Vanity thought #711. Guilt trip

If we were to boldly declare that Hare Krishnas should abstain from sex altogether, which is what our fourth regulative principle means in practice, there would be a barrage of arguments why it wouldn’t work. There would be arguments about built up stress, pent up demand, uncontrolled and potentially dangerous releases leading up to encompassing feeling of guilt that would drive us insane. We’d all be unfulfilled individuals who hate themselves and project their hate on the world around them.

It would be our version of Christian original sin that everyone has to carry, except our sin would be our own falldowns, and it would shape our entire psyche. The civilization has moved past such guilt trips and it has become axiomatic that restraining oneself would lead to nothing but psychological ruin.

To reply to that I have several arguments why it wouldn’t be an issue.

First of all, things like stress, unhappiness, guilt etc are pre-ordained by our karma, if one has to suffer from them he has to suffer, there’s no way of avoiding it, and if one’s karma is filled with happiness and content no regulative principle would be able to ruin it. One can look up his horoscope to see if any “unhappy” planets are casting their shadows on one’s personality if one is really curious.

Let’s also not forget that as devotees we shouldn’t worry about our karma, we should just patiently wait it out, being equipoised both in happiness and distress, and we should be able to withstand criticism, too.

Another reason it’s not going to be an issue is that guilt comes from failing expectations. As devotees we don’t expect much from ourselves and we should see ourselves as deeply fallen. In the beginning we might imagine ourselves as the purest of the pure but with maturity comes realization that we are what we are and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise, not in public and not to ourselves.

Instead of accumulating guilt we should accumulate honesty. Actually it’s not “should accumulate”, it happens naturally and automatically as long as we keep chanting.

Besides, feeling fallen and unworthy in our tradition, thanks to Lord Chaitanya’s mercy, leads to greater happiness as we become less reliant on ourselves and more reliant on the Holy Name, which never fails to reciprocate and reward our surrender.

This is what Prabhupada demonstrated right from the beginning – unimaginably great austerities of Hare Krishna’s lifestyle make us into happiest, most enthusiastic persons with big smiles and bright faces. It’s scheming and controlling our own lives that makes us morose again. As soon as we start looking for permission to enjoy sex, spiritual happiness goes away.

Yet another reason why we shouldn’t suffer from guilt trips is that all these things are material in nature, they just happen to manifest on a subtler, mental platform, and they happen to everybody, not just us. Illicit sex is sinful but with so much of it going around any reactions we might get will be totally drowned in the cacophony of universal suffering.

It’s an illusion to think that liberal attitude towards sex leads to greater psychological health. People suffer from “free” sex all the time, they either don’t get enough of it, or they get too much, become attached and then abandoned, or their partners get jealous, or they can’t choose between different partners, or they make their choice and then regret it, or they fail at monogamy. There’s no end to it, and that is before they get their free trip to hell as promised in Srimad Bhagavatam.

As devotees our karmic results of illicit sex would be about the same, Krishna won’t let us suffer more than necessary even if punishment for people who commit sinful activities knowingly (us) should be greater than for those who commit them out of ignorance (the rest of the world).

The real downside of illicit sex is loss of taste for the Holy Name and this loss can’t be measured or expressed in material terms. It doesn’t affect our external appearance, it doesn’t affect the amount of our pleasure or suffering, and materialists who might wish to criticize us for abstaining from sex would never understand it.

Once we realize what we are missing from our lives due to our interest in sex all the concerns about our emotional state or mental health will become insignificant and immaterial. Of course to get that realization one needs to get a kick from Krishna but it will happen sooner or later, just wait for it.

We might let ourselves slip into a slumber of illusion that we can have our cake and eat it but Krishna is too kind to let us asleep forever. A devotee might come along who’d remind us of real spiritual bliss, or we might read something in the books, or hear, really hear, the sound of kirtan.

One way or another, by refusing to enjoy sex we are not losing anything and we have everything to gain. Sex is an anartha, we think that it is valuable and we can’t live without it but that is not true. By now we should have enough experience with anarthas to know that they once they are gone they are not missed, just like meat or alcohol or betting on football.

It will all work out in the end, we should just have faith.


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