Lowen, Depression and the Body Collier MacMillan, 1972), p.
(9) David Boadella, Lifestreams: An Introduction to Biosynthesis, (New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 166; see also the excellent In the Wake of Reich (London: Conventure Ltd, 1976)
(10) The Notebooks of Paul Brunton (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1987), Vol. 6, Part 1, 3.34
(11) Ibid, 4.12
(12) Ibid, 4.28
(13) Ibid, 4.33
(14) Ibid, 4.34
(15) Ibid, 3.123
(16) Ibid 3.100
(17) Ibid, 3.29
(18) Ibid, 3.38
(19) Ibid, 3.63
(20) Ibid, 3.45
(21) Ibid, 3.83
(22) Ibid, Vol. 15, Part 1, 4.35
(23) Ibid, Vol. 16, Part 1, 2.251
(24) Wei Wu Wei, Ask the Awakened (Boulder, CO: Sentient Publications,2002, p. 10)
(25) Notebooks Category 10: Healing of the Self > Chapter 5: The Healing Power of The Overself > # 112

   The legendary Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1947) began his career by being educated in England to become a lawyer. His confidence in the exisiting legal process was undermined, however, when he was introduced prejudice against non-whites in South Africa. His struggles against the injustice there were the background for an even greater struggle he was to undertake, that of leading the masses of India to independence from British rule. Gandhi developed and championed the use of non-violent means, "passive resistance" and "civil disobedience", believing they were the most righteous and effective way to bring about social change. He also argued that the strength of India was in self-sufficient village life, and for his advocacy of a return of the spinning wheel he was accused of standing in the way of India's progress. Indeed, when asked what he thought of western civilization, Gandhi said, "I think it would be a good idea." The partitioning of the country after independence set Hindu against Muslim, and Gandhi became the target of misdirected hatred. He was killed by an assassin's bullet while repeating the name "Ram". Asked just before he died who his assassin was, he pointed to the sky, thus confirming even in death his firm belief in the omnipresence of God.

   Gandhi once met the professed avatar Meher Baba on a train and there has been speculation that Baba assumed the role of guru for him, but Gandhi was not outspoken about it. In fact, he seemed to make a point that since there were not enough gurus for everyone (that is, for the masses, with whom he identified), that such would be the case for him as well. Sawan Singh privately remarked that for all of his selfless service, Gandhi was not ready for the higher path, which required submission to a master (Interestingly, Sawan Singh's successor, Kirpal Singh, inferred in a letter that he himself had initiated the equally famous Pandit Nehru into the path of Shabd Yoga). Some feel that for all appearances an Indian yogi name Kavi Rajchandra was Gandhi's guru, but his relationship to him was never the traditional one. Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, claims that he initiated Gandhi into the practice of Kriya Yoga on August 27, 1935. (1) Whatever the case, there is little doubt that Mahatma Gandhi was a saintly character dedicated to the service of humanity: his speech, writings, and deeds prove it. Ramana Maharshi admitted that Gandhi was being guided by a higher power. In his own words Gandhi felt "the indefinable mysterious power that pervades everything." PB wrote that

   "In the personal presence of Gandhi one felt that he was being used by some tremendous impersonal, almost cosmic power. But the feeling was noticeably different in kind from that one experienced with, say, Sri Aurobindo or Ramana Maharshi. It may be that in Gandhi's case the inspirer was the energy of Karma, shaper of India's destiny!...Gandhi spoke more slowly than any other man I have ever met. It was as though he were waiting to receive each word from some other source or as though he were thinking out the full meaning of each word before uttering it." (2)

   Gandhi preached the virtues of ahimsa, or non-violence, and brahmacharya, or chastity, but the latter was something he struggled with throughout his life. While massaging the legs of his dying father he was seized with thoughts of passion, and retired to another room to consort with his wife. News of his father's death was brought to him a few moments later, while he was still in bed, and he was filled with guilt and remorse. He felt that if he had been a better man he would have been at his father's side. This strengthened his resolve to lead a life of brahmacharya, and at the age of thirty-seven he took a solemn vow. For the next thirty years he held to this vow, and to a life of self-control in general, including simple diet, non-violence (ahimsa), and sublimation of the emotions. He felt specifically that the traditional yogic recommendation of the conservation of sexual energy and reproductive fluids was essential not only for spiritual growth but for success in his social and political goals. It was with some sense of defeat, therefore, when he found himself one day in a state of erection, as he thought he had conquered his sex impulses.

   [For a contemporary consideration of brahmacharya, including the thoughts of Georg Feuerstein and others, see Life Without Sex?, from The Yoga Journal.]

   To prove to himself that he was the master of desire, in what some would say was tempting fate or the higher power, Gandhi began to sleep naked with his grand-niece Manu, after she confided to him that although she was nineteen years old she had never felt the awakening of sexual desire normal for girls her age. They slept chastely together for some time, after which Gandhi expanded his circle to include more young women. They often massaged his naked body and he sometimes tended to them when they were ill. Although he did not keep this practice a secret, scandalous reports began to circulate, and advisors urged him to stop these provocative activities [Just imagine how explosive this might have been, as compared to the reaction (April, 2007) over actor Richard Gere merely kissing an Indian actress on the cheek in public].

   Gandhi found that sleeping on the same pallet, or even in the same room, with young women, especially virgins, helped counter the debilitating effects of his long fasts and demanding political efforts. This was supposedly an accepted or not-so-accepted yogic practice whereby older men rejuvenate themselves by absorbing shakti or life-force from youthful members of the opposite sex. At the age of sixth-seven he had a nocturnal emission, however, furthering a sense of defeat over his sex drive.

   Gopi Krishna gives an interesting interpretation of this phenomenon. (3) He felt that Gandhi was not conscious of the real reason behind his seeking the company of women, which was actually related to the kundalini process. Gopi Krishna claimed that it was the impulse of the kundalini that drove Gandhi to take his vow of celibacy as well as throw himself into creative social and political activity, but that the very same kundalini, at a different cycle in its process, motivated him to associate intimately with women. (4) Gandhi, under stress from his relentless activity and moral idealism (which wouldn’t allow him to admit the greater dimension of his sex drive), required the internal secretions generated by sexual stimulation in order to nourish his overtaxed brain.

   This may be a bit of a reductionistic stretch by Gopi Krishna, who made a career out of promoting the kundalini, but it is not without its merits. However, it falls into the category of a somewhat out of date physiological view propounded by certain schools of yoga. If the internal yogic circuitry is not open and full, some sexual exchange, at least in the sense of a polarized play between male and female, may appear necessary or useful to harmonize the body-mind and stimulate vital energy. The effect of the sexual release of both life-energy and (in the male) vital-chemistry tends to be ennervating, causing a loss of ojas, so the yoga philosophy argues for the conservation and conversion of such energy by channeling it up the spine to the brain, or more correctly, up the subtle energy channel called the sushumna nadi to the sahasrar or crown center. The more ancient yogis taught that the vital-chemistry itself also was channeled up the spine, but this is not correct. It is conserved and recirculated via the general circulation, thereby nourishing the body as a whole, in particular the glandular and nervous systems. The male sexual fluid is rich in hormones, zinc, and lecithin (phosphatidyl choline), all of which play a role in the health of the nervous system, and the brain itself has a high percentage of lecitihin in its composition. Thus, there is a physiological reason behind the yogic recommendation for a conservative sexual practice, but not because fluids are transmitted directly up the spine through the yoga, but, again, because they are conserved and redistributed through the bloodstream. It may be argued that there is a benefit for both men and women to conserve and rejuvenate the life-force or spirit-current through conversion or relative conservation of genital orgasm, while only men lose vital chemical and hormonal substances thereby. The older views were strictly male oriented and failed to make this distinction. An example of this traditional point of view was given by Zipruanna (saint or mad yogi, depending on one's point of view; Swami Muktananda found him atop a dung heap):

   ”A man should respect his generative organ; he should restrain and control it as much as possible...all the seminal fluid in the testicles starts to flow upward towards the heart. It is heated in the gastric fire and passes right up to the brain, where it strengthens the sensory nerves. By its strength, the yogi’s memory and intelligence are increased.” (5)

   The issue is complicated and essentially calls for wisdom, and not simply an ascetic strategy, which in most beginning seekers in this modern era often leads to devitalization, separation, and un-love. Swami Satyananda Saraswati, a disciple of Swami Sivananda, stated:

   ”With a weak mind which can not sustain a little bit of cheerfulness, a little bit of excitement, which can not sustain the death of a man or the separation of husband and wife, how can it sustain that terrible force of the flow of SHAKTI?” (6)

   One perhaps even more important reason for a reasonable amount of self-control, however, is that, until one is emotionally transformed at the heart, the heat of spiritual discipline will bring core feelings to the surface for integration, maturing his capacity to feel and thus love, and excessive stress-release through sex can interfere with this process. And of course there are always the issues of over-identification with the body, forgetting one’s ultimate aim, and sensitivity to the movement of grace. For the jnani these latter issues would be more important than those of yogic conductivity. So intelligence and sensitivity are required, as with all life functions.

   Gopi Krishna most likely would say that Gandhi gained strength from the practice of celibacy (and prayer and self-discipline), but that it was not enough to carry him through his strenuous ordeal as leader of four hundred million Hindus, and so he sought the healing, balancing force of female energy. He was perhaps grappling with an issue that he did not fully understand [but who does?] and with an ideal that the traditional Indian wisdom and his personal capacity did not equip him to fulfill. He therefore chose the path of sublimation of sexuality, which many tread with confidence. Paul Brunton wrote that “more people have attained God who have given up sex than those who have practiced it.” But for many it is not so simple. As a man of destiny, however, Gandhi necessarily made practical decisions for the sake of his work. We should neither decry or sanctify him for it, as he was undoubtedly moved by forces beyond those of the ordinary man. And let’s face it, he had the Scorpio burden, as did Augustine. Martin Luther, also a Scorpio - in spades, humorously confessed at the age of sixty-eight that the “Old Adam” was still raising its ugly head. So these guys had a hard time! Luther made the best of it, however, fathering six children, and counselling the young that God took delight in the sex act and the passions were o.k. and that hypocrisy and depravity were often the result when they were denied. It is not a matter of denial, but of self-understanding and self-transformation. Unfortunately, for many modern gurus who may not have Gandhi’s ethical base the practice of sleeping together, etcetera, that he engaged in, but in many of their cases a whole lot more than that, consist of a form of psychic vampirism of a despicable kind, in the name of either a new-age liberation or an inflated form of trans-moral non-dual spirituality.

   The Gandhi - An Autobiography (complete on-line book)
(1) Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi (Los Angeles, CA: Self-realization Fellowship, 1972), p. 500. (A portion of Gandhi’s ashes are kept at SRF headquarters in Sounthern California)
(2) The Notebooks of Paul Brunton (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1987), Vol. 10, 2.524-525
(3) Gene Kieffer, ed., Kundalini for the New Age - Selected Writings of Gopi Krishna (New York: Bantam Books, 1988), p. 74-80
(4) Obviously, to Gopi Krishna the kundalini had a much wider scope than merely being an energy coiled at the base of the spine that one could awaken through yoga. He considered it to be the divine force of evolution, the motivator of all creative action, and the mover of one’s very life. At some point the individual would choose to consciously participate in the process, instead of being unconsciously and instinctively moved along, and that would be the domain of yoga.
(5) Swami Muktananda, Chitshakti Vilas: The Play of Consciousness (Ganeshpuri, India: Shree Gurudev Ashram, 1972), p. 105
(6) Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Tantra of Kundalini Yoga (Monghyr, India: Bihar School of Yoga, 1973), p.