Life and Times of an Urban Yogi

•March 13, 2008 • 3 Comments

Part 1—Spirituality and Sexuality (continued from previous)
Labels. Take the case of this pervasive and provocative dichotomy: Homosexual-Heterosexual. Of course there are the greys that inhabit the boundaries: the bisexuals, those unaware mystics of sexuality. But let us forget them for a moment.
I used to be a homophobe once. The mere sight of a transsexual would fill me with disgust. Unconsciously, my conforming mind labeled and boxed. And rejected that which did not suit my imprinted tastes. But Tantra taught me much (or is it Tantra? I am unsure). It displayed to me the sexless threads of my consciousness. It taught me that all beings regardless of the defining labels, are worthy of Love and its manifestations including worship and sex.
I wondered whether masturbation, the coarsest of self-love, is essentially a homosexual act. After all, you are having sex with yourself; your hand and your organ are of the same sex. And if you are a contortionist and can provide oral sex to yourself, that act, I am sure would make you a sinful homosexual in the eyes of prissy puritans. Why must we label differently, the action of a mouth that imparts pleasure to that of a hand? To me the two acts differ only by their degree of adventurousness and agility.
I devised a thought experiment, perhaps the subject of a fantastical novel. I have read about many yogic saints who can materialize a second body. That is, they can be at two different places at the same time. It is considered to be an achievable siddhi. In “Autobiography of a Yogi,” Swami Yogananda dedicates an entire chapter to a “saint with two bodies” (Swami Pranabananda). Even certain Christian mystics, like St. Anthony of Padua and the venerable Italian priest, Padre Pio, whose body was recently exhumed, have been reported to have this power, termed Bilocation. Well, in my thought experiment, this intensely narcissistic homophobe is granted this power by a magical mirror that he installs in his luxurious bathroom. In one heady night as he was admiring his six pack and the generous appendages below, out steps his image and makes passionate love to him. Now, his image is not separate from him; the mind and soul are the same (so no words are spoken) only the body is distinct, though identical. He simultaneously experiences all the feelings of pleasure and pain that his image feels. Later the episode comes back to haunt him. He is at first dismayed to feel that this episode was a product of his subconscious. That deep down even unaware to himself, there were raw homoerotic cravings that lay dormant. He then tries to justify it by labeling it a masturbation, after all he had sex with himself, there was no second person involved. After much pondering he comes to the realisation that all sex is only a matter of taste; classifying it as hetero-, homo-, or bi- is, at its core, a meaningless exercise. It serves no purpose other than to erect imaginary walls of separation. It is like having a favourite colour, nothing more. There is no word for people who prefer, say, red over other colours, so why should there be a word for those who prefer to have sex with others of their own gender? And you don’t identify yourself with your favorite color and by extension it is equally pointless to identify yourself with your sexual preferences. Granted, having words does make matters easy and convenient. For instance, it is easier to say, “I am a necrophiliac,” rather than, “I prefer having sex with dead people.” But words also erect walls where there should be none. Language is not as innocuous as it sounds. It can be the root of segregation, guilt, repression, dehumanization and conflict. We have seen that time and again in history.
Whatever your preferences, they are a private matter and insignificant. The question of guilt too does not arise, for guilt is by and large a product of the misguided association with sin in certain religions. These religions call such acts “unnatural” and hence a sin. What is natural and what is unnatural? We are all products of nature and hence all our unaffected tendencies, however diverse, are natural. The only thing that is unnatural is imposing your preferences on others.
If there is any truth in transmigration (personally, I think it is a most logical probability), we must have somewhere within ourselves, the residues of our past lives. And these residues could possibly affect our preferences, sexual and otherwise. Thus though our gender is largely defined by our physical characteristics, there is a dimension to it that is amorphous.
I feel a correlation exists between our genderic identification and the degree of our spiritual evolution. I think, there is also significant empirical evidence to support this thesis. Although little is available in the Bible of Christ’s sexual orientation, what is there has been variously interpreted. For instance, the passages John 13:25, 21:20 & Mark 14:51-52 do cast doubts on His sexual orientation. He has been found in the presence of a naked man, a special relationship is implied with a male disciple whom “Jesus loved.” Agreed, this does not prove anything, but whatever was His orientation, does it any way affect His greatness? Does it even matter? The problem is not in the act itself, but in the perception of the act, in the labeling and association of the act with sin.
Sri Ramakrishna was a Hindu mystic of equal stature, who lived in more recent times than Christ and hence whose life was recorded in greater detail. He was described as a saint who was so drunk with God that he often appeared insane, even to His own devotees. He was known to engage in activities, which some of the secular biographers today construe as homoerotic. But that doesn’t in any way diminish His stature as a spiritual colossus. When worshipping Krishna, He would become the Lord’s consort, Radha. Such was His devotion that He would move and dress like Radha and even menstruate! His physical transformation was so complete that even His devotees found it difficult to recognise Him in the garb of Radha. And even Sathya Sai Baba, someone whom I greatly revere, has been accused of homosexuality, time and again. I am not saying that any of the accusations are untrue—in fact, I believe to the contrary; even the revered Swami has never denied any of the allegations against Him.
I suspect that intense spirituality does things to your brain. Perhaps it reconfigures and rewires your synapses, affecting your sexuality. Latest research by such pioneers in neuroscience, such as Dr. V.S Ramachandran and Dr. Persinger also seem to suggest that. Their studies have shown that the sexual experience and the intensely spiritual experience like the raptures experienced by spiritually evolved persons are not only similar in nature but also activate the same regions of the brain such as the amygdala and the temporal lobes. Hence it is highly probable that intense spirituality can cause sexual aberrations. But I agree that that is no reason to condone acts such as pedophilia. Spirituality is also about self-control. But then again, at heightened states of consciousness self-control is the first that is lost. Like in the case of Sri Ramakrishna!
The knowledge of these scientific studies caused in me much despondency. Because, I felt, that God could now be reduced to a chemical reaction in your brain (Dr. Persinger had even invented a helmet with electric circuitry, which when worn and switched on, could simulate a religious experience in even the most agnostic amongst us).
Sometime back I had developed a pet theory, which in some ways validated the sexual aberrations in the intensely spiritual. According to the Vedas, the Nirguna Brahman, which resides in every living and non-living thing is attributeless. Like the number zero. Similarly the female and male attributes are like the positive and negative numbers (or negative and positive). The spiritual aspirant through his sadhanas and penances strives to achieve this attributeless state of Brahman, but in the process he/she would fluctuate like a pendulum giving rise to periods of sexual disorientation/aberration.
That said, even if sexual confusion or pressures in a spiritual aspirant could be quite overwhelming, the key to liberation is transcending these distractions. Surprisingly, one transcends such sexual urges by either of the two completely opposite methods: complete inaction and complete action. By complete inaction, one folds into oneself, stills all thought, kills the mind, dissolves into silence. By complete action, one becomes a toddler, goes with the flow, without guilt, yet again without thought. As a child is not affected by moral or societal propriety, the aspirant too is unperturbed. He is untouched by the repercussions. To him all this is the dance of the mind, of the body, of life.
(To be Continued…)

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Life and Times of an Urban Yogi

•March 10, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Part 1—Spirituality and Sexuality (continued from previous)

We have become so conditioned to this labeling world that it has become second nature to us. We cannot understand that we cannot categorize. Our perception is boxed and discretized. We constantly chop up our reality and pigeonhole the fragments. He is Indian, she is American, they are Chinese, he is white, she is black, they are brown, he is Christian, she is Muslim, they are Buddhists, he is gay, she is lesbian, they are heterosexual… thus tells our mind to us in an unremitting refrain. And we adjust our intercourse, our strategies. The layers of skin keep growing and the exact same spark that is beneath it all, is no longer visible. Then how can we love? No, then how can I love? I must understand that I love, essentially, by loving Myself. Loving unconditionally, spiritually, sexually. Loving, loving, loving. Bleedingly loving. Deep burningly, loving. Loving every which way I can. Loving. Loving myself. Silently and noisily. For one must Love to Realize. And one must Embrace to Love. And one must be Near to Embrace. And how does one be Near? The secret of being Forever Near is in the Expansion of one’s consciousness. How in the deepest silence we balloon out and in the process, appropriate the scattered continents of the spirits. Then distances wither away; smallness and bigness, farness and nearness lose their meaning.

For All is within Me.

I see “I” as far as the Eye can see.

Life and Times of an Urban Yogi

•March 9, 2008 • 3 Comments

Part 1—Spirituality and Sexuality

My aversion to organised religion has of late mutated into a dislike for all religious dogmas. At the same time, the vacuum left by religion has been filled up by an intense spirituality. Here I make a clear distinction between religion and spirituality, in that, in the former one aims to understand/realise/love/obey God through codified practices and the rigors pertaining to the religion, whereas in the latter one approaches God by ones own terms. On reflection, I feel the overused term “God” is itself inappropriate in the context of spirituality, since it liberates you from the need for a God. I find spirituality more intense and private and less invasive and hence much more attractive. It does not encroach into the belief systems of your friends and loved ones and you can practice it in private without being a disturbance to others.
My attraction to Tantric practices was perhaps a natural progression. I started off by devouring books by Feuerstein and others. But having no guru, I stumbled along the path to sadhana. I have been particularly attracted to the extreme forms of Tantra, especially the Aghora path. The mortality of the physical world/self has convinced me that if a God exists He/She is least concerned about the dualities around you. Good and evil, truth and falsehood ultimately has no meaning, since however we live we will die one day and in death lay equality. And in transcending this duality will we understand the true meaning of life. Hence the Tantric path, which sees the divine equally in a flower, a blue sky, an act of service, a mountain of excrement, a sexual orgy and even a terrorist act, appealed to me instantly. I do not know how much I have progressed in this path to understanding—perhaps I am still at the starting line—but my efforts have had two curious inward results.
My intense spirituality has awakened a torrent of inner voices that constantly whisper the answers to the most fundamental questions, like the place and composition of Man, the Self and Cosmos, Time and Matter, Causality and Creation, Relationship and Enquiry and most of all, Love and Knowledge. The explanations have been startlingly mathematical/scientific and in consonance with my scientific background.
Of all the dualities I have grappled with, the duality of Love and Knowledge was the most difficult. You see, Love is a great conquering thing. Although it was Knowledge that I sought, it was Love that I often found myself gravitating towards. Like a great wheel turning inside me. This convinced me that we have within us the compendium of all existence and non-existence distilled to the finest essence. It is only how we tap it. How we must never stop in our internal burrowing. Our questioning and discrimination. I have wondered whether these voices are truly mine. But they must be I concluded, for I alone exist. I the substratum; the I of me that is the I of you.
And in that point, this deepest “I”, Love and Knowledge colluded and coalesced. There is the Realisation. This meeting point of all infinities. This boundless Nothingness. This Silence.
Being a family man does severely constrict your efforts, but private space is still not difficult to carve out. Midnights are ecstasies. The world sleeps and I surge.
The second consequence—and a far more serious one—was that I discovered that intense spirituality is accompanied with intense sexuality. They are like conjoined twins. At once I realised the critical importance of a Guru (I have often wondered why the shastras emphasise in unequivocal terms the need for a Guru). It is like a hundred hungry beasts let loose inside you. Nothing is out of bounds. Nothing is too revolting. Perhaps this is how you transcend dualities. You become the exact opposite of a stormy sea, where the surface is in turmoil and the fish swim calm in its depths. You still are a dutiful husband ferrying the children and helping with the chores; a responsible employee, meeting deadlines, a concerned father helping with the lessons, a filial son, a helpful friend… Every evening, you even manage to look bored in front of the TV set.
But inside…

(To be Continued…)