Sexual Morality and Spiritual Gurus

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From The Editor's Desk

(Hinduwebsite Editorial - Exploring Truth Amidst Illusions and Distortions)

The purpose of this discussion is not to support the alleged sexual activities of any spiritual master, but to examine the sexual mores that are applicable to those who follow an ascetic path.

It is important to remember that there is a big difference between Hinduism and Christianity as far as sex is concerned. Both religions emphasize the importance of self-control and celibacy in religious practice. However, Hinduism does not condemn sexual acts as sinful except those that are deemed deviant or socially unacceptable such as incest, rape, adultery, and unnatural sex.

Sex and householders

In Hinduism, sexual pleasure (kama) is one of the chief aims of human life. While students are expected to practice celibacy until they are married, householders are allowed to indulge in sex both within marriage and in some instances outside marriage also.

In Hinduism, polygamy was an accepted practice until modern times. Men were allowed to marry multiple women. They also enjoyed the freedom to indulge in sex with willing women outside their marriage such as the maids who worked in their homes or those provided sexual pleasure for money, power, love, protection, or some other reason. Women were sold and bought in some parts of ancient India. Unmarried women who chose to live freely had the privilege to sleep with the men of their choice. The story of Jabala, the mother of Satyakama, is an example in this regard. If a widow had no children, she had the permission from the law books to choose a brother or cousin of her deceased husband for procreation. If a couple had no children for long, law books gave permission to the couples to choose a suitable person to impregnate the wife.

Sex and Hindu gods

Most of the Hindu gods were libidinous. The gods are pleasure loving. They enjoy having sex with heavenly maidens. The scriptures, even the Upanishads, describe that when a person departs from here and goes to the immortal world, on his way he is greeted by thousands of beautiful maidens, who come forward with perfumes and garlands to entertain him. Indra is particulary jealous of anyone trying to practice celibacy or asceticism. If they progress far on the path, he would despatch beatuful nymphs from heaven to entice them and disturb their austerities.  Vedic gods such as Indra and Agni were often captivated by beautiful maidens and even the wives of rishis. Indra ruined the reputation of manny chaste women by tempting them and indulging in sexual conjugation with them. Amoing other gods, notable was Lord Krishna who had numerous wives and consorts. Even Shiva, an epitome of self-control and asceticism, fell for the beauty of Mohini, a manifestation of Lord Vishnu and legend has it that they had a child out of that engagement. Brahma, the creator god, was captivated by the beauty of Saraswathi, his own creation, and made her his consort.

Sex and Hindu ascetics

Hindu ascetics are expected to shun sexual intercourse as part of their spiritual transformation. However, it is not a universal norm, because sexual intercourse is permitted in certain Hindu traditions, such as Tantra, as part of one's liberation. Most of our ancient seers, including the seven seers, were married people. They had one or more wives and had children through them. They also often enjoyed sex with other women and celestial nymphs. The progenitor of Indian people, Bharata, was born from such a relationship between sage Viswamitra and the hevenyly beauty Menaka. Satyavati, wife of Santanu, had a son named Krsna Dvaipayana, also known as Vyasa, before her marriage, through sage Parasara, who was overcame with desire when he saw her alone ferrying passengers across a river. Afraid that he would curse her if she refused, she satisfied his lust and got a son and some boons from him. When Vicitravirya, her son through her husband, Santanu, died without children, sage Vyasa helped both the widows, to conceive sons and continue the Bharata race. Even the Pandavas and Kauravas were born under strange circumstances.

Sex in the Upanishads

There are few verses in the Chandogya and Brihadaranyaka Upanishads which are explicitly sexual in nature. They suggest how a man can make a woman agreeable for sexual intercourse for procreation, by performing certain rituals and if necessary using force during or after their performance. They also suggest how a husband can harm the secret lover of his wife with the help of some sacrificial rituals and procedures. The Upanishads compare sexual intercourse to a sacrifice and the various organs used in the intercourse to the tools and materials used in the performance of the sacrifice.

Suggestions for Further Reading



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