Hindus are warned that he who sheds his seed gets sapped of rásā (vital fluid): he withers and dies. Or, he may transform his sexual fluid to attain vitality and immortality.
According to yoga scholar David Gordon White, semen is the raw material, the fuel, for yogic transformation1.
Rásā is the semen, vital fluid, of the moon, soma. Shiva, Lord of Yogis, keeps the moon in his hair, locked in his cranial vault.
Myth of King Moon
As early as 1000 B.C.E., the Vedic Taittiriya Samhita2 tells of King Moon (Soma) whose vital fluid is wasted on his thirty wives, leading to illness. But, through sacrifice, Soma recovers his lost vigor, his vital fluid, and restores himself.
Prajapati (Lord of Procreation) had thirty daughters; he married them off to Soma (King Moon). Every night, Soma makes love and sheds his seed in the clutches of his wives. But he dallies most with his favorite, Rohini. His rásā, his vigor, and semen completely dried up the king is seized by illness. In anger, his wives returned to their lord-father, Prajapati. To recover his lost rásā (vital fluid) and be freed from his evil ‘wife’s disease’ Soma must perform a sacrifice and swear henceforth to restrain himself equally with all thirty wives. With his rásā recovered, the lunar cycle, the waxing of the moon, begins anew.
This mythic tale of King Moon warns of dangers, for men, to lose, in a single stroke, what took an entire month of food and digestion to manufacture. Hindu tradition holds that it takes thirty days (one month or lunar cycle) for food to be digested and transformed into semen. A tremendous quantity of food is required to produce a single gram of semen; and it takes forty days and forty drops of blood to produce one drop of semen3. These mythologies claim, without substantiation, that loss of vital fluid leads to disease, aging, and death.
Celibacy & Debauchery
Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952), the first yoga master to relocate permanently to the U.S., warned his monks and yoga students:
“Every drop of creative chemical fluid is said to contain the concentrated essence of eight drops of blood and the electric energy that would be contained in their thousands of blood corpuscles…To drive them out of the body foolishly (lured by the enemy sexual temptation) is to lose these soldiers of energy and mental power and to become a victim of the army of darkness, disease, weakness, fear, worry, dissatisfaction, melancholia, and even premature death4“.
For young-men, at the peak of virility, indoctrinated in the above myths, wastage of semen is horrible. The horrors of indoctrinated young-men are described in two blog posts. In Celibacy – Path to Bliss or Madness?, Bruce, a fellow monk in the Swami Order I was ordained, advises a young man who wants to practice celibacy for spiritual reasons. In Sex Was Death, I share my struggles with monastic celibacy, masturbation, and nocturnal emissions. Through yogic transformation of semen the practitioner “conceives” a new, superhuman and immortal body from the husk of the mortal, biological body5. Through semen depletion a man shrivels and dies.
Tayumanavar, a Tamil Saiva (devotee of Shiva) poet who lived during the late 1700s, wrote6:
Ecstatically, you think, “sex is bliss.”
This embracing becomes more frequent,
Growing to excess.
Like the waning moon,
Your intellect becomes exhausted.
And your body shrivels up
Like a monkeys’s wrinkled skin.
You grow old soon…
When the dark Lord of Death comes,
Who will protect you,
O sinful mind?
The mythic tale of King Moon warns men7; he who falls into the clutches of semen dissipation is consumed and sapped of his rásā–he shrivels up and dies. Soma, the vital fluid of the moon, must be sacrificed, given back to the gods. So, like Shiva, the man who offers his rásā—raises it up to his cranial vault through internal yogic method–he restores himself and attains immortality. In this mythical and practical context, David Gordon White makes a compelling argument, sexual fluid is the raw material, the fuel, for yogic transformation.
1 David Gordon White, The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India, University of Chicago Press. 1998. Print.
2 Taittiriya Samhita (2.3.5), Vedic work estimated to be composed c. 1200–1000 BCE. Keith Translation
3 Primary source for this entire post is David Gordon White’s, The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India, University of Chicago Press. 1998. Print.
4 Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons, Lesson 22, Life Force and Vital Power
5 p27 David Gordon White, The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India, University of Chicago Press. 1998. Print.
6 ibid p340
7 For women, the Hindu traditions claim that female vital fluid consists of ovum, breast milk, or menstrual blood. Every yogic school or tradition has variations or distinct claims. Just as there are inconsistencies among the traditions about the amount of blood contained in a drop of semen, quantity of chakras in the subtle body, etc.