You say this mechanism is called Kundalini. Is this an Indian term?
Kundalini means "coiled up," a Sanskrit term intended to designate a force which is normally latent or dormant but which, with certain exercises and disciplines, could be activated and made to act like a spring which is released.
Other writers on this subject have said that "coiled up" also refers metaphorically to a snake or serpent.
Yes, Kundalini is likened to a snake. I believe this reference to snake is very ancient, and we can trace it even to the Neolithic age, because the common universal symbol which was worshipped everywhere is of a snake and sun.
The local museum here in Srinagar has dozens of ancient stone statues of various gods and goddesses, and almost in every case serpents are intertwined around them.
Yes. Yes. Now for instance if we see a representation of Lord Shiva you will see a snake around his neck, another around his hair. If you see a representation of Lord Vishnu, you will see him dancing on the head of a snake, or you will see him sitting in the lotus posture, on a snake floating in the ocean of milk. Now this ocean of milk is the nerve energy in the body which we only know as the sex-energy.
Could you elaborate on this?
The whole of our body is filled with a very fine biochemical essence which I call the biological prana. Prana has two aspects, the universal and the individual. In the individual aspect it is composed of the subtlest elements. I should say some radiation from the various elements on a subatomic level. This prana is concentrated in the sex-energy. Normally the sex energy is used for procreative purposes, but nature has designed it for evolutionary purposes also.
We are all familiar with the word sublimation, or refinement and purification. Most people believe that artistic talent, and genius to a large extent, depend on the sublimation of the sex-energy. Even psychologists like Freud and Jung ascribe it to libido. Now libido is sex-energy, life-energy in other words. So, according to the view of those who believe in Kundalini-according to the views of ancient masters-the human reproductive system functions in two ways, both as the evolutionary and the reproductive mechanism. As the evolutionary mechanism, it sends a fine stream of a very potent nerve-energy into the brain and another stream into the sexual region, the cause of reproduction. By the arousal of Kundalini we mean the reversal of the reproductive system and its functioning more as an evolutionary than as a reproductive mechanism.
Is that the reason many religions advocated celibacy?
There must be some cogent reason for it. You see, we are not so familiar with Kundalini and Why it takes such a long time for us to accept the idea is because the subject has never been seriously studied during modern times. Unless sexual energy is needed in some way for spiritual disciplines, why should any prophet or any saint or any spiritual teacher recommend celibacy as a method of reaching God?
To conserve the energy?
Yes. which means that the energy is used. Unless the energy is used, what is the need of conserving it? It should be immaterial whether it is used for sexual acts or in any other way. Unless it has a direct effect in leading to higher states of Consciousness why should any spiritual teacher advocate celibacy?
In the West, we've always associated sexual activities, at least in the past, with immorality. W e had no idea that sexual energy might have had another use.
Well, sometimes this idea appears to be very comic and sometimes very tragic. I cannot say what is the state of mind of one who calls the sexual act a sin when he owes his existence to this act.
But we've been taught, at least up until the last few decades, that this is true enough; but then it shouldn't be used for any other purpose, especially not for gratification of our sensual desires-only for the reproductive process, and that's all.
Even admitting that, is the Creator or God of such a limited intelligence that he should build man in such a way that the sexual urge is the most awful impulse in him, attended with such an intense pleasure, and then rule that he is not to touch it.
It doesn't make sense, but then in religion we were never allowed to think it should make sense.
There is a Persian poet who said, "Oh Lord, you have tied me to a plank and thrown me into a rushing torrent, and then you say, 'don't wet your clothes.'" An impossibility! To have such an image of the Creator-to ascribe such narrow-mindedness and lack of vision to Him--is because of our own limited and narrow intellect.
I understand that Isaac Newton, one of history's greatest geniuses, was a celibate all of his life? How do you account for this?
You know, complete subdual of sexual desire has often been considered to be the acme of perfection in those striving for God-realization. This has been a great fallacy. In some cases of born mystics sexual desire has been absent from the very birth. The same can be the case with a genius like Newton. Since reproduction is the mandate of nature for the continuance of the race-and the propagation of the enlightened mind and genius is as necessary as propagation of the common mass of mankind, even more so, for the propagation of the last two categories of man fulfills the aim of evolution. Also, it is easy to infer that absence of the sexual appetite in one endowed with genius or prone to mystical experience, cannot be in harmony with either the principle of propagation or continued evolution. Therefore, it cannot be considered to be a normal or healthy state of body or mind.
In actual fact, absence of sexual desire in either of these two categories has a distinct disadvantage, since it leaves no residue of vital reproductive energy in the body to meet emergencies or crises that may occur in the psychophysiological system of the individuals concerned. Since the more highly developed anti sensitive nervous systems of the individuals of these categories are more prone to crises, in the stress and storm of life, itfollows that the absence of a reserve to counteract the effect of these stresses leaves them, as it were, at the mercy of the adverse conditions and forces they have to face from time to time.
The greater incidence of mental aberration in men and women of these classes is often due to this deficiency of a vital reserve to fight off pressures to ensure a sane and sober attitude of the mind, resulting from a pure and healthy condition of the potent nerve-energy that feeds the superior brain. I shall explain this more fully in my books.
Such books will be in great demand, I'm sure, but even now more and more people are becoming interested in striving for enlightenment, and the ideal way of life to be lived is a growing topic of discussion. Diet is always mentioned, but it never causes the controversy that sex does. Could you elaborate just a bit more on this?
Considering the fact that the entire cosmos, from the atoms to the nebulae, is rigidly governed by inviolable laws, it would be irrational to suppose that some men in the past found the way to spiritual unfoldment by accident. There must exist a potentiality in the human body which, under certain conditions, materializes in illumination. We do not yet know precisely what these conditions are.
However, since spiritual development cannot but be the outcome of a natural process at work in the human body, it is the height of folly to hold that the process can be accelerated by an unnatural way of life. The restrictions and taboos on marriage, sex, diet, etc., are all man-made and have no sanction from nature. They differ from country to country and from sect to sect. For example, while the greatest emphasis is laid in some ashrams on a vegetarian diet, many of the great mystics of the West, and Sufis, as also some of the illumined sages of India-for instance Guru Nanak, the inspired founder of Sikhism-had no scruples against animal foods.
The restriction on marriage and the prejudice against women is a glaring instance to show what extent even spiritual teachers are prone to error. Can we imagine, even for an instant, that it is the decree of nature that in spiritual evolution woman should not be an equal partner to man? In such a case no evolution would be possible for the simple reason that, as Mother, a woman plays a more decisive role in the initial development and the later upbringing of the child. Is it distorted thinking, engendered by an ascetic and unnatural way of life, that led to such preposterous views. It is an irony of fate that the spiritual teachings, imparted in the ashrams, originated from men who lived the life of householders.
As is well known, the main spiritual disciplines and philosophical systems of India sprouted from the secrets contained in the Upanishads. In fact, the period when the early Upanishads were written was, from the spiritual point of view, the most productive epoch in Indian history. What is now taught and practiced in most of the ashrams is borrowed from the Upanishads. They are the fountainhead from which almost all the later spiritual luminaries of India drew their inspiration.
But, strange to say, almost all the inspired sages of the Upanishads, and they number in the hundreds, were married men with children, who retired to forests after fulfilling their worldly duties, sometimes accompanied by their wives, toward the closing years of their lives. One of the greatest of them, Yajnavalkya, whose name is still a household word in India, had two wives. I do not say that this was right, but what I mean to say is that there was no taboo on marriage or sex at the time when India was at the zenith of her spiritual career.
The monastic system and celibacy are later developments. It was Buddha who gave the place of precedence, in spiritual endeavor, to the monastic way of life. The monks, relieved of all worldly burdens, became the chief instruments for the dissemination of his teachings. Monasticism is not a natural way of life. If the attainment of a higher state of consciousness is in accordance with a plan of nature, can we ever imagine, knowing what strong urges she has implanted in both men and women to ensure the propagation of the race, that when about to reach the goal of transcendental state of consciousness, man is to shed all the instincts and impulses that led him to the goal?
By resorting to celibacy and extreme self-denial, man would bring about his own extinction at a time when he attains to the top rung of his evolutionary ladder. It is thus clear that, viewed from the angle of common sense, the prevalent ideas about the means to be adopted and the life to be led, current in the ashrams, for the attainment of spiritual goals, do not stand the scrutiny of reason. They need recasting to become universal and to meet the needs of the modern, highly sophisticated age.
As spiritual evolution is a natural process, unnatural methods can never lead to a healthy consummation. What is essential is a normal, healthy, and moderate life, free from immoderate ambitions and abnormal lusts; a life that keeps man healthy in flesh and at peace with himself and the world in his mind; a life of utility to the world and, to the extent possible, of selfless service to his fellow beings; a life, in short, which our conscience and our reason tells us we should live to derive joy and peace for ourselves, both for the spirit and the mind--and to be a source of solace and happiness for others.
Such a life helps the inner processes to gain momentum and to bring the goal nearer to the individuals who adopt it. It can never be the intention of the merciful Creator that man should castigate himself and suffer excessively to reach the goal set for him. But he has to win mastery over his animal nature, so as not to be a slave to immoderate desires and lusts. He has to struggle and battle with adverse forces to gain access to the Kingdom of Heaven, in the same way as he struggles and battles to gain victory over the forces of nature to establish a happy kingdom on the earth. The only difference is that for the former he must live a life of righteousness and, instead of dissipating his energy in sexual over-indulgence or in pursuit of excessive power and wealth, to harness it for the attainment of a higher spiritual goal. The arena for this battle is the world with all its problems and difficulties.