Hints for the Spiritual Practitioner Seeking to Eliminate the Sex Impulse

We have learned quite a bit about the sexual impulse. Young children are basically asexual, and it is only with the coming of puberty and the flooding of mood-creating chemicals in the system (hormones), that we become susceptible to responding to the sexual energy when it arises. Not everything is, however, driven by biochemistry. There is a very large component made up of peer pressure, cultural expectations, and societal manipulation of attention and awakening of desire through marketing and advertising that is based on sexual allusions. The entire process of sex in modern-day society has been removed from the pure biological forces through this influence of society and its pressures. Someone once said that the mind is the most important sex-organ! To the extent that an individual has been immersed in the sexual imagery, expectations and cultural demands, their minds and thus, the focus of their attention have been directed toward acceptance of and fulfillment of the sexual energy.

As a result, there are innumerable instances of sexual energy being freely expressed and released into the society at large, whether in social settings or in clubs or bars or nowadays, through availability on the internet. Everything has been sexualised to a high degree, and thus, it is difficult, if not virtually impossible, for anyone living in the modern world to avoid all sexual references, images or energies that are at play in the society.

It is not, then, a question of being able to shut oneself away and avoid all access to any sexual pressures from outside; indeed, there are instances where individuals who have been cloistered for many years fall prey to sexual forces when they come into contact with them, as they have not actually learned how to deal with them when they arise. The issue is more how to face the onslaught of these energies, but not be receptive to them, not to dwell on them, and not to accept them into one’s being.

Some have relied on dietary or chemical means to dampen the sexual energy, but these have a serious disadvantage of being dependent on chemistry rather than a change in consciousness, and thus, are at best temporary and somewhat unreliable measures, subject to failure when the measures are either removed or the impulse from outside is greatly increased.

Some say that the sexual impulse naturally declines with age. While this is somewhat true, particularly when specific health issues intervene, it is neither certain, complete, nor a solution to the lifetime and focus during prime active years that precede old age.

Through a process of refocusing and retuning the awareness, the practitioner can successfully shift the consciousness away from the energies of the lower chakras and channel into directions that express elsewhere in the being. We can see that when an individual is immersed in something that engages the full attention, the attraction and interest in sex is absent or declines greatly. When one channels this new focus into the psychic and spiritual transformations, there is a responsive power that actually can aid the endeavour, thus making the change far more effective than any attempt by pure mental or emotional control can accomplish.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “To think too much of sex even for suppressing it makes it worse. You have to open more to positive experience. To spend all the time struggling with the lower vital is a very slow method.”

“The idea that by fully indulging the sex-hunger it will be finished and disappear for ever is a deceptive pretence held out by the vital to the mind in order to get a sanction for its desire; it has no other raison d’etre or truth or justification. If an occasional indulgence keeps the sex-desire simmering, a full indulgence would only sink you in its mire. This hunger like other hungers does not cease by temporary satiation; it revives itself after a temporary abeyance and wants again indulgence. Neither sops nor gorgings are the right treatment for it. It can only go by a radical psychic rejection or a full spiritual opening with the increasing descent of a consciousness that does not want it and has the truer Ananda.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Sex, pp 299-308

Rejection of the Sex Impulse and Mastery of Its Force

Many religious traditions and cultures have placed sex in a ‘taboo’ category for discussion or consideration. Sex is considered by many to be something sinful, immoral and only to be conducted within the confines of a lawfully sanctioned marriage and under guidelines for procreation not ‘enjoyment’. This means that most have been acculturated to regard sex as something illicit and prurient, and this warps the response to the sexual energy when it arises, as the individual tries to keep it hidden, secretive and largely unexamined.

If we can strip away all of this cultural baggage from the sexual energy, we can observe it more scientifically as to its origin, its mode of action, its force, and the means to either redirect it or transform it. For the spiritual seeker in the integral yoga, seeking to bring about the next stage of evolutionary development and transform thereby the entire life on the planet, the sexual energy must be addressed and itself turned into a power of action, not sexual gratification, but a basic power of the physical consciousness put to work in the world as part of the transformation process.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “As to the sexual impulse. Regard it not as something sinful and horrible and attractive at the same time, but as a mistake and wrong movement of the lower nature. Reject it entirely, not by struggling with it, but by drawing back from it, detaching yourself and refusing your consent; look at it as something not your own, but imposed on you by a force of Nature outside you. Refuse all consent to the imposition. If anything in your vital consents, insist on that part of you withdrawing its consent. Call in the Divine Force to help you in your withdrawal and refusal. If you can do this quietly and resolutely and patiently, in the end your inner will will prevail against the habit of the outer Nature.”

“… for this also you must have no moral horror or puritanic or ascetic repulsion. This also is a power of life and while you have to throw away the present form of this power (that is the physical act), the force itself has to be mastered and transformed. It is often strongest in people with a strong vital nature and this strong vital nature can be made a great instrument for the physical realisation of the Divine Life. If the sexual impulse comes, do not be sorry or troubled but look at it calmly, quiet it down, reject all wrong suggestions connected with it and wait for the Higher Consciousness to transform it into the true force and Ananda.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Sex, pp 299-308

The Need to Master the Sex Impulse for the Sadhak of the Integral Yoga

Religious and spiritual paths throughout the world have recognised the need to gain control over the sex impulse. Similarly societies have recognised that in many cases the sex impulse can create disruption in the orderly processes of the society. Traditionally, certain mores or rules of conduct have arisen around the expression of sexual energy. In some cases, sex is considered ‘sinful’ and is a cause for guilt and shame to arise. In other cases, society uses subtle manipulation to increase the focus on the sexual energy and thereby distract people from other and higher pursuits. Some groups try to control the sexual expression through separation of genders, through dress codes or even through chemical intervention, such as the use of saltpetre in boarding schools, which tends to lessen the action of the libido. Yet all of these approaches, one way or the other, not only tend to focus and fixate the attention on the sexual energy, but in many instances lead to deleterious effects on the psychology of the members of that society, or to outbreaks of sexual aggression as needs are not met.

Sex, in and by itself, is not sinful. It is a process of Nature and has its true role in life as we see it on earth at this time. It is essential for procreation, as we always hear when the question of abstinence is raised. It is a powerful energy at the base of the physical being, and as with any energy, it can be used, or misused, or abused.

For spiritual seekers, the historical injunction against sexual expression arises from several causes. First, there has been a recognition that this powerful energy can be redirected and used for higher purposes if it is not simply squandered constantly in the act or focus on sex itself. Second, there is a concern about the atmosphere in the group or society if sexual energies are aroused and active and influencing the interactions among the members of the group. Third, there is a natural instinct of dominance related to control of sexual activity in a group which secretly acts behind the scenes and can thereby disrupt and distort the coherence of the group.

Sri Aurobindo’s position is very clear on this subject. For those who have dedicated themselves to the practice of the integral Yoga and its focus on shifting the standpoint from the ego-individuality to the divine standpoint, there is a need to tune the energetic receptivity to forces that are beyond those of the ordinary human life as we know it at this time. It is a matter of focus and tuning that requires the sadhak to shift attention away from the first chakra energy to that of the divine energies that are above the mental level, through bringing forward the action of the psychic being which orients itself automatically toward the divine, and through refocusing the attention and receptivity to energies above the mind. Sexual energy becomes in this sense a serious distraction and at the same time allows the kind of distortions to the atmosphere in a collective environment such as an Ashram that are not helpful to the entire community.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “To master the sex-impulse, — to become so much master of the sex-centre that the sexual energy would be drawn upwards, not thrown outwards and wasted — it is so indeed that the force in the seed can be turned into a primal physical energy supporting all the others, retas into ojas. But no error can be more perilous than to accept the immixture of the sexual desire and some kind of subtle satisfaction of it and look on this as a part of the sadhana. It would be the most effective way to head straight towards spiritual downfall and throw into the atmosphere forces that would block the supramental descent, bringing instead the descent of adverse vital powers to disseminate disturbance and disaster. This deviation must be absolutely thrown away, should it try to occur and expunged from the consciousness, if the Truth is to be brought down and the work is to be done.”

“It is an error too to imagine that, although the physical sexual action is to be abandoned, yet some inward reproduction of it is part of the transformation of the sex-centre. The action of the animal sex-energy in Nature is a device for a particular purpose in the economy of the material creation in the Ignorance. But the vital excitement that accompanies it makes the most favourable opportunity and vibration in the atmosphere for the inrush of those very vital forces and beings whose whole business is to prevent the descent of the supramental Light. The pleasure attached to it is a degradation and not a true form of the divine Ananda. The true divine Ananda in the physical has a different quality and movement and substance; self-existent in its essence, its manifestation is dependent only on an inner union with the Divine. You have spoken of Divine Love; but Divine Love, when it touches the physical, does not awaken the gross lower vital propensities; indulgence of them would only repel it and make it withdraw again to the heights from which it is already difficult enough to draw it down into the coarseness of the material creation which it alone can transform. Seek the Divine Love through the only gate through which it will consent to enter, the gate of the psychic being, and cast away the lower vital error.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Sex, pp 299-308

The Nature of the Sexual Impulse

The sexual impulse and energy is one of the basic primary drives in Nature and is widespread in the animal kingdom, although there are instances of asexual reproduction. The drive is so powerful that it can drive beings to extreme lengths, even killing off rivals, or fighting to maintain dominance to control the access to breeding and the sexual activity that goes along with it. Sex is a powerful motivation that permeates virtually all aspects of human relationships, has been the subject of both scientific study, and is central to much of human creativity and imagination, including art, literature, poetry, drama and sculpture. Sex is so far involved in the society that it governs almost every access including habits, customs , dress, and relationship rituals. There are mating rituals and dating rituals that try to govern or at least direct the method of sexual expression, and yet, humanity has found that it is not so easy to govern this impulse.

For the spiritual practitioner, then, the issue of sex becomes one of importance, if only because he is tasked with finding a way to redirect the focus and direction of energies away from the action of the lower forces of Nature toward a higher evolutionary force in the development of the spiritual nature, which by its very nature, is an asexual level of consciousness.

Spiritual traditions have taken a diverse approach to the sexual energy. Some ask the aspirant to renounce sex entirely by what seems to be an act of will, or at least suppress its expression. Others take the approach that the sexual energy can in fact be utilized and turned into a mode of realisation, as in the tantric tradition. Still others acknowledge the role of sex, find ways to channel it so that it is minimized as a distraction, such as encouraging marriage and controlled sexual liaisons within the framework of the spiritual development. There are also those who believe that the sexual energy can and should be sublimated to create new powers of action at higher energetic levels of the being, the conversion of the base energy of the lowest chakras into the expressions of the higher chakras in action. There are many variations on these themes and the experience generally has been that one way or the other, the sexual impulse has won out, and found a way to focus the attention and in some cases, finds unapproved or illicit forms of expression even in the traditions that are most extreme in trying to deny sex by act of will-power.

Sri Aurobindo’s approach first starts with an understanding that the sexual impulse, as with other vital energies, is one that arises from universal Nature and is not something that belongs to or is generated solely within an individual. Thus, it is a matter of observing the impulse, changing the “channel”, and refocusing the attention away. This is not simply a matter of sublimation as others have tried, but a wholesale change of consciousness that moves beyond sex. Note that this is related to the practitioners who aspire to the realisations of the integral yoga, and has not been intended as a general prescription for humanity in its normal interactions, and thus the objections raised by those who claim that sex is a natural impulse and is needed for perpetuation of the species, are not central to this review. At the same time, a more complete understanding of the sexual impulse and how it works and how to manage it could be extremely useful within the framework of society as a whole. And it is not to be denied that with the advent of a next evolutionary principle, that sex as an instrument of procreation and propagation of the species may itself give way with changes to the physical body that would arise over time. Thus, this impulse may find its own eventual reduction and demise in the course of time.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “All movements are in the mass movements of Nature’s cosmic forces, they are movements of universal Nature. The individual receives something of them, a wave or pressure of some cosmic force, and is driven by it; he thinks it is his own, generated in himself separately, but it is not so, it is part of a general movement which works just in the same way in others. Sex, for instance, is a movement of general Nature seeking for its play and it uses this or that one — a man vitally or physically ‘in love’ as it is called with a woman is simply repeating and satisfying the world-movement of sex; if it had not been that woman, it would have been another; he is simply an instrument in Nature’s machinery, it is not an independent movement. So it is with anger and other Nature-motives.”

“In most men the sexual is the strongest of all the impulses of Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Sex, pp 299-308