Vanity thought #790. Mother of all delusions

When talking about inanity of our attempts to comprehend Vedic knowledge with our western minds the first thing that should be mentioned is our attitude towards sex.

When Prabhupada started ISKCON it was very simple – no sex except for procreation in marriage. As time went by, however, people have found that it’s a very difficult rule to follow and slowly, day by day, we got to the situation where new devotees are being told that the fourth reg is about sex outside of marriage and “only for begetting children” got thrown out of the window.

Some gurus do not insist on it and rather avoid the issue, and having fun with your wife is no longer a disqualification for being initiated. They just say “I don’t care what you do with your wife in private.” Problem solved.

Having heard and observed that in practice, some devotees honestly believe they follow the regulative principles when they are most definitely not.

The books are of course there, and they are the same books that first generation of devotees used to strengthen their determination to avoid illicit sex, but that doesn’t matter much because, like it or not, we don’t learn spiritual knowledge from books but from our guru. That is to say that without guru’s explanation we will extract all kinds of meanings except the right ones.

It has happened with Vedic literature in general, it’s happened with Bhagavad Gita and even Srimad Bhagavatam. When people read these books outside a genuine parampara they give rise to all sorts of mental concoctions, that’s why Srila Prabhupada called it Bhagavad Gita As It Is, to stress that it comes authorized and through the legitimate parampara.

Now, a couple of generations later, everyone is in the business of interpreting Prabhupada’s books according to their tastes, and that makes Prabhupada’s translation as ineffective as the ones made before him. I know this idea is unacceptable to many devotees but it is true. To properly understand our books we need to hear them from authorized representatives of the author, there’s no other way.

Anyway, once people have been told that anyone can read the books and everyone’s understanding is legitimate, they started taking advantage of the situation. That’s why we have all kinds of controversies that are all backed up by quotes from Srila Prabhupada, from ritviks to female gurus to illicit sex.

If your guru implies that any sex within marriage is okay then you are going to see what is said in our books through a certain lens, and it’s not a transparent one. Then, if you live a polluted life, it won’t matter if you are sincere follower of your guru or not. People sincerely believe in all kinds of nonsense, it doesn’t oblige neither Krishna nor the laws of karma.

Let me make this clear – if people engage in recreational sex they completely cut themselves off from any possibility of spiritual progress. It simply won’t happen, no matter how much they chant or how often they go to the temple. Sex enjoyment and devotional service are absolutely incompatible. Whatever progress they feel they are making is not enough to qualify for even kanishtha adhikari level, and they can be called vaishnavas only in name.

Their association MUST be avoided just as we avoid association of ordinary sense enjoyers. We can only preach to them and that can be done only when they are ready to accept it. Otherwise we can’t even discuss the glories of Krishna in front of them, that would be offensive towards the Holy Name.

This bad association rule is very important because that’s what got devotees to believe in “all sex within marriage is good” theory in the first place. It happened because we tried to comprehend Vedic rule with our western brains and by our western standards.

Where we grew up sex is the goal of life, even money is secondary because it’s used to secure stable supply of sex. From the very early age we’ve been conditioned that enjoying sex life is healthy and absolutely necessary for human fulfillment. We even think dolphins are so close to humans because they are known to enjoy sex for fun. A few months ago there was news about making dolphins legally recognized as non-human persons.

Old people might have heard of its value when they were young but now we have several generations who think that celibacy is a weird psychological condition that must be cured.

We are conditioned to believe that people are not supposed to abstain from sex and so when we look at shastra while holding onto these values we see what we want to see in it. We see kings and their wives, we see great personalities from Srimad Bhagavatam having sex, we see ordinary devotees being married, and we assume that their sexual life and their attitudes were exactly the same as ours.

We can’t find any direct prohibition of recreational sex, we can’t find any explicit description of what is considered illicit sex, and so we feel free to interpret it in any way we like.

We can’t imagine how it’s even possible – to have only licit sexual relations all your life. We believe it’s a hoax.

Well, it is impossible, for us, especially if we don’t even try it ourselves, but that doesn’t mean it was impossible in the Vedic culture or even for followers of Lord Chaitanya. A hundred years ago in Gaudiya Math following fourth reg wasn’t an official vow not because it was allowed but because it was considered a way of life for anyone interested in spiritual progress.

It’s like nowadays at the time of initiation we don’t give a vow not to murder people or not to steal money, it’s assumed that we are not going to do any of those things, so a hundred years ago “no illicit sex” wasn’t considered important enough to be declared when surrendering to the spiritual master.

Another example is sex before marriage. There are still pockets of resistance in some dark corners of the world but in “civilized” societies premarital sex is a must, and with more partners the better, but not so many as to be called a slut. People who grew in this atmosphere can’t imagine marrying anyone without trying the goods first, yet there are still lots of societies where the opposite is true – you can’t even think about touching your future spouse before wedding.

What I mean to say is that we should not substitute our modern attitudes towards sex for the attitudes we must imbibe from our acharyas. If we do so, we are doomed. We absolutely must follow Srila Prabhupada’s rules for it even it looks impossible in real life.

It would be easier if we stayed only in the association of devotees but if western attitudes pervade devotional community at large and even some initiating spiritual masters, we still should not allow ourselves to be polluted, too.

Sorry to say, but we can’t chant the Holy Name in the company of sex-enjoyers. It won’t work.

2 comments on “Vanity thought #790. Mother of all delusions

  1. In this terrible age of Kali – freedom from sex (licit or illicit, whether one is Brahmacari or Grihastha) and its impressions (Samskar), is only possible if one is completely drowned in the divine mellows of Sri Hari Naam Sankirtan Mahayagna … which means that one has received special mercy of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, and reached the level of Madhyama Adhikari.

    Or else one will keep jumping like monkeys, at the mercy of the lower modes.

    People who are not trained for brahmacarya, during their childhood and youth … instead trained for the opposite, can hardly be expected to be the candidates to follow the high standards given by Srila Prabhupada regarding sex in married life, unless some special mercy comes through …

    Especially if one has tried to remain a brahmacari, and in due course of time has come to acknowledge having insufficient Brahmacarya capacity, now is looking forth towards getting married … it’s already an extremely depressing start.

    Moreover, if only one of the spouse is strong, to begin with, and the other doesn’t advance considerably… then the chances of marriage life becoming hellish are pretty high … to the extent of extra marital affairs and divorce!!

    Not forgetting the extreme conditioning where sex might be required as a medical treatment … not kidding!!

    Anyhow … if one is able to become sober after all his failures in getting past the modes of Passion and Ignorance … he may be able to at least learn something – I did a terrible mistake by leaving service of the Lotus Feet of Krishna!!

    Hence even a failed attempt will bring some amount of purification …

    • I just heard a solid proposal in this regard – have children, send them to gurukula. It would be offering the fruits of your labor to guru and Krishna and therefore it WILL purify your desires. Raising children definitely change people’s attitude towards sex, it’s an observable phenomenon.

      From Krishna consciousness POV, when done right it’s as good as being a brahmachari. It might not give one some special powers that come with practicing total celibacy but we are not after those anyway, they are more of an impediment on the path of spiritual progress than help.

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