Celibacy – Path to Bliss or Madness?

8 comments

  1. letsliveinpeace

    Hi Scott, Thanks for reblogging my article on your website. It’s given me a chance to reread the words that I posted back in 2007. What is interesting to me are some of the comments that were generated since that time. I suppose it’s not surprising that there would be some “energy” and judgmental beliefs around celibacy. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts, Scott, and the ones of your readers. Thanks again!

  2. Mark

    Occasionally, the unintended desire to withdraw from sexual activity arises due to deeper states of meditation, but these are, so far as my experience is concerned, passing phases, and not at all permanent. The need to cultivate the sexual energy internally due to an upward pull of the life force stemming from strong spiritual practices often passes, like an ebb and flow. People who get caught on the early train to celibacy, either because of practices, or because of religious-toned logic, usually end up lamenting the decision later on in the flavors of shame, self-flagellation, feelings of worthlessness. In my opinion, it is better to simply be moderate and mindful of the effects of one’s choices to develop a fuller understanding of their reality — stripped from preconceived dogmas and layered superstitions. The primary work of the beginning of meditation is a deconditioning of thoughts and feelings that hinder access to deeper states of experience. Constantly reinforcing these same preconceived patterns of beliefs over and over again while trying to meditate, which slowly erodes them, is like playing tug of war with oneself, and will likely lead to a lot of frustration and feelings of futility — even as the biological imperative for sexual release presses on regardless.

    People want the security of permanency, but reflecting on the past, it’s obvious that nothing is permanent — everything is subject to constant change, and that what we often zealously intend is the new “us”, is likely just another phase of our development that will see a beginning, a peak, decline, and an end.

    I suppose what I want to say is that celibacy itself does not create the conditions for spiritual advancement, and that it’s usually a byproduct of effective spiritual practices. Outwardly emulating the byproducts of spiritual advancement doesn’t actually produce spiritual advancement. It makes more sense to cultivate spiritual advancement itself, and allow nature to take its course, in my opinion.

  3. SkepticMeditations

    @Mark: I see your are a deep thinker on these topics. I agree with your points on the folly of seeking security and permanency. Is that though not what spiritual seekers seek? They seek some absolute, infallible, perfection beyond change? Is that not the same kind of seeking of security and permanency in the hereafter, nirvana, or higher state of consciousness?

    Why exalt spiritual advancement over anything else? If anything is “spiritual”, all is. I hear what you are saying but the premises I used to believe in. I prefer nowadays to observe life as it is.

    thanks again

  4. Mark

    I think that’s what most spiritual seekers expect, given what a handful of individuals claim to others to sell them on the benefits. Everybody wants a permanent security blanket in life. Financially, emotionally, spiritually… But what meditator has anyone ever met that stopped meditating after they claimed to be enlightened and yet still receive permanent benefits from their prior meditation attainments? The Buddha continued meditating until the end of his own life, as did Lahiri Mahasaya, as do all of the others. But if the attainment is subject to erosion and loss due to lack of practice, then it is not permanent.

    However, that does not negate that these attainments have a significant and positive, lasting impact on their life beyond ordinary measures. The outward manifestations of the impact of these attainments is unavoidable to even the dullest of intellects. The elegant and loquacious verbal gymnastics they’re capable of, feats of nimble logic that puts to shame the reasoning of ordinary men, skin and eyes that seem to radiate the intensity of the present-ness and life behind them.

    The argument of “Why bother?” could be applied to choosing to eat at McDonald’s for lunch, or going to the natural food co-op and choosing to eat a large salad of vegetables and greens and plant-based proteins. Why bother? The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Eat enough of it and one sees exactly why it’s worth doing to begin with. If you eat both, regardless of the best advice from the wisest medical practitioners, one quickly learn why one should’ve bothered. And after a lifetime of McDonald’s, many (like my own grandpa, who had a triple heart bypass at 48 from a lifetime of fast food), find out why one should bother. It’s a healthy psychological choice, and one healthy choice begets another. At the very least, the quality of the experience of life itself is enhanced tremendously by the skillful application of good meditation techniques. That’s my humble experience, at least.

    I think my mistake was mentioning the word “spiritual”. You can fully advance in meditation while being completely atheist. Even the Buddha, having made it all the way to the end of meditation investigated his experiences and found no indication that there is a god. He also pointed out that he found no indication that there wasn’t one, either, which is why Buddhism remains inherently agnostic to this day. I also found it extremely telling in the story of (don’t cringe from SRF PTSD, stay with me here) Yogananda receiving the transmission of cosmic consciousness, wherein afterwards he expected to find something indicating the presence of a god. But instead, he was told that the joy and bliss of advanced states of meditation was god. Joy and bliss are feelings, the byproducts of meditation, both of which are impermanent and subject to loss or change (“ever new” is the phrase that seems to come to mind…) Pardon me for extrapolating, but I do not think that meets the minimum qualifications of a god. God seems to be mostly a tool for selling something to the superstitious.

    Sorry for my tangental comments. I get carried away sometimes. 🙂

  5. SkepticMeditations

    Thanks for your patience while I reply. Sorry, its days late. You write well, Mark. Is there something other than personal experience that we can use for assessing whether meditation (as Buddha or some other “enlightened” one like Yogananda) provides important knowledge about how the universe actually is?

  6. Mark

    Science. Our instruments, as they’ve become more refined and capable, have proven the existence and truth of at least some of the things regarding the physical universe that advanced meditators of various traditions have insisted exist. But waiting for instruments to catch up to the refined intuition of these individuals in order to prove even some of these has taken thousands of years. And in reality, the remarkable things elucidated regarding the nature of reality doesn’t in any significant way improve the lives of people, as interesting as they are. Though they have helped people look in the right direction, and this searching has been pivotal in the cultivation of our species and our societies. It is because of the search for the elusive “philosopher’s stone”, an allegory for enlightenment following the transmutation of basal human awareness through stages of refinement into something profound, that modern science and the scientific method even exist. It transformed the world.

    In regards to meditation, insight into the nature of our reality occurs spontaneously when the quality of perceptual awareness is both heightened and refined. Because insight is the other side of the coin of concentration, they arise in tandem. Thus, if one has proficiency in concentration, they also have proficiency in insight. It simply just needs to be applied. While the Buddhists perfected insight as its own practice, and defined it as its own quality, it’s not at all foreign to the yogis — though they never defined it or cultivated it as its own quality. In Patanjali’s yoga sutras, in the chapter of samyama, knowledge of anything can be acquired by refining concentration upon it. Samyama is essentially insight; insight into the nature of reality. What insights arise from this practice are only truly known by the practitioner.

  7. SkepticMeditations

    @Mark: I’m fine with meditation. I just think meditation is way overblown as a useful tool for knowing oneself and the universe as it actually is. If you could make the thrust of your argument clear and direct, what would it be? I’m impressed with the poetry and imagination in the ancient yogic texts like Patanjali, Buddha, and the like. I’ve outgrown my infantile need to follow gurus and question everything without needing more than a contingent answer.

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