The transmutation of sexual energy

In this excerpt from Kishor Gandhi’s book Light on life-problems, Sri Aurobindo eludicates on the spiritual purpose behind the transmutation of sexual energies and whether psychological disorders can be caused by abstinence.  Please note that this exchange occurred in the early twentieth century and therefore contains references to some personalities who were prominent at that time.

Question: Balzac, the famous French novelist, was of the opinion that indulgence in sex greatly hampers the high type of mental activity. According to him, “The man of genius is frigid. When he tries to lead both lives, the intellectual life and the love life, the man of genius dies, as Raphael died (it seems he died at 37 after a night of excessive sex) and Lord Byron.” So also Havelock Ellis, recognised as the world’s greatest authority on sex, maintains that to increase artistic and mental capacity and force it is necessary to restrain sexual activity. “The brain and the sexual organs,” he says, “are yet the great rivals in using up bodily energy, and there is an antagonism between extreme brain vigour and extreme sexual vigour, even though they may sometimes both appear at different periods in the same individual”. We find this evidenced in the life of some great masters of art like Beethoven and Mozart, in whose life sexual indulgence played a much smaller part than in the life of an average man. This would seem to imply that it is necessary to conserve sexual energy for the energisation and intensification of higher intellectual and aesthetic life.  How far is this view justifiable ?

Answer: That is correct.  The sex-energy can be controlled and diverted from the sex-purpose and used for aesthetic and artistic or other creation and productiveness or preserved for heightening of the intellectual or other energies.  Entirely controlled, it can be turned into a force of spiritual energy also. This was well known in ancient India and was described as the conversion of retas into ojas by Brahmacharya.  Retas, the sex-fluid, consists of two elements, one meant for sex-purposes, the other as a basis of general energy, and if the sex-action is not indulged and the sex-fluid is prevented from being spent away, it turns into ojas.  The whole theory of Brahmacharya is based upon that by the Yogis.

This is a list of Sanskrit terms to help understand the next question:

  • Retas = sexual fluid.
  • Tapas = spiritual heat felt in the body during meditation.
  • Ojas = spiritual vigor which is felt after union with and immersion into cosmic energies.
  • Tejas = spiritual light observed within.
  • Vidyut = electrical power which courses through the body during Yoga.

Question: What is the process by which ‘retas‘ (sex fluid) is transformed into ‘ojas‘ (vigor)?

Answer: The fundamental physical unit is the retas, in which the tejas, the heat and light and electricity in a man, is involved and hidden. All energy is thus latent in the retas. This energy may be either expended physically or conserved. All passion, lust, desire wastes the energy by pouring it, either in the gross form or a sublimated subtle form, out of the body.  On the other hand, all self-control conserves the energies in the retas, and conservation always brings with it increase. But the needs of the physical body are limited and the excess of energy must create a surplus which has to turn itself to some use other than the physical. According to the ancient theory, retas is jala(fluid), full of light and heat and electricity, in one word, of tejas.

  1. The excess of the retas turns first into heat or tapas which stimulates the whole system, and it is for this reason that all forms of self-control and austerity are called tapas or tapasya, because they generate the heat or stimulus which is a source of powerful action and success.
  2. Secondly, it turns to tejas or  light, the energy which is at the source of all knowledge.
  3. Thirdly, it turns to vidyut or electricity, which is at the basis of all forceful action whether intellectual or physical.

In the vidyut again is involved the ojas, or pranashakti, the primal energy which proceeds from ether. The retas, refining from jala to tapas, tejas and vidyut and from vidyut to ojas, fills the system with physical strength, energy and brain-power and in its last form of ojas rises to the brain and informs it with that primal energy which is the most refined form of matter and nearest to spirit. It is ojas that creates a spiritual force or virya, by which a man attains to spiritual knowledge, spiritual love and faith, spiritual strength. It follows that the more we can by Brahmacharya increase the store of tapas(heat), tejas(light), vidyut(electric) and ojas(vigor), the more we shall fill ourselves with utter energy for the works of the body, heart, mind and spirit.

Question: Many eminent psychologists, doctors and thinkers believe that complete sexual abstinence is dangerous and may lead to serious nervous trouble and even mental derangement. They maintain that the new form of energy produced from the sublimation of sexual energy may be harmful and may lead to perversities and morbidities. Rene Guyon, for example, points out: “When the libido is repressed, when its impetus is crushed back, it is forced to find an outlet by some other route …. But this compensation is not necessarily useful, superior and worthy of admiration. It can just as well be harmful and destructive.”  How far is this true ?

Answer: It is a fact that sex suppressed in outward action but indulged in other ways may lead to disorders of the system and brain  troubles. That is the root of the medical theory which discourages sexual abstinence. But these things happen only when there is either secret indulgence of a perverse kind replacing the normal sexual activity or else an indulgence of it in a kind of subtle vital way by imagination or by an invisible vital interchange of an occult kind; harm never occurs when there is a true effort at mastery and abstinence.

Question:  The Freudian system of psycho-analysis has attributed a large number of physical and mental disorders to suppressed sexual desire. To what extent are the assertions of this system true?

Answer: The psycho-analysis of Freud takes up a certain part, the darkest, the most perilous, the unhealthiest part of the nature, the lower vital subconscious layer, isolates some of its most morbid phenomena and attributes to it and them an action out of all proportion to its true role in the nature. Modern psychology is an infant science, at once rash, fumbling and crude. As in all infant sciences, the universal habit of the human mind to take a partial or local truth, generalise it unduly and try to explain a whole field of Nature in its narrow terms runs riot here. Moreover, the exaggeration of the importance of suppressed sexual complexes is a dangerous falsehood and it can have a nasty influence and tend to make the mind and vital more and not less fundamentally impure than before.

See also:

  1. Napoleon Hill in his book How to think and grow rich illustrates how the men of greatest achievement are also those who have mastered sex transmutation.  See  Chapter 11 : Mystery of Sex Transmutation. Another copy of the chapter is available @ Google books: Mystery of Sex Transmutation
  2. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on the “Sex urge in Nature”
  3. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on “Yoga and the conquest of sex”
  4. Swami Vivekananda in his Lessons on Raja Yoga expatiates on the transmutation of sexual energy into ojas (spiritual force)
  5. Kishor Gandhi was a disciple of Sri Aurobindo.  His book Light on Life Problems from which the above excerpt has been taken is freely available at Google Books and the Internet Archive

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66 thoughts on “The transmutation of sexual energy

  1. michael j contos

    Sex can be the accelerant needed for spiritual take-off?

    But what if you want to make love to the entire Universe? Give yourself up to be taken by your “Beloved” or smell your Beloved’s perfume one time more before gladly dying to be together again for all eternity?

    contoveros

    Reply
    1. Manish Chakraborty

      You can’t even discriminate between lust and love. True love never brings anything other than happiness, bliss, knowledge and more love. But almost 99% people in modern society have degenerated their nature and forgot their true self due to association with materialism. Thus they commit a grave mistake by thinking that sexual pleasure can give them happiness. And they go on yielding to sexual desires lifetime after lifetime thus continuing their perpetual material existence which consists of suffering and more suffering. But if a man use his intelligence to discriminate what is illusory and temporary from the truth or from what is real, then he starts climbing the rungs of the ladder of yoga which will lead to enlightenment .

      People think that their family, wealth , material activities [ like smelling of perfume one last time :=) ] can grant them eternal union with their beloved. But what they don’t understand is that this very idea is a complete lie and a deep illusion, the very root of perpetual material suffering and existence. Unless you can liberate yourself in this precious human lifetime, you will have to take birth in a different life form or a different body where the present relations with ones family won’t be there anymore cause you have a new set of families and material worries to take care of. Thus a living entity keeps on getting bewildered life after life. And thus the cycle goes on.

      Besides sexual desires is one of the most degenerate form of pleasure even in a list of material pleasure, which has only degenerative effect overall. It degrades your intelligence, stamina, purity, steadiness of mind, and it hinders spiritual progress. There are so many other enjoyable material activities which can bring more pleasure if they are done with purity in mind. Like for example a mathematician feel great pleasure when he is able to solve a tough problem, a surfer get great pleasure when he is able to surf on the highest crest for a long period, an orator feels great pleasure when he is able to attract the whole crowd that is present in his oration ,etc.

      Reply
  2. Sandeep Post author

    > Sex can be the accelerant needed for spiritual take-off?

    Not sex but conservation of sexual energy. When the Kundalini rises, it uses this energy to generate spiritual heat, light and electrical energy which light up the brain and other parts of the subtle body. See Various ways in which the Kundalini rises

    > But what if you want to make love to the entire Universe?

    When the Kundalini reaches the apex of the head, that happens automatically!

    -Sandeep

    Reply
    1. suprotim choudhury

      True.The difficulty lies in nature of the method of rejection of those dualistic thoughts, where one, in order to reject the sex impulse has to become sincere to the very core,, even down to the subconsious level.Sri Aurobindo, is so right in terms of informing us about the need to make a sincere effort in order to retain and transform this energy, lest its dissipation cause a loss of vigour, which supports the maintainence of the physical energies in the body and checks the unconsious flow of morbid and aggressive thought constructs.In a nut shell, the maintainance of Brahmacharya certainly paves the way towards the development of self control.

      Reply
      1. Neil

        I think we need to keep in mind that this is not necessarily the case, or perhaps the painted brushstroke is a wee bit too wide. We know that many would like to believe (just like many would like to elevate those who were deeply accomplished and transformational to that of a god), that for one moment that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo did not have a most intense romantic and passionate sexual, sensual and spiritual relationship beginning around meeting in 1920 or so you would be sorely mistaken. In a different but similar vein, did it not shocked (indeed, scandalized, mortified and aghast the holy surround) that this French woman now in Southern India (let alone in an Ashram) would dare don cosmetics?.

        Reply
        1. Sandeep Post author

          We know that many would like to believe that for one moment that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo did not have a most intense romantic and passionate sexual, sensual and spiritual relationship beginning around meeting in 1920 or so you would be sorely mistaken

          Sorry Neil, but I have to differ on this one. I don’t think they had any sort of sexual relationship. There is no evidence to say so. To assume that they must have had a good sexual relationship is also a form of prejudice reflective of one’s own upbringing.

          If you were speaking of Sri Aurobindo or the Mother at the age of 20-30, I might be willing to acknowledge they had sex but by the time they met in 1920, both had undergone through some major spiritual realizations and were no longer human like you and me. It is known that when the Kundalini rises out of the Muladhara and reaches the Sahasrara, sexual desires become neutralized, and one attains a Universality of Consciousness. See Gopi Krishna’s book Living with Kundalini on his experience after Kundalini awakening. A Yogi who tries to revert back to sexual conduct after any form of realization is called a fallen Yogi (Yoga Bhrashta)

          In a different but similar vein, did it not shocked (indeed, scandalized, mortified and aghast the holy surround) that this French woman now in Southern India (let alone in an Ashram) would dare don cosmetics?.

          She donned cosmetics because even the “Divine” has to look good, as she told a disciple. Nothing wrong with it. Certain human habits can continue after attaining Self-Realization – men may smoke and women may wear cosmetics. It shocks those who see the superficial form but was irrelevant to the disciples who experienced her enormous power.

          Reply
          1. amsha

            If you could live fully in a stream of aspiration i.e. psychic consciousness unlikely there is any need of sex because joy from it is finer and Mother since She was a child had contact with Divinity above which is something more advanced .
            I don’t have a clue why She married may be some unavoidable karma from past or need of such an experience in this particular body? As for relation between Mother and Sri Aurobindo it was much more intimate then physical and They where Twin Soul why sex then?
            Of course if you wish to be a yogi and live spiritual life sex is out of question
            but for most of us it’s hardly possible because we are still half animals if somebody
            could show me an angel in human form I’ll change my mind.

          2. Sandeep Post author

            I don’t have a clue why She married may be some unavoidable karma from past or need of such an experience in this particular body?

            Why did either of them get married? It is because they were not fully conscious of who they going to become later.

            The Mother once said that “For those who have come upon earth fully conscious of their entire being and conscious of their Origin, there is at first a period when this consciousness gets veiled by the physical life and the body-consciousness. It withdraws deep within and waits for the hour when the outer circumstances will make it necessary for that inner self to manifest and to become fully active in the body….It is only when the outer crust of the ordinary life is violently broken by some unexpected and tragic event that the inner consciousness has the opportunity of taking the place of this outward movement and governing fully the whole being. From the point of view of growth of consciousness, that is the justification of all these dramatic events. An eventless life is not often a progressive life.” See the full quote at the end of another article Early mystic experiences of Sri Aurobindo

            Similarly, Sri Aurobindo, responding to a disciple said that the consciousness is not fully developed in the beginning, and one doesn’t know one’s path in life is going to change. The following dialogue is from Nirodbaran’s Correspondence with Sri Aurobindoo, p 576.

            Nirodbaran: Somebody writing the biography of Confucius in Bengali says: “Why do the Dharmagurus marry, we can’t understand. Buddha did and his wife’s tale is heart-rending

            Sri Aurobindo: Why? What is there in it?

            Nirodbaran:He goes on: Sri Aurobindo, though not Dharmaguru, has done it too, and can be called mad about religion. Well, Sir?

            Sri Aurobindo: Well, it is better to be mad about religion than to be a sententious ass and pronounce on what one does not understand.

            Nirodbaran:”So we don’t understand why they marry and why this change comes soon after marriage.”

            Sri Aurobindo: Perfectly natural — they marry before the change — then the change comes and the marriage belongs to the past self, not to the new one.

            Nirodbaran: “If married life is an obstacle to spirituality, then they might as well not marry.”

            Sri Aurobindo: No doubt. But then when they marry, there is not an omniscient ass like this biographer to tell them that they were going to be or in any way concerned with any other than the biographer’s.

            Nirodbaran: I touch upon a delicate subject, but it is a puzzle.

            Sri Aurobindo: Why delicate? and why a puzzle? Do you think that Buddha or Confucius or myself were born with a prevision that they or I would take to the spiritual life? So long as one is in the ordinary consciousness, one lives the ordinary life — when the awakening and the new consciousness come, one leaves it —nothing puzzling in that.

          3. Neil

            “To assume that they must have had a good sexual relationship is also a form of prejudice reflective of one’s own upbringing.”

            Yes and the upbringing of hominids stretching back over three million years

            “She donned cosmetics because even the “Divine” has to look good, as she told a disciple. Nothing wrong with it.

            Nothing wrong with it, yes I agree, however I think that sentiment (la sentiment) would have found only a rarefied affable ear or two at the time. And not the righteous indignation of the outraged and incensed masses at the time! lol

            “Certain human habits can continue after attaining Self-Realization – men may smoke and women may wear cosmetics. It shocks those who see the superficial form but was irrelevant to the disciples who experienced her enormous power.”

            And perchance could that equitable reasoning be applied to the secret throes of passion and taken form at many moments, irrespective of age and attainment, in the physical, sexual and orgiastic bliss of two twin souls, where sexual union does not (dogmatically, usually out of fear of violating one’s “internalized parents”) need inexorably be viewed as a lower expression awaiting to be suffused to a higher illuminative Light? I understand the transmutation of energies. Yet, at the risk of the cries of obscene insolence or blasphemy, I believe their common conception urgently needs to a bit revision, put in their place in a more sober and psychologically mature rather than dogmatic manner .A fallen yogi for his/her indulgence of tamas or a fallen angel from the grace of Heaven? I do not think Dante would take kind to that nor, we can reasonably speculate, a Solomon or Shakespeare or Wordsworth.

            I think it is rather dangerous to say they (Mother and Aurobindo) were no longer human and so therefore, shall we say, “the temptation of reverting back to the lower prakriti was no longer a necessity.” Or, if present individually at an earlier age certainly not by the time they met and concurrently realized the twin Divine within each other.

            At the risk of raising even greater outrage and indignation I think it is extremely unfortunate to imagine them as “no longer human.” Aurobindo and the Mother did not really want “disciples. They wanted others to consciously explore the multifarious darkened shadows or deities and higher godheads within themselves…sincerely, consciously, honestly and Differently. It was only then, I believe they thought, a sufficient minimal collective realization of humanity could be achieved. A new religion of humanity of them serving as the spiritual spearheads they did not want in the least! The color of homage or obeisance fails to have a certain something (je ne sais quoi ) or diaphanous play of Light; a certain strength of courage, of individual exploration outside the previously painted perimeters we so often feel we need to guide us lest we become lost!

          4. Sandeep Post author

            Neil: where sexual union does not (dogmatically, usually out of fear of violating one’s “internalized parents”) need inexorably be viewed as a lower expression awaiting to be suffused to a higher illuminative Light?

            It has nothing to do with dogma and about them being “internalized parents”. I am stating the facts that are independent of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. These are realities that many Yogins have experienced. The sexual organs get desensitized beyond a point because the Kundalini energy which was locked in them has been raised above to the Chakras in the head. This is the whole basis of Divine Union in Yoga.

            Neil: At the risk of raising even greater outrage and indignation I think it is extremely unfortunate to imagine them as “no longer human.” Aurobindo and the Mother did not really want “disciples.

            Not true. They did admit disciples into the Ashram and there are innumerable instances where they bestowed their Grace on those disciples by curing them of their subconscious tendencies and raising them higher.

            These sort of remarks emanate from Westerners (especially men) who have been raised in a materialistic atmosphere and tend to be highly individualistic. They view with suspicion any conception of a Divinity in a human being. They are afraid of surrendering their consciousness to anyone.

            The reality is that the Guru-disciple relationship is an accepted and long-standing bond which is necessary for the realization of a higher consciousness. It is the Guru who plants the seed of his/her consciousness in the disciple and awakens the light in him gradually. Only those who have experienced the true light of a Guru within their consciousness will understand how this works.

            Neil: They wanted others to consciously explore the multifarious darkened shadows or deities and higher godheads within themselves…sincerely, consciously, honestly and Differently. I A new religion of humanity of them serving as the spiritual spearheads they did not want in the least!

            Your conception of religion is based on the Judeo-Christian tradition where worship and belief are paramount but no method of achieving enlightenment has been proposed (except in the esoteric schools like Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Kaballah). The Hindu tradition is different because it incorporates the practical methods of Yoga by which one can become like the Guru. There is no contradiction between accepting someone as the Guru and practicing Yoga. In fact, it goes hand-in-hand. I don’t think of it as religion.

            I think it is best that we do not communicate on this topic anymore, because we are going to remain on different wavelengths. Certain things have to be experienced, not debated. You should continue on your path and let me do so on my own.

          5. gaurav

            So Hey how exactly does the rejas change into tapas and then into ojas. If you stop masturbating, having sex, and orgasming will it automatically do so or is there a certain exercise to make it happen. some schools of thoughts say that not doing anything will just make you physically stronger, others say that not doing anything is good enough as long as you fast from sexual thoughts. The taoists say that you must do meditational and breathing exercises to get the energy to rise to the brain. All this stuff is confusing. The only thing i notice from saving the energy is better memory and more physical strength but also more frustration, and feeling stuffy after about 30 days. What can i do about that?

          6. Sandeep Post author

            Gaurav: The taoists say that you must do meditational and breathing exercises to get the energy to rise to the brain. All this stuff is confusing.

            The Taoists you mention are right, in that you need to engage in meditation and breathing exercises to get the retas to change into ojas. The upward movement and conversion of the conserved semen occurs via the Sushumna channel and it eventually lights up the Chakras in the brain.

            Merely abstaining from sex is also helpful, because it improves the tranquility of your mind, as you already found out, but it doesn’t completely solve the problem. You need to invoke the Higher Consciousness to complete the transition.

            Gaurav:The only thing i notice from saving the energy is better memory and more physical strength but also more frustration, and feeling stuffy after about 30 days.

            You are feeling stuffy and frustrated because the body needs more time to change physiologically. Other people have found that the skin starts to itch if they stop having sex or secreting semen. The transition to a non-sexual life is not easy – it takes time. There will be failures due to lack of self-control in between, but if you keep at it, you can succeed.

            Pandit Gopi Krishna started yoga at the age of 18 and had his spiritual awakening at the age of 34. In this passage from his book “Living with Kundalini“, he describes how he experienced the conversion of retas to ojas:

            There were unmistakable indications of abnormal activity in the region of kundalini from the moment of my retiring to sleep until the morning. It was obvious that by some mysterious process the precious secretion of the seminal glands was drawn up into the spinal tube and through the interlinking nerves, transferred into a subtle essence, then distributed to the brain and the vital organs, darting across the nerve filaments and the spinal cord to reach them. The suction was applied with such vigor as to be clearly apparent, and sometimes in the early stages with such violence as to cause actual pain to the delicate parts. At such times the ferment caused in the body resembled in effect the last minute frantic effort made for succor when a life is in, imminent danger, and I, a dumb and helpless witness to the show, could not help but pass hours of agony thinking of this abnormal development in myself. It was easy to see that the aim of this entirely new and unexpected activity was to divert the seminal essence to the head and other vital organs, after sublimation, apparently to meet a contingency caused by a sudden disorder in any organ or a general discord inimical to the new development..
            (Gopi Krishna. Living with Kundalini, Boston: Shambala, 1993, p 236)

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  6. Cristian Muresanu

    Biological transmutation, photosynthesis, acquiring the energy necessary for supporting vital processes by metabolizing nutrients are far from being new entries to a specialist in biology or physiology. But these processes are still hiding many mysteries. According to conventional science we cannot separate carbon from CO2 but at very high temperatures. Some animal species go through long periods of hibernation, and while food and water are not supplied to their body, this maintains its vitalitaty and functioning in very good conditions. The human being cannot live for an indefinite period of time without food and water. These are only a few enigmas.
    I became interested in the issue of the so-called paranormal phenomena as far as 1990, under the impact of the enthusiasm of the period. At that time, my interest was rather theoretical than practical, as initially supplied by the sensational mediatic coverage, which enabled the access to this information (documentary and SF films, esoteric literature and other resources). With the time being I understood that, in reality, a more profound mystery was hidding behind the sensational. I pursued the discovery of the mystery key by going deeper into theoretical studies and by extending them to all aspects of paranormal phenomenology. But theoretical studies were not sufficient for a profound understanding of these aspects, while being subsequently supplemented by 14 years of practice and experiments. At the beginning of the year 2006, I succeeded in going beyond an important barrier, which determined me to write this book, even if, at the beginning, I didn’t want it because, in the same period, I used to be involved in finalising another book of about 600 pages, dedicated to climate changes.
    This book aims to establish a closer relationship between medical sciences and the somehow „enigmatic” biochemical and biophysical aspects of the human being. Until now, they have been approached by mystics, in an obsessive extended measure, from a unilateral mystic-religious perspective, with far too many gaps.
    I had uploaded my book for free…
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/34145683/Biotransformations-under-the-Influence-of-the-Mind-Excerpts

    Reply
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  8. Sandeep Post author

    The Jan 2010 issue of Prabuddha Bharata features an article by Swami Yukteshananda on “Brahmacharya(celibacy) and Its Practice”.

    See page 73 of the magazine (which is page 84 in the PDF), click here

    For other issues of this magazine published by the Ramakrishna Mission, see the Archives section at http://advaitaashrama.org/prabuddha_bharata.html

    Reply
  9. Sandeep Post author

    Ramakrishna Paramahansa on continence:

    “One has to observe strict continence to attain God. Sukadeva and people like him were men of absolute and unbroken continence. They never discharged semen. There are others who have discharged semen earlier but now conserve it. A person conserving semen for twelve years builds up a special power. He develops a new nerve of mental power. When this nerve develops, one remembers everything, can know everything.” (Gospel of Ramakrishna)

    The “nerve of mental power” which Ramakrisha mentions above is known in the scriptures as Medha Nadi (nerve of intelligence)

    From Yogis’ Secrets by Sandra Heber-Percy, Page 148: “By means of many years of celibacy a special nerve, medha nadi, is developed which helps in further development of the brain and in awakening the power of intuition.”

    See also:
    1) The Primal Power in Man: The Kundalini Shakti By Swami Narayanananda, page 21
    and
    2) http://www.atmajyoti.org/INC_Techniques_of_Sex_Sublimation.asp

    Reply
  10. suprotim choudhury

    Seems like, the observance of continence leads towards the development of a sort of nervine strength which may enable one to voluntarily induce a stillness conducive towards maintaining concentration of mind. For example, in attempting to draw the thread into a needle head, one must certainly be able to gather all the organs of perception towards the task at hand lest subject fails to achive the intended result. In other words one has to still the dissipation of mental energies in the form of vitiated emotions and distracting energies and then be able to project the resulting unitary point of focus onto the task at hand in order to complete it with greater efficiency.The development of this sort of focus is wonderful indeed.

    Reply
  11. amsha

    The strength of such impulses as those of sex lies usually in the fact that people take too much notice of them; they protest too vehemently and endeavour to control them by coercion, hold them within and sit upon them. But the more you think of a thing and say, “I don’t want it, I don’t want it”, the more you are bound to it. What you should do is to keep the thing away from you, to dissociate from it, take as little notice of it as possible and, even if you happen to think of it, remain indifferent and unconcerned.

    The Mother
    Questions and Answers 1929 – 1931

    As for the method of mastery, it cannot be done by physical abstinence alone – it proceeds by a process of combined detachment and rejection. The consciousness stands back from the sex-impulse, feels it as not its own, as something alien thrown on it by Nature-force to which it refuses assent or identification – each time a certain movement of rejection throws it more and more outward. The mind remains unaffected; after a time the vital being which is the chief support withdraws from it in the same way, finally the physical consciousness no longer supports it. This process continues until even the subconscient can no longer rouse it up in dream and no further movement comes from the outer Nature-force to rekindle this lower fire.

    Sri Aurobindo
    Letters on Yoga Vol 24

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  13. KalpanaS

    just a question – does this mean that King Janaka, Sri Krishna and others were excluded from a very high level of spiritual consciousness, due to their life-style? Indeed in Yoga Vasistah there are statements about dealing with needs of the body, but not being enslaved by it?

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      I think the story of Krishna and the Gopis is symbolic rather than historic. I do not know what realization Janaka had attained or what his lifestyle was. One shouldn’t rely too much on ancient stories, which tend to be a mixture of mythology and history, to justify one’s desires.

      As for the Yoga Vashista, does it specifically say that sex is allowed? There are many things that people justify as “needs” but which are in reality just “desires” (e.g. Need to travel and enjoy life, Need to speak one’s mind without being suffocated, Need to live in a joyful community, etc). Sex is a vital desire – an escape from loneliness, and a desire to share joy with another person.

      It may be possible to progress a little on the path of devotion (Bhakti Marga) without giving up sex, like many neophytes do, but I think one would have to give up sex after one starts having deeper Kundalini experiences. Otherwise, one starts getting attacked by serpents and other vital beings in dreams, as various letters from disciples to Sri Aurobindo indicated.

      I found the following passage by Sri Aurobindo in the Letters on Yoga (vol. 24 SABCL), section on the Transformation of the Physical.

      “I do not deny that so long as one allows a sort of separation between inner experience and outer consciousness, the latter being left as an inferior activity controlled but not transformed, it is quite possible to have spiritual experiences and make progress without any entire cessation of the sex-activity. The mind separates itself from the outer vital (life-parts) and the physical consciousness and lives its own inner life. But only a few can really do this with any completeness and the moment one’s experiences extend to the life-plane and the physical, sex can no longer be treated in this way. It can become at any moment a disturbing, upsetting and deforming force. I have observed that to an equal extent with ego (pride, vanity, ambition) and rajasic greeds and desires it is one of the main causes of the spiritual casualties that have taken place in sadhana. The attempt to treat it by detachment without complete excision breaks down; the attempt to sublimate it, favoured by many modern mystics in Europe, is a most rash and perilous experiment. For it is when one mixes up sex and spirituality that there is the greatest havoc. “

      Reply
      1. Sandeep Post author

        To add to my earlier comment:
        A female practitioner of Integral Yoga stated sometime ago that she lost the desire for sex after a partial, albeit painful, Kundalini awakening. Once the psychic in the heart gets activated, sexual desires tend to fall off. One feels satiated within so external support is not needed.

        Reply
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  16. mike

    l know from personal experience that sex-indulgence definitely interferes with the action of the Descending Force in the body. After any indulgence the Force will go out of the body, but later you will feel The Force filling up the body once again. This will go on until the sex-impulse is no longer indulged, then it becomes stable.
    l remember SA telling somebody this in one of his letters, and in my experience it’s very true.
    l met someone years ago [who l believe is probably my Twinsoul] and after certain inner experiences with this woman, the sex-impulse just dropped away. l believe this happened because of the double-power working through twinsouls [that Sri Aurobindo talks about. l have no doubt about this dual-power speeding up our progress]. l believe this activated something in my kundalini.

    Reply
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  19. Matt

    I believe that Marriage is a Normal and Natural Part of Life ,but if one Truly desires complete Freedom and Detachment in this turbulent world, one must Practice Self-Control . Once your Mental and Spiritual Powers begin to unfold, You will not have any trouble attaching yourself to Chastity of Body and Mind.

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      True. This may seem risible to frivolous characters, but Ramakrishna Paramahansa used to say that after having one or two children, husband and wife should live like brother and sister.

      Reply
  20. mike

    Of course, once we experience the real Ananda in the body, then sexual pleasure becomes a pale and insignificant thing. The True bliss is a thousand times more intense and satisfying.

    Reply
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  22. mike

    “I believe that Marriage is a Normal and Natural Part of Life ”
    Yes, but it should be stressed that it’s a ‘normal and natural part of ORDINARY Life’ not Spiritual Life.

    Reply
  23. Sandeep Post author

    Sri Aurobindo says above:

    This was well known in ancient India and was described as the conversion of retas into ojas by Brahmacharya. Retas, the sex-fluid, consists of two elements, one meant for sex-purposes, the other as a basis of general energy, and if the sex-action is not indulged and the sex-fluid is prevented from being spent away, it turns into ojas.

    In accord with the above observation, these are observations by Susruta, the ancient Indian surgeon who lived around 800 BCE on the process by which food transforms into chyle, then blood, muscle, tissue, bones, marrow and finally semen (retas). The text is from M.S. Valiathan’s recent book “Legacy of Susruta”.

    “Doshas act on the components of the body (dhatus). How are the dhatus evolved? Their primary source is food and drinks which, on digestion, become chyle that provides felicity and satiety and a source for the supply and nourishment of blood; blood, in turn, accounts for bright complexion, muscle growth and vitality; muscle strengthens the body and adipose tissue; adipose tissue originates all fatty substances, sweat, firmness, and supports the growth of bones; bones support the body and promote marrow; marrow provides a source for lubrication, strength, increase in semen and the filling of bone cavity; and semen remains the source of courage, quick discharge, sexual pleasure,strength, orgasm and male fertility.

    [...]

    Ojas is the final product in the evolution of dhatus from rasa and follows sukra. It may be regarded as the essence of all dhatus. It is the basis of the firmness and the development of muscles,freedom of all movements, pleasing voice and complexion and the regular functions of all the motor and sensory organs. Permeating the whole body, it is liquid, lubricant, white in colour, cold, stable, flowing, pure, soft, delicate and remains the abode of vitality. In its absence, the body decays.

    As it flows out of the heart through channels, ojas suffers attrition by injury, wasting diseases, emotional excesses such as anger and grief, fatigue and hunger. Its displacement from the heart is further aided by vata-triggered pitta.”

    (M.S. Valiathan, Legacy of Susruta, Hyderabad : Universities Press (India), 2009, pp 105-109 passim)

    Reply
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  28. mike

    ” The sexual organs get desensitized beyond a point because the Kundalini energy which was locked in them has been raised above to the Chakras in the head. This is the whole basis of Divine Union in Yoga.”

    l think this might happen when it rises to the ‘heart chakra’ as well.

    Reply
  29. mike

    “So Hey how exactly does the rejas change into tapas and then into ojas. If you stop masturbating, having sex, and orgasming will it automatically do so or is there a certain exercise to make it happen. some schools of thoughts say that not doing anything will just make you physically stronger, others say that not doing anything is good enough as long as you fast from sexual thoughts. The taoists say that you must do meditational and breathing exercises to get the energy to rise to the brain. All this stuff is confusing. The only thing i notice from saving the energy is better memory and more physical strength but also more frustration, and feeling stuffy after about 30 days. What can i do about that?”

    l think in this Yoga [lntegral Yoga] when there is the Spiritual Opening and as Sandeep says, the Higher Consciousness descends [aka Descent of Force] the retas are automatically transmuted into Ojas.
    Eventually, l believe, the rising of kundalini or perhaps the Opening of the Heart Chakra and those above will remove the sex-impulse altogether. The process is a little confusing, because kundalini-shakti is supposed to Descend from above first and later it rises from below in a much safer way. Probably, both are necessary to overcome the sex-impulse. ln the end, it’s down to an Act of Grace.
    ln myself, l don’t think it was just the Descent that lessened this impulse significantly [because that has been going on for years], but the opening of the Heart-Centre one day [also there was a strong movement at the ajna chakra] which l believe was the kundalini rising from below.

    Reply
  30. mike

    l should mention that even after giving up sex at the physical level it will still manifest in dreams for a long time through subconscious elements etc… as SA says in His Letters.

    Reply
  31. mike

    And….. l think this is much more difficult for ppl like us who live in the world outside an ashram, monastery etc, because it’s a daily onslaught… We need more Grace LOL.

    Reply
  32. Sandeep Post author

    A hundred years ago, the venerable Boy Scouts of America also advocated conservation of sexual fluid. Times have changed due to the perverse influence of Sigmund Freud and Alfred Kinsey. American children are now asked to masturbate and engage in free sex to avoid any kind of sexual repression.

    The following passage is from the Boy Scouts Handbook of 1911:

    In this chapter much has been said of the active measures which a boy should take in order to become strong and well. We should be equally concerned in saving and storing up natural forces we already have. In the body of every boy, who has reached his teens, the Creator of the universe has sown a very important fluid. This fluid is the most wonderful material in all the physical world. Some parts of it find their way into the blood, and through the blood give tone to the muscles, power to the brain, and strength to the nerves. This fluid is the sex fluid. When this fluid appears in a boy’s body, it works a wonderful change in him. His chest deepens, his shoulders broaden, his voice changes, his ideals are changed and enlarged. It gives him the capacity for deep feeling, for rich emotion. Pity the boy, therefore, who has wrong ideas of this important function, because they will lower his ideals of life. These organs actually secrete into the blood material that makes a boy manly, strong, and noble. Any habit which a boy has that causes this fluid to be discharged from the body tends to weaken his strength, to make him less able to resist disease, and often unfortunately fastens upon him habits which later in life he cannot break. Even several years before this fluid appears in the body such habits are harmful to a growing boy.

    from Boy Scouts Handbook, The First Edition, 1911
    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29558/29558-h/29558-h.htm

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      It appears that a hundred years ago, the need for preservation of sexual fluids was part of the established belief in USA, not limited to the Boy Scouts Handbook seen above.

      The following passage is from Altherr’s book “Procreation or Pleasure:
      Sexual Attitudes in American History” :

      The second aim of sex hygiene instruction was to teach children the semen theory of bodily fluids that played an important role in the nineteenth century sexual ideology. This doctrine was particularly important because it provided pseudo-medical sanctions by allegedly demonstrating not only the desirability but the necessity of chastity before marriage and continence after marriage. Explicit instruction in the theory of bodily fluids was believed necessary to counteract the underground belief in what was called the “sexual necessity,” which declared that men must exercise their sexual power lest their organs weaken or atrophy from want of use. Belief in a “sexual necessity” of course, was inconsistent with the ideal of chastity and continence and if widely accepted, would act as a powerful force undermining established morality…

      The doctrine of sexual necessity was branded as a “physiological fallacy, and has been disproved,” wrote Prince Morrow, “by the thousands of men who have lived continent and useful lives.” The Federal Government joined the attack and issued a pamphlet which declared that “Mere knowledge of the action of the internal sex glands [in accordance with the semen theory] is sufficient to nail this lie.

      …the semen theory continued to dominate medical practice at least through the 1920s as the accepted explanation of growth and maturation.

      (Thomas Altherr, “Procreation or Pleasure: Sexual Attitudes in American History”, Krieger & co, 1983, p 137)

      Reply
  33. mike

    l don’t think Mother will be getting that treasure any time soon lol.

    [QUOTE]The Mother found the world’s treasure in some cave in the subtle plane. But the cave was guarded by a fierce-looking serpent which said that the condition for entry was control over the sexual impulse of the whole of humanity. As Mother did not have that control She had to retreat and not press with Her demand.[/QUOTE]

    http://www.gurusoftware.com/GuruNet/KnowledgeBase/Spirit/SriAurobindoTheMother.htm

    Reply
  34. TheSeeker

    Very nice article, Sandeep ji! i have had some unmistakably noticeable experiences while following my practice of ‘oordhvaretan’ exercises & from general day-to-day life moments lived as a practitioner, which i keep noting in my log.

    i also practice weight-training (strength & power-training) and martial arts, and try to keep finding as much more info as possible on a correlation between this topic and all disciplines of mental & physical rigour, and i have read several people writing on forums about the positive benefits they’ve had of abstinence from excesses. active discipline & transmutation may help in continuing with it without feeling frustrated and/or grouchy or stuffy, as Gaurav or someone has noted above. and regarding your last comment just above my post, it was on one such forum where an American gentleman had commented – “There was a time, 100 yrs or so ago, that people used to, “What?! you mas*******?!; and now, they say, “What?! you don’t mas*******?!”
    And one gentleman had very aptly noted that, “this is an age of overstimulation of senses.” i don’t need to tell how. modern medical science & psychology too, in their infancy (as you noted earlier) in the knowledge of intricacies of fine internal body/mind processes, and/or under the pressures from corporate lobbies, seem to be adamant in encouraging the excesses. one only needs to sincerely reflect down upon this excessively commercial & materialistic world’s ongoings & tally with his own internal experiences if s/he honestly follows the path of moderation & this will be found as a fact!

    Reply
  35. Vanaheim

    Thank you for your wonderful blog Sandeep !
    I’d like to know wether if the concepts of Brahmacharya, retas and ojas also work for women ?

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      When you ask if they “work for” women, I assume you mean if they “apply to” women as well. yes, they do. After all, women also have the same Chakras and undergo Kundalini awakening. It is probably easier for women to practice brahmacharya.

      Reply
      1. Vanaheim

        Yes, sorry if I don’t use the right terms, I’m french so I have some difficulties sometimes to speak rightly ! :)
        Thank you for the precisions.
        So for women, the ojas and retas refers to ovum instead of semen ?

        Reply
        1. Vanaheim

          I’m not a specialist in women sexuality, but I think when a women have sex, she don’t lose ovum like men lose semen with ejaculation ? So they don’t seem to have a loss of vital energy ? (I’m certainly wrong)

          Reply
          1. Sandeep Post author

            Thats an interesting question but sorry, I have no idea. You probably know more than me on this topic :-)

            As far as I know, the Mother (i.e. Mirra Alfassa) said nothing about this distinction, but I am guessing that sexual arousal releases hormones which disturb the vital energy. One thing is certain : it requires prolonged periods of vital peace to be able to rise higher in contemplation.

            If you find the answer somewhere else, do let me know.

  36. mike

    ln Bramhacharya, a Brahmachari is a male and brahmacharini a female.

    So, obviously it applies to both men and women.

    Sivananda made some very timely statements about the state of ‘sexual intoxication’ in the world. l don’t know much about him and this was written in 1934 and reprinted up to ’93. But, the words are incredibly apt for what is happening now – he even mentions ‘rapes’ in india [l think] at that time – which is headline news at the moment.

    “Passion reigns supreme in all parts of the world. The minds of people are filled with sexual thoughts. The world is all sexy. The whole world is under a tremendous sexual intoxication. All are deluded and move in the world with perverted intellects. No thought of God. No talk of God. It is all fashion, restaurants, hotels, dinners, dances, races and cinema. Their life ends in eating, drinking and procreating. That is all.

    Passion has introduced new fashions not only in London, Paris and Lahore, but even in Madras amongst the Brahmin girls of orthodox families who apply Cherry Blossom Powder and Hazeline Snow to their faces, instead of the sacred turmeric powder, and dress their hair like the French girls. This sort of vile imitation has crept into the mind of our boys and girls in India. The sacred percepts and teachings of our ancient sages and Rishis have been totally ignored. What a lamentable state! They will accept anything as true only if a Johnson or a Russel brings something by way of the theory of evolution, motion, atom, relativity or transcendentalism. Shameful indeed! Their brains are all clogged with foreign particles. They do not have the brain to absorb anything good in others. There is a miserable degeneration in the present young men and women in India. This is the age when they cannot walk even a short distance without a Rickshaw, a car, a tram, a bicycle or a carriage. What an awful artificial life! Bobbing of the hair amongst the ladies in India has become a severe epidemic and has invaded the whole of India. This is all due to the mischief of passion and greed.

    Young men of the present day indiscriminately imitate the West and this results in their own ruin. Men are swayed by lust. They lose their sense of righteousness, and of time and place. They never discriminate between right and wrong. They lose all sense of shame.

    Read the history of the crimes—robbery, rapes, kidnapping, assaults, murders—that come up for trial before the Sessions Courts. Lust is at the root of all this. It may be lust for money or lust for carnal pleasure. Lust ruins life, lustre, strength, vitality, memory, wealth, fame, holiness, peace, wisdom and devotion.

    Man, with his boasted intellect, has to learn lessons from birds and animals. Even animals have more self-control than men. It is only the so-called man who has degraded himself much by indulgence. At the heat of sexual excitement, he repeats the same ignoble act again and again. He has not a bit of self-control. He is an absolute slave to passion. He is a puppet in the hands of passion. Like rabbits he procreates and brings forth countless children to swell up the numbers of beggars in the world. Lions, elephants, bulls and other powerful animals have better self-control than men. Lions cohabit only once in a year. After conception, the female animals will never allow the male animals to approach them till the young ones are weaned and they themselves become healthy and strong. Man only violates the laws of nature and consequently suffers from innumerable diseases. He has degenerated to a level far lower than that of animals in this respect.”

    Reply
  37. mike

    Sivananda actually explains the ‘ovum’ question here and mentions Savitri and Satyavan as well lol

    http://www.dlshq.org/download/brahmacharya.htm#_Toc441556972

    “WOMEN AND BRAHMACHARYA

    An aspirant writes: “I would like to know whether the same theory regarding the formation of Veerya and loss of the same holds good in the case of women also. Are they actually affected to the same extent as men?” The question is an important and pertinent one. Yes, indulgence in the sexual act is exhausting to the female system and a drain upon the vitality as in man. The nervous strain it imposes on the system is very great indeed.

    The female gonads, the ovaries corresponding to the testes in the males, produce, develop and mature precious, vital force like semen. This is the ovum. Though the woman does not actually lose this out of her body, as in the case of semen in man, yet, due to the sexual act, it leaves the ovaries and is taken up in the process of conception to form the embryo. And one knows only too well what a strain and drain on strength child-bearing is to a woman. Repeated depletion of this force and the strain of childbirth makes wrecks of healthy ladies, and works havoc with their strength, beauty and grace as well as their youth and mental power. Eyes lose the lustre and sparkle that are indicative of the inner forces.

    The intense sensuous excitement of the act shatters the nervous system and causes debility too. Their system being more delicate and high-strung, females are often more affected than men.

    Women should preserve their precious vital force. The ovum and the hormones secreted by the ovaries are very essential for the maximum physical and mental well-being of women.

    Women also should observe the vow of celibacy. They also can remain as Naishthic Brahmacharinis like Mirabai and devote themselves to the service and devotion of God. Or they can do Brahma-Vichara like Gargi and Sulabha. They will be styled as Brahma-Vicharinis, enquirers of Brahman, if they adopt this path.

    Grihastha-Dharminis or householders among women should observe Pativrata-Dharma or the vow of chastity and should keep Savitri, Anasuya, as their ideal. They should see Lord Krishna in their husbands and realize God, like Laila in Majnu. They also can practice all the Kriyas such as Asanas and Pranayamas. They should do vigorous Sankirtan, Japa and prayer daily in their houses. Through Bhakti, they can easily destroy passion, because by nature they are devotional.

    Many women of yore had done miraculous deeds and shown to the world the power of chastity. Nalayini, by the power of chastity, stopped the rising of the sun to save her husbands’s life. Anasuya turned the Trimurtis—Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesvara—into babies when they wanted Nirvana Bhiksha. It is through the power of chastity only that she was able to turn the great deities into babies. Savitri brought back the life of Satyavan, her husband, from the noose of Yama, by her chastity. Such is the power of chastity or Brahmacharya. Women who lead an ideal householder’s life with chastity can also become like Anasuya, Nalayini or Savitri.”

    Reply
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  41. Geeka

    [QUOTE]The Mother found the world’s treasure in some cave in the subtle plane. But the cave was guarded by a fierce-looking serpent which said that the condition for entry was control over the sexual impulse of the whole of humanity. As Mother did not have that control She had to retreat and not press with Her demand.[/QUOTE]

    I find this a very interesting comment due to the fact that stories about sacred treasures being guarded by violent dragons are paramount. Can someone please provide me with a source? Where did the Mother say that she found the world’s treasure?

    Reply
  42. mike

    Hi geeka, l actually found the full story about the ‘Serpent Guarding the Treasure’ in MP Pandit’s book The Mother of Love VOL111.

    l can’t find a link, but here is the story:

    Mother:
    “The key to treasure is in the vital world [She doesn't say where], and it’s guarded by an immense black serpent – a formidable serpent, ten times, fifty times larger than the ordinary one. It is on guard at the gates of the treasure.lt is magnificent, black, always erect and awake.l happened once to find myself before it. Usually these beings obey me when l give them an order. l said to it: “let me pass”.
    lt replied “l would willingly let you pass, but if l do, they will kill me; so l cannot let you pass”.
    l asked “what must l furnish in order to gain entrance”?
    lt said “oh, only one thing would oblige me to give way to you; if you could become Master of the sex-impulse in man, if you succeeded in overcoming that in humanity, l could no longer resist, l would allow you to pass”.
    As it has not yet allowed me to pass, l must avow that l have not yet fulfilled the condition. l have not been able to obtain such mastery of it as to conquer it in all of humanity. That is quite difficult.”

    Reply

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